IDF air strikes in Strip and rocket fire on southern Israel continued almost until deadline to end hostilities; Egypt, which brokered agreement, dispatches delegations to both sides; Al Arabiya: Cairo planning ‘peace summit’ on long-term calm
A ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip came into effect at 2am Friday, ending 11 days of intensive fighting.
Israel’s security cabinet earlier voted unanimously to approve the truce after a three-hour debate.
In an official statement, the cabinet said the ceasefire was proposed by Egypt and would be “mutual and unconditional.”
A member of the Hamas terror group that controls Gaza told Reuters that it and Israel would enter the “mutual and simultaneous” truce at 2am on Friday. Egyptian state TV later confirmed the timing of the ceasefire.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said Thursday night that the cabinet had unanimously approved the truce without preconditions on the recommendation of all defense officials, including IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman, Mossad Director Yossi Cohen and National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat.
The statement said that Israel’s achievements in Operation Guardian of the Walls were “unprecedented.”
“The political leadership emphasized that the reality on the ground will be that which determines the future of the campaign,” the statement said.
Rocket fire on southern Israel continued on Thursday night despite the reports of an imminent ceasefire. The IDF also continued its attacks on targets in the Gaza Strip.
The cabinet vote came hours after Qatari-based news outlet Al Jazeera reported that Israel had officially updated Egypt that it was ready for a cessation of hostilities.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened the security cabinet at 7pm Thursday to discuss the Gaza operation and ceasefire efforts.
According to Saudi outlet Al Arabiya, Egypt presented Israel with the draft for a ceasefire on Thursday morning, but there was still some disagreement about the timeframe for it to take effect.
The report also said that Egypt was planning to hold a “peace summit” between Israelis and Palestinians on long-term calm.
The White House said Thursday that it had seen reports of a move towards a ceasefire, which is said appeared to be encouraging.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi spoke to U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday to discuss the de-escalation of violence, the Egyptian presidency said.
Sisi and Biden agreed to continue talks and coordination between their countries in the coming period in order to contain the situation, the presidency said.
IDF says the strikes also targeted head of Hamas military wing, who escaped 7 assassination attempts in the past, but they was unsuccessful; meanwhile, ceasefire talks stalled over Hamas demands to condition end of fighting on Jerusalem situation.
Israel heavily bombarded the network of underground attack tunnels in Gaza and Palestinian militants kept up cross-border rocket fire on Wednesday, with no firm sign of any imminent ceasefire despite international calls to end more than a week of fighting.
Israeli leaders said they were pressing on with an offensive against Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but an Israeli military spokesman acknowledged that with an estimated 12,000 missiles and mortars in the groups’ Gaza arsenal, “they still have enough rockets to fire”.
IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Hadai Zilberman on Wednesday morning said that 15 kilometers (7.45 miles) of the so-called “metro” of attack tunnels came under strikes by 52 planes, dropping 122 bombs over a 25-minute period in the southern part of the Strip.
IDF said the tunnels were used to launch rockets at the south and enable the movement of terrorists and weapons from inside the Strip to the sea.
The spokesperson added that after all targets in the Rimal neighborhood in Gaza City were “exhausted” on Tuesday, the overnight strikes were concentrated in Khan Yunis and Raffa, from where rockets were fired at Be’er Sheva and other southern cities and communities.
“We hit command centers, offices of the Internal Security Services and the headquarters of the Islamic Jihad,” Zilberman said, adding that at least 10 members of both the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad were killed.
Since the beginning of the fighting, more than 100 Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives were killed.
Mohammed Deif, head of the Hamas military wing and the IDF’s most wanted Hamas official, has survived two attacks directed against him, according to the military.
Deif was hiding deep underground and his bunker was attacked from different directions using a variety of weapons but Israeli forces were unable to kill him. Over the years, Deif apparently survived at least seven attempts on his life, which left him disabled.
Seven other members of Hamas were also targeted by the military, some were injured but all survived, the spokesperson said.
In the meantime, rocket fire from Gaza late Tuesday targeted south-central Israel, including the cities of Rehovot and Ness Ziona. Hamas said it was aiming its fire at six air force bases from where Israeli jets take off to strike Gaza.
Hamas fire on southern communities resumed early Wednesday, shortly before 6am.
Meanwhile, efforts to bring about a ceasefire were reported by the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya network late on Tuesday. According to the report, Egypt proposed a cessation of fighting as of 6am on Thursday.
Egypt asked for a temporary lull to allow humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip and enable the evacuation of wounded out for treatment. Sources in Gaza said the terror factions were prepared to accept the Egyptian offer.
But a Hamas statement released on Tuesday denied the reports. “Efforts are underway to bring about an end to the fighting and our demands are known,” the statement said.
Dutch government, which gives several millions of dollars a year to PA, says talks to end wages to those who carried out attacks on Israelis ‘did not lead to the desired outcome”
The Dutch government has cut funding for the Palestinian Authority over its salaries to terrorists serving time in Israeli jails.
The aid ministry announced the move Wednesday during annual budget talks.
In 2017, the Palestinian Authority paid about $198 million to a fund for the families of terrorists killed during their attacks and about $160 million to Palestinians being held in Israeli jails, according to Israeli Defense Ministry figures.
The Netherlands spends several million dollars each year on aid to the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian populations elsewhere in the Middle East but most of that money is given to agencies and nongovernmental organizations.
The country had given about $1.6 million directly to the Palestinian Authority annually to pay the salaries of justice ministry employees.
The aid ministry said that talks with the Palestinian body “did not lead to the desired outcome.”
Israel has long complained that the salaries encourage terror attacks.
The article was published on The Times of Israel
The Iranian-backed Palestinian group confirmed Tuesday morning that Abu al-Atta, its northern Gaza Strip commander had been killed and vowed to avenge his death.
The response was quick to come as dozens of rockets were fired from Gaza at southern and central Israel.
By 9am, the IDF said, 50 rockets had been fired from Gaza, of which the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted approximately 20.
This is the first incident of targeted killing by Israel since the end of the 2014 Gaza conflict, Operation Protective Edge.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Islamic Jihad commander was poised to launch imminent attacks against Israel.
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz said in a tweet Tuesday morning that he supported the decision to target Abu al-Atta and that Israel’s security transcended politics.
“The battle against terrorism requires difficult decisions,” the former IDF chief said. “Blue and White places every proper action taken for the safety of Israel above politics. Every terrorist who endangers our security knows he is marked for death.”
The IDF released a statement confirming the attack was a coordinated effort by the military and the Shin Bet security service.
Gaza’s Health Ministry says a man and a woman were killed in the blast and two other people were wounded.
The airstrike damaged the half of the second and most of the third floors of a house in the Shejaeya neighborhood east of the city.
Israel media reported lately that Abu el-Atta was responsible for recent rocket attacks against southern Israel communities, instructed by Tehran.
The article was published on Ynet
EU Ambassador to Israel sends condolences to family of terror victim as MKs from across the spectrum express outrage.
Knesset members from across the political spectrum responded Friday to a terror attack which left a young woman dead and her father and brother wounded.
In the attack, terrorists threw a homemade explosive device thrown at Israelis hiking near the Ein Bubin spring near the Binyamin-region town of Dolev.
MK Nir Barkat (Likud), said: “The attack near Dolev is further proof of the Palestinian Authority’s policy of hate-filled incitement that causes this continued downward spiral. I pray for a speedy recovery for the wounded and trust that our security forces will quickly capture those responsible.”
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) said that he is praying for the recovery of those injured, adding: “This criminal terror attack demands a harsh response. I am convinced that our security forces will reach those who committed this attack. They will try to hurt us and we will build, develop, and strengthen the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria.”
Har Hevron Regional Council Head Yochai Demeri said: “The escalation in the security situation demands an appropriate response. This chain of events shows a trend, and dragging our feet is not a solution. Deporting the murderers’ families together with applying sovereignty in Area C are the first steps and we are obligated to take them.”
“Terror draws encouragement from its successes and anyone who does not stop the terror attacks in Gaza, Judea, and Samaria should not be surprised by incidents occurring in city centers. Terror will not deter us, and we will continue to hike everywhere – in Jerusalem, Dolev, Nahal Oz, the Golan, and Tel Aviv, because their motivation to murder Jews needs no reason. Our hearts and prayers are with the victims.”
Yisrael Beytenu Chairman MK Avigdor Liberman said: “The terror attack in Binyamin is a stinging slap on the face for the Netanyahu government of submission, which continues to abandon the security of the State of Israel’s citizens in favor of paying bribes to Hamas and the Palestinian Authority so that there will be quiet until the elections.”
“A government which stops repairs on the dangerous road near the Gaza border because it’s out of money, but on the other hand begs Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to accept 2 billion shekels ($569,180,000), is not worthy of the public’s trust. At this difficult time, my heart is with the victims and their families, and I support the IDF and security forces, who are currently hunting the terrorists.”
Tzachi Dickstein, chairman of the Samaria Settlers’ Committee, said: “This is the second terror attack in the past twenty-four hours which has harmed innocent civilians. The facts speak for themselves: Removing the checkpoints is an ongoing mistake. We must immediately replace the road checkpoints and the security around the villages in order to give residents back their security and in order to prevent the next attack.”
“The lives of Israeli citizens in Judea and Samaria are a thousand times more important than the convenience of terrorists on the road and later in the Israeli vacation houses they are jailed in.”
Binyamin Regional Council Head Yisrael Gantz, aho arrived at the scene of the attack together with the Council’s professional staffs, said: “We will not allow terror organizations to deter us from hiking in nature and enjoying the views and springs of our land. It’s time the government of Israel woke up and initiated, instead of just being dragged, and send a message of strength, courage, and security, so that those attackers know that they can no longer easily attack hikers who are coming to relax at springs.”
