IDF Destroys Another Hamas Attack Tunnel

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

TUNNEL ENTERED ISRAEL BENEATH KEREM SHALOM GOODS CROSSING

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.

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Senior Hamas Leader Accidentally Shoots Himself In The Head

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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.

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How much aid does the US give Palestinians, and what’s it for?

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How much aid does the US give Palestinians, and what’s it for?

Washington has been the largest international donor to the PA since the early 90’s with over $5 billion in USAID funds alone — and that’s only half the story

Dov Lieber

US special envoy Jason Greenblatt (C) shakes hands with Palestinian Water Authority chairman Mazen Ghunaim during the launch of a project to improve access to wastewater treatment and water for Palestinian farmers, on October 15, 2017, in the city of Jericho, in the West Bank. (AFP/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)

US special envoy Jason Greenblatt (C) shakes hands with Palestinian Water Authority chairman Mazen Ghunaim during the launch of a project to improve access to wastewater treatment and water for Palestinian farmers, on October 15, 2017, in the city of Jericho, in the West Bank. (AFP/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)

The United States is by far the largest donor of financial aid to the Palestinians, with this assistance touching nearly every aspect of life in the Palestinian Authority. But US President Donald Trump threatened on Tuesday to end this aid to the Palestinians, angered by Ramallah’s refusal to cooperate with the US’s efforts to jump-start Israeli-Palestinian peace talks after he declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel in December.

The Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state.

Trump tweeted on Tuesday that Washington was paying the PA hundreds of millions of dollars a year “for nothing,” and complained that the US received “no appreciation or respect” in return.

Earlier on Tuesday, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley threatened to cut off funding to the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA, if the Palestinians refused to engage in peace negotiations.

Should the threats of the president and Haley come to fruition, what kind of impact could this have on the Palestinians?

Three types of US assistance to the Palestinians

According to the US Consulate in Jerusalem’s website, the United States has been the largest donor of aid to the Palestinians since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1994. This aid has totaled around $600 million annually in recent years, and can be roughly divided into three categories.

The first is USAID, the conduit by which the State Department provides aid to countries across the world. The second is the economic support for law and order in the Palestinian Authority. These two categories were perhaps the aid that Trump had in mind in his tweet, though the president did not specify. The third is the US support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, as addressed by Haley.

Palestinian security forces stand guard outside a hospital where a senior Hamas security chief was treated after being wounded in a car bomb. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)

Over 5 billion in USAID since 1994

Since 1994, Washington has provided the Palestinians with more than $5.2 billion through USAID. This money is used for developing and sustaining the Palestinian Authority, including support for debt relief (such as helping to pay the medical debts of Palestinians in Israeli or other foreign hospitals), sanitation, economic development in the public and private sectors, infrastructure development, education, governance, health and essential humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip.

The USAID money is also a lifeline for dozens of NGOs that work in the Palestinian territories on the grassroots level to support conflict mitigation and instill values of non-violence and peace-seeking.

Separate from this USAID money, which in 2016 equaled $290 million, the US also gives a large sum every year to support law and order.

This support, for which almost $55 million was budgeted in 2016, includes training and supplying equipment to the PA security forces and the police force, firefighter training, rehabilitating courtrooms and training judges as well as lawyers.

Israel sometimes works together with Palestinian security forces in order to foil terror plots against Israeli or Palestinian citizens.

US aid already threatened by Congress

Long before Trump thought about cutting aid to the Palestinians over their refusal to work with his administration in the peace process, Congress was already working to freeze assistance to the Palestinians until the PA discontinues its practice of paying monthly stipends to the families of terrorists who kill Israelis.

Taylor Force, murdered in Israel by a Palestinian terrorist in March 2016, gave his name to the Taylor Force Act, legislation proposing to halt US aid to the Palestinian Authority until the latter stops paying stipends to terrorists and their families. (Facebook)

This legislation, known as the Taylor Force Act, after a former US army officer who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian assailant while visiting Tel Aviv in March 2016, was passed in early December by the US House of Representatives after the legislation went through a number of rounds of revision.

The legislation now needs to be passed by the Senate.

