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.
Palestinians on receiving the coronavirus vaccines needed to be able to cross and work in Israel.
Edelstein then traveled to the nearby city of Ariel to inaugurate another vaccination center with Mayor Eli Shaviro.
The foreign minister pressed Germany to prevent Iranian arms embargo from running down in October
Israel’s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi flew to Berlin Wednesday on his first official visit overseas where he is set to meet with his EU counterparts.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas invited Ashkenazi to Thursday’s conference of EU foreign ministers.
Shortly after his arrival, Ashkenazi met with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, thanking him for his country’s stance in designating the entirety of Hezbollah – both the political and military wing – as a terrorist organization.
In addition to updating the president on the recent deal to normalize ties between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, Ashkenazi also implored Germany’s head of state to prevent the United Nations’ arms embargo against Iran from running down in October.
Ashkenazi spoke at a ceremony at “Platform 17 in Berlin’s Grunewald Station, where there is a memorial marking Nazi Germany’s deportation of more than 55,000 Jews. He was joined by Israeli Ambassador to Germany Jeremy Issacharoff, Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz and representatives of the German Jewish community,” according to The Jerusalem Post.
“I stand here as the foreign minister of the government of Israel and the former IDF chief of staff,” Ashkenazi said. “Jews will never again be sent to their death because they are Jewish. Never again.”
The foreign minister will visit Wannsee, the villa in a Berlin suburb where the architects of the Nazi “Final solution” met – under the direction of Reinhardt Heydrich – to iron out details for the attempted slaughter of Europe’s 11 million Jews.
The article was published on the i24
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
“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.
Child killer, organ harvester, Nazi, Occupier, blood thirsty murderers. These are just some of the words some people use to describe the soldiers of the Israel Defence Forces.
As a pro-Israel advocacy group here in Brussels, you would quite rightly expect us to take a completely different view.
And we do. We support the Israel Defence Forces, for any number of reasons. And we find the insults thrown at them disgusting and reprehensible, particularly as those accusing them have no idea what they are talking about, nor the reality on the ground for these brave men and women.
So, when the opportunity came, EIPA was delighted to partner with My Truth, an organisation of serving IDF reserve soldiers who wanted, like us, to inform and share their stories.
The “Human Shields” project of My Truth, which we presented to the European Parliament this week, describes the cynical use made by Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups, of their civilian population as human shields. “A terrorist who throws a grenade under the cover of small children, or women who stand in the line of fire to absorb the fire themselves are few examples of the human rights violations committed by the terror organizations,” says Avihai Shorshan, My Truth’s director.
“We want to tell the whole world who are the real war criminals in this conflict. We must put an end to the slanders and lies being levelled against our soldiers around the world,” he added.
Our event, kindly sponsored by EPP MEP Ramona Manescu and Socialist MEP Andi Cristea, was aimed at getting an understanding beyond the clichés and emotional rhetoric.
None of us really know what goes on in a conflict, and thank goodness most of us will never have to.
We may agree or disagree with the conflict, but what isn’t up for debate are the experiences in dealing with human shields, with an enemy that doesn’t respect basic humanity, and that put their own citizens in the way of harm cynically and deliberately.
We were delighted to see a packed room, where parliamentarians including senior figures like Victor Bostinaru and Fulvio Martusciello attended and spoke freely, underlining that the EU must do more to counter the terrorist narratives.
A lively question and answer session followed with EU diplomats and members of the European External Action service, for the first time, having the opportunity to ask soldiers directly of their experiences instead of getting filtered news.
EIPA would like to thank Gilad Segal, Eli Bogdan, Lital Shemesh and Avihai Shorshan for having the courage and tenacity to address the European Parliament, an institution that is often behind many ill-informed resolutions and positions on Israel on the realities faced by an enemy that doesn’t adhere to the most basic and common moral or legal conventions.
It is our firm intention to work with My Truth again again after the European Elections so they can give their testimonies again to a new generation of parliamentarians and their staffers from across the EU Member States.
Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi becomes the Israel Defense Forces’ 22nd commander; ‘To defend our national home, we need a sobered outlook, a fit military force, the willingness to use that force, discretion and determination,’ says Kochavi.
Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi entered the office of the Israel Defense Forces’ chief of staff on Tuesday morning in the beginning of a new era.
