French consular employee charged in Gaza gun-running scheme



French consular employee charged in Gaza gun-running scheme

Prosecutors say Romain Franck knew he could take advantage of lax checks on his diplomatic vehicle to spirit dozens of pistols and two rifles from the Strip to the West Bank

French consulate worker Romain Franck, a French employee of France's Consulate in Jerusalem, covers his face during a hearing at the district court in in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, March 19, 2018. (Sebastian Scheiner/AP)

French consulate worker Romain Franck, a French employee of France’s Consulate in Jerusalem, covers his face during a hearing at the district court in in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, March 19, 2018. (Sebastian Scheiner/AP)

An employee at the French consulate in Jerusalem was indicted on Monday for using a diplomatic vehicle to smuggle dozens of guns from Gaza to the West Bank.

In addition to Romain Franck, five residents of the West Bank and East Jerusalem were also charged. A total of nine suspects have been arrested in the case.

According to the indictment, Franck, 24, was aware of the reduced security checks for vehicles with diplomatic license plates, which he allegedly used to illegally transport weapons out of Gaza and into the West Bank.

Franck, who worked as a driver at the consulate, spoke through an interpreter to confirm his identity during the brief court appearance. Two French diplomats were at the court to monitor the proceedings.

He allegedly made five smuggling runs, bringing 70 pistols and two assault rifles to the West Bank from a Palestinian employee at the French Cultural Center in Gaza, Zuheir Abed Abdeen. A contact in the West Bank then sold the weapons to other arms dealers, investigators say.

French consulate in Jerusalem employee Romain Franck. (Shin Bet)

Franck was already transporting various valuables in his car on behalf of Abdeen when in September 2017 the Palestinian propositioned him to join a gun-running ring run by Gaza resident Mahmad Jamil al-Haladi, the indictment said.

Franck later brought Mahmad Siad, an Israeli citizen employed at the French consulate in Jerusalem, into the operation and the two would allegedly travel together to deliver the weapons in the West Bank.

Prosecutors say Franck would usually take delivery of the guns from Aabdin and then place them in the trunk of his vehicle. At the border checks he would then falsely declare that all of the bags belonged to him or his passengers and that he was not carrying any weapons.

He was paid several thousand shekels for each delivery, depending on the number of guns he carried across the border.

The Shin Bet security agency said Franck was motivated by financial gain and that his superiors at the French consulate in Jerusalem were unaware of his actions. He was arrested February 15, but the case only became public on Sunday.

Details of the case were released hours ahead of the arraignment Monday, days before French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was set to visit Israel.

Among the others indicted Monday were East Jerusalem residents Moufak al-Ajluni and Mohamed Katout.

French national Romain Franck (R), 24, a worker at the French consulate, and Palestinians Moufak al-Ajluni (L) and Mohamed Katout (C) appear in court in the Israeli city of Haifa on March 19, 2018, to face charges of smuggling guns from Gaza (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)

The Foreign Ministry earlier denounced the “very serious” arms smuggling charges against Franck but said the incident would not compromise diplomatic ties between the two countries.

“This is a very grave incident in which the immunity and privileges granted to foreign missions in Israel was cynically exploited for smuggling,” a Shin Bet official said, adding the weapons could have been used in attacks on civilians and security forces.

Echoing the Shin Bet, the Foreign Ministry said “this is a very serious incident which we are treating severely.”

It also thanked French authorities for cooperating with the investigation.

“The ties with France are excellent and the affair doesn’t adversely affect them,” the Foreign Ministry stressed.

A spokesman for France’s embassy in Israel said on Sunday that “we take this case very seriously and are in close contact with the Israeli authorities.”

Franck “has benefited and continues to enjoy the consular protection” provided to French nationals, he said.

According to the Le Monde daily, France won’t block prosecution, but Franck may serve his sentence in France and not Israel.

AFP contributed to this report.


As anniversaries loom, Palestinian ‘lone wolf’ attacks likely to gain traction



As anniversaries loom, Palestinian ‘lone wolf’ attacks likely to gain traction

Upcoming Land Day and Nakba Day protests set stage for violence engineered by Hamas from Gaza and abroad

Avi Issacharoff
Palestinians wave Hamas flags as they celebrate the prisoner swap deal reached between Israel and Hamas in East Jerusalem. Oct 18, 2011.(Kobi Gideon / Flash90)

Palestinians wave Hamas flags as they celebrate the prisoner swap deal reached between Israel and Hamas in East Jerusalem. Oct 18, 2011.(Kobi Gideon / Flash90)

The data available to Israel’s security establishment regarding the thwarting of so-called Palestinian “lone wolf attacks” is telling.

In 2017 alone, more than 1,300 such attacks —  those without the support or operational backing of any terror group — were prevented. This marked a significant decline as compared to 2016, when more than 2,200 lone-wolf attacks were foiled.

But this year’s figures already show a persistent trend, with some 200 lone wolf attacks attempted in the past two months alone.

