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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Israel has stopped hijacked planes crashing into European cities

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Netanyahu hints Israel has stopped hijacked planes crashing into European cities

PM tells NATO ambassadors that Israeli intel has thwarted ‘several dozen major terrorist attacks,’ some involving civil aviation

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a joint press conference with NATO ambassadors to Israel at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, January 9, 2018 (Hadas Parushl/Flash90)

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a joint press conference with NATO ambassadors to Israel at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, January 9, 2018 (Hadas Parushl/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday indicated that Israel has prevented hijacked airplanes from crashing into European cities.

“We have, through our intelligence services, provided information that has stopped several dozen major terrorist attacks, many of them in European countries,” he told foreign diplomats in Jerusalem.

“Some of these could have been mass attacks, of the worst kind that you have experienced on the soil of Europe and even worse, because they involve civil aviation. Israel has prevented that, and thereby helped save many European lives,” Netanyahu said, apparently referring to plane hijackings.

He did not provide specific details about the attacks Israel helped prevent. The Prime Minister’s Office declined to elaborate.

At a meeting of Israel-based ambassadors to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Netanyahu said Jerusalem contributes to the security of every single member of the Western defense alliance, in that it fights both Sunni and Shiite strands of radical Islam.

Injured people are evacuated from the scene of a terrorist attack on a mosque in Bir al-Abd in the northern Sinai Peninsula of Egypt on November 24, 2017. (AP Photo)

Besides fighting Islamic State terrorism aimed at European cities, Israel is also preventing the group from creating a second stronghold in Egypt, he said.

“ISIS is being destroyed in Iraq and Syria, but it is trying to establish an alternative territorial base in the Sinai. Israel is contributing to preventing that in myriad ways,” Netanyahu said. “In general, I would say that Israel is the most powerful indigenous force in the Middle East that fights radical Islam.”

Israel further helps NATO by fighting Iran, the dominant Shiite power, the prime minister went on. The Jewish state does not only seek to prevent the Islamic Republic from acquiring nuclear weapons, it is also “absolutely committed to preventing Iran from establishing a military base in Syria. And we back our words with action,” he added, likely hinting at various airstrikes on weapon convoys and factories allegedly carried out by Israel.

Furthermore, Iran plans to import 100,000 Shiite fighters to Syria as part of its quest to dominate and eventually “conquer” the Middle East, he charged.

Israeli satellite images show results of an airstrike attributed to the IDF on a Syrian military weapons development base on September 7, 2017. (ImageSat International)

If Tehran were successful in its efforts, radical Sunni and Shiite forces would clash in Syria, sending millions of refugees to European shores, the prime minister warned.

“Where will the spillover [of a Sunni-Shiite clash in Syria] happen? In Europe. Where will the human flow go? To Europe. Who’s preventing that right now? Israel? Right now, Israel alone. But I maintain that it’s a common interest that we have,” he told the NATO ambassadors during the public part of the event.

Israel and NATO have cooperated on security matters for decades but recently upgraded their ties significantly. Last year, Israel opened its first office at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Israeli officials have repeatedly said that the Jewish state opposes the presence of Iran and its proxies, notably Hezbollah, in southern Syria and Lebanon.

Israel has been negotiating with the United States and Russia, the main brokers in Syria, to keep Iran-backed Shiite militias and the Hezbollah terrorist group away from the border.

Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and others have all said that Israel’s policy is to target shipments of advanced weaponry, including accurate long-range missiles, that are heading to or in the possession of Hezbollah.

In late December, Assad’s troops, accompanied by Iranian-backed fighters, recaptured the Syrian Golan from rebels, allowing President Bashar Assad to reassert control over a small portion of the area adjacent to the Israeli border. Still, much of the area along the border, around the city of Quneitra, remains under rebel control.

Last week, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot said the most serious immediate threat to Israel was posed by Hezbollah, followed by other jihadist groups supported by Tehran positioned on the Syrian border.

Describing Iran as a “multidimensional threat,” the army chief said the most worrying aspect is the Islamic Republic’s desire to obtain nuclear capabilities, followed by its efforts to achieve hegemony in the region.

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COMMENTS

Palestinian woman who slapped IDF soldiers charged with assault

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE JTA NEWS)

 

Palestinian woman who slapped IDF soldiers charged with assault

14SHARES

(IDF spokesperson video screenshot)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A military court in Israel indicted a Palestinian woman who was filmed alongside her more famous cousin slapping and harassing IDF soldiers standing guard in a West Bank Palestinian village.

