Hamas official: 50 of the 62 Gazans killed in border violence were our members

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Hamas official: 50 of the 62 Gazans killed in border violence were our members

Salah Bardawil’s confirmation means number of acknowledged members of terror groups who died on Monday and Tuesday is now 53

Palestinian demonstrators burn tires near the Gaza-Israel border, east of Gaza City, on May 14, 2018 (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

Palestinian demonstrators burn tires near the Gaza-Israel border, east of Gaza City, on May 14, 2018 (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

A Hamas official on Wednesday acknowledged that 50 of the 62 Palestinians reported killed during Gaza border riots on Monday and Tuesday were members of the Islamist terrorist group, bringing the total number of known members of terror groups among the fatalities up to 53.

“In the last rounds of confrontations, if 62 people were martyred, 50 of them were Hamas,” said Hamas official Salah Bardawil in an interview with the Palestinian Baladna news outlet.

The Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad had said on Tuesday that three members of its Saraya al-Quds military wing were killed by Israeli forces in Khan Younis.

The Israeli military shared a portion of Bardawil’s interview with an Arabic news outlet, accompanied by English captions.

IDF

@IDFSpokesperson

Hamas official, Dr. Salah Al-Bardawil is clear about terrorist involvement in the riots

“This proves what so many have tried to ignore: Hamas is behind these riots, and the branding of the riots as ‘peaceful protests’ could not be further from the truth,” said IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus.

According to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, 62 people in total were killed during border clashes on Monday and Tuesday.

Israel has not put out its own official death toll, but officials have questioned the accuracy of the Hamas-provided figure. In one case, a Gazan doctor told the Associated Press that an 8-month-old baby, who the Gaza ministry said died after inhaling Israeli tear gas on Monday, had a preexisting medical condition and that he did not believe her death was caused by tear gas.

The Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday had said that at least 24 members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad were killed in day-long clashes Monday. At that stage, Hamas acknowledged 10 of the dead were its members.

Hamas press release on May 15, 2918, announcing the deaths of 10 of its Interior Ministry members in clashes with the IDF the day prior. (Courtesy)

The IDF said its number was based on a joint investigation with the Shin Bet security service.

“Most of the people [from terror groups] killed belonged to the Hamas terror group, and some to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad,” an IDF spokesperson said.

Among the dead, the IDF said on Tuesday, were all eight members of a cell of armed Hamas operatives who were killed in a gun battle as they sought to breach the fence in the northern Gaza Strip.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said 60 people were killed in Monday’s demonstrations, most by gunfire, and more than 2,700 were injured. Another two Palestinian men were killed Tuesday as smaller protests broke out in Gaza, the ministry said.

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and other senior officers monitor the Gaza security fence during violent protests along the border on May 14, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israel has blamed Hamas for the deadly violence, saying the terror group encouraged and led the protests, which included attacks on Israeli troops and attempts to breach the border fence. The IDF said Sunday that Hamas planned to send armed terrorists through any breach in the fence to “massacre” Israelis.

After the first “March of Return” protests in March, Hamas acknowledged that five of its terrorists were among the fatalities, but it subsequently refrained from acknowledging whether its men were among the dead.

On Thursday, Hamas’s Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar said he hoped to see a mass breach of the Israeli border during Monday’s protests timed to coincide with the US embassy’s move to Jerusalem.

For Hamas, the terror group that rules Gaza and seeks Israel’s destruction, Monday’s border protest was the culmination of a weeks-long campaign to try to break the blockade on the territory. Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent Hamas from acquiring weaponry and attacking the Jewish state.

Monday’s demonstrations also protested the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, viewed as a major provocation by the Palestinians and the Arab world. Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Palestinian protesters look up at falling tear gas cannisters dropped by an Israeli quadcopter drone during clashes near the border with Israel east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on May 15, 2018. (AFP/ SAID KHATIB)

Hamas has said protests would continue in a weekly format, but it was not clear if it would be able to maintain momentum during the fasting month of Ramadan, which begins this week.