In its 2017 budget, Ramallah allocated nearly $345 million for the contentious stipends. In total, it expected $693 million in foreign assistance for the 2017 fiscal year.

While US aid, which is largely not transferred into the coffers of the PA directly but rather paid out to third parties, cannot be used for paying the families of terrorists, many argue the assistance simply frees up other funds in the Palestinian leadership’s budget to pay the stipends.

Back in July, a White House official told The Times of Israel the Trump administration “agrees with the high-level goals of the Taylor Force Act.”

UNRWA ‘indispensable’ to Palestinians

US assistance to UNRWA in recent years has been far greater than that contributed by any other country, and surpasses the hundreds of millions given to the Palestinians through USAID.

UNRWA often operates in the poorest Palestinian neighborhoods and refugee camps, providing education to hundreds of thousands of students.

The organization also provides essential humanitarian services, including running health clinics and women’s centers.

Palestinian children at a school in the Gaza Strip city of Rafah. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

In 2016, the US pledged $355 million toward UNRWA’s operations. The second highest donor was the EU, pledging $160 million.

A large bulk of UNWRA’s work takes place in Palestinian refugee camps outside of the Palestinian territories, including in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

US donations to UNRWA have been declining in recent years. In 2015, the US gave $380.5 million to UNRWA and in 2014 gave $408 million to the UN refugee organization.

According to UNRWA, the agency educates half a million children in over 700 schools across the Middle East (270,00 of them in Gaza). The agency’s doctors see 11 million patients in nearly 150 primary health clinics annually. UNRWA also conducts vocational training, preparing 9,000 young people for job markets every year, according to the agency.

UNRWA, according to the agency, also assists more than 40,000 refugees with disabilities and runs recreational centers for 200,000 refugee youth and children. The agency employs over 30,000 teaching staff, doctors, nurses, social workers, sanitation laborers and engineers.

Chris Gunness, the spokesperson for UNRWA, told The Times of Israel on Wednesday, “We have no indication from the US administration of any intention to change funding for UNRWA.”

“UNRWA’s contribution to human development — notably through education and healthcare services — is described as indispensable to the dignity of Palestinian refugees and the stability of the region,” he added.

Palestinians receive aid at a United Nations distribution center (UNRWA) in the Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip on July 31, 2014 (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Peter Lerner, a recently retired spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces, argued that cutting funding to UNRWA would only hurt the weakest in Palestinian society, leading to more terror and extremism.

“There are many problems with UNRWA, but cutting financial support to the organization hurts the weakest members of Palestinian society and is unlikely to bring the Palestinian Authority to the table,” Lerner wrote on his Twitter account.

“The refugee camps have historically been hotbeds for terrorist activities, weakening this population will only lead to more extremism and violence. This will not contribute to security or stability in the region,” he concluded.

‘Time has come to dismantle UNRWA’

Haley mentioned the possibility of cutting funding to UNRWA in an impromptu response Tuesday to a question from a Canadian journalist, who asked whether the US would retain its current level of funding for the UN agency in light of a non-binding UN General Assembly resolution last month condemning the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. 

“[Trump] doesn’t want to give any additional funding until the Palestinians agree to come back to the negotiation table, and what we saw with the resolution was not helpful to the situation,” Haley said.

Haley seemed to be arguing that cutting UNRWA funding was aimed at dissuading the UN from foiling the US’s strategy for an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that in his first meeting with Haley in June 2016, he asked her to “re-examine UNRWA’s continued existence.”

In this 1948 photo from the UNRWA archive, Palestinian refugees stand outside their tent in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip. (AP/UNRWA Photo Archives)

UNRWA was created in 1949 in the wake of Israel’s War of Independence.

Netanyahu, in statements last year to his cabinet, accused the organization of inciting against Israel while doing nothing to help the plight of Palestinian refugees. He asked why they needed a specific body, when the UN High Commission for Refugees has helped tens of millions of displaced persons since World War II.

“The time has come to dismantle UNRWA and have its parts be integrated into the UN High Commission for Refugees,” he said.

UNRWA has long been the target of heavy criticism for alleged anti-Israel rhetoric promoted at its schools and for turning a blind eye to terrorist activities taken place at its premises, including the storing of rockets and hosting of tunnels belonging to the Hamas terror group.