And while the data suggests the motivation among young Palestinians to carry out such attacks is on the decline, Friday’s attack demonstrated that it is still very much present, and liable to be lethal.

According to the Shin Bet security service, the interrogation of the car-rammer Ala Qabha along with other findings indicate it was a nationalistically motivated attack.

Israeli soldiers inspect a car at the scene where two Israeli soldiers were killed and another two were injured in a car-ramming terror attack near Mevo Dotan, in the West Bank, March 16, 2018. (Meir Vaknin/Flash90)

Qabha, who was released from Israeli prison just under a year ago, carried out the attack on the 100-day anniversary of US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a day in which several Palestinian terror organizations — led by Hamas — sought to exact a price in blood.

Unfortunately, the coming months have no shortage of such anniversaries, and the motivation among Palestinians to carry out terror attacks will only increase.

At the end of this month, huge protests are being planned for “Land Day” under the theme of “processions of the great return,” which will likely feature Palestinians storming the West Bank security barrier as well as Israel’s border with Gaza.

These protests will be followed by similar events to commemorate Nakba (“Catastrophe”) Day — how Palestinians refer to Israel’s Independence Day — which falls around the same time as the holy month of Ramadan this year.

On top of all of these “festive” occasions, there are additional conditions in place that will surely increase motivation for attacks on the Palestinian side, especially among its youth: the lack of a diplomatic horizon, the dearth of hope, the leadership crisis on the Palestinian side, Israeli settlement construction, and the failure of the internal Palestinian reconciliation process.

Each of these conditions have been seen to amplify Palestinian despair.

Many times, however, this despair leads — as we have seen in recent years — to apathy. Accordingly, most West Bank Palestinians have largely remained in their homes, even during the most tense commemoration days.

On the other hand, this despair also motivates quite a few young Palestinians to want to carry out terror attacks: car-rammings, stabbings, shootings. And while obtaining the improvised weapons used in these attacks is not as easy as it used to be, there are still enough weapons in the West Bank to carry out shootings, without any terrorist organizational backing.

Hamas attempts to step up attacks

Along with these lone wolf attacks, one must add the organized effort — primarily from Hamas — to ignite the West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority has maintained its security coordination with Israel and has continued to prevent a considerable amount of attacks.

PA security forces have taken a number of steps in recent years to prevent harm to Israelis, while simultaneously targeting sources of funding from Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Ahmad Nassar Jarrar, 22, head of the terror cell who shot dead Rabbi Raziel Shevach in the West Bank on January 9 (Twitter)

However, Hamas, along with other terror groups, has continued in their efforts to carry out more organized, “classic” terror attacks.

For this purpose, Hamas has been operating from two bridgeheads.

One from Gaza, where the ironically labeled “West Bank Headquarters” operates the group’s terror infrastructure east of the Green Line. The branch is made up largely of former security prisoners who were deported to Gaza after being freed in the swap for captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011.

Ahmed Jarrar, the terrorist who murdered Rabbi Raziel Shevach near the Havat Gilad outpost in the northern West Bank in January, received financial assistance from this very headquarters.

The second branch, the “West Bank Office,” operates with an identical goal and is similarly run by former security prisoners released in the Shalit exchange. However, these past convicts were deported abroad and operate from capitals such as Istanbul.

Together, the two branches and the looming anniversaries create an unstable environment for the next few months in our region, to say the least.


State Department’s new undersecretary was in a Gaza tunnel when boss was fired



State Department’s new undersecretary was in a Gaza tunnel when boss was fired

Sidelined by Tillerson, whose firing caught her in a terror tunnel during a trip to Israel, Heather Nauert now finds herself nearly atop Foggy Bottom

Then-State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert speaks during a briefing at the State Department in Washington on August 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

Then-State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert speaks during a briefing at the State Department in Washington on August 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — When the ax fell on US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, his spokeswoman was half a world away, a distance he and his inner circle preferred and enforced.

Now, it’s Tillerson who’s on his way out after his unceremonious firing by President Donald Trump, and Heather Nauert whose star is ascendant.

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and Nauert are among the few women in the Trump administration with high-profile voices on foreign policy. Only three State Department officials — all men — now outrank Nauert, a former Fox News anchor who declined comment for this story.

Nauert’s meteoric rise comes even though just a week ago she seemed not long for the job. Then Tillerson lost his.

US Foreign Secretary Rex Tillerson speaks during a joint press conference with Jordanian foreign minister in Amman on February 14, 2018.(AFP PHOTO / Khalil MAZRAAWI)

She was denied the kind of close access to the boss that all recent successful State Department press secretaries enjoyed. So Nauert tried to defend Trump’s top diplomat and explain his activities to reporters from around the world without being able to travel on any of Tillerson’s international trips or attend most of his Washington meetings.

Frustrated at being sidelined, Nauert almost quit several times. She had been telling associates she was ready to move on.