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Iran funding Hamas efforts to foment border violence, Shin Bet says

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Iran funding Hamas efforts to foment border violence, Shin Bet says

Iran is funding Hamas’s efforts to promote violence and attacks against Israel under the cover of mass demonstrations at the border, the Shin Bet security service says in a statement.

Hamas has warned its members to stay away from the security fence during Gaza’s mass protests, lest they get shot, while actively encouraging Palestinian civilians — particularly children and teens — to approach the border, the Shin Bet adds, citing findings from a number of interrogations.

Palestinian protesters amid tear gas and smoke billowing from burning tires, east of Gaza City on May 14, 2018. (AFP Photo/ Mohammed Abed)

“There is a prohibition for Hamas operatives to approach the border, from a fear that they will be killed or captured by IDF troops, unless the security fence falls and then they must enter, armed, into Israel under the cover of the masses and carry out terror attacks,” the statement says.

As Israel Celebrates Dream of Independence, Many See Nightmare Taking Shape

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

As Israel Celebrates Dream of Independence, Many See Nightmare Taking Shape

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A worker hung flags next to the entrance to the American consulate in Jerusalem last week.CreditRonen Zvulun/Reuters

JERUSALEM — When Israel declared its independence in 1948, President Harry Truman rushed to recognize it. He took just 11 minutes, and Israelis, about to go to war to defend their infant state, were euphoric.

Seventy years to the day — and nearly as long since Israel declared the holy city of Jerusalem its “eternal capital” — the United States will formally open its embassy on a hilltop here two miles south of the Western Wall.

The embassy’s move from Tel Aviv and President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — reversing decades of American foreign policy — comes at a moment so fraught with both pride and peril that Israelis seem not to know what to feel.

Israelis find it hard to rejoice when they find themselves doing some of the same things they did back in 1948: listening for civil-defense sirens, readying bomb shelters and calling in reinforcements to confront threats to the north, south and east.

An escalating shadow war with Iran has broken into the open, pitting Israel against its most powerful adversary in the region. A mass protest in Gaza has spurred thousands of Palestinians, encouraged by Hamas, to try to cross into Israel, whose snipers have killed scores and wounded thousands of them. The bloodshed has brought the Israeli-Palestinian conflict back onto the international agenda after years as an afterthought.

Now, in East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, Israeli border police and troops are bracing for expressions of pent-up frustration, impatience and rage — at the United States for seeming to dispense with any pretense at balance; at Israel for its continuing occupation; at the Palestinian Authority for its weakness and corruption; and at the peace process itself, for inspiring hopes that have again and again proved false.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Mayor Nir Barkat of Jersualem looking at old and recent photos of the city on Sunday.CreditPool photo by Amir Cohen

“If you look at it from the outside, you’d see one of the most dramatic success stories of the 20th century,” said the historian Tom Segev, author of a new biography of Israel’s founding prime minister, “David Ben-Gurion: A State at All Costs.”

With Israel so strong and its Jewish population larger than ever, Mr. Segev said, “It’s really the realization of Ben-Gurion’s dream. But at the same time, the future is very bleak, and some of the problems he left us remain unresolved.”

It is hard for Israeli Jews to feel entirely at ease when they remain so estranged from one another and the nearly two million Arab citizens at home, and from millions of people next door: A lasting settlement with the Palestinians seems as elusive at it has been in more than a generation.

However besieged many Israelis may feel, objectively Israel has never been more powerful, in almost any sense of the word.

Its military routinely obliterates opposing forces with fighter jets, antimissile batteries and newfangled tunnel-destroying tools. Its spies whisk warehouses’ worth of secrets out from under its enemies’ noses. Its high-tech start-ups routinely sell for billions, its economy is the envy of the Middle East, its television shows thrive on Netflix. On Saturday, its entrant in the Eurovision Song Contest — a chicken-dancing feminist named Netta Barzilai — overcame a boycott attempt by Israel’s detractors to win by popular acclaim.