UNRWA has condemned the use of its premises by Hamas for military purposes.

Palestinian children attend a class at the UNRWA elementary school in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, in April 2013. (AP/Hatem Moussa)

Additionally, Israel has long claimed that some of UNRWA’s Palestinian employees support terrorist activities and use hate-speech online.

An official told The Times of Israel on Tuesday that the White House was indeed reconsidering the effectiveness of the UN agency.

“We continue to review the impact and effectiveness of UNRWA’s aid programs. This is prudent, and indeed, it is our duty to the American taxpayer,” the official said.

However, the official also praised UNRWA.

The US has “long supported UNRWA for its important and life-saving humanitarian work, and recognizes its role as a stabilizing force and a counterweight to violent extremism, which is essential for stability in the Middle East region,” the official said.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report. 

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Gaza rocket barrage appears to target ceremony for captured soldier

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

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.

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Iran Pledging All Its Might To Hamas For Jerusalem Battle

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Iran pledging all its might to Hamas for Jerusalem battle, terror group says

‘All of our of capabilities and potential are at your disposal,’ Gaza leader Sinwar says General Qassem Soleimani told him

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (L) and Hamas's leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar wave during a rally marking the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Islamist terror movement, in Gaza City, on December 14, 2017. (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (L) and Hamas’s leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar wave during a rally marking the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Islamist terror movement, in Gaza City, on December 14, 2017. (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

Hamas’s leader in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, said that a senior Iranian military commander pledged all of the Islamic Republic’s military resources to help the Gaza-based terror group fight Israel over Jerusalem.

“All our of capabilities and potential are at your disposal in the battle for the defense of Jerusalem,” Sinwar said Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ elite Quds Force, told him over the phone.

The statements by Sinwar regarding Soleimani were broadcast Monday by the pro-Iranian Lebanese news outlet al-Mayadeen, and seemed to be from a speech he gave on Thursday in Gaza to young men and social media activists.

According to Sinwar, Soleimani asserted that “Iran, the Revolutionary Guards and Quds Force stand with all they have with our people in order to defend Jerusalem so that Jerusalem will endure as the capital of the state of Palestine.”

Iranian Revolutionary Guards al-Quds Force commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani (YouTube: BBC Newsnight)

Sinwar, who said he met with the Iranian military commander in Tehran in 2012, added that Soleimani was in touch with the leadership of the military branches of both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

In a move that delighted much of Israel’s leadership but ignited protests across the Muslim world, US President Donald Trump announced on December 6 that the US recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and planned to move its embassy there from Tel Aviv. Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.

Hamas, which seeks the destruction of Israel, has fought three wars with the Jewish state since seizing power from Fatah in the Gaza Strip in 2007.

The terror group has been urging a new intifada, or uprising, since Trump’s declaration, and has encouraged thousands of Gazans to confront Israeli troops at the Gaza border fence, where there have been several fatalities in clashes in recent weeks.

Hamas operative Saleh al-Arouri (2nd-R) meets with Iranian official Hossein Amir Abdollahian (R) and other Hamas operatives in Lebanon on August 1, 2017. (Official Hamas media)

In recent months, Hamas has publicly flaunted its burgeoning ties with Iran, and the Islamic Republic has in turn sworn to increase its military backing for the Gaza-based terror group.

Sinwar has said that Iran has become the key military sponsor for the Gaza-based terror group, though he has not explained in what capacity Tehran provides support.

In November, a high-profile Hamas delegation visited Iran in order to attend the funeral service for Soleimani’s father. The delegation included deputy political chief Saleh al-Arouri and a second official, Ezzat al-Rishq.

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Senior Hamas leader among dozens arrested overnight in West Bank

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Senior Hamas leader among dozens arrested overnight in West Bank

Sheik Hassan Yousef detained on suspicion of ‘promoting’ the terror group’s activities amid spike in violence, Shin Bet says

Sheikh Hassan Yousef is arrested in his home by IDF troops, October 20, 2015. (Screen capture from YouTube)

Sheikh Hassan Yousef is arrested in his home by IDF troops, October 20, 2015. (Screen capture from YouTube)

Israeli troops, in raids across the West Bank overnight Tuesday, arrested 32 Palestinians for suspected involvement in terror activities and violent rioting, as well as a senior Hamas figure, security forces said.

Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a Hamas leader in the West Bank and one of the group’s founding members, was arrested in Ramallah, the Shin Bet security service said.

He is suspected of “involvement in promoting and advancing Hamas’s activities in the West Bank,” it confirmed in a statement after Palestinian media broke news of the arrest.

Yousef was recently released from administrative detention, and has been arrested many times in recent years. Earlier this week, he called for a violent response to US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

A Palestinian protester pulls a burning tire during clashes with Israeli security forces near an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 9, 2017, following the US president’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

Since Trump announced his decision last Wednesday, the West Bank has seen daily protests that have at time devolved into clashes.

Hamas last week called for a new intifada, or uprising, against Israel over the US decision, urging Palestinians to confront soldiers and settlers, and allowing thousands of Gazans to clash with Israeli troops at the Gaza border fence. Its leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, on Friday praised the “blessed intifada,” urged the liberation of Jerusalem, and made plain the group was seeking to intensify violence against Israel.

In his address, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace a new approach was long overdue, describing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.

Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites. The final status of Jerusalem is a key issue in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, who claim the eastern neighborhoods of the city as their future capital.

The move was hailed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum, but rejected by the international community.

Police find a rocket, fired from Gaza, inside a kindergarten in the southern Israeli town of Sderot on December 9, 2017. (Israel Police)

Alongside the clashes in the West Bank, recent days have seen an escalation in violence around Gaza, where Yousef’s Hamas group holds sway.

In the latest in a series of tit-for-tat exchanges, the Israeli Air Force early Wednesday morning struck a Hamas facility in the southern Gaza Strip in retaliation for Palestinian rocket fire hours earlier.

On Sunday, Israel demolished a Hamas attack tunnel that penetrated hundreds of meters into Israeli territory from the southern Gaza Strip. It was the second tunnel destroyed by Israel in less than six weeks.

During the overnight raids, IDF medics treated an elderly Palestinian woman who had a heart attack in the village of al-Zubeidat, near Jericho, but eventually pronounced her dead after their efforts failed.

The IDF denied implications made by Palestinian media that the woman’s heart attack was triggered by stun grenades thrown by Israeli troops after residents threw rocks at them. An army official said the two incidents were unrelated, happening at significantly different times during the night.

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Abbas to boycott Pence as protests over Jerusalem continue

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W BANK RIOTS LESS INTENSE

Abbas to boycott Pence as protests over Jerusalem continue

600 in violent protests in West Bank, hundreds demonstrate at funerals in Gaza and at fence, 6 arrested in Jerusalem; soldiers use tear gas to disperse rioters near Bethlehem