The moment that Trump canned Tillerson by tweet, Nauert was in a Hamas-built tunnel on the border near the Gaza Strip, on a tour organized by the Israeli military to show US officials the smuggling routes used by militants. Caught by surprise by the move back in Washington, Nauert and the rest of the delegation cut the tour short and returned to Jerusalem to deal with the crisis. Soon, Trump also fired the undersecretary of state who publicly defended Tillerson.

Palestinian terrorists from the Islamic Jihad’s armed wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, squat in a tunnel, used for ferrying rockets and mortars back and forth in preparation for the next conflict with Israel, as they take part in military training in the south of the Gaza Strip, on March 3, 2015. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

The president named Nauert to that suddenly vacant position, near the top of the hierarchy of American diplomacy.

Nauert told associates she was taken aback and recommended a colleague for the job. But when White House officials told her they wanted her, she accepted.

The new role gives Nauert responsibilities far beyond the regular news conferences she held in the briefing room. She is overseeing the public diplomacy in Washington and all of the roughly 275 overseas US embassies, consulates and other posts. She is in charge of the Global Engagement Center that fights extremist messaging from the Islamic State group and others. She can take a seat, if she wants, on the Broadcasting Board of Governors that steers government broadcast networks such as Voice of America.

Less than a year ago, Nauert wasn’t even in government.

Nauert, who was born in Illinois, was a breaking news anchor on Trump’s favorite television show, “Fox & Friends,” when she was tapped to be the face and voice of the administration’s foreign policy. With a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, she had come to Fox from ABC News, where she was a general assignment reporter. She hadn’t specialized in foreign policy or international relations.

It was almost clear from the start that Nauert wasn’t Tillerson’s first choice.

She resisted the ex-oilman’s efforts to limit press access, reduce briefings and limit journalists allowed to travel with him. Tillerson had preferred Genevieve Wood at the conservative Heritage Foundation, according to several individuals familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly discuss Tillerson’s personnel decisions.

When Nauert arrived at the State Department in April 2017, she found relations between Tillerson and the diplomatic press corps in crisis. No longer were there daily briefings that had been a State Department feature for decades. Journalists accustomed to traveling with Republican and Democratic secretaries for decades found they were blocked from Tillerson’s plane. Department spokespeople had no regular access to Tillerson or his top advisers.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert speaks during a briefing at the State Department in Washington, August 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Shut out from the top, Nauert developed relationships with career diplomats. Barred from traveling with Tillerson, she embarked on her own overseas trips, visiting Bangladesh and Myanmar last year to see the plight of Rohingya Muslims, and then Israel, after a planned stop in Syria was scrapped. Limited to two briefings a week, she began hosting a program called “The Readout” on State Department social media outlets in which she interviewed senior officials about topics of the day.

All the while, she stayed in the good graces of the White House, even as Tillerson was increasingly on the outs. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders described Nauert as “a team player” and “a strong asset for the administration.”

Sarah Sanders speaks during the daily briefing at the White House, on March 12, 2018, in Washington, DC. (AFP PHOTO)

And she didn’t shy from taking on foreign foes.

“The idea that Russia is calling for a so-called humanitarian corridor, I want to be clear, is a joke,” Nauert said at one recent briefing where she took Moscow to task for its actions in Syria, where it has used military power to support President Bashar Assad’s government.

Such comments have earned her the wrath of Kremlin officials and state-run media. Faced with pointed questioning by reporters from Russian news outlets at her briefings, Nauert often has lashed out, accusing them of working for their government.

“You’re from Russian TV, too. OK. So hey, enough said then. I’ll move on,” Nauert told a reporter last month after Russian President Vladimir Putin presented an animated film clip showing a missile headed toward the US

The comment sparked an intercontinental war-of-spokeswomen.

“If the StateDept dares to shun our journalists alongside with calling them Russian journalists one more time, we will carry our promise. We will create special seats for so called ‘US journalists,’” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova tweeted.

It didn’t end there.

First, the Russian Embassy in Washington congratulated Nauert “and, of course, all female employees” of the State Department on International Women’s Day. Nauert responded with gratitude and a dig, saying Moscow should use the day to “live up to its international commitments & stop bombing innocent men, women & children in #Syria.”


Hamas Praises The Murder Of Two Israeli Soldiers



Palestinian terror groups praise car-ramming attack that kills two soldiers

Factions say terror attack a response to ‘Zionist crimes’ and US recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel

Israeli security forces and forensics are seen at the site where a Palestinian rammed a car into a group of Israeli soldiers near Mevo Dotan in the north of the West Bank on March 16, 2018 (AFP PHOTO / Jack GUEZ)

Israeli security forces and forensics are seen at the site where a Palestinian rammed a car into a group of Israeli soldiers near Mevo Dotan in the north of the West Bank on March 16, 2018 (AFP PHOTO / Jack GUEZ)

Several Palestinian terror groups and activists on Friday praised the “heroic” car-ramming attack in which two IDF solders were killed near Jenin, saying it was an “appropriate” response to US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

While no group claimed direct responsibility for the terror attack, it came after Palestinian groups had called for Friday to be a “day of rage,” in response to Trump’s December decision.