The 22nd IDF chief started his day with a ceremony at the Kirya IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, where he received the rank of lieutenant general from Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“‘I swear.’ This is what I called out alongside my fellow soldiers in front of the Western Wall, which was for us a wall of support and protection. It has been 2,000 years, and this wall of protection has expanded and become the Israel Defense Force. I swore in front of generations of soldiers and became another link in the chain of generations that come each in turn to defend the state,” the new IDF chief Kochavi said.
“‘I swear,’ every soldier calls out, and packs into these two words the relinquishing of the private for the national. The national home is a wonderful creation like no other in the history of nations, but it is planted in a region that for religious and national reasons is trying to reject its natural roots. To defend our national home, we need a sobered outlook, a fit military force, the willingness to use that force, discretion and determination,” he said.
To his predecessor Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, Kochavi said, “In this spirit, Gadi, the IDF acted under your leadership and has repeatedly proven its abilities as the defender of the borders and the interior, using its long arm to destroy any threats. During your tenure, the IDF bolstered its units and increased its preparedness. I stand at the head of the military and on behalf of all of its soldiers and commanders, I thank and salute you.”
Concluding his remarks, Kochavi went back to his sworn oath at the beginning of his service in the IDF. “Like every soldier in his swear-in ceremony, I vowed at the time to dedicate all of my efforts to defending the homeland. Now, as the head of the General Staff, while I have national security and the good of the state before me, I make a new vow. There is much work to be done, good luck to us all,” Kochavi said.
Eisenkot summed up his own service in his remarks. “At the end of 40 years of service and four years as the IDF chief, I conclude a path that became my life’s mission,” he said.
Describing his objectives as IDF chief, Eisenkot said he sought to leave behind “a fit, prepared and powerful military that bolstered its strength with wisdom and determination.”
To Kochavi, Eisenkot said, “Proudly I seek to pass on to you the command over the most precious asset of our nation—the Israel Defense Forces. The command over the military is passed on today to you, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, a commander worthy like no other to stand at the head of the Israel Defense Forces.”
“The military I give to you today is advanced and remains true to its roots and spirit. Over the many years in which we worked together in the field and in the General Staff, it has been my privilege to get to know you as a commander with immense fortitude and leadership and command abilities. Your determination and extensive experience will be dedicated in full to bolstering the IDF’s preparedness and strength, maintaining its character and values, and nurturing the pride in the heart of its soldiers.”
Prime Minister and Defense Minister Netanyahu began his remarks by thanking Eisenkot for his 40 years of service.
“Over the past four years, we have dealt with great challenges: the changing fronts in Gaza, Syria, Lebanon and other places. But there has also been on main element facing us: Iran and its terror proxies. We acted responsibly and with discretion to stop those who seek to harm us from growing stronger,” Netanyahu said.
“All of the actions we’ve taken in recent years to build up the IDF’s power were meant to bolster the military’s readiness and achieve one goal: victory in war. And the stronger we are, the more we increase the chances of peace,” he said.
Netanyahu boasted about the warming ties with Muslim nations, saying that “Thanks to our intelligence, operational and technological capabilities, our ties with the Arab world are growing stronger than ever before. Leading Muslim nations are getting closer to us. They realize we’re not their enemy, but a vital ally to lean on. By growing our military, our economy and our diplomacy, we have turned Israel into a rising world power.”
Eisenkot, he said, was a part of it as he met with his counterparts from Arab nations.
“Lt. Gen. Kochavi, you have a red beret on your shoulder, which symbolizes the special spirit of the Paratroopers: the steadfastness, the order ‘after me,’ and constantly striving for excellence,” he said.
“As an experienced military leader, you will now carry the grave responsibility of ensuring that the IDF fulfills its missions,” Netanyahu said. “The objective is clear: To ensure our superiority over our enemies and to increase the qualitative edge we have over them. First, we’ll work to bolster our offensive capabilities even more. We will ensure we have a crushing fist to attack our enemies with, both close and far.”
Concluding his remarks, the prime minister said that “if we are prepared to defend our country with all of our might, we might not have to fight an all-out war. And if we do, the IDF will handle this challenge, as will the citizens of Israel who will be united, and together we will ensure Israel’s eternal existence.”