  • Israeli mounted police disperse Palestinian protesters on December 9, 2017, in East Jerusalem. ( AFP PHOTO / Ahmad GHARABLI)
    Israeli mounted police disperse Palestinian protesters on December 9, 2017, in East Jerusalem. ( AFP PHOTO / Ahmad GHARABLI)
  • Israeli police disperse Palestinian protesters on December 9, 2017, in East Jerusalem. as unrest simmers over US President Donald Trump's declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. (AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI)
    Israeli police disperse Palestinian protesters on December 9, 2017, in East Jerusalem. as unrest simmers over US President Donald Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. (AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI)
  • Israeli border guards take position on December 9, 2017, during a demonstration in East Jerusalem against the US president's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. ( AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI)
    Israeli border guards take position on December 9, 2017, during a demonstration in East Jerusalem against the US president’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. ( AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI)
  • Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli forces near an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on December 9, 2017, following the US president's decision to recognize the city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. ( AFP PHOTO / Musa AL SHAER)
    Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli forces near an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on December 9, 2017, following the US president’s decision to recognize the city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. ( AFP PHOTO / Musa AL SHAER)
  • Palestinian mourners carry the body of Mahmoud al-Masri, a 30-year-old Palestinian man who was killed the previous day in clashes with Israeli troops, during his funeral in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 9, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABED)
    Palestinian mourners carry the body of Mahmoud al-Masri, a 30-year-old Palestinian man who was killed the previous day in clashes with Israeli troops, during his funeral in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 9, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABED)
  • Members of the Hamas terror group's military wing carry the body of their comrade Mohamed al-Safadi, who was killed the previous day in an Israeli air strike after rockets was fired from Gaza into Israel, during his funeral in Gaza City on December 9, 2017. ( AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)
    Members of the Hamas terror group’s military wing carry the body of their comrade Mohamed al-Safadi, who was killed the previous day in an Israeli air strike after rockets was fired from Gaza into Israel, during his funeral in Gaza City on December 9, 2017. ( AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)
  • An injured Palestinian man arrives at a hospital to receive treatment following an Israeli air strike in Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip, on December 8, 2017 .(AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABED)
    An injured Palestinian man arrives at a hospital to receive treatment following an Israeli air strike in Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip, on December 8, 2017 .(AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABED)
  • Israeli soldier stands during clashes with Palestinians following a protest against US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in the West Bank City of Nablus, Friday, Dec. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
    Israeli soldier stands during clashes with Palestinians following a protest against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in the West Bank City of Nablus, Friday, Dec. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will not meet with US Vice President Mike Pence when he visits the West Bank this month, a senior Palestinian official said Saturday, as Palestinian protests continued in the aftermath of the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Some 600 Palestinians held violent protests at some 20 spots in the West Bank, confronting security forces, and another 400 protested in Gaza, the IDF said. There were also protests involving dozens of Palestinians in East Jerusalem. As of late afternoon, however, the protests were markedly less intense than on Friday, when some 5,000 Palestinians took to the streets in the West Bank and Gaza.

Israeli security officials expect the protests to continue for several more days, Hadashot news reported on Saturday afternoon, but do not anticipate a major escalation.

Abbas’s diplomatic adviser, Majdi Khaldi, said that Abbas won’t meet Pence “because the US has crossed red lines” on Jerusalem.

US President Donald Trump holds up a signed memorandum after he delivered a statement on Jerusalem from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, DC on December 6, 2017 as US Vice President Mike Pence looks on. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

Abbas had viewed close ties with Washington as strategically important because of the US role as Mideast broker. The snub of Pence signaled a sharp deterioration in relations.

The White House warned on Thursday that canceling the meeting planned for later this month in the West Bank would be “counterproductive”, but Abbas has been under heavy domestic pressure to shun Pence.

Jibril Rajoub, a senior member of Abbas’s Fatah party, had said Friday that Pence was “not welcome in Palestine.”

Demonstrations continued Saturday as Palestinians called for a further “Day of Rage” to protest Trump’s decision.

In Gaza, where four people have been killed — two Hamas gunmen killed in an airstrike on one of the terror group’s camps, and two who were shot during Friday’s protests — hundreds of Palestinians were protesting near the border fence with Israel and at the funerals for the dead.

Palestinian mourners carry the body of Mahmoud al-Masri, a 30-year-old Palestinian man who was killed the previous day in clashes with Israeli troops, during his funeral in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 9, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABED)

One Palestinian was seriously wounded by Israeli fire in a demonstration by the fence in southern Gaza, the Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.

Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel, has called for a new intifada, urged Palestinians to confront Israeli soldiers and settlers, and vowed to continue violence until the liberation of Jerusalem.

In East Jerusalem on Saturday, dozens of youths tried to block a main road and confront policemen, who were guarding the area. The crowd, which threw stones and other objects, was dispersed, police said, and six Palestinians were arrested. Two police officers were injured by stone-throwers.

Video showed horse-mounted police officers charging into crowds of people.

In the West Bank, there were clashes near the Tomb of Rachel near Bethlehem, where soldiers were using tear gas, rubber bullets, and stun grenades to turn back demonstrators who were throwing rocks and petrol bombs and burning tires. At least 10 Palestinians were lightly hurt, most by smoke inhalation, Israel Radio reported.

There were several smaller protests in the cities of Tulkarem and Hebron, with no immediate reports of injuries.

The IDF said a total of 600 Palestinians took part in the West Bank protests at 20 locations. One person was arrested and three were wounded, the army said.