Nour Tamimi, 21, was indicted on Sunday on charges of aggravated assault of a soldier and preventing soldiers from carrying out their duties. She likely will remain in prison until the end of her legal case.

Nour Tamimi was filmed with her cousin Ahed Tamimi, 16, and her aunt Nariman Tamimi earlier this month slapping and harassing the soldiers in the village of Nabi Saleh in an apparent attempt to provoke a violent response. The video went viral on social media.

It is believed that Ahed and her mother also will soon be indicted on similar charges. The court reportedly is investigating previous encounters the teen has had with Israeli soldiers

The Tamimis are well-known anti-occupation activists. Two weeks ago, Israeli troops shot a male cousin, 15, in the face with a rubber bullet, and he was for several days in a medically induced coma, an incident that the family says prompted the women to push the soldiers away from the family home.

Ahed Tamimi is well known as a leader of youth protests against Israeli soldiers in the West Bank.

The video and her arrest set off wide debate within Israel, among some who felt the soldiers should have acted more quickly and forcefully; others who insisted they showed admirable restraint; and still others who felt Israel is persecuting the Tamimi family.

3,000 Palestinians hold violent protests

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

3,000 Palestinians hold violent protests across West Bank, Gaza over Jerusalem

200 injured, most of them lightly, in riots in Hebron, Qalqilya, Bethlehem, Ramallah, against Trump’s recognition of Israel’s capital; Palestinians say one killed at Gaza fence

  • Israeli forces scuffle with people in Jerusalem's Old City on December 8, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Thomas COEX)
    Israeli forces scuffle with people in Jerusalem’s Old City on December 8, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Thomas COEX)
  • Palestinians in West Bank village of Hawara clash with IDF forces on December 8, 2017, during riots over US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital on December 8, 2017. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)
    Palestinians in West Bank village of Hawara clash with IDF forces on December 8, 2017, during riots over US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 8, 2017. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)
  • Israeli Police officers stand guard during a protest at Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem on December 8, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Israeli Police officers stand guard during a protest at Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem on December 8, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • A Palestinian rioter uses a sling shot against Israeli security forces during clashes after in the West Bank city of Hebron on December 8, 2017. (Hazem Bader/AFP)
    A Palestinian rioter uses a sling shot against Israeli security forces during clashes after in the West Bank city of Hebron on December 8, 2017. (Hazem Bader/AFP)
  • An Israeli soldier throws a stun grenade toward Palestinian rioters during clashes in the West Bank city of Hebron on December 8, 2017. (Hazem Bader/AFP)
    An Israeli soldier throws a stun grenade toward Palestinian rioters during clashes in the West Bank city of Hebron on December 8, 2017. (Hazem Bader/AFP)
  • A Palestinian protester throws rocks at Israeli security forces near a checkpoint in the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 8, 2017. (Abbas Momani/AFP)
    A Palestinian protester throws rocks at Israeli security forces near a checkpoint in the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 8, 2017. (Abbas Momani/AFP)
  • Palestinian protestors clash with Israeli security forces near a checkpoint in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on December 8, 2017. (Musa al-Shaer/AFP)
    Palestinian protestors clash with Israeli security forces near a checkpoint in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on December 8, 2017. (Musa al-Shaer/AFP)

An estimated 3,000 Palestinian protesters held demonstrations and clashed with Israeli security forces at some 30 locations across the West Bank and Gaza Strip on Friday after midday prayers, in a show of anger over US President Donald Trump’s declared recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Palestinian officials said one demonstrator was killed at the Gaza border fence. At one point the Gaza health ministry said another man was killed, but later retracted the statement, saying he was in serious condition.

The Israeli army said it fired on two “inciters” at the fence. It said there was six points along the fence where protesters gathered and burned tires. The Red Cross in Gaza reported that 15 people were injured by tear gas and rubber bullets.

In the West Bank, the Palestinian demonstrators threw rocks and Molotov cocktails, and set fire to tires and rolled them at Israeli security forces, who generally retaliated with less-lethal riot dispersal equipment, like tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets, and in some cases with live fire.

Palestinian protesters also burned pictures and effigies of Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as Israeli and American flags.