Kochavi and Eisenkot will later travel to Jerusalem to visit the National Hall of Remembrance on Mount Herzl and the Western Wall, and then have lunch at the President’s Residence. After that, Kochavi will join the IDF’s General Staff for a toast and a goodbye from Eisenkot at the Kirya base in Tel Aviv, including an honorary guard for the outgoing IDF chief.
Kochavi, who was born in 1964, grew up in Kiryat Bialik. He is the second of the three children of the late Riba, who was a physical education teacher, and Shaul, a shop owner.
He began his IDF service in the Paratroopers’ Brigade, excelled at infantry officers’ course and went on to serve as the commander of the 101st Battalion, the commander of the Paratroopers’ Brigade, the head of the Military Intelligence Directorate (MID), the GOC Northern Command, and the deputy IDF chief. He has a bachelor’s degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a master’s from Harvard University.
The article was published on Ynet
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
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
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
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
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
In the months before Shimon Peres’s passing, journalist Amira Lam held a series of meetings with the man who was the last of Israel’s founding fathers. During their talk, Peres opens up about the Dimona reactor, his relationship with Rabin, and the settlements.
Mr. Peres, do you have a dialogue with death?
“Death is a question that has no answer, so I don’t deal with it. President François Mitterrand told me in one of the conversations we had before his death that we all know that we will one day cease to be. The real problem is not death, but life. You could be dead while you’re alive, and you could also live after your death.”
In the months that preceded his passing, I held a series of meetings with Shimon Peres. The objective was to gather material for a movie, perhaps a docudrama, to tell his life story, with a famous actor to play him. The idea amused him, and every now and again he would joke with me about the choice of actor, debating between Robert Redford and Kevin Costner.
Peres understood that the time he had left was limited, but refused to let that come into our meetings. No interview, as far as he was concerned, was a goodbye interview, and no conversation was his last. The conversations with him were fascinating. He knew how to tell a story, and he had many stories to tell.
But it was actually in our last few conversations, perhaps because of the movie, that Peres felt comfortable to speak with greater candor. The years of his life unfolded before us like a great drama—from sailing against the wind in the early 1950s when he established the Israel Aerospace Industries, through the Entebbe Operation and his attitude towards the settlements, to his complicated relationship with Yitzhak Rabin, which ended with a hug right before he was murdered.
Peres allowed himself to say things he never said before, at least not in public: on what happened when he visited the settlement in Sebastia near Nablus, the forged document that convinced the French to build a nuclear reactor for Israel, and his insistence not to bring the United States in on the secret of the reactor without first consulting with the French.
Most of our conversations took place after he left the President’s Residence. Peres didn’t have an official position, but his schedule was still packed with meetings, lectures and interviews. Usually, we’d meet at his office at the Peres Center for Peace. We almost always scheduled the meeting for an hour and a half, but ended up talking for two, after which he would abruptly slap his hand on the table and say “That it’s, we’re done for today,” get up, and leave.
From one meeting to the next, Peres grew weaker. This weakness was mostly apparent in his voice. Sometimes, when his memory betrayed him, and he forgot a date or a place, he’d tell me: “We need a new division of labor between man and computers: Let the computer remember and man dream. Man doesn’t need to remember, there’s someone to remember for him. Leave me to dream.”
‘The problem in life is not what to be, it’s what to do’
When I asked Peres if it was hard for him to leave public life, he responded: “What’s easy? What’s hard? People sometimes think that going on vacation is easy. Me, as I always say, it bores to death. Everything is relative, even what it means to be happy. To me, peace brings more happiness than money. There’s a greater gain in love than in your bank account. The problem in life is not what to be, it’s what to do.”
And even though at the time we were still six months away from the US election, Peres added, “The problem is that in Israel, there’s a cult around the government. But it won’t be Donald Trump who ends up running the world, even if he wins the election. Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook will run the world. Because what runs the world today is a new mechanism of global companies that hold the money and the power.
“In this world, there are also elements outside of government that make decisions. We don’t need governments for that. My optimism today comes from my faith in those global companies. On the one hand, there is a wave of xenophobia and nationalism prevalent today. You can see it with Brexit and in Turkey, in the power that Trump is gaining. There will always be waves like that over the course of human history. But if these waves continue, we’ll go back to borders, wars, mistakes. That will be stupid for the world to do. Science has no borders. That is why I believe that in the end, the new world of science will win, not the one of nationalism.