Warming relations with Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf States are even buoying hopes that Israel could begin to expand its tiny circle of friends in the region.

Monday’s move of the American mission to a fortified former consulate along the seam between East and West Jerusalem, from a beachfront bastion in Tel Aviv, is freighted with symbolism in manifold ways.

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Palestinians protesters running for cover from Israeli tear gas during clashes near the border east of Gaza City last week.CreditMohammed Saber/EPA, via Shutterstock

But the relocation of the chief American outpost from liberal Tel Aviv, a blue dot on the red political map of Israel, to a capital city that has largely replaced its secular Israeli population with a more religious one, neatly mirrors what is happening to support for Israel in the United States.

Ben-Gurion was prime minister for 13 years, all told. Benjamin Netanyahu will surpass that record in mid-2019 if he holds on to office. That is far from assured: He faces possible indictment in a web of domestic corruption scandals, and criminal charges could cause his governing coalition to collapse.

President Trump has gone further than perhaps any of his predecessors to support Israel and its right-wing leader, and no American president has done more to bestow gifts on an Israeli leader than he has.

From recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, to withholding money from the United Nations relief agency for Palestinian refugees — an agency Mr. Netanyahu would like to see eliminated altogether — to pulling out of the Iran nuclear agreement last week, Mr. Trump’s has showered Mr. Netanyahu with political prizes.

Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and a senior adviser on the Middle East, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, are among the high-ranking representative sent by the administration to attend Monday’s opening ceremony. Israel said all 86 countries with diplomatic missions in the country were invited to the event, and 33 confirmed attendance.

To Palestinians, the official unveiling of the embassy is just the most concrete and latest in a cavalcade of provocations from Washington and the Israeli government.

“It’s might makes right,” said Hind Khoury, a former diplomat for the Palestine Liberation Organization who now heads a sustainable development nonprofit based in Bethlehem. Not only are Palestinians now expected to forget about Jerusalem, she said, but also the losses of their homes in 1948 and again in the fighting of 1967.

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Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner at a reception ceremony on Sunday ahead of American Embassy’s move to Jerusalem.CreditAbir Sultan/EPA, via Shutterstock

“Accept Israel’s presence and dominance,” she said. “Accept home demolitions and expulsions and dispossession.

“Accept the uprooting of our olive trees, the violence of settlers,” she continued, picking up steam. “Accept settlements. Accept Israel’s control of all the Jordan Valley, and using it for its economic benefit. Accept that Israel didn’t live up to any of its commitments. Accept the siege of Gaza. Accept that East Jerusalem doesn’t belong to us anymore. Accept the racist legislation that Israel passes; that we’re prisoners in our land: I can’t get a visa because we’re ‘all terrorists.’ Accept the use of ‘anti-Semitism’ to fight anybody who wants to support Palestinian rights.”

“These are things we have to accept, or we’ll just get more hell,” she said, before adding: “Maybe I speak more like a mother and grandmother, but it’s so sinful to give such a legacy to the next generation.”

For Israeli Jews, a different set of grievances is being assuaged and activated by Monday’s embassy opening and all it stirs up.

The American-Israeli author Yossi Klein Halevi, whose new book “Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor” is being published on Tuesday, sees the embassy move as a “rare moment of compensation” for what he called “the campaign to deny any Jewish connection to Jerusalem” — one expressed in votes of Unesco, or in the speeches of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, when he invokes the Christian and Muslim attachment to Jerusalem but pointedly omits any Jewish one.

“There’s this deep resentment among Israelis about the war against our history and our rootedness in this city,” Mr. Halevi said.

Still, noting that his book “about reconciliation with my Palestinian neighbors is coming out at one of the worst moments in the tortured history of our relationship,” Mr. Halevi said he wished the embassy move could be accompanied by some kind of “affirmation by both Israel and the United States of the Palestinian presence in the city we share.”