Unusually, Palestinian Authority security forces allowed demonstrators to carry Hamas flags, Israel Radio reported. It said some Palestinians branded the protests the start of a new intifada uprising.

Palestinian officials reported over 200 people injured in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the vast majority of them lightly, from tear gas inhalation. Seven were hit by live bullets, and 45 by rubber bullets, the Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance service said.

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

The Israel Defense Forces said it knew of at least 10 injured Palestinians in the West Bank.

Two Palestinian protesters were shot by Israeli troops during a violent demonstration at the Gaza border, the army said. Local media reported that one of them was critically wounded.

No soldiers from the Israel Defense Forces or Border Police were reported injured.

Israeli officials said six Palestinians were arrested during the protests.

Palestinians clash with Israeli troops during a protest against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, Friday, Dec. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)

Among the estimated 30 demonstrations in the West Bank, the largest took place in Ramallah, Hebron, Bethlehem, Al-Arroub, Tulkarem, Qalandiya, and Bayt Ummar, the army said. Smaller demonstrations were also reported in Ramallah, Nablus, Hawara and Nabi Saleh.

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.”

A protest erupted briefly at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate, and was cleared by police. Demonstrators threw objects at the security forces deployed there. Israel Radio said Arab members of Knesset were seen in the crowds.

The Red Crescent said that one injured Palestinian man was transferred from Damascus Gate to the hospital after being injured by police.

Israel had bolstered its security deployment in Jerusalem, but despite the heightened alert, police did not impose any restrictions on Muslim worshipers praying at Al-Aqsa. (At times of expected violence, Israeli authorities sometimes limit access to the site for young men.)

Israeli Police officers stand guard during a protest at Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem on December 8, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Additional IDF battalions were also sent into the West Bank.

In Gaza, thousands took to the streets and marched to denounce Trump’s proclamation.

The Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Trump had issued “a declaration of war against the Palestinian people,” Army Radio reported. The US president had harmed the Arab and Muslim nation, the Fatah spokesman said. “Someone with no right to intervene had awarded [Jerusalem] to someone with no right to it,” the radio reported quoted the spokesman saying.

On Thursday, Hamas terror group leader Ismail Haniyeh called for a new Palestinian intifada, or uprising.

US President Donald Trump holds up a signed memorandum recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as US Vice President looks on, at the White House, on December 6, 2017. (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

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 Prime Minister 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.

Security assessments had expected tens of thousands to take part in the Friday protests and the IDF was particularly concerned that “lone wolf” attackers could try to carry out terror attacks, the Ynet news site reported.

Soldiers were stationed at potential confrontation points during the day and were later to deploy to prevent any attempts to carry out attacks on settlements over the Sabbath, the report said.

Dov Lieber contributed to this report.

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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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Israel: IDF, We don’t apologize for killing terrorists

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

IDF responds to criticism: We don’t apologize for killing terrorists

Bennett excoriates army after spokesman says tunnel blast was intended to destroy infrastructure, not kill Islamic Jihad commanders; Liberman derides Jewish Home leader’s critique

Israeli soldiers sit on a tank close to the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip on October 30, 2017, near Kibbutz Kissufim in southern Israel. (AFP PHOTO/MENAHEM KAHANA)

Israeli soldiers sit on a tank close to the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip on October 30, 2017, near Kibbutz Kissufim in southern Israel. (AFP PHOTO/MENAHEM KAHANA)

After politicians Kcriticized the army on Tuesday for appearing to apologize for killing terrorist leaders in the bombing of a Gaza attack tunnel the day before, the military clarified that its comments were taken out of context and that it does not regret their deaths.

On early Monday afternoon, the Israel Defense Forces blew up an attack tunnel that had entered Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip. At least seven terrorists, including two senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad commanders, were killed in the blast and its aftermath, a dozen more were wounded and, as of Tuesday afternoon, five were still missing in the rubble, according to the coastal enclave’s health ministry.

Several hours after the demolition of the tunnel, IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis responded to a reporter’s question about the goal of the tunnel blast, saying that the operation was intended only to destroy the underground infrastructure and was “not in any way” meant to assassinate senior terrorist leaders.

Taking to Twitter in response to the comment, Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday morning accused the military of “apologizing” for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad commanders’ deaths.

“It is forbidden to apologize for successfully destroying terrorists,” Bennett wrote. “Let’s be clear – these were terrorists involved in digging an attack tunnel inside Israeli territory with which they intended to kill Israeli women and children.”