“However, if we were to return to me and the fact I have no public role, it would be quite the opposite. Ever since I left the President’s Residence, I’ve been feeling that I needed to work even harder. In general, I believe a person should work. Not stand in front of the mirror all day and examine how he looks, how he feels, and how he’s seen. That’s not interesting. The politicians of today are too preoccupied with that; unfortunately, they’re mostly focused on themselves.”
‘The settlers still don’t heed the government’s orders’
I asked Peres if there were things he regretted, and what mistakes he had made. “I don’t have regrets for a simple reason: there’s no value or use for them. What are you going to do with regret? It’s self pity. The French say, ‘It’s better to be sorry than to regret.’ There’s nothing I’ve regretted.”
I asked him about the settlements, reminding him of Sarah Nachshon, who held her son Abraham’s circumcision at the Cave of the Patriarchs, defying government orders. Sadly, the baby died several months later, and she insisted on burying him in Hebron. Peres, the defense minister at the time, authorized the burial.
Some say your authorization led to renewed Jewish burial in Hebron. This is an issue you haven’t discussed. Have you repressed it?
“It’s the kind of moment you don’t forget. Even if I haven’t spoken about it all these years, it’s stayed with me. But let’s look at the big picture: A woman walking with her dead child, wrapped in blankets and embraced in her arms, passing by checkpoints, walking and walking. I did the math. I oppose the settlements, but you also need to know what are the exceptions to the rule. A man holding a hammer thinks every problem is a nail. In this case, there were emotions involved: a grief-stricken mother who had lost her son. So even if you do have a hammer, not everyone is the same nail. This is an incident I remember and go back to in my thoughts. She marched, charged forward, didn’t listen. The soldiers at the checkpoints didn’t know what to do. She was determined and grief-stricken. I didn’t want her to be hit or arrested. So she was allowed to make an unusual decision for humane reasons. That’s what I did, and I think I did the right thing, even if it is a moment I think back on a lot.”
Peres knows the Left never forgave him his part in the establishment of the settlement enterprise. During our conversations, he unloaded the burden he has been carrying for years. He revealed that the instructions came from people who were at the time part of then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s close circle of advisors.
“I went to Sebastia to demand that (the settlers—ed) leave,” he says. “When I got there along with then IDF chief of staff, Motta (Mordechai) Gur, we were welcomed with clapping and singing. I told them: ‘Dear friends, you’re mistaken. I didn’t come here to ask you to stay. I came here to demand that you leave. And then Rabbi Levinger, who was the leading figure there, tore his clothes in mourning. They started shouting at me.
“When I was Yitzhak Rabin’s defense minister, he appointed two advisors: Arik Sharon and Gandhi (Rehavam Ze’evi). Both were right-wing, both supported the settlement enterprise, and both led the battle against me from the Prime Minister’s Office. The settlers insisted on not leaving. While we were sitting and talking, legions of settlers started filling the surrounding area. Someone else was advising them against me, instructing them on how to act, and they had been updated on the situation. Motta and I were stunned. We couldn’t understand how they knew everything that was happening (in the leadership). Afterwards, the government instructed me to try to reach a compromise with them. Offer them to leave quickly, within a month. I offered that to them, and they rejected it. In the end, it was agreed to postpone the decision by three months.”
And what happened after three months?
“What happened was that the settlers didn’t heed the government’s orders, and to this very day they don’t.”
But why you did initiate the founding of the settlement of Ofra?
“Because I wanted to establish something there that was similar to the Nahal, have soldiers working and guarding there. Our situation in Jerusalem was weak. We wanted to build a radar station. The settlers came to me and said they wanted to settle in Tall Asur. I said, ‘You know what? You’ll work at the radar station.’ I treated them like the Nahal soldiers.”
And now, when you see the entire settlement how do you feel?
“Everyone knows I oppose these settlements—I did then and I still do now. When there was a change of power from Mapai to the Likud, there were maybe 20-30 settlements and 6,000 settlers. At the time, this really wasn’t considered a problem. If there were only 4,000 settlers today, we wouldn’t be having a problem. But when there are half a million, that’s another thing entirely. That happened after we left power. Of course I’m sorry that it exists. You need to understand, I was never a supporter of ‘Two banks has the Jordan River, (this is ours and, that one as well—part of the famous Hebrew poem The East of the Jordan by Revisionist Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky).’ My entire life I’ve believed that a moral Jewish state on part of the Land of Israel was better than being on the entire Land of Israel but in a state of perpetual conflict.