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Israelis marching near the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Sunday.CreditLior Mizrahi/Getty Images

“I don’t think we should be laying out blueprints,” he said. “We’re far from that. But there should be a clear stating of our recognition that we’re not alone in Jerusalem. This would be an apt moment for a generous Israeli statement.”

Mr. Netanyahu’s advocacy against the Iran deal during the Obama administration did much to sour Jewish Democrats on the Israeli leader. His abandonment of a painstakingly negotiated deal to give Reform and Conservative Jews a bigger stake in Jewish life in Israel, and approval of a measure granting the Orthodox chief rabbinate’s monopoly over conversions to Judaism in Israel, drove a wedge between liberal American Jews and Israeli religious leaders.

Other policies, like efforts to deport African migrants, and an ongoing legislative attack by Mr. Netanyahu’s political allies on democratic institutions like Israel’s Supreme Court, have only added to many liberal Americans’ discomfort with Israel.

In effect, as the Trump administration gives physical expression to its affection for Israel, a rift appears to be widening between the world’s two main centers of Jewish life.

The immediate threats to Israeli security could of course fizzle. The rift between American and Israeli Jews could heal with a new administration in either place, if not before. Even the risk posed by the embassy move could prove no more dampening to the celebration, in retrospect, than the smashing of a glass at a Jewish wedding.

And Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Middle East peace process “is most decidedly not dead,” despite the embassy move, telling “Fox News Sunday” that the United States still hopes to be able to “achieve a successful outcome” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Mr. Segev, the biographer, said he had learned in his research that Ben-Gurion had never cared much for Jerusalem, and had refrained from trying to take the city in 1948 in part because he knew it would be difficult to guard its Old City from extremists.

In that sense, Mr. Segev said, little seems to have changed.

“That’s what Jerusalem is all about,” he said. “That’s why it’s been a problem the last 3,000 years. And it may be a problem for the next 3,000 years.”

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: In Israel, Pride and Anxiety Greet U.S. Embassy’s Jerusalem Debut. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

Hamas Delegation Heads to Cairo before US Embassy Move

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Hamas Delegation Heads to Cairo before US Embassy Move

Sunday, 13 May, 2018 – 11:00
Israeli troops fire shots, tear gas at Gaza protesters. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Hamas chief Ismail Hanieh traveled to Cairo on Sunday a day before the United States is expected to relocate its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

The Palestinian movement has planned major rallies in Gaza in protest against Washington’s controversial move.

In Egypt, Hanieh and other Hamas members are set to meet with the head of Egypt’s security services, Hamas sources said, amid mounting speculation that Egypt is seeking to negotiate a deal with the movement to ease potential violence on Monday.

Hamas declined to comment on Hanieh’s departure.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians are expected to gather along the border between Gaza and Israel Monday to protest as the US opens its embassy.

Hamas leaders have voiced support in recent days for attempts to break the fence into Israel, despite the possibility of it leading to bloodshed.

Arab media have speculated that Egypt could ease border restrictions with Gaza and offer economic relief in exchange for protesters not trying to breach the fence.

Fifty-four Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since mass protests broke out along the border on March 30. No Israelis have been injured.

The moving of the embassy, a campaign pledge by US President Donald Trump, has infuriated Palestinians, who view the eastern part of Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed it in a move not recognized internationally.

The Palestinians want east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state and view the relocation of the embassy from Tel Aviv as a blatantly one-sided move that invalidates the US as a Mideast peace broker.

Trump will not attend the embassy opening Monday, but his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner will.

Hanieh is expected to return to Gaza late Sunday ahead of the protests.

Last week, Hamas’ leader in Gaza, Yehya Sinwar, said international and regional mediators have come up with offers “to control” weeks of deadly protests.

Arab League Denounces Turkish Statements on Relocating US Embassy to Jerusalem

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Arab League Denounces Turkish Statements on Relocating US Embassy to Jerusalem

Sunday, 13 May, 2018 – 11:30
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. (Reuters)
Cairo, Ankara – Sawsan Abu Hussein and Asharq Al-Awsat

Arab League spokesman Mahmoud Afifi denounced on Saturday Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s recent statements about the US relocating its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

The minister had stated from Istanbul that there was a “decline and hesitation” within the Muslim world, especially within the Arab League, regarding the decision to relocate the US Embassy to occupied Jerusalem.