“I expect the Prime Minister to ensure the safety and security of Judea and Samaria’s residents and stop promising to apply sovereignty, and do it instead.”
In addition, European Union Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret tweeted: “Appalled by the news of the heinous attack on a father and his children in the West Bank this morning. My thoughts and condolences are with victims of this despicable act.”
The article was published on Arutz 7
“The ceasefire understanding will begin Monday 04:30,” a Palestinian official familiar with the agreement said. A second Palestinian official confirmed that a deal was reached, as well a TV station belonging to Hamas, Gaza’s Islamist rulers.
The Israeli military confirmed its decision Monday morning, saying: “As of 7 a.m., all protective restrictions in the home front will be lifted.” Schools and roads had been closed, and residents had been encouraged to remain indoors and near bomb shelters as intense rocket fire pounded the area.
Sources in the Gaza Strip say the Palestinian factions are committed to the ceasefire as long as Israel fulfils its part of the agreement reached. Sources added that Hamas has received guarantees from the Egyptian mediators that Israel will transfer to Gaza millions of Qatari financial aid and open the border crossing for entrance of goods and humanitarian aid to the Strip. Israel, for the their part, apparently said the renewal of any type of border violence will affect the term of the agreement.
Egyptian mediators had been working with the United Nations to broker a ceasefire. Under past Egyptian-brokered deals, Israel has agreed to ease a blockade of Gaza in exchange for a halt to rocket fire.
The latest fighting broke out after Palestinian militants accused Israel of not honoring an earlier ceasefire deal from March.
The recent discovery of Hezbollah’s invasion tunnels has removed a critical component of the organization’s — and Iran’s — plan for war against Israel. The discovery robbed them of the ability to surprise Israel through an offensive (under)ground assault into Israeli territory, which was to be a central element in creating a shock to the Israeli psyche and challenge to the country’s security. Israel’s aggressive measures are compelling Hezbollah and Iran to reassess their perception of the entire conflict.
In addition, the raids have again embarrassed Iran and its proxies because they exhibit Israel’s superior level of intelligence, following the exposure of Iran’s nuclear archive.
The question right now is to what extent Israel will succeed in leveraging this intelligence disclosure to turn the situation on the northern border to its advantage, with an emphasis on the following objectives:
1. Teaching Lebanon and the international arena that Hezbollah, as an Iranian proxy, is not the “shield of Lebanon,” but in reality a huge danger to that country. Hezbollah is developing strong offensive capabilities against Israel from within Lebanese civilian facilities, and is even working beyond the international border (inside Israeli territory) to serve Iranian interests only. Hezbollah acts in a manner that is a clear violation of Israeli sovereignty and justifies a sharp Israeli response that will cause harm to the country of Lebanon and its citizens. Israel’s recent activity should also be presented as an Israeli effort to prevent damage to Lebanon. The ones putting Lebanon in danger are Hezbollah and Iran, while the one who is looking after it is Israel.
3. Educating Europe that any attempt to differentiate between the military wing and the political wing of Hezbollah is ridiculous. Does anyone really believe that a handful of rebellious, diligent Hezbollah terrorists decided independently to dig a complex system of tunnels, which demanded so many resources and extended into Israeli territory? It is amazing to see how the Europeans have confirmed the existence of the tunnels and expressed their support for Israel’s right to destroy them, yet refuse to blame Hezbollah and acknowledge that there is no distinction between the military and political wings of the organization. A change in the European position would lead to a significant shift in Hezbollah’s ability to manipulate the Lebanese system, and would penalize it with the heavy and appropriate price they should pay for their violation of Israeli sovereignty.
4. Encouraging UNIFIL to finally implement UN Resolution 1701, asserting that only the Lebanese army is allowed to operate in southern Lebanon, and to make use of the extension of its mandate that it received in 2016. So far, UNIFIL has confirmed the existence of the tunnels, but it has refrained from asserting that Hezbollah has thereby significantly violated Israel’s sovereignty.
5. Intensifying focus on Iran’s role as the master dictating Hezbollah’s activities. It is clear that the buildup of Hezbollah’s forces, especially since the Second Lebanon War, including the invasion tunnels, is intended to serve Iranian purposes and enable Iran to strike at Israel.
The high media profile that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot have given to this operation is intended to influence international, Israeli, Arab, Lebanese, and Iranian opinion. However, it needs to be accompanied by diplomatic activity to achieve these objectives. The problem is that European cynicism is creating a significant obstacle to realizing these goals, and the tense relationship between the United States and Europe is eroding the power of American leverage in this regard.
The article was published on The Algemeiner
European Union condemns sentencing of six Gazans to death for “collaborating” with Israel.
The European Union (EU) on Tuesday condemned the sentencing of six Gazans to death for “collaborating” with Israel.
A military court in Hamas-run Gaza on Monday sentenced six people, including a woman, to death by hanging over the alleged spying for Israel. In total 14 people were sentenced for “collaborating with the occupation”.
The heads of EU missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah said in a statement quoted by the Xinhua news agency that they strongly reject the death penalty, no matter what the circumstances are.
“The abolition of the death penalty contributes to the protection of human dignity and to the progress and development of human rights,” said the statement, which denounced the death sentences as “cruel and inhumane.”
The EU statement added that “death penalty does not constitute a deterrent to criminal conduct and constitutes an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity.”
It called on Hamas rulers in Gaza “to refrain from executing any death sentence against the prisoners.”
Hamas regularly claims to have captured “Israeli spies”, and many times it tries them and sentences them to death.
In theory all execution orders in the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) territories must be approved by PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who is based in Ramallah and who imposed a moratorium on executions several years ago.
Hamas no longer recognizes Abbas’ legitimacy, and has in the past emphatically declared that the death penalty in Gaza can be carried out without his consent.
In October, the group claimed to have exposed and arrested a Palestinian Arab who had worked as an intelligence agent for Israel for 15 years.
In March, the group claimed it had arrested a local man who had been working as a “spy” for Israel and who intended to convince Gazans not to take part in a violent protest march along the Gaza-Israel border.
Last April, the group hanged three men accused of collaborating with Israel in the killing of senior Hamas commander Mazen Faqha.
The article was published on Arutz 7
Proportionality. I have come to loathe this word. It’s so sterile. It’s devoid of emotion, it’s not human. How many arguments do you have, or conversations where the dialogue is entirely ‘proportional’? Most of all who gets to decide? Who gets to sit in the armchair and say that, well Alex, your response to your colleague, wife, aggressor was not proportionate?
The amount of arguments I’ve had with Israel haters in the past when it comes to Gaza. The times I’ve had put up with this utterly bullsh%t word. Then you have the various political Institutions: statements, emergency sessions, condemnatory resolutions, commissions of inquiry…Israel acted with disproportionality.
Yesterday, on the back of one dead Hamas commander over 400 rockets were fired – completely indiscriminately – towards Israel civilian centres. As I write, there are 67 casualties on the Israeli side, one dead soldier, a bus hit, and one dead Arab migrant who was trying to protect his home. And I’m still trying to get the various sounds of screaming kids and terrified parents running for shelter that I was sent last night by friends and families, out of my head.
Is that proportional? I’ve been met with stony silence from the Israel haters and Palestinian lovers. Yep, those same people, those same political institutions with their commissions, statements and press releases, are silent.
I can almost already hear the keyboards typing their anodyne statements from here, ”we condemn the escalation of tensions and urge a ceasefire. We urge both sides to use restraint and work towards a de-escalation.”
Puke. ‘Restraint’ is almost as bad as proportionality in the pantheon of banal vocabulary. Kick me where it hurts repeatedly, target my daughter and my wife, my brother, sister, nephews and nieces, my best friend and I can assure you, restraint will be the last word on my mind, well maybe not the last, top spot goes to ‘proportional’.
But let me tell you about restraint. Restraint is knowing that in two minutes you could turn every Hamas home into a car park, but you don’t. Restraint is taking the repeated kicks and not lashing out in righteous fury as your family narrowly walk the thin line between life and death as a result of some coward hiding in the bushes. The coward who invokes g-d as he launches a rocket that he hopes will kill (who? it doesn’t matter, its one dead Jew!), then will gloat and cheer, and be lifted on shoulders, called a hero while someone random in Israel, maybe an accountant, or a supermarket worker, maybe a teacher or a schoolkid, lies bleeding, dismembered or dead. Israelis know all this. But those calling for restraint and proportionality don’t.
But if it was Amiens instead of Ashkelon? if it was Prague not Petah-Tikvah? or Nuremberg instead of Netivot? If, while they and their family were a home, and they had seconds to take shelter at the sheer randomness of a rain of rockets, would they feel restraint? Would they ask themselves, are my feelings proportional to the threat? I mean maybe that rocket wasn’t meant for me? What made the poor man want to fire it in the first place? Maybe he’s having a tough time? Of course they bloody well wouldn’t!
And yet this is the kind of self-effacing language and acts that are expected of nobody else in the world except for Israel when it comes to dealing with Gaza. We feel your pain but restrain yourselves, your life is a living hell but hey, put it into proportion.
My esteemed colleague asked me why today, what’s so different about this barrage, to the recent ones. Why am I angry today? Because today I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough of restraining my language to please the target audience and their commissions of inquiry and press releases. I’ve had enough of the silence of the pro-Hamas human rights activists who pick and choose what proportional is, what it means and who preach restraint but act differently when it comes to Palestinian terror. There’s a line in a movie that I’m going to paraphrase: “For every action, there’s a reaction. And an Israeli reaction is quite a (expletive) thing.”