Head of the Jewish Home party and Education Minister Naftali Bennett leads a faction meeting at the Knesset on October 23, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Bennett, who is a member of the security cabinet, said that although Monday’s operation was the deadliest incident in the coastal enclave since the 2014 Gaza war, Israel does not want an escalation of violence with Gaza.

“We are not looking for escalation,” he tweeted. “As a member of the cabinet which has been working since Operation Protective Edge to remove the threat of the tunnels, I give my full support to the army’s actions. The purpose of the IDF is to defeat the enemy, and it should continue to do so.”

In response to Bennett’s statement, an army spokesperson said that the military did not regret the deaths of the terrorists and didn’t make “even one apology” about the army operation.

The body of Marwan Alagha, 22, is carried by mourners after he was killed when Israel blew up a tunnel built by the Islamic Jihad terror group stretching from the Gaza Strip into its territory, at Naser hospital in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on October 30, 2017. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

The official said Manelis’s comment was in response to a question about the goal of the detonation, which was not specifically intended to kill terrorist leaders, but to destroy the infrastructure — “and that was done extremely well,” he said.

“The comments were responsible,” the spokesperson added.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, continuing the war of the words, attacked Bennett on Twitter, accusing him of harming Israel’s security.

“A briefing by the IDF spokesperson cannot be used for a blatant assault on the IDF and its commanders. Comments like this seriously damage the security of Israel and the IDF,” Liberman wrote.

“We will continue to operate with determination, strength and responsibility for the security of Israel’s citizens,” he said.

Opposition MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid), a retired IDF general, also slammed Bennett and the other right-wing politicians who criticized the military.

Israeli soldiers patrol close to the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip on October 30, 2017, near Kibbutz Kissufim in southern Israel. (AFP PHOTO/MENAHEM KAHANA)

“It is a shame that government ministers, instead of backing the IDF after an incident like this, chose once again to use it to score political points at the army’s expense,” he said in a statement.

Stern said he fully supported the army, and it was clear that there had been no apology. “The result of the IDF’s response was seven killed terrorists but a quiet night in the communities bordering the Gaza Strip — that is a great result,” he said.

The IDF said the terror tunnel was discovered inside Israeli territory near the Gaza Strip and is believed to have been dug after the 2014 Gaza war. The tunnel was being built by the Islamic Jihad terror group. It ran from the Gazan city of Khan Younis, crossed under the border for dozens of meters, and approached Kibbutz Kissufim.

The incident significantly raised tensions in the region, though so far there has been no military response from Islamic Jihad.

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How Dare Israel Blow Up Hamas Tunnels That Are In Israel

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTANI NEWS AGENCY ‘DAWN’)

 

A mourner reacts as Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants hold their weapons during the funeral of their comrades killed in an Israeli operation to blow up a tunnel stretching from the Gaza Strip into Israel, in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on October 31, 2017. —AFP
A mourner reacts as Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants hold their weapons during the funeral of their comrades killed in an Israeli operation to blow up a tunnel stretching from the Gaza Strip into Israel, in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on October 31, 2017. —AFP

Tensions rose on Tuesday after an Israeli operation to blow up a tunnelfrom the Gaza Strip killed seven Palestinian militants in one of the deadliest incidents since a devastating 2014 war.

The seven men, from the armed wings of Gaza’s rulers Hamas and allied group Palestinian Islamic Jihad, were killed on Monday when Israel blew up the tunnel it said had crossed into its territory and was intended for attacks.

They were being buried on Tuesday in their respective neighbourhoods in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniya appeared at a funeral in central Gaza attended by a few thousand people, witnesses said, while senior Hamas figure Khalil al-Hayya spoke at one in the southern part of the strip.

“(Hamas) knows how to manage the conflict with the enemy and how to get revenge and strike at the time and place that hurts the enemy,” Hayya said, according to a statement.

Hamas and Israel have fought three wars since 2008 and the last conflict in 2014 was waged in part over tunnels from Gaza that were used to carry out attacks.

Israel said it had been monitoring the digging of the tunnel for an unspecified length of time and was forced to act after “the grave and unacceptable violation of Israeli sovereignty.”

It said the operation was carried out on the Israeli side of the border and stressed it was not seeking a further escalation.