“This remains the most contentious issue between us and the world. Because the UN decided on two states, provided two maps, and we accepted it. But instead of implementing the two maps, we decided to have just one. The possibility of only having one map is the saddest thing that ever happened to us.”
The Left also won’t forgive you for not going to elections immediately after Rabin’s murder. With the political climate at the time, you probably would have won big. Later, you lost to Netanyahu.
“I wasn’t even sure we’d win. Even Rabin won the last election with only a two-seat advantage. It was hard for the Labor party to shake off the image of ‘corruption.’ Mostly, I was afraid of a civil war. There was a lot of rage among the people at the time. I thought we needed to be more cautious, to calm things down. That was when I was truly afraid a civil war might break out.”
‘That was the first and last time Rabin hugged me’
His relationship with Yitzhak Rabin was one of the most charged topics I spoke to Peres about. But he sounded surprisingly very serene and sobered, as if he had already made his peace and forgave the man who was his greatest partner and rival.
Do you remember when the hatred started growing between you, or why?
“Everyone views the issues in the relationship between me and Rabin as a personal matter. But in reality, the rift between us started simply over ideological division. The Labor party, which was then called Mapai, was at the time made up of three different camps, and we were from different camps. The first time I saw him, we were still in the General Federation of Students and Young Workers in Israel. Later, he was in the Palmach and I was in kibbutz Alumot and was recruited to the Haganah. I was a (David) Ben-Gurion man, and he was a (Zionist activist Yitzhak) Tabenkin man. We also had some friends in common, one of them was (Mapai founding member) Shraga Netzer’s son. He was from Ramat Yohanan, a close friend of Rabin’s and a close friend of mine. We saw one another briefly at his place. We weren’t friends and we didn’t talk much. Even then, there was tension in the air.
“Ahdut HaAvoda, which Rabin belonged to, groomed its people and protected them. In Mapai, which I was a member of, each was on his own. I was seen as an adversary. I know people like to say that he was a Sabra while I wasn’t, he was in the Palmach and I wasn’t. But that wasn’t what mattered. The rift was the result of us being in different camps.”
But he had fame from being a Palmach and an IDF man, and you didn’t.
“Despite all I did for security, I never asked for anything; not ranks, nor anything else. When they wanted to give me an honorary rank, I refused. I was more interested in other things. Rabin once told me: ‘The difference between me and you is that you love building power and I know how to use it.’ I, for example, wanted to buy thefirst computer for the defense establishment. Rabin, at first, opposed it. He said rifles and bullets were preferable. Rabin also objected to the (nuclear) reactor. We really did have two different worldviews. But make no mistake, Ben-Gurion loved Rabin.”
“You have to understand something many people don’t understand. The relationship between me and Rabin was asymmetrical. I didn’t have any hate. If they do a post-mortem examination on me, they won’t find a lot of hate in my heart. The problem, if you ask me, was that Rabin was surrounded by people who incited against me, until he was incited. From a young age, I was vilified for everything. They gave me a hard time. I was lonely and I wasn’t famous or anything. And I didn’t always know what to do. There was no one to defend me. At a certain point, I made the first strategic decision in my life—that I would decide who I’m offended by. And I decided not to be offended by Ahdut HaAvoda and Rabin. JusIt was simple, though it wasn’t easy, it was a process. There were a lot of offenses in the middle. I was slow to get to that point in my mind. Perhaps even a bit too late. There were years that my relationship with Rabin bothered me.”
“In the early 1990s, we were both part of the negotiations with thePalestinians. There were peace talks at the time in Washington, but I realized peace will not be made there. There were only press conferences there. I went to Yitzhak and said: Nothing will come out of this, only press conferences. Let me try doing it my way. He said: As long as it doesn’t hurt (the existing talks). I gave him my word. Once, he wrote to me asking me to stop halfway through. I wasn’t bothered by it. And, as I predicted, the talks in Washington were unsuccessful, while what I was doing was starting to work. Meanwhile, since he was the prime minister, the public viewed this matter—of the Palestinians—which I was dealing with, as something Yitzhak was responsible for. The right wing protested against him. They gave him a hard time. He was miserable.