Now is the time for such a reaction. To the one-sided Institutions, to the haters, the Palestinian activists I say this: Today you can keep your proportionality and restraint.
And if I have to take your outrage and finger wagging knowing that my friends, families and fellow Jews (and indeed Israeli arabs) are safe in their houses, I will gladly do so.
How can I respect any self-righteous position taken by you from the comfort of your impersonal gilded office armchairs? Where those two vomit-inducing words flow so easily because you don’t know any friends or family who live there?
I have no idea what proportional means to you. And right now, at this precise moment, I really don’t care. Because through your silence, or your sterile words, you show you don’t care about me, about the people I care about it, or the country I love.
Alex Benjamin, Director of Europe Israel Public Affairs.
Robbing Peter to pay Paul. Many of us know this expression, but not its origin from 16th-century England, when part of the estate of Saint Peter’s Cathedral in Westminster was appropriated to pay for repairs to Saint Paul’s in London. That brief trivia titbit aside, the expression fits very well when it comes to EU funding of the Palestinians.
On Thursday afternoon, after much advocacy work from us at EIPA, and other groups such as the excellent Impact SE, the European Parliament budgets committee recommended a 15 Million Euro freeze in funding to the Palestinian Authority until it changes its school textbooks. Regular readers of mine will know that we at EIPA have done a lot of raising on this issue. It’s bad enough that many schools under Palestinian Authority control are named after terrorists who committed terrible atrocities, and that encourage pupils to emulate their life, but textbooks, funded in part by EU taxpayers, refer to Jews as liars, sinful, apes and pigs and utterly refuse to countenance the existence of the State of Israel. It doesn’t take much head scratching to figure out why the Palestinian population is completely unprepared for peace. How can they be when they teach their children, as part of the school curriculum to hate, and to believe in the falsehood that Israel is a fabrication, it doesn’t exist, and that martyrdom and resistance to the ‘occupation’ is the way forward?
So, when the news came out yesterday, our phones at EIPA HQ and whatsapp were running red. Is this true? Will the Commission accept the parliament’s recommendations? Finally, is the EU is starting to wake up?
Yes. Most likely (as under the co-decision procedure on budgets it can’t ignore parliament) And lastly, sadly no.
Sadly no? that’s a bit defeatist isn’t it? You and others actually got one of the EU institutions to put pressure on the PA and introduced conditionality on Aid, something that you have been banging on about for years now? Where’s the beef, Benjamin?
All fair questions dear reader. By the time you read this, it will be Strasbourg week (when the European Parliament decamps beside the Rhine to vote in plenary). On the agenda is UNWRA. As most of you know, the American administration cut its funding to the UN agency, which is unique as a refugee agency for exacerbating the very problem it is tasked to solve. Under its tenure UNWRA has seen refugee numbers rise from some half a million at its inception, to roughly 5 Million today. Think about it. That’s a bit like having a food aid programme that actually contributes to famine isn’t it?
Anyway, long story short, we knew what was coming. Late on Thursday, once the 15 Million had had its few hours in the news cycle, the office of Federica Mogherini announced that it was giving UNWRA 40 Million Euro to help bridge the gap in US funding to UNWRA.
Robbing Peter to Pay Paul. We might be stretching the analogy a bit here equating ourselves to the parishioners of St. Peters (and our Rabbis would probably have something to say about it too), but what sense does it make to cut PA funding in half on textbooks (good by the way, and long, long overdue), whilst simultaneously funding a UN body that keeps Palestinians trapped in a spiral of permanent refugee status, with little prospect of quality of life, under a terrorist dictatorship and which only underlines and compliments the very narratives that are expressed in the textbooks, and lead year after year to needless deaths, more hatred and more entrenchment?
Answers on a postcard please to EEAS HQ at Schuman Roundabout in Brussels if you figure that one out. Oh and post your answer in comments below please and spare my already raw scalp from further self-inflicted scratching abuse.
The Op-Ed was written by our director, Alex Benjamin and was also published in The Times of Israel
PM meets with his Egyptian counterpart al-Sisi on sidelines of UN General Assembly to discuss regional developments and the situation in Gaza; only an Egyptian flag was put in the room; Egyptian spokesman: ‘the two stressed the importance of renewing cease-fire talks with Hamas.’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Wednesday with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
The two leaders met amid continued efforts of Egyptian intelligence to mediate a possible long-term ceasefire arrangement between Israel and Hamas.
Netanyahu’s talks with Sisi late on Wednesday focused on “regional developments”, the Israeli Prime Minister wrote on Twitter without elaborating.
A spokesman for the Egyptian president issued a statement saying that the two leaders “discussed the peace process, and stressed the importance of renewing negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis in order to form a comprehensive and just solution to the Palestinian problem.”
He added that resolving the problem would create a new reality in the Middle East, one “in which all peoples enjoy stability.” According to the spokesman, Netanyahu thanked al-Sisi for his efforts in fighting terrorism.
Netanyahu and al-Sisi met publicly for the first time in September of last year, also in New York. Last month, Ynet learned that the prime minister held a secret meeting with al-Sisi.
The information came from a foreign diplomatic source, but the Prime Minister’s Office refused to comment on the matter.
According to Channel 10 News, the meeting took place on May 22 when Netanyahu flew with a small delegation of advisors and security guards. He stayed in Egypt for a few hours and participated in the breaking of the Ramadan fast before returning to Israel late at night.
Egypt plays an important role in a cease-fire talk between Israel and Hamas.
Last Saturday a delegation of senior Egyptian intelligence officials arrived in the Gaza Strip for a brief visit as part of Egypt’s effort to renew the internal reconciliation talks in Gaza as well as ceasefire negotiations with Israel.
The Egyptian intelligence officials who entered Gaza through the Erez Crossing met with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh for a “significant and crucial” meeting, Palestinian sources said.
“Egypt’s main interest is to reach an intra-Palestinian reconciliation in accordance with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas’s demand that he is the only legitimate representative of the Palestinians with whom any understandings can be reached.
“Hamas, however, is interested in promoting a ceasefire agreement with Israel before an intra-Palestinian reconciliation is achieved, in order to take credit for easing the Israeli blockade over Gaza,” the Palestinian sources elaborated.
“Egypt views the dead end (in ceasefire talks with Israel) as pushing Gaza towards a dangerous military escalation on the border fence. Nevertheless, Egypt is not willing to promote calm only to please Hamas since it has bigger international and intra-Arab interests. Egypt will need to decide how to overcome this obstacle” the sources explained.
According to The Associated Press, after the Egyptian delegation left Gaza, senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said their indirect cease-fire talks with Israel have halted. Abu Zuhri added that his Islamic militant group is escalating its protests in new locations along Gaza’s border with Israel.
Egypt has been working to broker a long-term ceasefire between Israel and the Gaza Strip’s dominant Hamas Islamist movement amid frequent violence along the Israel-Gaza border.
Since March, thousands swarmed the security fence as part of “The Great March of Return,” weekly protests.
Egypt and the United Nations have been working to mediate in order to avoid another large-scale round of violence.
Egypt was the first of a handful of Arab countries to recognize Israel under a 1979 peace treaty and the two countries maintain close co-ordination on security as well as energy ties.
On Thursday Israeli and Egyptian companies announced that they would buy into a pipeline that would enable a landmark $15 billion natural gas export deal to begin next year.
Netanyahu and Sisi convened for their previously announced talks several hours after US President Donald Trump said he wanted a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in what had appeared to be the clearest expression yet of his administration’s support for such an outcome.
But later on Wednesday Trump told a news conference that he would be open to a one-state solution if that was the preference of the parties themselves, a position he had previously stated.
The article was published on Ynet
European Commission Director General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, Christian Danielsson, and the Managing Director for Middle East and North Africa at the European External Action Service, Fernando Gentilini, will hold consultations this week with the representatives of the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority on the on-going review of modalities of EU engagement on the ground in support of a two-state solution.
The objective of the review is to ensure that all the modalities of the European Union’s engagement are as efficient and as effective as possible to advance the goal of a two-state solution, including in Gaza which, together with the West Bank, is an integral part of a future Palestinian state.
The EU remains firmly committed to the two-state solution as the only realistic and viable way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The EU has a close partnership with Palestine as its largest and most reliable donor, and with Israel as its biggest trading partner. The EU wishes to hear the views and perspectives on the review from Israel and the Palestinian Authority, both of which benefit from the EU’s active engagement, and to raise and discuss with them any obstacles to peace and to the viability of the two-state solution.
Click here for the Press release
Envoys for international bodies highlight mortar shell that fell outside kindergarten; UN urges restraint by ‘all parties’
Representatives from the European Union and United Nations on Tuesday condemned the firing of more than two dozen mortar shells from the Gaza Strip at southern Israel, both calling it “unacceptable.”
The EU’s ambassador to Israel, Emanuele Giaufret, as well as the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, both focused on one of the shells striking a tree in the yard of a kindergarten in the Eshkol region, less than an hour before students were due to arrive.
“As kids were preparing for school this morning a barrage of rockets from Gaza fell on southern Israel,” the EU envoy tweeted. “One landed outside a kindergarten. I know the resilience of communities in southern Israel but indiscriminate attacks are totally unacceptable and to be condemned unreservedly.”
Mladenov said in a statement that he was “deeply concerned by the indiscriminate firing of rockets by Palestinian militants from Gaza towards communities in Southern Israel, at least one of which hit in the immediate vicinity of a kindergarten and could have killed or injured children.”