The Hamas terror group was the first to “welcome” the attack.

“This heroic and courageous operation underscores our people’s insistence on pursuing the path of resistance,” read a terse statement published by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Abdel Latif al-Qanua, a Hamas spokesperson, said that the “heroic operation underlines the vitality and continuity of the intifada, and our people’s rejection of the US decision on Jerusalem.”

Another Hamas spokesperson, Sami Abu Zuhri, said that the attack was a “message” to those who have been calling on his terror group to lay down its weapons.

Israeli security forces and forensics experts inspect the destroyed vehicle that was used by a Palestinian terrorist in a car ramming attack on Israeli soldiers near West Bank settlement of Mevo Dotan on March 16, 2018. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

“This is a message to the effect that the weapons of the resistance are the uppermost,” he added. “It is also a message to the effect that there is no future for those who conduct security cooperation,” he said, referring to the cooperation between the Palestinian Authority forces in the West Bank and the IDF.

During ongoing reconciliation talks between Hamas and PA President Mahmoud Abas’ Fatah group, a key demand has been for Hamas to hand it’s weapons over to the control of the PA, a move Hamas has firmly rejected.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group said the attack was a response to  “Zionist terrorism.” The group called on Palestinians to carry out more attacks to “foil the Zionist-American plot to obliterate the Palestinian cause.”

Talal Abu Zarifeh, a senior representative of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, one of several PLO terror factions, said that the car-ramming attack was a “natural response to Israeli crimes” and a sign that the uprising was continuing.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, another PLO terror group, said that the attack had “trampled Trump’s decision on Jerusalem – 100 days since he announced it.” The attack proves that the Palestinians are alert and prepared to thwart this decision and any other scheme targeting our cause and existence,” the group added.

On Twitter, some Palestinians launched a hashtag called “The Jenin Operation,” where they heaped praise on the attacker, identified as Ala Qabha, 26.

يسلم البطن الي جابك
جنين ارفعي راسك بأبطالك


Some Palestinians also said they believed the attack came to avenge the killing of Ahmed Jarrar, the Hamas terrorist who killed Rabbi Raziel Shevach in the northern West Bank earlier this year. Jarrar, a resident of Jenin, was killed by IDF troops in early February.

The Palestinian Authority had not commented on the attack.

The IDF confirmed that the incident was a terror attack. It said the troops were hit while standing near a military guard post Friday afternoon. One of the victims was pronounced dead at the scene. A second died a short time later, after attempts to save his life failed.

The scene of a car-ramming attack in the West Bank on March 16, 2018 (Magen David Adom)

One of the injured soldiers suffered severe head trauma and was fighting for his life. A second soldier was in serious condition.

The driver, Qabha, 26, of the village of Barta’a in the northern West Bank, was injured and taken to hospital, where he will be questioned, the army said. A second Palestinian man was treated by the Palestinian Red Crescent medical service. It was not immediately clear how he was involved.


Haaretz reported that Qabha was released from Israeli prison in April of last year after completing a 17-month sentence, though there were no immediate details on his crime. According to Hadashot news he was incarcerated for security-related activities.

Palestinian media reported that military forces searched the Qabha family’s home in Barta’a and questioned family members following the attack. Qabha’s brother was arrested, and the Israeli work permits of several family members were revoked.

Meanwhile Qabha’s family claimed the incident was an accident and not an attack, with one relative telling Haaretz that the young man was a painter, and had been on his way home from Jenin after buying supplies. “He’s not politically affiliated and doesn’t belong to any organization,” he said.



Hamas denies it built tunnel under UN schools in Gaza



Hamas denies it built tunnel under UN schools in Gaza

Hamas has a network of tunnels, two of which have just been discovered under schools, that have been used in the past as firing positions, shelter from Israeli attack, storage for weapons and at times to enter Israel and capture soldiers.

Hamas has a network of tunnels, two of which have just been discovered under schools, that have been used in the past as firing positions, shelter from Israeli attack, storage for weapons and at times to enter Israel and capture soldiers.

Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas has denied that it or any other militant group built a tunnel under two UN schools in Gaza after its discovery drew a strong UN protest.

Over the years, Gaza’s Hamas rulers have built a labyrinth of tunnels, some passing under the border into Israel which they used to launch attacks during their last conflict in 2014.

On June 1, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) found “part of a tunnel that passes under two adjacent agency schools in the Maghazi camp” during construction work, spokesman Christopher Gunness said on Friday.

Hamas late Friday “strongly condemned” the UNRWA statement, saying it would be exploited by Israel to “justify its crimes”.