“I, of course, stood by his side. I saw how he was being humiliated. And then we decided to hold that rally in which he was murdered. He was sure he would lose the elections. By then, we had become much closer. We’d meet in private at his home every Friday. We kept talking about practical matters, and he wouldn’t even let (his wife) Leah in the room when we were meeting there.
“When we were organizing that rally, he told me: ‘Shimon, I’m worried people won’t show up.’ It was right after the event at the Wingate Institute where protesters swore at him and after they made a coffin for him in Jerusalem. As you know, a lot of people showed up in the end. It was the happiest day in Yitzhak’s life. I’ve never heard him sing before. He hugged and kissed me. It was the first time Rabin hugged me. The first and the last. In hindsight, it was a goodbye hug. I missed him a lot after that.”
Building the Dimona nuclear reactor
What was the biggest decision you’ve ever made?
“Primarily, that I would look forward and not back. More than recreating the past, I’m interested in dealing with the future. But the biggest privilege I ever had was working with Ben-Gurion.
“The most important thing I’ll ever do in life, I hope to do tomorrow. I’ll tell you this without any modesty: Everything I’ve ever done has always been met not with applause, but with derision. The hardest thing in life has perhaps been ignoring this derision.
“So (the biggest decision) might have been the reactor, which was met with a lot of opposition. It might have been the Israel Aerospace Industries. It might have been Entebbe. And it might have been stopping the inflation.
“No one believed me. No one believed in me. Not just the people on the street; no one believed in me among the leadership, either. The experience I gained with the Dimona reactor allowed me to learn that despite the derision, despite the closed doors—the impossible was possible. “
Is it true the Dimona reactor was built thanks to a forged document?
“Early on, I didn’t have a lot of connections in France. But I was a member of a socialist party, and I met several socialists thanks to my ties in the Socialist International (SI). The head of the French Section of the Workers’ International (SFIO) party at the time was Guy Mollet. I met him at the Socialist International on the eve of the 1955 elections in France, and we became friends.
“Later, he was elected prime minister. But despite the fact I had some very close friends in France, there were disagreements in the country about supporting Israel. There was no precedent for that in the world, for one country to allow another country to build a reactor without a commitment to international supervision. This was the first time something like this was happening. So they gave us a reactor, but several parts were missing. We negotiated with the French Committee for the Military Applications of Atomic Energy, as well as the French defense minister, PrimeMinister Guy Mollet, and National Defense Minister Bourgès (Maurice Bourgès-Maunoury). There were a lot of arguments and negotiations.
“And there was one dramatic night in 1957. We didn’t have a signed agreement. The French government was on the verge of collapse. Mollet had resigned. But before he resigned, Bourgès asked me to ask him (Mollet) that he (Bourgès) would be his replacement. That’s how close our relationship was. So I talked to Mollet and he agreed. Now, when Bourgès was appointed prime minister, I was in a position to write him a note, so I did. He stepped out of the meeting. I told him: ‘Listen, the meeting is about to end and we don’t have your signature as the national defense minister. Sign it as the national defense minister.’ But he wasn’t (the national defense minister) at the time, so he signed it with the previous day’s date. Meaning, he forged the date and signed it.”
What happened with the intelligence plane?
“One day, a British jet plane flew over Cyprus. Our intelligence establishment thought the plane was looking for our nuclear reactor. They went to Ben-Gurion and told him: Our big secret has been found out. I was in Africa at the time, and I was called back. It was Passover eve of 1957. I arrived in Sde Boker (where Ben-Gurion lived) with Golda (Meir) and the Mossad director at the time. Golda and the Mossad director said he had to go to America, reveal the big secret to them, and tell them we were stopping (the construction)—otherwise the world powers would give us hell. I said that even if the plane did fly by, it didn’t see anything. What could it see? Bulldozers? I told them we can’t reveal something like that (to the Americans) without first talking to the French. It was top secret, and if we wanted to reveal that secret we had to consult with the French. Ben-Gurion accepted my position. It was a moment of crisis.
“By the way, it was a miracle the reactor was kept a secret, because thousands of people were working on it. Today, we would have done everything to hide it from the media, and it’s doubtful we would have succeeded. I always say: there are things the people don’t want to know. The people don’t want to know how many tanks the IDF has. The people agree that secrets must be kept to protect the nation. We don’t have to tell them everything.”