“Such attacks are unacceptable and undermine the serious efforts by the international community to improve the situation in Gaza,” the UN envoy added. “All parties must exercise restraint, avoid escalation and prevent incidents that jeopardize the lives of Palestinians and Israelis.”
The kindergarten that was hit by a mortar shell — along with all other schools in the area — opened as usual on Tuesday, despite the attack.
“At this point, there are no special instructions for residents of the Gaza periphery. Please continue to listen to the instructions of the Home Front Command,” the army said in a statement.
The attack, which triggered three rounds of sirens in as many hours in the Sha’ar Hanegev and Eshkol regions, was claimed by the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, apparently as revenge for the IDF killing three of its members in a cross-border exchange earlier in the week.
It appeared to be the largest attack from the Gaza Strip, in terms of the number of projectiles fired, since the 2014 war, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge.
Most of the projectiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. One person was lightly injured.
The initial, larger bombardment came at 7 a.m., when approximately 25 mortar shells were fired toward the Sha’ar Hanegev and Eshkol regions, the army said.
Exactly an hour later, incoming sirens were triggered for a second time in the Eshkol region, but not in Sha’ar Hanegev, as at least two mortar shells struck an open field in the area, the army said.
The second attack caused neither injuries nor damage.
Sirens in southern Israel were triggered by a mortar shell for a third time shortly after 9:30 a.m., the army said.
That projectile struck an open field outside a community in the Eshkol region, causing no injury or damage, local officials said.
The military responded to the early morning attack by shelling a number of positions belonging to terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian media reported. The army would not immediately confirm it had conducted retaliatory strikes. Additional reprisal raids were expected, in accordance with Israel’s standard policies regarding attacks from Gaza.
Pictures and videos were quickly shared on social media apparently showing the launches of the mortar shells and the interceptions by the Iron Dome.
In the latest round of violence, unlike previous ones, Gazan terrorists had until Tuesday generally refrained from shooting rockets, instead using small arms fire directed at troops, planting bombs, flying incendiary kites, and sneaking across the border to cause minor damage.
Since March 30, tens of thousands of Palestinians have taken part in weekly protests that Israel says are orchestrated by Hamas and used as cover for attempted terror attacks and breaches of the border fence.
The violent demonstrations were meant to end on May 15, but Hamas leaders have said they want them to continue. Over 10,000 Gazans took part in the demonstrations in the course of Friday and Saturday, the army said.
The demonstrations came to a head on May 14 when the US moved its embassy to Jerusalem and at least 60 Palestinians were killed in clashes — almost all of them Hamas members, the terror group has acknowledged.
Judah Ari Gross and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.
On Tuesday Daniel Sugarman wrote an article on the clashes at the Gaza border. Today he acknowledges that he was wrong.
It’s never easy to say you’re sorry.
To admit you’re wrong. To announce publicly, “I made a mistake”.
But to apologise when that apology comes bound up with what is, perhaps, the most intractable conflict on earth, makes it a thousand times harder.
But that is what I am. Sorry.
A few days ago I wrote a column about the latest round of violence on the border with Gaza.
It was a cry from the heart. I love Israel. I have always loved it, and cannot envision a time when I will not love it.
But in my office, I sit near a television set. And on Monday, I saw the following, side by side.
On the left, in Jerusalem, I saw happy faces. Self-congratulatory faces. I saw the Prime Minister of Israel talking about how the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem was a big step towards peace.
And on the right, simultaneously, in Gaza, I saw tear gas, and smoke, and bullets.
And it was in this context that I wrote my piece, which was an extremely personal one. I wrote it in anguish. I wrote it making clear that I despised Hamas and all it stood for. But I also wrote the following:
“Every bullet Israel fires, every life Israel takes, makes this situation worse. There are ways to disperse crowds which do not include live fire. But the IDF has made an active choice to fire live rounds and kill scores of people. You cannot tell me that Israel, a land of technological miracles which have to be seen to be truly believed, is incapable of coming up with a way of incapacitating protestors that does not include gunning dozens of them down. But no. In front of the entire world, Israel keeps shooting, and protestors, including very young protestors, keep dying. You may tell me that Hamas wants these deaths, wants to create martyrs, wants to fill the hearts of the people of Gaza with rage against Israel because the alternative is for people to look at their lives in Gaza and rage against Hamas. But if you tell me that, why are you not asking yourselves why Israel is so willingly giving Hamas exactly what it wishes?”
I received a lot of praise for my piece, from people I admire greatly, as well as from a great many unexpected sources, including from within the Jewish community.
I also received a lot of criticism. I got called a traitor, and that most vile of all insults a Jew can bestow or receive, a “Kapo”.
People also wrote pieces in response. I was told that, as a Jew not currently living in Israel, my greatest worry was whether Starbucks would have almond-soya milk for my latte.
But the criticism I paid more attention to was from people who pointed out that it was absurd to deal in hypotheticals. I’d said that surely there must be a way the protestors could be stopped without shooting live ammunition at them – that Israel, with its incredible technological capabilities, must be capable of developing a way. That was a cry of anguish, but it was not an argument. If no such technology currently exists, then it was absurd of me to blame the IDF for not magically willing it into existence. The traditional crowd stopping technology would not have worked effectively. Rubber bullets are only short range. The same with water cannons. And with tens of thousands of people rushing the border, this would have been extremely unlikely to work effectively. The border would have been broken through. And then, without much of a doubt, a lot of people in Israel would have died. That was, after all, Hamas’s stated aim.
But what really affected me the most was yesterday, when a Hamas operative went on television and claimed that, of the 62 people killed in the last two days, fifty were Hamas operatives. Islamic Jihad claimed three more, meaning that over 80 percent of the people who were killed while trying to breach the border were members of terrorist organisations whose direct aim is to bring death and suffering into Israel.
And I opened my eyes and saw what I had done.
I had fallen into the trap I had always been convinced I would not fall into. I had condemned Israel for defending itself.
There are things one can write about how Israel could have acted differently in the run-up to these attempts to charge the border. But I did not write about those in my original piece. I wrote that, by killing the Palestinians running towards them, the IDF was giving Hamas exactly what it wished for – martyrs for the cause.
I failed to acknowledge that, either way, Israel would be giving Hamas what it wanted. Shoot at those charging at you and Hamas would have its martyrs. Fail to shoot and Hamas would break through the barrier and bring suffering and death – its stated aim – to Israelis living only a few hundred metres away from that barrier. The march may have originally been, as it was declared to be, about Palestinians returning to the homes they had to leave 70 years before. But Hamas’s aim was far more straightforward – “We will take down the border and we will tear out their hearts from their bodies.”
I wrote in my previous article that Israel was a regional powerhouse, and that it was strong enough to take criticism from Jews in the Diaspora.
I still believe it is strong enough to do so. I just don’t believe that my criticism of it was valid. Given the circumstances, and the situation on the ground, I am at a loss in terms of coming up with a better solution. The choice was, quite literally, shoot at people running at you with the stated aim of killing you and your families, or fail to shoot and let them do it.
A few days ago I said I could not and would not defend Israel’s actions. Now, in the cold light of day, I could not and would not see how I would fail to defend them.
I said that Israel should be ashamed of its actions. But today I am the one ashamed.
The article was published in the Jewish Chronicle
Many questions remain about what led to the deaths of up to 58 Palestinians on Monday. One of the key issues surrounds how the protests are organized. Based on observation and discussions with sources close to the protests, the following presents a clearer picture of what has occurred over the last weeks, and attempts to paint a picture of how the May 14 protests unfolded.
Since the end of March, there have been mass protests along the Gaza border. These protests have been well organized and planned as part of an eight week “Great March of Return,” from the Palestinian Land Day on March 30, to the “Nakba Day” on May 15.
On May 14, the mass protests, which coincided with the US opening its embassy in Jerusalem and came a day before what was supposed to be the last day of the protests, resulted in 58 Palestinians killed and up to 2,700 wounded, according to Gaza-based Palestinian reports.
The protests have been organized around five locations next to Israel’s security fence. Over the eight weeks of demonstrations, protesters used a variety of different tactics and methods. For instance, protesters began lighting massive fires and burning tires during the second Friday, in early April. Then they began launching burning kites to ignite Israeli farmland. They also tore down a section of barbed wire of one of the fences between Israel and Gaza on April 27. It was during this protest that a reliable source provided some insight into the methods employed by Hamas and the protesters.
The protesters have gathered every Friday with tens of thousands participating. At the very back of the protest, hundreds of meters from the fence, are tents and field hospitals, prayer areas and families. This is where some of the Hamas officials will show up in the morning or early afternoon to rouse the people and encourage them in their protest. Speeches will be made and prayers offered. It is well organized. Buses bring people to the protests. There are people selling food. There is even a macabre element of this, with protesters saying they’ll have a meal before they become “shahid” or a martyr at the front.
The masses of protesters who approach the actual fence are generally made up of young men and teenagers, including youth and children. There are very few women in the area closest to the fence. The protesters know how the Israeli security forces have been operating; they expect to be shot or are cognizant that this is a distinct possibility. There are ambulance teams and medics, as well as numerous spontaneous volunteers, ready to take away the injured, many of them shot in the legs.
As the young men burn tires, and others prepare Molotov cocktails or slingshots, some prepare kites to fly. The goal of the protesters is to get to the fence and, with select groups of young men who have brought wire cutters, to cut through. Most of them don’t make it this far, but some of them do.
Gazans who attempt to reach the main security fence first have to deal with other obstacles. There is a barbed-wire fence in sections to deter protesters from reaching the main fence. Israel has continuously warned since March that anyone approaching this kind of buffer zone would be shot. A section of barbed wire fence was torn down and dragged away in late April. The Palestinians cheered as they brought it back to the protest camp. A sign of victory.