Hamas had clarified the issue “with all factions and resistance forces, who clearly stated they had no actions related to the resistance in the said location,” the movement said, adding that it respected UNRWA’s work.

Gunness said that the tunnel “has no entry or exit points on the premises nor is it connected to the schools or other buildings in any way”.

“UNRWA condemns the existence of such tunnels in the strongest possible terms. It is unacceptable that students and staff are placed at risk in such a way,” he said.

Gunness said the agency had “robustly intervened and protested to Hamas in Gaza”.

He said UNRWA will seal the tunnel, which was discovered while the schools were empty during the summer holiday.

Attack tunnels were a key weapon for Hamas during the 2014 Gaza war.

Hamas also built a vast network of tunnels under Gaza’s border with Egypt to smuggle goods and allegedly weapons.

The Israeli army found and destroyed several tunnels during the 2014 war.

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars in the Gaza Strip since the group wrested control of the territory from the rival Fatah movement of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in 2007.

(Theology) The War Will Never Ever End



Today the headlines from Israel and Gaza, war, more deaths and destruction. In 1948 the Jewish people took back about 1% of the Holy Land and renamed it Israel, as it was, is, and will always be. The people that later became known as the Palestinians were displaced into the other 99% of the Middle-East. None of their Islamic brothers wanted them and they became know as a people without a Nation, displaced. The Arab people who did take them in like the people of Jordan soon threw them out because of the ways in which they acted toward their hosts. Even though their brothers who possess 99% of all the land, no one wants them in their countries. Instead, these “brothers” used them as a pawn for over sixty years, not supporting them, just using them.

Then the Israeli PM did that which he had no authority to do, he gave up some of the Israeli land in an effort to obtain peace with the Palestinian people and their Islamic neighbors. The PM gave them what is now called the West Bank and Gaza, hoping for peace. As I wrote then, Israel only accomplished giving these hate filled people closer bases into which to use to attack Israel and their people from.

God gave to the Israeli PM his just reward for giving away land that is no mans property to give away. He was told not to do it, he did it anyway. He quickly stroked, suffered, never repented and died. This is called the Holy Lands for a reason, this land above all of earths land is called Holy because it is where Christ will rule from the NEW Jerusalem after Satan and his angels are put into hell for ever.

Toward the end of times the ten demons who possess the ten human rulers here on earth new Jerusalem will be sub-planted by the three demon generals who sit at Satan’s left hand. These three “super leaders” will come from the three divisions of human powers. 1) the Americas, 2) Europe/Russia, 3) Asia. You see yet, the sign of God is 3, the sign of man is 6. The three men who would be gods, three of the last four “super” anti-Christs. Have you figured out yet who “The” anti-Christ is, The Root who sub-plants them from beneath is? Should be obvious, their boss, Satan himself, The Anti-Christ. He who would be God but who will instead only rule Hell once the trumpet of God sounds. He comes from beneath for two symbolic reasons. One is because where he now is “god” is geographically beneath the current world super powers where his base is. His throne is now upon the Temple Mount above the Wailing Wall as he demands “Submission” from all.

When Gods’ trumpet sounds, the world will then see and understand that they have been duped by their leaders and that these “super” leaders have been Satan’s henchmen. Friends, it will be too late for those who bowed to the will of Satan to repent. The demons will be cast straightway into Hell because they have already been judged. Satan will be cast into his new Kingdom after the last humans have had their turn before the  judgement seat of Christ. Unfortunately, billions of duped humans will spend forever there in the fire with him. This religion IS NOT a “great and peaceful religion” no matter what the buffoons say on TV. IT IS the most powerful attack on the people of earth that has ever been established.——-“THE WAR WILL NEVER END—UNTIL GODS’ TRUMPET SOUNDS”…..People wake up, or you are going to die twice, 1) the physical death, 2) Eternal separation from the presence and grace of God in Hell with Satan and his followers…… People, Please wake up!!!

IDF Destroys Another Hamas Attack Tunnel




IDF destroys Hamas attack tunnel that penetrated Israel and Egypt

Israeli jets strike in southern Gaza; army denies Palestinian claims the cross-border passage — the third destroyed by Israel in three months — was used for smuggling

The Israel Defense Forces on Sunday said it had destroyed a border-crossing Hamas attack tunnel, the third in recent months, that penetrated hundreds of meters into both Israeli and Egyptian territory from the Gaza Strip, in an airstrike in southern Gaza on Saturday night.

“We completed the destruction of a third terror tunnel,” spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told reporters early Sunday morning, denying claims made by Hamas that it was a smuggling tunnel.

The tunnel, which was constructed differently from most tunnels in Gaza, began in the city of Rafah and crossed into Israel under the Kerem Shalom Crossing, through which hundreds of trucks ordinarily cross into the coastal enclave with goods from Israel each day, he said.

“We understand this tunnel belongs to Hamas,” Conricus added, saying the military believed the terror group saw it as a “significant asset.”