No tunnel opening had been found on the Israeli side of the border. It had come from the vicinity of the city of Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip, Israeli’s military said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday his country would “not tolerate any attacks on our sovereignty, on our people, on our land, whether from the air, from the sea, from the ground, or below the ground”.

“We attack those who seek to attack us.”

Sensitive moment

The operation comes at a sensitive time, with rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas pursuing a reconciliation accord aimed at ending their 10-year rift.

Hamas is due to hand over control of the enclave’s borders to the Palestinian Authority (PA) on Wednesday under the deal mediated by Egypt and signed on October 12.

It is due to return the Gaza Strip to full PA control by December 1.

Both Haniya and Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah spoke of ensuring the reconciliation pact remains on track.

“The response to this massacre… is to move forward towards the restoration of national unity because the enemy realises our strength is our unity,” Haniya said.

Senior PA official Mustafa Barghouti accused Israel of trying to disrupt the reconciliation bid.

Separately in the West Bank on Tuesday, Israeli forces opened fire on a “suspect” vehicle, killing one Palestinian and wounding another, Israel’s army and the Palestinian health ministry said. There did not appear to be any connection.

Hamas forces have used tunnels in the past to enter Israel and carry out attacks, but discoveries of those stretching into Israeli territory since the end of the 2014 war have been rare.

In April 2016, Israel’s military said it had located and destroyed a tunnel extending from the Gaza Strip into Israel in the first such discovery since the 2014 conflict.

First test of unity

An Israel army spokesman said on Monday that Israel used advanced technology to locate the tunnel but declined to elaborate.

The army has been seeking to build an underground wall surrounding Gaza that would block such tunnels, among other methods it has been developing.

Israeli leaders have been keen to show they are addressing the threat of tunnels from the Gaza Strip.

A state inquiry in February accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and top army brass of being unprepared for the tunnels used by Hamas during the 2014 conflict.

Hamas has ruled Gaza since a near civil war with Fatah, based in the occupied West Bank, in 2007.

Since then they have fought three wars with Israel, while Gaza’s two million citizens have suffered as Israel has blockaded the strip.

Egypt’s border with the enclave has also remained largely closed in recent years.

Wednesday’s scheduled handover of the border crossings is a first key test of the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation deal.

Israel has said it will reject any unity government that includes Hamas if the group does not disarm and recognise the country, among other demands.

During the 2014 war, 32 tunnels were discovered, including 14 that extended into Israel, according to a UN report on the conflict.

The devastating conflict killed 2,251 Palestinians, while more than 10,000 were wounded and 100,000 were left homeless.

On the Israeli side, 74 people were killed, all but six of them soldiers.

Israeli boy, 12, injured in rock attack at Hebron spring

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israeli boy, 12, injured in rock attack at Hebron spring

Video appears to show Palestinian assailant throw stone into well where children were sitting, knocking boy unconscious

An Israeli boy was knocked unconscious after being hit in the head by a stone while at a spring in the West Bank city of Hebron, in what the army said was an attack by a Palestinian assailant Saturday.

The incident occurred at the Abraham’s Well spring in the Jewish enclave of the city.

According to a spokesman for the Jewish community of Hebron, a man dropped a large stone on a group of children sitting at the spring, hitting one on the head.

The 12-year-old fell into the pool and had to be rescued by friends who immediately alerted the authorities, community representative Noam Arnon said.

Medics arrived at the scene and took the boy to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem where he received 10 stitches for the head wound.

A spokeswoman for the hospital said the boy regained consciousness and designated his injuries as minor.

The head of a 12-year-old boy after receiving 10 stitches to close a wound caused by a large rock that was dropped on him by a Palestinian in Hebron on October 21, 2017. (Courtesy: Jewish settlement in Hebron spokesperson)

Responding to an inquiry into the attack, the IDF spokesman said that an “unidentified Palestinian” was responsible for throwing the rock and that security forces were “searching the area for suspects.”

A video of what appears to be Saturday’s incident currently being disseminated on social media shows an assailant throwing the rock into the spring from above before running away.

Arnon said the video was obtained from army security cameras. The IDF said it did not release the footage, but did not deny the possibility that it was the source. Among those to share it was the former English-language spokesperson for the IDF.