Meanwhile some 100 people protested in the Bedouin town of Rahat in southern Israel.

In a Wednesday address from the White House, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace a new approach was long overdue, describing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.

The move was hailed by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum. Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.

Friday saw some 5,000 Palestinian protesters demonstrating and clashing with Israeli security forces at almost 30 locations across the West Bank and Gaza Strip after midday prayers.

Israeli border guards take position on December 9, 2017, during a demonstration in East Jerusalem against the US president’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. ( AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI)

Gaza-based terror groups fired rockets at Israel, with one landing in the southern town of Sderot; Israel responded with air strikes on Hamas targets. On Saturday, the Hamas-run health ministry said two Hamas gunmen were killed in one of the strikes on a Hamas facility in Nusseirat in the central Gaza Strip.

The rocket on Sderot caused minor damage, and no injuries.

The Israeli army had said it was braced for more protests on Saturday, and it stepped up the deployment of troops at West Bank settlements in an attempt to thwart any attempted terror attacks. It said the 5,000 demonstrators on Friday marked a lower number than anticipated, but expected protests to continue for several more days, Hadashot news reported on Friday night.

Palestinian rioters throw stones towards Israeli troops at an Israeli checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 8, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)

The army was expected to hold a review of the situation on Saturday evening and decide on the continued deployment of additional troops in the area, Israel Radio said Saturday.

On Friday, Hamas called on the Palestinian public to confront IDF soldiers and Israeli settlers across the West Bank in demonstrations on Saturday.

Israeli soldier stands during clashes with Palestinians following a protest against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in the West Bank City of Nablus, Friday, Dec. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

In Jerusalem, hundreds of Palestinian rallied after Friday prayers near the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a flashpoint site in the holy city which, along with the Dome of the Rock, sits on the Temple Mount. The holiest place in Judaism, the mount is known to Muslims as Haram al Sharif. PLO and Turkish flags were raised during Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa.

Most of the thousands of worshipers dispersed peacefully after Friday prayers in the Old City. But hundreds of demonstrators burned Israeli flags while others chanted, “The war is approaching, Al-Quds Arabiya,” using the Arabic name for Jerusalem and declaring it an “Arab” city. Protesters also chanted, “Let us die as martyrs — there is no place for the State of Israel.”

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Hamas Head Urges New Intifada As Palestinians Rage

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

ISRAELI ARMY BEEFS UP ITS PRESENCE

Hamas head urges new intifada as Palestinians rage against Trump move

Gaza terrorist group calls for armed uprising against Israel; marches planned for West Bank amid general strike

Palestinian youths set tires ablaze during a protest against US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in Gaza City, December 7, 2017. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP)

Palestinian youths set tires ablaze during a protest against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in Gaza City, December 7, 2017. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP)

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Thursday called for a new Palestinian intifada, or uprising, over US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“This Zionist policy supported by the US cannot be confronted unless we ignite a new intifada,” the head of the armed Palestinian terrorist group that runs the Gaza Strip said in a speech in Gaza City.

Several thousand Palestinians marched in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, burning US and Israeli flags while chanting “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”

In the West Bank, The Palestine Liberation Organization announced a strike in protest across the territory, shutting schools and businesses. Marches were planned in major Palestinian cities at noon.

Rioters threw Molotov cocktails and stones at Israeli cars on a road near the West Bank village of Rantis, outside Ramallah. There were no reports of injuries.

Israel said it would beef up security with “a number of battalions,” preparing for the possibility of violence following Trump’s announcement.

Haniyeh called for quickly finishing a reconciliation process with Palestinian Authority President Abbas’s Fatah party in order to create a united front against Israeli and American policy, rejecting the idea of an Israeli state or Israeli capital.

“Jerusalem is united; there’s no eastern or western [Jerusalem]. It is an Arab Palestinian Islamic capital of the State of Palestine,” Haniyeh said, decrying “the blatant and blind bias of the American administration and this satanic alliance.”

“I say today that Palestine is also one and united from the sea to the river. It cannot be divided into two states or two entities. Palestine and Jerusalem are ours. We do not recognize the legitimacy of the occupation and the existence of Israel on the land of Palestine in order for it to have a capital,” he said.