That assessment came from the fact that the tunnel ran underneath the Gaza crossing, which was kept closed on Sunday, as well as below the gas and diesel pipelines into the Strip and a nearby IDF post, he said.

An attack tunnel that was bombed by Israeli jets on January 13, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

“This is a severe breach of Israel’s sovereignty, a serious threat to Israeli civilians and a threat to the humanitarian efforts that Israel allows for the people in the Gaza Strip,” the military said in a statement.

The army spokesperson credited the discovery and destruction of the tunnel to a combination of “cutting-edge” technology and intelligence.

It was the third tunnel entering Israeli territory destroyed by the IDF in under three months. On October 30, the army blew up an attack tunnel that belonged to the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group, in the process killing 12 members of the organization, along with two Hamas operatives. On December 10, the military demolished a second tunnel, this one controlled by Hamas.

However, in both of those cases, the tunnels were destroyed from inside Israeli territory, unlike the one on Saturday night, which was hit from inside Gaza by Israeli jets, Conricus said.

“If you do something once, it’s a chance; if you do something twice, it’s a coincidence; if you do something three times, there’s a method,” he said, hinting at further tunnel demolitions to come.

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot made the destruction of Palestinian terror groups’ attack tunnel a top priority for the military, following the 2014 Gaza war, which saw extensive use of tunnels by the Hamas terrorist group.

Over the past year, the army has been constructing an underground barrier around the Gaza Strip that is meant to block attempts to dig into Israel.

Military officials have noted that more tunnels will likely be destroyed in coming months as the barrier nears completion.

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, left, visits an attack tunnel dug by a Palestinian terrorist group from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel during a visit to the area on December 20, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)

Conricus’s comments marked the first time an army official has publicly acknowledged that the military has the capability to successfully strike tunnels from the air, though others have alluded to it in the past.

Last week, the IDF also struck what many assumed to be a tunnel in the Gaza Strip, following a series of mortar attacks.

In its statement at the time, the army referred to the target of the attack on January 4 as “significant terror infrastructure.”

According to official Palestinian media, that “infrastructure” was farmland in the southern Gaza Strip, prompting many to assume that it was, in fact, a tunnel beneath the field, though not necessarily one that crossed into Israeli territory.

The message to the leaders of Gaza and its citizens is clear — invest in the sanctity of life and not in [digging your own] catacombs

On Twitter, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman praised the IDF’s “professional and accurate” Saturday night airstrike.

“The destruction of the attack tunnel network is a key feature of our policy of consistently striking Hamas’s strategic capabilities,” Liberman wrote Sunday morning. “The message to the leaders of Gaza and its citizens is clear — invest in the sanctity of life and not in [digging your own] catacombs.”

Earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, before taking off for an official visit to India, threatened Hamas with “even greater force” following the Saturday night strike.

“This evening the IDF attacked Hamas’s central terror infrastructure in the Gaza Strip,” he said. “There are those who have said the IDF just targeted sand dunes — this is incorrect. Hamas must understand that we will not tolerate the continuation of these attacks and will respond with even greater force.”

The army denied the claim made by Hamas late Saturday night that the Israeli jets had targeted a smuggling tunnel between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.

“We know it’s a terror tunnel because it passes under different strategic assets,” Conricus said, referring to its proximity to the fuel pipelines into Gaza, the Kerem Shalom Crossing and a military installation nearby.

The army spokesperson also denied earlier reports in Hebrew media that the jets had targeted a shipment of long-range missiles into Gaza.

According to Conricus, the tunnel was dug in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, some 900 meters from Israel, and extended 180 meters into Israeli territory.

On the other end, it also extended hundreds of meters into Egypt, which could have allowed fighters in Gaza to attack Israeli positions from the Sinai Peninsula, he said.

Asked if the tunnel could have functioned as both a smuggling and attack tunnel, the army spokesperson responded, “It could have, but we deal with the infrastructure.”

As the tunnel entered Egyptian territory, the army was in contact with Cairo about its destruction, Conricus said, but would not elaborate on the extent of the cooperation.

The tunnel’s design was out of the ordinary, not matching the size of some larger tunnels and lacking the domed roof of smaller attack tunnels.

The strike came shortly after the military announced it would not be opening the Kerem Shalom Crossing into the Gaza Strip on Sunday, following a “situational assessment.”

UN trucks carrying building materials for projects funded by UNRWA arrive in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip after crossing the Israeli Kerem Shalom crossing on December 10, 2013. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

It is the second time Kerem Shalom has been closed in under a month.

Israel shut down the crossing on December 14 following multiple rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza, along with Erez Crossing, through which people enter and exit the Strip. Erez reopened a day later, and Kerem Shalom was reopened on December 17.