According to reports, it takes about thirty seconds running between the barbed-wire fence and the main security fence.
But what happened in late April was not just the spontaneous chaos of rioters at the fence. Some of those wounded and killed by live fire, as shown on videos, have not been directly threatening the fence, but there are others groups whose sole purpose is to penetrate the fence.
The actual attempt to get closest to the fence and break through it has involved planning and coordination on the Palestinian side. Hamas members, unarmed but clearly directing some of the young men, are in the crowd. They watch for an area of burning tires and people, where the protesters have managed to get close to the fence or breach the first line of barbed wire.
Some of these professional activists are on motorcycles and they may come and go or drive along the line of protests or observe them from a high point. When they sense that a breach can be made, they gather together groups of young men, men who have prepared beforehand for the assault.
Like some kind of First World War charge of death, the young men then rush as a group toward the fence.
During the April 27 events, up to 700 men were reported by IDF spokesman Col. Jonathan Conricus to have assaulted the fence “in a way that we have not seen them assault it before,” according to a New York Times report.
An earlier Times report titled “300 Meters in Gaza: Snipers, Burning Tires and a Contested Fence,” summarized well the planning and details of the protests and confirmed later accounts.
Planning began ahead of the May 14 protests. Joe Dyke, the AFP correspondent in Gaza, wrote on May 10 that, at a “briefing to foreign media, Gaza head of Hamas told journalists today he would support thousands of Palestinians breaking through the border fence next week.”
On Sunday the IDF dropped leaflets on Gaza warning protesters to stay away from the fence. On May 14 Dyke, in Gaza, tweeted: “literally as the US embassy inauguration is beginning, loud speakers east of Gaza City are calling on protesters to prepare to seek to breach the border fence.”
By the end of the day, 58 had been killed.
The article was published in The JPost
Diplomatic pressure of the Israeli Ministry for Foreign Affairs caused the EU Parliament to significantly alter the motion for resolution submitted against Israel; final resolution corresponds with Israel’s stance about Gaza and describes Hamas as a terror organization.
The European Parliament on Thursday, in an unprecedented move, condemned Hamas and called for the release of the Israeli citizens and for the retrieve of the Israeli soldiers’ bodies held by the organization.
The original motion for resolution included severe condemnation against Israel, as well as a request for investigation at the International Criminal Court of Justice in Hague, determination that the IDF didn’t use proportional force, a call to reexamine Israel’s ties in the EU and an immediate establishment of a EU investigation committee to review latest events in Gaza.
The resolution was completely altered and many provisions were added which unusually correspond with the Israeli stand regarding Gaza.
According to the resolution adopted today, Israel is still condemned for shooting Gaza’s citizens and is called to end the siege, however, the use of disproportional force was not determined. In the resolution, the European Parliament, housed in Strasbourg, France, called for an investigation, but added it will be executed by a special team assembled by its Chief of Staff.
The remaining provisions in the original notion for resolution were left out. However, the resolution calls for the immediate release of Avera Mangistu and Hisham al-Sayed and for the retrieve of the bodies of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul.
The resolution also emphasizes that Hamas is a terror organization who transformed Gaza into an enclave focused on terror, withholds basic rights from its citizens, prevents the strip’s rehabilitation and continues to hinder the chance for reconciliation. It holds Hamas accountable for the assassination attempt of the Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and condemns the organization for acts of terror, rocket fire, infiltration attempts into Israel, tunnel diggings and use of citizens as human shields.
Moreover, the resolution determines that despite the Palestinians’ right to peaceful protests, the Gaza’s leaders must avoid incitement and ensure demonstrations wouldn’t be used for spreading terror.
Israel’s ambassador to the EU and NATO Aaron Lashno-Ya’ar expressed his content regarding the resolution. “Not only have we managed to extract outrageous and anti-Israeli elements from the resolution, but Hamas is also being criticized. The most important element for us is the explicit call for an immediate release of the Israeli citizen and the soldier’s bodies from Gaza.”
“The latter is a matter we continually raise to discussion with European bodies. It’s important that finally, for the first time, the European Parliament released a clear and unequivocal resolution regarding this matter,” he added.
Deputy Chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee of the European Parliament Andres Wistesen said in a message to the press that he welcomes the decision, reiterating the parliament’s stance that that “Hamas is a terror organization” and called for the release of the Israeli citizens and return of the bodies held by it.
“Despite the resolution is not without flaws and that leftists continue in their struggle to blur the reality in Gaza, I’m pleased that the parliament’s European Conservatives and Reformists group tirelessly acts to make the voice of reason heard,” added Wistesen, taking the opportunity to congratulate Israel on its 70th Independence Day.
The article was published on Ynet
Gaza rioters prepare for additional mass protest this coming Friday, look for ways to neutralize IDF forces on the border.
Arab rioters in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip amassed materials along the border with Israel this week in preparation for yet another confrontation with Israeli security forces on the frontier, planned for this coming Friday.
Last Friday, some 30,000 rioters gathered at the Israeli border, kicking off six weeks of protests against the State of Israel and President Donald Trump’s decision to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem.
The protests will culminate in a mass demonstration on May 15th, the day after Israel’s 70th Independence Day and the scheduled opening of the new US embassy.
Rioters hurled firebombs at Israeli security forces along the Gaza border, Friday, with thousands of demonstrators attempting to scale the security fence and enter Israel.
IDF sharpshooters opened fire on rioters attempting to enter Israeli territory, as well as terrorists hurling firebombs, as well as two gunmen.
Hospital officials in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip claimed that 17 people were killed by IDF fire, and more than 1,400 wounded by live-fire – a claim the IDF spokesman Brigadier General Ronen Manelis disputed. Israeli officials noted that 10 of those killed on the border were members of the Hamas terror group.
The United Nations has demanded an “independent and transparent investigation” into Israel’s actions during the riots. Israeli officials, including Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, have rejected the UN’s position, arguing that Israel’s right to self-defense justified the IDF’s response.
“Israeli soldiers did what was necessary. I think all our soldiers deserve a medal,” Liberman told Army Radio Sunday. “As for a commission of inquiry – there won’t be one.”
Since last Friday’s riots, organizers have amassed stockpiles of material for the next mass confrontation.
While hundreds of rioters continue to protest along the border, Friday’s riots are expected to again draw thousands to the security fence on the Israel-Gaza frontier.
Along with firebombs and rocks, organizers of the protests have stockpiled tires, to be set on fire and hurled at the security fence.
Protesters are also exploring ways of neutralizing Israeli security forces on the border, including the use of mirrors to reflect sunlight into the eyes of IDF snipers.
According to a report by Israel Hayom, protest organizers are also looking to open a new front against IDF efforts to defend Israel from the rioters by pursuing charges against Israeli personnel in international courts.
The article was published on Arutz 7
French driver and Palestinian guard employed by the consulate in east Jerusalem arrested on suspicion of using a vehicle with diplomatic plates to transfer weapons from Hamas in Gaza to the West Bank.
Two employees of the French Consulate in east Jerusalem—a driver and his security guard—were arrested by Israeli authorities last month on suspicion of using a vehicle with diplomatic plates to smuggle weapons from Hamas in Gaza to the West Bank, the Shin Bet said Monday.
The consulate’s driver, Romain Franck, a French national, is suspected of using his diplomatic vehicle to transport some 70 handguns and two assault rifles.
A Palestinian guard employed by French authorities, a resident of east Jerusalem, was also arrested in the case, as well as several Palestinians from the Gaza Strip who were staying in the West Bank illegally.
Franck was part of a Palestinian network in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and east Jerusalem that smuggled weapons from Gaza to the West Bank through the Erez border crossing.
The French driver smuggled arms on several occasions over the past few months, while taking advantage of his diplomatic vehicle, which was subject to less stringent security checks at the crossing.
Franck received the weapons from a Palestinian resident of Gaza who works for the “French culture center” in the strip. Franck then took the arms to a Palestinian man in the West Bank, who in turn sold them to arms dealers.
The investigation found that Franck had a financial motive and was acting of his own volition and unbeknown to his superiors. The investigation also found that several of the Palestinians arrested in the case were also involved in the smuggling of money from Gaza to the West Bank.
The investigation was carried out in coordination with the Israeli Foreign Ministry and while keeping French authorities constantly updated.
A total of nine suspects have been arrested in the case so far. Indictments will be filed against six of them on Monday.
The French embassy in Israel said on Monday it was cooperating with Israel in the investigation. “We take very seriously this case … and we work very closely with the Israeli authorities on this matter,” said an embassy spokesman, who declined to comment further on the allegations against the staffer, a French citizen.
According to his Facebook page, Franck, who is from Lambersart in the north of France, arrived in Jerusalem in January 2017. “It’s the big day, starting to a new adventure.. Thank you for everything that accompanied me and supported in this new experience that begins!” he wrote at the time.
Later he posted many photos from the region, including from Petra and Aqaba in Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and the Jordan Valley.
An Israeli official called the incident “very grave,” but clarified it would not affect Israel’s ties with France. “We thank French authorities for the cooperation,” he said.
A senior Shin Bet official decried the “cynical exploitation of the immunity and privileges granted to foreign representatives in Israel to smuggle weapons… that could be used in terror attacks against Israeli citizens and security forces.”
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, also slammed the “cynical and never-ending exploitation of humanitarian aid and international aid by the terrorist infrastructure.”
“This event only clarifies the need for a strict policy on granting (entry) permits,” he continued. “International bodies are required to carry out internal inspections to ensure aid goes to the residents of Gaza and not to terror.”