Palestinian protestors burn tires as they wave Palestinian flags and pictures of late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat during a protest at the main Square in Gaza City, December 6, 2017. (Adel Hana/AP)

Hamas had issued warnings in recent days as news of Trump’s intentions spread, and it reacted to his Wednesday speech with another.

“This decision will open the gates of hell on US interests in the region,” Hamas official Ismail Radwan told journalists after Trump’s announcement.

He called on Arab and Islamic states to “cut off economic and political ties with the US embassy and expel American ambassadors to cripple” this decision.

Fuming Palestinian leaders in the Fatah-controlled West Bank responded to Trump’s speech with outrage, declaring that the United States could no longer serve as Middle East peace broker.

President Mahmoud Abbas called the change in longstanding US policy “deplorable.”

“These deplorable and unacceptable measures deliberately undermine all peace efforts,” Abbas said in a speech after Trump’s announcement.

A picture taken on December 6, 2017 shows a Palestinian man watching an address given by US President Donald Trump at a cafe in Jerusalem.
US President Donald Trump recognized the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6, 2017. (Ahmad GHARABLI/AFP)

He said it amounted to “an announcement of US withdrawal from playing the role it has been playing in the past decade in sponsoring the peace process.”

Abbas is scheduled to travel to Jordan on Thursday to coordinate a response to Trump’s decision with King Abdullah II.

Saeb Erekat, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization who long served as the Palestinians’ top negotiator, said Trump had “destroyed the two-state solution.”

“As a chief Palestinian negotiator, how can I sit with these people if they dictate on me the future of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital?” he said.

“I think tonight he is strengthening the forces of extremists in this region as no one has done before,” Erekat said, referring to Trump.

After the announcement, Palestinian officials said they switched off the lights to the giant Christmas tree in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, believed to be the city where Jesus was born, in protest.

In his Wednesday address, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated peace failures it was past time for a new approach, describing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.

A giant US flag screened alongside Israel’s national flag on the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, December 6, 2017. (Ahmad GHARABLI/AFP)

Trump also said the United States would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, though he set no timetable for that.

The announcement upturns decades of precedent and runs counter to international consensus, with no other country currently taking the same stance.

Jerusalem’s status is among the most difficult issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the US traditional position has been that it must be negotiated between the two sides.

While Israel has long considered Jerusalem its capital, with the prime minister’s office and parliament building located there, countries have avoided recognizing it as such to prevent damaging hopes for a two-state solution.

The Palestinians see the eastern sector of the city as the capital of their future state.

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Jerusalem, Israel, And The Palestinian People

Jerusalem, Israel, And The Palestinian People

 

So, tomorrow December the 6th President Trump is supposed to say whether or not he is going to officially recognize Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and if the U.S. is going to move our Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. So, this article this evening is simply my thoughts on this issue, I am not consulting other writers nor any pre-written documents. I am only going by articles that I have already read during my lifetime, up to this point in time. I know that no matter what I say, I am going to get a lot of people angry simply because I don’t agree with them.

Today the President of Turkey, Mr. Erdogan threatened to cut relations with Israel if Mr. Trump goes ahead with the Jerusalem Capital issue. To me, this is a fraudulent concept, if Mr. Erdogan wants to cut relations with any country it should be the U.S. not Israel. Israel cannot control what comes out of the mouth of Donald Trump, no one can. It is said that the whole of the ‘Arab League’ will cause many deaths if Mr. Trump goes through with this announcement. These type of threats help show the ‘low road’ of the Islamic leaders, not their intelligence. It is also because of threats like this that would cause a narcissists like Trump to not bow down to such a threat because it would/will make him look weak and in this case, that is actually true.

Now, for my personal thoughts on how to make the Jerusalem Capital issue work for all sides, yet at the same time not make any side totally happy. Isn’t that pretty much what the definition of what a compromise is? My idea is for Jerusalem to be declared the Capital of Palestine, all of Palestine. This would encompass all of Palestine and all the people of Palestine, Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs, the people of Gaza and of the West Bank. This way it is everyone’s Capital. All people of this region, no matter if they are Israeli Jews or residents of the ‘so called’ Palestinians of the West Bank can prove that they are capable of recognizing each others right to exist, in peace with each other.