On Friday, approximately 1,000 Palestinians took part in violent demonstrations in four locations along the security fence surrounding Gaza, rolling burning tires and throwing rocks at the barrier and the soldiers on the other side, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

In response, “troops fired live rounds selectively toward three main instigators, who posed a threat to IDF soldiers and the security fence,” the army said.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said dozens of Palestinians were injured by live fire, rubber bullets and tear gas during the riots.

On Saturday, the Defense Ministry’s chief liaison to the Palestinians warned residents of the Gaza Strip that the Hamas terror organization was using them in its quest for violence against Israel.

“Hamas terrorists send young people to riot at the [Gaza border]… while hiding behind them and claiming that these riots are spontaneous and peaceful,” Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), said on Facebook.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.


Senior Hamas Leader Accidentally Shoots Himself In The Head



Senior Hamas official suffers gunshot wound, is in critical condition

Imad al-Alami, who is a key link between Gaza and Iran, reportedly shoots himself in the head while inspecting his gun

Senior Hamas leader Imad al-Alami. (Youtube)

Senior Hamas leader Imad al-Alami. (Youtube)

Senior Hamas official Imad al-Alami, who is a key link between Gaza and Tehran, was shot in the head Tuesday morning, with the terror group’s spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum saying he accidentally discharged his own weapon while inspecting it.

Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry spokesperson Dr. Ashraf al-Qidre said al-Alami is being treated at the intensive care unit in Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital and that his condition is critical.

Al-Alami, also known as Abu Hamam, was born in Gaza in 1956. He was one of the founders of Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and served as the terror group’s main representative in Tehran for many years before moving to Damascus in 2008.

At the start of the Syrian civil war in 2012, he was the last Hamas leader to leave Damascus and return to Gaza, where he was quickly elected as deputy Hamas leader, a capacity in which he served until last year’s elections.

Members of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, take part in a rally in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 5, 2017. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Al-Alami is unique among senior Hamas leaders for staying out of the press. He does not take part in press conferences nor is he active on any social media platform.

Al-Alami, who is a mechanical engineer by training, suffered serious leg injuries during the Israel-Gaza war in the summer of 2014, in circumstances that are not totally clear.

According to one claim, he was hurt when an elevator collapsed inside a tunnel in which senior Hamas members were hiding. Another rumor said he was injured by gunfire during a battle between Hamas activists. He was treated in Turkey.

Al-Alami was first deported from Gaza in 1991, after being arrested by Israeli security forces for carrying out terror activities for Hamas.

Hamas has said Iran is currently its leading military backer.

Avi Issachoroff contributed to this report.


Gaza rocket barrage appears to target ceremony for captured soldier



Gaza rocket barrage appears to target ceremony for captured soldier

Video from scene shows family members of fallen sergeant Oron Shaul taking cover during concert marking his 24th birthday

The military censor did not allow the exact location of the strike to be published, as it could assist terrorist groups in fine-tuning their targeting for future attacks.

The launches were also directed toward the area where the ceremony was being held, at Kibbutz Kfar Aza, overlooking the place where Staff Sergeant Oron Shaul was killed in the 2014 Gaza war.

Sgt. Oron Shaul, whose death in Gaza on July 20, 2014 was formally confirmed by the IDF on July 25, 2014 (Photo credit: Courtesy)

The time and location of the event were publicized ahead of time.

Yesh Atid MK Haim Jelin, a former head of a regional council just outside Gaza who was at the ceremony, filmed the event for a Facebook Live video. The ceremony was attended by dozens of people, including a number of politicians.

The barrage came just after a musical performance, setting off loudspeakers in the area, which blared, “Code Red. Code Red,” the term for an incoming rocket attack.

Zehava Shaul, whose son Oron’s remains are being held by the Hamas terrorist group in Gaza, is led away from a ceremony in his honor after rockets are launched at Israel from the coastal enclave on December 29, 2017. (Screen capture)

Far from bomb shelters, Jelin and the other members of the audience took cover on the grass, lying on the ground with their hands over their heads.

In the video, Oron Shaul’s clearly distraught mother Zehava could be seen being escorted away.

The loud blasts of the rockets being intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system could be heard in the video, though they could not be seen because of heavy cloud cover.

In the video, one member of the audience could be heard shouting in anger, saying repeatedly that Israel should “conquer Gaza.”

An organizer of the event called for everyone to keep calm and to make their way back to the kibbutz’s bomb shelters.

However, Jelin and others said the ceremony should continue “for Oron’s sake.”

In a statement, Labor Party chief Avi Gabbay, who attended the event, said he was “filled with pride” that the ceremony went forward despite the attack.

Shortly after the rocket barrage, the Israel Defense Forces retaliated by attacking two Hamas positions with tank shelling and strikes from aircraft.

The rocket attack was the first such incident since December 18.

Police said one rocket that wasn’t shot down by the Iron Dome system was found outside a building that had sustained damaged from the impact. There were no reports of casualties.

This month saw two weeks of near-daily rocket launches, the largest incidence of missile-fire from the Strip since the 2014 Israel-Hamas war. These daily attacks had recently seemed to have come to an end.