The flashpoint city of Hebron, where a Palestinian majority lives in close proximity to a small minority of settlers who are heavily guarded by Israeli troops, has been the scene of numerous stabbings and attempted stabbings since a wave of attacks carried out by Palestinians began in October 2015.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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Why Iran and Israel may be on the verge of conflict — in Syria

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK POST)

Why Iran and Israel may be on the verge of conflict — in Syria

TEL AVIV  — Some Israelis like to go to the Golan, where from the safety of a ramp overlooking the valley below, they can watch — no binoculars needed — the most consequential regional event of the age: the Syrian civil war.

This week, however, the Israel Defense Forces closed the area for visitors, letting in only the local farmers who worried about missing the cherry harvest.

That’s because for three days in a row, mortar shells flew across the border onto the Israeli-controlled side of the Golan, putting war gawkers at too much risk.

Most likely, the shells overflew their real target: one of the sides in the increasingly heated battle in an area around Quneitra, a town divided between Israel and Syria. Various Sunni militias are entrenched in the area, and Syrian forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad are trying to clear them out.

Control of the road between Quneitra and Dara to the south (where the uprising against Assad started six years ago) is key for the Syrian army — and even more so for its patrons in Tehran. By capturing this road, and the area east of Israel and north of Jordan, they can establish a land corridor from Iran, through Iraq, to Damascus and Syria’s neighbor, Lebanon.

Throw in Yemen, and Iran’s dream of a “Shiite crescent” that would make it the Mideast’s dominant force comes true.

The Syria war is complex, involving many powers pulling in all directions. But Iran and its allied militias — Shiite Iraqis, foreigners from Afghanistan and elsewhere, Hezbollah, Assad’s army — have emerged as a chief worry for policymakers in Riyadh, Amman and Jerusalem.

True, Israel knows how to handle spillover from war on its border. IDF surgical strikes hit Syrian army targets over the past few days, which was enough to at least pause the cross-border seepage of fire into the Golan.

The larger concern for Israeli policymakers here is that Iran and its allied militias, already in control of south Lebanon, are trying to cement a beachhead in Syria.

And that’s exactly what’s happening. “Iran is attempting to use the civil war to establish air force and naval bases in Syria,” Israel’s Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz told Israel Radio this week.

It’s not just Syria. IDF intelligence chief Herzi Halevi said Iran is also building arms factories in Lebanon, a country now dominated by its local proxy, Hezbollah. The mullahs, he said, similarly use Yemeni proxies, the Houthis, to manufacture weapons in that strategically located country next door to Saudi Arabia.

So where’s America in all this?

The Obama administration considered Iran an ally in the fight against ISIS. That, and the nuclear deal that filled the mullahs’ coffers with cash, worried the Saudis so much that they quietly turned to Israel as an ally to confront Tehran.

And not only Saudis. Ha’aretz reports Jordan and Israel have tightened intelligence cooperation in recent weeks to better address the growing Iranian threat on Syrian territory near both countries’ borders.

US forces are reportedly also operating there in growing numbers. Better yet, President Trump has made clear his predecessor’s romance with Tehran was just a fling. The administration has been warning Iran to watch its step as it stomps around the Middle East.

That may have been behind the seemingly-out-of-the-blue White House announcement Monday, confirmed by the Pentagon Tuesday, that it’s detected signs Syria is preparing a new chemical attack. Trump officials warned Assad would pay a “heavy price” for using chemical weapons again.

Yet, widely reported internal fights among administration bigwigs over America’s involvement in the Syria war could hamstring the united anti-Iran front that Sunni allies are hoping for. Washington’s bickering over Trump’s alleged ties to Russia, an Iran ally, isn’t helping either.

According to a Fox News report, Trump is quietly organizing a regional conference, inviting Sunni allies and perhaps even Israel. If so, good — but administration officials will surely hear a lot about the need for America to take a clear stand against Iran’s expansion.

The region is on edge. A victory over ISIS seems close now, but if Iran emerges on top, a wider and more vicious war may ensue, with dire consequences for everyone, including America.

For Israelis, meanwhile, such an outcome could be much scarier than what happened this week to a few Golan tourists that temporarily lost a front-row seat for watching the war below.

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Six Day’s In History 50 Years Ago

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE FRIENDS OF THE IDF)

Friend, this is a week for heroes.