Because of the current security issues raised by terrorist groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS and the PLO plus the fact that Jerusalem was the Capital of Israel at least 1,600 years before Mohammad was even born, Israel would have to have control of the security issues within all of the city. Maybe in time these folks who are hell-bent on violence will mature into civilized human beings and the ‘walls’ of security can be let down. Israel on their side would need to allow the Palestinian people to have such things as their Embassy in Eastern Jerusalem once there is a two State agreement in place. All sides of this issue should be allowed to call Jerusalem their Capital. Jerusalem is the ‘City of God’ and it should be able to be an ‘International’ City. Yet the only way for this to come about is if groups like Hamas who refuse the existence of the State of Israel to lay down all of their weapons. Israel can not allow its citizens to continue to be fodder to murderers, so until all Islamic groups in the Palestine region agree to commit no violence, there can not be a safe and secure two State compromise.

Another reality is that even though Mr. Trump seems to think that he decides if Jerusalem is the Capital of Israel, he actually has no say so in the matter. Jerusalem is and has been the Capital of the people of Israel for more than 2,600 years. It is God who decided that Jerusalem is His City. The world can call Tel Aviv Israels Capital, but it has never been Israels Capital, Jerusalem is. But there is no reason that all of the people of Palestine can not call Jerusalem their Capital as it is the Capital of all of Palestine.

 

 

Hamas member nabbed entering Israel spills info on Gaza tunnels

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Hamas member nabbed entering Israel spills info on Gaza tunnels

IDF says Ahmad Magdi Muhammad Avid, caught as he crossed border fence from Palestinian enclave, was active for years with terror group

Illustrative. A picture taken on May 6, 2016, from the Israeli side of the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip shows the exit of a newly unearthed Hamas attack tunnel. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)

Illustrative. A picture taken on May 6, 2016, from the Israeli side of the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip shows the exit of a newly unearthed Hamas attack tunnel. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)

A member of Hamas’s military wing, captured after he entered Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip, has provided Israeli investigators with a wealth of information about the terror group’s tunneling operations, the IDF said Thursday.

In a statement, the army said Ahmad Magdi Muhammad Avid, 23, from Shejaiya in the Gaza Strip, was captured on September 27 after crossing the border fence in northern Gaza. He was not armed at the time of his capture and the army did not say what his purpose was for crossing the heavily guarded border.

Avid was a member of the Hamas military wing, which he joined in 2013. He trained in the use of anti-tank weapons, military engineering operations, and sniping. He was also involved in tunnel digging in the area of Shejaiya and was a member of the Hamas border patrol forces.

During his interrogation, Avid gave up a considerable amount of information about the Hamas tunneling operation in the Gaza Strip, including attack tunnels leading into Israel and tunnels inside Gaza intended for use in battles against the IDF, the statement said.

“The investigation of Ahmad Avid once again revealed Hamas’s terror activities, using tunnels to advance terrorist activity against Israel,” the army said.

Hamas terrorist Ahmad Magdi Muhammad Avid, who was captured by the IDF as he crossed into Israel from the Gaza Strip, September 27, 2017. (IDF spokesperson)

He was indicted on October 23 at the Beersheba District Court on “serious” security-related charges, the army said, though it did not specify.

On October 30, Israel blew up an attack tunnel leading into Israeli territory that was being dug by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad together with Hamas.

In total, 14 terrorists were killed, two of them from Hamas and the rest from Islamic Jihad, including two senior commanders. The bodies of five of the Islamic Jihad terrorists, who were working on the tunnel inside Israeli territory, were recovered by the IDF a few days later. The IDF said it had not intended to kill terrorists when it destroyed the tunnel. In comments after the blast, IDF officials also noted that many of the terrorists died not in the explosion, but in botched Gazan rescue attempts.

Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, has used tunnels dug under the border to launch terror attacks inside Israel. It also has prepared an extensive network of tunnels inside the coastal enclave for its fighters to use in battles against a possible incursion by the IDF, as it did during the summer 2014 war.

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