According to Israeli assessments, the rockets are not being launched by Hamas, but by other terrorist groups in the Strip. However, analysts have noted that Hamas has been either unwilling or unable to clamp down on the groups, as it has in the past.

Protesting Trump’s December 6 declaration that Jerusalem is the Israeli capital, terror group Hamas, which runs Gaza and seeks Israel’s destruction, has called for a new intifada and vowed to liberate Jerusalem.


Israel airstrikes, Gaza rockets amid tensions over Jerusalem



Israel airstrikes, Gaza rockets amid tensions over Jerusalem

Clashes erupt in Jerusalem

Jerusalem (CNN) Two Palestinians were killed Saturday in Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, the Palestinian Health Ministry said, as tensions soared in the region after US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The Israel Defense Forces said Israeli aircraft had targeted what it identified as four facilities belonging to Hamas — the Palestinian Islamist group that controls Gaza — early Saturday in response to rockets fired into southern Israel from Gaza.
The aircraft targeted two weapons manufacturing sites, a weapons warehouse and a military compound, according to an IDF news release.
The two Palestinians killed were a 27-year-old man and a 30-year-old man, Palestinian Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qadra told CNN.
The IDF said Israeli aircraft had also struck a Hamas training compound and ammunition warehouse in Gaza late on Friday.
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One of the rockets fired from Gaza landed in the Israeli city of Sderot, according to the IDF. There was no mention of casualties.

Palestinians on Saturday look at the damage from an Israeli airstrike in Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip.

Two Palestinians were also killed Friday in Gaza in clashes between protesters and Israeli security forces over Trump’s controversial move. Thirty-year-old Mohammad Masry was killed when fired on by Israeli forces and 54-year-old Maher Atallah died of injuries sustained in the clashes earlier that day, al-Qadra said.

A relative of Mohammad Masry, who was killed Friday in clashes with Israeli troops, mourns during his funeral in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Saturday.

Both Palestinians and Israelis claim Jerusalem as their capital.
Sporadic clashes erupted Saturday between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces on a busy shopping street in the eastern part of Jerusalem and in the West Bank towns of Bethlehem and Ramallah.
Israeli security forces responded with tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets as small groups of protesters threw rocks.
Seven people were arrested during the clashes on Salah el-Din Street in Jerusalem, Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
The Palestinian Red Crescent reported 12 injured after police dispersed the demonstrators there.
Meanwhile, crowds of mourners gathered in Gaza for the funerals of the four men killed there.

Relatives of 30-year-old Mohammad Masry mourn over his body during his funeral in town of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on Saturday.

An Israeli army statement said what it called violent riots had broken out in about 30 locations across the West Bank and Gaza on Friday. The main disturbances in the West Bank were in Hebron, Al-Arroub, Tulkarm, Ramallah, Qalqilya and Nablus.
More than 300 people were injured across the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem on Friday, 50 of whom needed hospital treatment, the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Health said.
At least 49 people were also injured Thursday during protests over Trump’s decision, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.
Trump’s decision Wednesday to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and commit to moving the US Embassy to the holy city has prompted international condemnation and sparked protests in countries around the globe, from Indonesia and Malaysia to Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and Egypt.

US envoy to UN defends Trump move

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley defended Trump’s decision and criticized member countries for their treatment of Israel during an emergency UN Security Council meeting Friday.
She also said the US has credibility with both the Israelis and the Palestinians and that any peace agreement would likely be “signed on the White House lawn.”
“The United States is not predetermining final status issues,” Haley said.
“We remain committed to achieving a lasting peace agreement. We support a two-state solution if agreed to by the parties.”
Several countries voiced their opposition to the US decision before Haley’s comments, including France and Egypt.

Egypt’s Coptic Church won’t meet Pence

Egypt’s Coptic Church on Saturday issued a statement “excusing” itself from receiving US Vice President Mike Pence during an upcoming visit to the region, state-run Al-Ahram reported, citing a church statement.
“In consideration of the decision that the US administration took regarding Jerusalem, which was inappropriately timed and took no consideration of the feeling of millions of Arab people, the Egyptian Orthodox Coptic Church excuses itself from this meeting,” Al-Ahram cited the statement as saying.
A day earlier, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas cast doubt on whether he would receive Pence during his planned visit in mid-December.
Speaking to broadcaster Al Jazeera, spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said: “Jerusalem is more important than Mike Pence — we will not abandon Jerusalem just to receive Mike Pence.”
Speaking Friday in Paris, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem “is not something that will happen this year, probably not next year.”
He also said that Trump’s decision did not “indicate any final status for Jerusalem,” adding that the “final status would be left to the parties to negotiate and decide.”
This story has been updated to correct a Palestinian Health Ministry report that originally stated one person was killed in an airstrike Friday. The report was later updated to say that the person died from injuries suffered in clashes, not an airstrike.