This week, we are commemorating the 50th anniversary of one of the most heroic and pivotal moments in Israel’s history: the Six-Day War, which took place from June 5th to 10th, 1967. Against all odds, and with an outcome no one could have predicted, the young nation of Israel fought enemies from all sides and achieved unprecedented victory in just six days.

In June of 1967, Israel found itself poised for war against its neighboring Arab states. Taking place on three distinct battlefronts, the Six-Day War came after a period of escalating tension during which Egypt and its Arab partners had taken severe steps that threatened both Israel’s security and economy, including: expelling the United Nations Emergency Force from Sinai, infiltrating many military units into the Sinai Peninsula, and blocking the Straits of Tiran, Israel’s only waterway to Asia. On the northern border of Israel, the Syrians tried to divert the headwaters of the Jordan River and were supporting the terrorist activity of the PLO in Israel. All of this created serious threat and the risk of war was looming. Israel was forced to begin mobilizing reserve forces, despite the detriment to the Israeli economy.

On June 4, 1967, the government of Israel, headed by Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, accepted the decision “to launch a preemptive strike against the Arab states in order to remove the military chokehold that has tightened on Israel…” The war began on June 5, 1967, at 7:45 AM, with a massive air strike by the Israeli Air Force, known as Operation Moked (Operation Focus) on the Egyptian airfields. This took the Egyptians completely by surprise and, due to its brilliant execution, decided the war’s outcome from its very inception with the destruction of the Arab air forces and full paralysis of their airfields. In the first two hours of the war, the Israeli Air Force destroyed 197 Egyptian aircraft, and by the end of the first day 300 Egyptian planes were destroyed, more than 90% of them while on the ground. In the second day, an additional 150 Jordanian, Syrian and Iraqi aircraft were destroyed as they joined in the war.

The war spread along all of Israel’s borders. Within six days, the IDF achieved a decisive victory as they:

It was a stunning victory in which the IDF removed the military choke hold, proved their superiority, and earned the title of “the best army in the world.” In those six days, the size of the State of Israel grew threefold. Click here for a full description of the events of the Six-Day War.

Victory celebrations swept the entire country. After 19 years that the Jewish people had been banned from praying at their holiest site, they were now able to return to pray at the Kotel on the Temple Mount. The song “Jerusalem of Gold” (Yerushalayim Shel Zahav) became one of the anthems of the Six-Day War. Amidst the euphoria of this victory, the hearts of the Israeli nation pained for the 779 IDF soldiers who paid the ultimate price by losing their lives.

On June 28, 1967, in a now-famous address called “The Man, Not the Metal” delivered at Hebrew University on Mount Scopus, General Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin, Z”L, provided the following insights from this unprecedented military campaign:

“War is intrinsically harsh and cruel, bloody and tear stained, but this war in particular, which we have just undergone, brought forth rare and magnificent instances of heroism and courage, together with humane expressions of brotherhood, comradeship, and spiritual greatness. Whoever has not seen a tank crew continue their attack with their commander killed and their vehicle badly damaged; whoever has not seen soldiers endangering their lives to extricate wounded comrades from a minefield; whoever has not seen the anxiety and the effort of the entire air force devoted to rescuing a pilot who has fallen in enemy territory, cannot know the meaning of devotion among comrades-in-arms.”

Fifty years have passed, and while the challenges that face the State of Israel have dramatically changed, the same fundamental precepts which guide and drive the IDF are the same spirit and morality which led to the incredible victory of the Six-Day War, and have passed from generation to generation to continue today as the ethos of the IDF. The warriors of the IDF and their commanders continue to operate from unequivocal commitment to their nation and country and the same values and ethics which accompanied these warriors for generations.

To honor this momentous anniversary, FIDF is hosting a series of community events across the US, featuring three of the paratroopers of the Jerusalem Brigade, among the first to reach the Kotel. The image of these three paratroopers setting their eyes on the Kotel for the first time in their lives, was made famous thanks to the camera of David Rubinger, Z”L, who captured this highly emotional moment, which has become the iconic image of the Six-Day War.

The 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War

Please join me today, in salute to the warriors of the past and the generation that continues, by bowing our heads together in honor of those who have fallen and their families, and in commitment to do all we can to contribute to the well-being of the soldiers of the IDF, to maintain their spirit, morale, and battle ethics by standing united with them and supporting them as we continue to say: Their job is to look after Israel. Ours is to look after them.

With deep respect,

Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir
National Director and CEO
Friends of the IDF (FIDF)