French lawmaker Meyer Habib, who represents French nationals living in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, said, “Unfortunately, this isn’t the first problematic affair the French Consulate in Jerusalem has been involved in. And even if only junior staff were involved, there is a feeling, unfortunately, that the consulate has actually become the French Embassy to the Palestinian Authority.”
The article was published on Ynet
Resident of Gaza crosses border after being shot by Hamas forces, IDF treats him. ‘Israel cares more for Palestinian life than Hamas does.’
A Palestinian Arab resident of the Gaza Strip crossed into Israel yesterday, Wednesday, after being shot by Hamas forces patrolling the border. Upon entering Israeli territory, he was treated by IDF soldiers.
COGAT (“Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories”) head Yoav Mordechai uploaded a post about the incident, addressing Gaza residents on COGAT’s Arabic Facebook page.
“Nothing simpler: a Palestinian passed the security fence from the Gaza strip into Israel today after Hamas forces shot him. IDF soldiers helped him – this is a purely humanitarian issue.
“The State of Israel and its army care for Palestinian life more than Hamas does, and this is the issue.
“The more you internalize it, people of Gaza, you will understand that Hamas has nothing to offer. You deserve more!”
On that note, Mordechai said, “It is time to remind you of an important fact, that two Israeli soldiers [Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul] and Israeli citizens held in the Gaza strip are also a humanitarian issue of paramount importance!”
The Alticle was published on Arutz 7
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during a speech at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday, brandished a piece of the Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle that Israel downed a week ago after it entered Israel’s airspace and warned Iran “not to test Israel’s resolve.”
Israel, Netanyahu said at the conference that was attended by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, “will act not just against Iran’s proxies that are attacking us, but against Iran itself.”
Zarif, who addressed the conference later in the day, dismissed Netanyahu’s presentation as a “cartoonish circus, which does not even deserve a response.”
Netanyahu, who said Zarif “lies with eloquence,” warned the conference participants that Zarif will “brazenly deny Iran’s nefarious involvement in Syria.”
“Iran also denies that it committed an act of aggression against Israel last week, that it sent a drone into our airspace to threaten our people,” Netanyahu said, pulling out the Iranian prop from behind the podium and holding it high up with one hand.
“Well, here’s a piece of that Iranian drone, or what’s left of it after we shot it down. I brought it here so you can see for yourself. Mr. Zarif, do you recognize this? You should. It’s yours.”
Netanyahu is the first Israeli prime minister to have ever addressed this prestigious conference, and the overwhelming majority of his 15-minute speech and 15 minutes of Q and A, dealt with Iran.
With former US secretary of state John Kerry, one of the key architects of the Iranian nuclear deal, sitting in the front row, Netanyahu ripped into the accord as he has done many times in the past, saying that the inspection regimen is completely insufficient, and that when the sun sets on the agreement in some 10 years’ time, the Iranians will have an “open highway” to build not only one nuclear device, but an entire nuclear arsenal.
To have nuclear weapons, Netanyahu said, “you need a gun, bullets, and gunpowder.”
The gun is the ballistic missiles that the Iranians are developing, unchecked by the nuclear deal and undeterred by UN Security Council resolutions, he said.
“They should be stopped and slammed with the most crippling sanctions to prevent them from continuing the development of these [nuclear] delivery systems, these guns,” he said.
Furthermore, the Iranians are hiding the “casings for the bullets” in military sites, which the nuclear deal has placed out of bounds to inspectors, he said.
And the third element – the gunpowder – is the enriched uranium, “which is the toughest thing to make for a nuclear weapon, because it is the most difficult to manufacture, requires big plants and precision engineering.” When the sun sets on the agreement, he said, Iran will be given “free rein to enrich uranium without limitations.”
Lifting Iran’s limitations on uranium enrichment should not be linked to a calendar, Netanyahu said, but rather to Iran’s behavior, which as a result of the deal has gotten worse and more aggressive in the region, not better.
Netanyahu predicted that the Iranians would “do nothing” if the nuclear deal is not either “fixed or nixed.”
FURTHERMORE, he said, the countries of the world would have to decide whether they prefer dealing with the US or with Iran, which – despite the fact that it has some 80 million people as compared to Israel’s 8.5 million – has an economy about the size of Israel’s.
“I think the time to stop them is now,” he said.
Netanyahu said that Iran, through nefarious moves in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza, is trying to change the status quo in the region.
If they do change the status quo, he said, the rule he will follow is one established by the early Zionists when dealing with problems: “They said nip things in the bud, stop them before they get big. That’s basically what our policy is.”
Netanyahu also conveyed a message to Syrian President Bashar Assad, stressing that Israel’s decision to stay out of the Syrian civil war for the last six years, except to grant humanitarian aid to thousands of Syrians in Israeli hospitals, could change.
Assad understands that if he invites Iran to entrench itself militarily inside his country, he is challenging Israel, he said. “If Mr. Assad invites Iran in militarily, that changes our position. So that is up to Iran and to Mr. Assad.”
Zarif, in addition to dismissing Netanyahu’s presentation as a “cartoonish circus,” said the recent shooting down of an Israeli F16 after it bombed an Iranian site in Syria had shattered Israel’s “so-called invincibility.”
“Israel uses aggression as a policy against its neighbors,” Zarif said, accusing Israel of “mass reprisals against its neighbors and daily incursions into Syria, Lebanon.”
“Once the Syrians have the guts to down one of its planes, it’s as if a disaster has happened,” Zarif said.
“What has happened in the past several days is the so-called invincibility [of Israel] has crumbled.”
He accused the United States of using the conference to “revive hysteria” against Iran and denied that Tehran was seeking “hegemony” in the Middle East.
Zarif also poked at Netanyahu for his legal problems, saying, “Israel’s major problems are its years-long criminal occupation policies, and I’m not even talking about its corruption.”
Kerry, meanwhile, said at the conference that it was wrong to assume that Iran would obtain a nuclear weapon as soon as the scope of the deal ends.
“If your house is on fire, are you going to refuse to put it out because you are concerned it will light on fire again in 15 years? Or are you going to put it out and use the intervening time to prevent to ever catching fire again?” he asked.
Before addressing the conference, Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, visited a memorial to the 11 Israeli Olympic athletes killed in Munich in 1972.
“There is [a] special meaning to the fact that we are standing at the place where 11 of our athletes were murdered just because they were Jews and Israelis. Millions were slaughtered here just because they were Jews,” he said. “The great difference is that we have a state and this state has acted, and is acting today, against terrorism and those who would destroy us.”
Netanyahu then led the members of his delegation in singing “Hatikva.”
The Article was published on The JPost
It looks like the EU is anxious to try and fill the US’ role as a peace mediator. From the EU External Action website:
Norway’s Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide and EU’s High Representative Federica Mogherini have decided to convene an extraordinary session of the international donor group for Palestine, the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC).
There is an urgent need to bring all parties together to discuss measures to speed up efforts that can underpin a negotiated two-state solution.
Furthermore it is necessary to enable the Palestinian Authority to execute full control over Gaza, based on the Cairo agreement from 12 October 2017.
The meeting will be held in Brussels on 31 January 2018 at Ministerial level, hosted by the European Union and chaired by Norway.
The impression one gets from this is not that the EU particularly expects to gain any more traction towards peace than it has in the past 69 years. Instead, it feels like the EU sees an apparent vacuum created by the US — and wants to fill that vacuum by giving Palestinians more money, and by tacitly agreeing with them that Jerusalem belongs to them as a basis for negotiations.
In this case, peace isn’t the goal. In reality, the EU is using the conflict to make itself look more relevant.
Because if the EU wanted peace, taking Jerusalem off the table and admitting that the city is Jewish is the single most effective move that the EU could make towards pushing Palestinians to compromise — rather than insisting on acting like a victor that can impose its terms on the region.
The Article was Published on The Algemeiner
International Committee of the Red Cross head Peter Maurer visits the strip and meets with Yahya Sinwar, asking him to allow him to visit ‘the Israeli soldiers missing in Gaza.’
The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, met with Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar on Tuesday to discuss the Israelis being held by the terror organization.
According to Palestinian news agency Ma’an, the meeting between the two lasted an hour, during which Maurer asked Sinwar to allow him to visit “the Israeli soldiers missing in Gaza.”
Ahead of the meeting, Maurer toured Gaza and met with some of the residents.
Maurer’s visit to the region is also expected to include Israel and Ramallah.
Israel’s intelligence community determined with high certainty that Hamas is holding two Israeli citizens: Abera Mengistu, 30, from Ashkelon, who has been in the strip since September 2014, and Hisham Shaaban al-Sayed, a Bedouin man from Hura, who crossed into Gaza in April 2015. Both are alive but suffering from physical and mental problems and need to be on medication on a regular basis.
In addition, Hamas is holding the bodies of IDF soldiers Lt. Hadar Goldin and Sgt. Oron Shaul, who were killed during the 2014 Operation Protective Edge in Gaza and their bodies were captured by Hamas.
Hamas is also holding an additional Israeli citizen, Jumaa Ibrahim Abu-Ghanima, whose presence in Gaza is defined as a “security affair” by the intelligence community, and he is not included on the list of POWs and MIAs. There is also doubt as to whether he really wants to return to Israel.
Sinwar has recently said he was willing to launch negotiations over the Israeli civilians and bodies of IDF soldiers being held by Hamas on the condition Israel frees Palestinian prisoners released in the 2011 Shalit deal who have been arrested again since for terror activity.
The article was posted on Ynet Nwes
The deputy mayor of Frankfurt, Uwe Becker, submitted a bill on Wednesday that would ban municipal funds and space being used for activities that aim to boycott Israel.