‘We’re experts on the past, but there’s no expert on the future’
Why don’t you make your position known on recent diplomatic and political issues?
“Because it’s not the right time at this point. And I don’t think it’ll help anything. The problem is that the ears are closed. No one listens to anything these days.”
What would you have wanted to say?
“I’d like us to go back to being a nation that is both democratic and Jewish. If we say that ‘a good Arab is a dead Arab,’ then that’s not democracy, and it’s saddening. The Torah explicitly says: ‘Love ye therefore the stranger; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.’ We must not have discrimination. It goes against the Torah.”
What happened to us? How did we get to this place?
“I’m less interested in analyzing the problem and more interested in fixing it. Those who make racist comments disgrace the State of Israel. I can’t accept it. No one needs to accept it. It’s not to our benefit, when people talk against gays and Israeli Arabs. All Arabs must be killed? We do have the rule of law here. ‘Zion shall be redeemed through justice.’ Begin also said that ‘There are judges in Jerusalem.’ So why aren’t we protecting the justice system more? A Jew was once almost killed because he was mistaken for an Arab. That was absurd, this argument. Just as I hurt when someone tries to kill a Jew, I hurt when a Jew tries to kill someone because he’s an Arab.”
Do you still think peace is possible?
“For us, the Arab world remains something static—made of half Shiite and half Sunni and that’s it. People don’t understand there is a young generation and that a revolution is underway there. Out of 400 million Arabs, more than half of them are under 25. That’s something different altogether. We’re experts on the past, but there’s no expert on the future. The future needs a vision, and we lack that today. But the thing Israel lacks most today is peace. The fact there is no ongoing peace process at the moment is the main thing that bothers me.”
Politics get a bad name.
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.
Palestinian terrorist stabbed a 13-year old to death in her bedroom on Thursday morning after he infiltrated the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba, which is located next to Hebron.
“My daughter was sleeping calmly when he [the terrorist] came into her bedroom,” Hallal’s mother Rina told Army Radio. “She was happy,’ she added.
A Magen David Adom paramedic said that when he arrived at the scene the teenage girl, Hallel Yaffa Ariel, was unconscious and was not breathing. They were able to resuscitate her at the scene, but it was touch-and-go during the whole journey to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, as they continuously fought to keep her alive.
She was pronounced dead shortly after her arrival, without ever regaining consciousness.
After the attack, the IDF and one of the Prime Minister Office’s spokesman tweeted a photograph of her blood-stained bedroom.
Hallel had been a member of a dance troop and had performed in Jerusalem the night before. Her step-father, Amihai, is a cousin of Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, and runs a boutique winery. She will be buried in old Jewish cemetery in Hebron. The funeral procession will leave from Kiryat Arba at 6 p.m. The terrorist, Mohammad Tarairah, 17, breached the settlement’s fence and then entered the Ariel home that was located on a security road, near a yeshiva high school for boys.
Among the Magen David paramedics who responded to the scene, was the wife of the wounded member of the security team.
She went with her husband to the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem. Doctors there said that the wounded man, believed to be age 30, was suffering from gun shot wounds and that his injuries were not life threatening.
Residents of the settlement of some 8,000 people located right outside the Palestinian city of Hebron, were asked to remain in their homes for about half-an-hour until it was clear that there were no more attackers in Kiryat Arba. Since the wave of Palestinian violence against Israelis began in September 2015, there have been many attacks in and around Hebron, as well as on the outskirts of Kiryat Arba. But an infiltration into the settlement itself is rare.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman met and ordered the IDF to close off the Palestinian village of Bani Na’im, located near Kiryat Arba, where Tarairah lived. They also ordered the IDF to rescind work permits belonging to Tarairah’s immediate and extended family.
According to his Facebook posts Tarairah was partially inspired by a vehicular terror attack just outside of Kiryat Arba in which an Israeli couple was lightly insured. The IDF unit which responded to the attack shot and killed the Palestinian driver.
Tarairah mentioned her in his posts, under the hashtag “a sister to bravery”.
At the beginning of the week he wrote a post saying that “the death is a right and i am asking for my right.” His uncle, Yousuf Tarahirah, carried out a car-ramming attack in Hebron in March.
The article was published on The jerusalem Post on the 30th of June 2016
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