Becker, a leading German political voice against antisemitism, said, “The BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement with its messages uses the same language the National Socialists once used to express: ‘Don’t buy from Jews!’”
The boycott movement targeting Israel is “deeply antisemitic and should have no place in Frankfurt,” he said.
The proposed law would outlaw all public funding and space for the support of “antisemitic BDS activities.” The bill in Frankfurt, which has a population of nearly 733,000, would also urge private companies to refrain from commerce with BDS groups.
The deputy mayor spearheaded his Christian Democratic Union’s adoption of its anti-BDS platform at the party’s congress in 2016.
Becker said on Wednesday, “Frankfurt maintains, with its partnership with Tel Aviv, a special closeness to Israel and has continued to expand over the previous years this special relationship.”
The municipality said in a statement that Becker announced Frankfurt’s clear position against BDS in light of anti-boycott measures taken by other national and regional legislatures, including Munich’s.
Becker said BDS, at its core, is a movement that “delegitimizes the State of Israel and uses the method of a boycott to defame [Israel].” He cited BDS actions to intimidate artists who want to appear in Israel.
He also noted the boycott activities of “department store police” who stigmatize Israeli products in order to pressure stores to turn against the Jewish state.
Anti-Israel activists have over the years marched into stores in Bremen, Bonn and other German cities to single out Israeli goods for opprobrium.
Becker said his city is engaged for a peaceful resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Last week, Becker wrote on his Facebook page: “With the rising terrorism in Europe, more and more people start to understand the situation that Israel has been facing since David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the independence of Israel on May 14, 1948. This rising awareness should also open the eyes of the people in Europe to see that it is up to us to support Israel, as it is the only democratic country under the rule of law in the Middle East. Israel is the democratic bridge between Occident and Orient and is linked closely to our European values and virtues and way of life.”
He continued, “This year marks a decade of suffering for the people in Gaza. No, not from Israeli policy, as many people in Europe might think. No, people in Gaza suffer from a lack of freedom, from a lack of democracy, from the brutal rule of Hamas, which is betraying its own people and has been governing Gaza since Israel withdrew in 2005 and Hamas took over power in 2007 after fighting between Hamas and Fatah. The corrupt leadership of Hamas has received hundreds of millions of dollars in the past decade, but the money has not gone to the people, but to the accounts of corrupt Hamas leaders and to the funding of terrorism and terrorist infrastructure in their fight against Israel.”
Becker further said that “there should not be any European tax-money funding terrorism. And as long as it is not possible to track where our tax money meant for the humanitarian aid in Gaza goes, we should freeze our financial support.”
Government looking for ways to solve escalating situation, even as PM calls matter an ‘internal Palestinian dispute’ between Hamas, PA
Israel is in talks with Egypt and the European Union to head of an impending humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip amid an escalating dispute over electricity supply to the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave, according to a report on Wednesday.
Sources in Israel told the Israeli daily Haaretz that discussions were underway with Cairo and with European countries on ways to solve the power supply to the Strip, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to distance Israel from the situation by saying the matter was an internal Palestinian dispute between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.
Netanyahu’s comments came a day after the Israeli security cabinet decided Sunday night it would cut the amount of power it supplies to Gaza, at the request of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who is seeking to ramp up pressure on Hamas, the ruling party in the Strip and his Fatah party’s bitter rival.
Egypt, meanwhile, which has tense relations with Hamas, has offered the terror group more freedom at its border and much-needed electricity, in exchange for it agreeing to a list of security demands, Arab media reported Tuesday.
The list of includes a demand that Hamas hand over 17 men wanted by Cairo on terrorism charges, more protection by Hamas at the border, the cessation of weapons smuggling into the Sinai, and information on the movement of militants into Gaza via underground tunnels, the London-based Arabic daily Asharq al-Awsat reported.
Gazans currently receive only three or four hours of electricity a day, delivered from the territory’s own power station and others in Israel and Egypt. In April, the PA told Israel that it would only pay NIS 25 million ($11.1 million) of the NIS 40 million ($5.6- 7 million) monthly bill. Israel currently supplies 125 megawatts to Gaza, around 30 percent of what is needed to power Gaza for 24 hours a day.
The Israeli cabinet decision would see a reduction of about 45 minutes to the amount of time every day during which Gaza receives electricity, Hebrew media reported.
Hamas responded to the decision by saying it would have “disastrous and dangerous” results that could lead to an outbreak of violence.
Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israel was not seeking a confrontation with Hamas.
“The issue of electricity in Gaza is a dispute between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas,” Netanyahu said at a ceremony to launch a major housing construction drive in the central Israeli town of Be’er Yaakov. “Hamas is demanding that the PA pay for the electricity, and the Palestinian Authority is refusing to pay. It is an internal Palestinian dispute.”
“In any case, I want to make it clear that Israel has no interest in an escalation [with Hamas] and any other speculation is wrong. But we have an interest in security, and our policy is clear on the subject of security and it won’t change,” he said.
The power cuts, as well as a number of other steps taken by the PA since last month, are aimed at forcing Hamas to cede control of the Strip, or begin footing the bill itself.
Both Israel and the PA charge that Hamas would have the money to supply Gaza’s power needs if it didn’t expend a large part of its resources on armament and preparation for future conflict with the Jewish state.
Hamas, an Islamist terror group that seeks to destroy Israel, took control of Gaza in 2007 after a violent conflict with the Fatah party. Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008.
The enclave’s only power plant stopped running in April, after Hamas ran out of fuel and refused to purchase more from the Palestinian Authority over what it said were high taxes.
Egypt also provided a small amount of power to Gaza, but those power lines have been malfunctioning.
According to Major General Yoav Mordechai, who heads COGAT, the Defense Ministry unit that administers civilian manners in the Palestinian territories, Israel currently supplies Gaza with 125 megawatts monthly — around 30 percent of what is needed to power Gaza for 24 hours a day.
After the new decision is implemented, Israel will supply Gaza with only 75 megawatts a month.
The article was published on The Times of Israel
Sister of Basema Atallah, 55, remains under arrest on charges of aiding Hamas in smuggling attempt
One of the two Palestinian women from Gaza caught trying to smuggle explosives in medicine containers into Israel as they headed for cancer treatment at a Jerusalem hospital has been freed from Israeli custody.
In a statement on Wednesday announcing the detention of two Gaza women, who are sisters, the Shin Bet security agency said the women had entry permits to Israel for medical treatment and accused the two of aiding terror activity at the behest of the Hamas terror group.
The explosives were “sent by Hamas and it is believed that they were meant to be used to carry out attacks in Israel in the near future,” the Shin Bet said in a statement.
Ragheb Atallah, the patient’s husband, said his wife, Basema, 55, has gone for treatment of colorectal cancer in Jerusalem more than 10 times since July and has never had a problem before. He said his wife was unaware that she may have been smuggling anything illegal into Israel.
“Someone asked them to take a bottle of medicine on their way for a patient there,” he said. “The bottle was closed and they did not know what is inside. It seems there was something and this caused disruption,” the husband said Thursday.
Ragheb Atallah said his wife was released and has been given permission again to go to the hospital, but her sister, 57-year-old Ibtessam Eid, remained in Israeli custody.
While Israel tightly controls its crossings in and out of Gaza as part of a security blockade, it allows tens of thousands of Palestinians to leave the Strip to seek medical treatment in Israel, the West Bank and Jordan each year.
The Article was published on The Times of Israel
Israeli jets and tanks retaliated to the shooting with strikes on three Hamas posts in the Strip.
The military attacked two Hamas targets in Beit Lahiya, in the northern Gaza Strip, on Thursday, in response to gunfire against Israeli soldiers.
The air force carried out one strike, and IDF artillery were responsible for the other.
Troops carrying out routine security activities near the border security fence had come under fire, and while no one was injured, a military tractor was lightly damaged.
Moira Dror, from Moshav Netiv Ha’asara, directly across the border from Beit Lahiya, told The Jerusalem Post that despite the shelling by the IDF, “the [enemy] outpost is still standing.”
Dror, who can see the outpost from her kitchen window, said that even the antenna of the post was still there, adding, “Perhaps this [the IDF response] is a warning to them.”
According to Dror, it had been quiet since the end of Operation Protective Edge in August 2014. “We’ve been living a normal life, not thinking about where and when the next rocket will come. But recently things have been heating up,” she added, referring to a rocket Gazans fired at Israel on Wednesday night.
No rocket warning siren sounded as the projectile came, striking in an open area near the Ashkelon coast. There were injuries or damage from the rocket, which was fired from Beit Hanun in the northeastern Gaza Strip.
The projectile’s remains were found on Thursday by security personnel who had been searching the area.
It was the fifth rocket fired at southern Israel within the last month, including two launched by Islamic State’s affiliate in Sinai.
The United Nations’ special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, condemned the Palestinian attack, saying that “such provocation seek only to undermine peace.”
“This is the third such incident in the past 30 days after a period of almost four months of quiet,” he said, calling for restraint from both sides in order to avoid escalations “that jeopardize the lives of Palestinians and Israelis.”
The article was publishrd on The JPost on the 3rd of March 2017.
“Control your aid money and put me out of business”, Rockets into Rosses creator tells European Parliamentarians.
Strasbourg 6 October 2016. Israeli artist and Rockets into Roses creator Yaron Bob urged members of the European Parliament to increase their controls on EU aid into Gaza, so that they can put him out of business.
The Rockets into Roses creator, who takes rocket shells fired at Israel and transforms them into roses and other beautiful sculptures, exhibits his work around the world. He lives in Yated, southern Israel, which borders the Gaza Strip and Egypt. The area bore the brunt of thousands of indiscriminate rocket attacks from Gaza. It is also where many terror tunnels are routinely uncovered.
Mr Bob was in the European Parliament in Strasbourg for a week long exhibition of his work that was organised by Brussels based pro-Israel advocacy group Europe Israel Public Affairs and hosted by the Chairman of the European Parliament’s delegation to Israel, Fulvio Martusciello MEP.
Speaking to the Parliamentarians at an evening reception, Mr Bob said,
“Life is sometimes full of ironies. Here I am talking to you on the same day that a rocket landed in Sdrot, and the same day that the Gaza bound women’s flotilla sought to break the blockade.
“I can’t imagine that had they succeeded they would have asked for Hamas to return the millions it has stolen in aid money, to stop executing gays and lesbians or anyone who speaks against their death cult, much less ask Hamas to stop firing rockets into Israel.
“But I can ask you, members of the European Parliament. You send millions into Gaza. Pease, please start properly controlling it. Spend it instead on education projects promoting peace, that teach children that terror and violence is not the answer. Hamas don’t care about their people. They only care about building rockets and digging tunnels.
“Control the aid, and put me out of business.”
EIPA director Alex Benjamin said,
“I fell in love with the concept of rockets into roses as soon as I saw it two years ago, and knew EIPA needed to bring the artist and his work to the European Parliament
“Judging by the positive reaction from parliamentarians, and staffers it seems that many shared my passion.
” It is such a strong and meaningful message, turning terror into beauty. And one that sums up Israeli resilience and the desire for peace. EIPA was proud to be part of it”
Less than 2 years after Operation Protective Edge, the IDF, using advanced technology, discovered the tunnel in the Eshkol regional council area; it was meant for an attack by Hamas’s elite ‘nokhba’ unit.
Nearly two years after the end of Operation Protective Edge, the IDF has uncovered a Hamas attack tunnel crossing the border fence into Israel, which is believed to have been dug after the 2014 war, it was cleared for publication on Monday morning.
The shaft was discovered inside Israeli territory, just a few dozens of meters from the border fence, in the Eshkol Regional Council, but not very close to nearby communities.
Officials in the defense establishment say the tunnel was likely meant to be used in a strategic attack against Israel, in which dozens of Hamas fighters from the elite “Nukhba” unit would participate.
Since the tunnel’s discovery last week, IDF engineering forces and fighters from elite units have been working in the open area between Kisufim and Kerem to destroy it.
The tunneling took place on both sides of the border, and the Palestinians in Gaza reported on it, but Hamas refrained from using the tunnel or taking other offensive steps against the IDF. And this despite the fact that according to Israeli officials’ estimations that Hamas was aware that the IDF had uncovered and destroyed the tunnel.
At the start of IDF operations, Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and GOC Southern Command Eyal Zamir were present. Residents in the area were told that the matter was under IDF control and that there was no real danger, therefore life went on as usual. Even farmers in the area were updated and were given no special instructions.
A senior security source said last week around the time of the tunnel’s discovery, “We are not surprised by Hamas’s efforts as that is an opportunity for them to carry out a strategic attack. Hamas is not rushing to battle. We have identified other tunnels dug by Hamas, but they have not penetrated our territory.”
Hamas’s excavation of this tunnel appears to be have been done relatively fast compared to those dug in the years prior to Operation Protective Edge, pointing to their having learned lessons and invested an unprecedented amount of money – millions of shekels – in the project. Even the depth of the tunnel, about 30 meters, is considered unusual.
Nevertheless, in other respects, it is the same type of tunnel discovered before and during Operation Protective Edge – reinforced walls, digging pathways, branches and inner depth.
According to a senior Southern Command official, Hamas employs 800 tunnel diggers who enjoy high salaries compared to other operatives in the organization, and Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades chief, Mohammed Deif, considers the tunnels a flagship project highlighting the strengthening of the organization’s military wing.
The fact that no weapons were found in the tunnel, and that Hamas realized that the tunnel was discovered almost instantaneously and yet chose not to use it to attack the IDF, reinforces the defense establishment’s opinion that the tunnel was not meant to send terrorists into Israel in the nearby future but rather in further down the line.
Not an Iron Dome-level success yet
Over the past year, after receiving intelligence on the matter, the IDF focused much of its efforts on finding tunnels along the Gaza Strip border. IDF forces have been seen scanning the area in past months, attempting to find shafts and tunnel openings. The IDF responded to any tip by residents of the Gaza border communities, who reported suspicious noise, even in cases involving towns relatively far from the border fence.
The new tunnel’s discovery is the result of field action, intelligence work by both the military and the Shin Bet, and above all, the result of the IDF’s new tunnel-discovery technology, which has been used along the border over the past year.
The IDF is treating the discovery of this tunnel as an initial step, heralding the new system’s full implementation in a few months. The new system is part of the IDF Southern Command’s “Southern Glow” operational plan, which includes the fortification of border measures against a mass invasion by Palestinian forces, as well as the deployment of early warning trackers which should aid in the discovery of terrorists crossing into Israel. Assuming the planned receives the required budget, “Southern Glow” is expected to be implemented during the next two years, starting with higher-risk areas.
IDF officials expressed their approval of the new technology used in discovering the tunnel, but the security community prefers not to call this a revolutionary moment or compare it to the implementation of the Iron Dome missile defense system. Still, the results of Israel’s investment in this technology over the past few years have led a number of other countries to send representatives to learn how to combat the tunnel threat from Israel.
“We need to make this discovery into a method, with the test coming in the next few months, in which we will try and find more tunnels,” said a senior Southern Command officer. “This is an ability that allows the discovery of very small spaces at depths of 30-40 meters, down to the level of ground water. We are still developing our method of handling this system. What we thought would happen during a certain time period with this system is taking four times longer (than expected).”
The senior officer doesn’t rule out the possibility that Israel’s breakthrough in the anti-tunnel fight could cause an escalation of violence on Israel’s southern border.
“We have defined the mission as being the destruction of all attack tunnels without reaching an escalation, but an escalation will not deter us. Hamas knows we’ve strengthened our defenses and that it will have a hard time surprising us. If we end up in a war over this – then so be it. This is a long, protracted struggle. Hamas is a sophisticated enemy. It learns lessons and implements them fast. Each one of these tunnels that we foil is a loss for it. Hamas will have to contend with the dilemma of whether or not to act if it sees itself losing other attack tunnels.”
The article was published on Ynetnews website ,18 April 2016
Tunnel entrances dozens of meters from the fence, fortified Hamas military positions and a cement factory – all is out in the open, right across the Gaza border; MK Yellin: ‘We’re in a race with Hamas, and we must not lose.’
There is complete silence on the Gaza border these days, but it’s mostly because both sides are focused on their work. On the one side of the border, Israel is drilling into the ground in an effort to locate tunnels that cross into Israeli territory, and on the other side Hamas is clearing out areas to dig tunnels.
“We’re in a race with Hamas on who will get there first: Israel with a technological development to locate tunnels, or Hamas succeeding in crossing the border and opening an entrance into Israel for the terrorists. That is the big question, and in this race we must not lose,” said MK Haim Yellin.
In the wake of the collapse of two tunnels near the border area over the past week, and Hamas’ admittance that the tunnel “enterprise” was working at full speed ahead, we left in an armored vehicle for a drive along the Gaza border. MK Haim Yellin (Yesh Atid), a resident of Kibbutz Nahal Oz and the former head of the Eshkol Regional Council, joined us on this trip, taken from north to south.
About a year and a half after Operation Protective Edge, Hamas is once again back on its feet, and then some. The line of Hamas military posts is only dozens of meters from the border fence, about 500 meters from one another. These posts are fortified with concrete and sandbags. Opposite the Hamas posts is an IDF pillbox, currently manned by fighters from the Golani Brigade. One facing the other, at loggerheads.
These Hamas posts serve several functions: Primarily, they are there to observe the area. Somewhere around these posts there’s a tunnel opening, that God only knows where it ends. Across the border in the central Gaza Strip, we could see a cement factory, near the fence. Right next to it is a levee between two Hamas posts.
There are mounds, at the center of which there is a pit that used to be an entrance to a tunnel which was blown up by the IDF. Hamas is digging again, rebuilding, and preparing for the next round for fighting.
Opposite that, the IDF is operating drills to locate tunnels and conducting tests.
Hamas, it would seem, is showing no signs of fear. Its line of military positions along the border is part of its psychological warfare, and a way to send out a message that the organization’s fighters are present on the ground.
Hamas fighters are speeding between the posts on motorcycles, patrolling, and providing equipment to the guards at the posts. They’re doing all of this in order to get the IDF’s attention, in the hopes the IDF lookouts fail to identify their main mission – the digging of tunnels.
On the eve of the end of Operation Protective Edge, the IDF declared that if Hamas resumes digging, it would serve as justification for ground operations.
“We’ve lost the deterrence sooner than expected,” Yellin said. “There’s a policy for the rocket fire – an IAF strike for every rocket fired. But what about the tunnels? There’s no response and no policy. Nor is there a policy for the rest of the threats – like the military posts. They built their positions based on our model, the same size. We can see mounds of dirt, and a factory to manufacture basic materials for iron and concrete. This is what they’re using to build the tunnels. This is a completely absurd reality. They can do whatever they want, it’s an absurd situation. It’s all out in the open, and all of this has been developing over the past six months.”
And there is one threat that is already dozens of meters away from the fence in the central Gaza Strip: The Islamic State group. Opposite one of the Israeli communities on the Gaza border, a fortified post was erected with a black flag, alongside the Palestinian flag.
This article was published on ynet on the 05.02.2016