“We need to take a common stance against this wrong decision. We are seeing some hesitance within the Arab League recently, which is a mistake,” Cavusoglu stated.

Afifi expressed regret at the Turkish minister’s “insistence on negatively targeting the Arab League.”

The statements once again raise real questions about Turkey’s real stance on the regional Arab system, which the Arab League reflects, especially in wake of Turkey’s intervention in Arab territories, which was recently condemned by the Arab Summit in Dhahran, he said.

“Those issuing belligerent statements on the Palestinian cause should have first followed up the matters in a more balanced way to recognize the intense efforts made by the Arab League and its member states,” Afifi added.

He added that these efforts have been ongoing since the extraordinary ministerial meeting of the Council of the Arab League, which was held in December in wake of the US administration’s announcement that it was relocating its embassy.

At the end of his statement, Afifi noted that “such Turkish statements certainly do not serve the goal of establishing normal relations between the Arab League and Turkey during this stage.”

Cavusoglu had criticized on Saturday the US move on Jerusalem, saying it was wrong and that Ankara will continue to defend the Palestinian cause.

Israel to close key Gaza crossing while it repairs immense damage by rioters

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israel to close key Gaza crossing while it repairs immense damage by rioters

IDF to shutter Kerem Shalom to repair gas lines and conveyor after Palestinian protesters sabotage infrastructure serving their own energy-starved enclave

Gas pipes on fire at the Kerem Shalom goods crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip, May 11, 2018 (IDF)

Gas pipes on fire at the Kerem Shalom goods crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip, May 11, 2018 (IDF)

The Israeli military on Saturday announced the closure of the Kerem Shalom border crossing into the Gaza Strip, a day after Palestinian rioters trashed key infrastructure serving the only entry point of outside goods into the Hamas-run Strip, causing immense damage.

The crossing will be closed while the damage is repaired, and will reopen in accordance with the security situation, officials said.

The army said its recommendation to shutter the crossing, which ordinarily sees hundreds of cargo-bearing trucks pass into Gaza each day, was approved by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.

Apart from humanitarian cases, the IDF said the Kerem Shalom crossing would remain closed until the “extensive damage” caused by the torched gas lines as well as a conveyor belt used to transfer goods into the Strip is repaired.

The army estimated the damage to Kerem Shalom would cost $9 million to repair.

Earlier on Saturday, Israeli officials toured the Kerem Shalom area and said they were “astonished by the devastation and destruction Palestinians left in their wake.”

“They’re bringing a disaster upon themselves,” one unnamed official told the Ynet news site.

Friday’s vandalism at the crossing was a repeat of a similar incident on May 4, when demonstrators broke into the Palestinian side of the crossing and damaged pipelines carrying gas and oil into Gaza, which already suffers from a significant energy shortage.

A truck loaded with supplies enters the Gaza Strip from Israel through the Kerem Shalom Crossing on November 1, 2017. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

“This is a cynical act that harms the welfare of Gaza residents and the humanitarian efforts carried out by Israel and many other countries,” the army said at the time.

Around 15,000 Palestinians took part in protests along the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel on Friday, in the final weekly “March of Return” before next week’s Nakba Day events on May 14 and 15, when the violent demonstrations are expected to reach their peak.

The IDF said violent protesters clashed with Israeli soldiers at five major points along the border. Troops were attacked with pipe bombs, grenades, rocks, and burning tires. Rioters also attempted to sabotage “security infrastructure,” the army said.

Several flaming kites were flown over the fence by demonstrators, sparking blazes in Israeli territory. Israeli officials said Friday night the fires were under control.

The Hamas-encouraged demonstrations are ostensibly aimed to protest the decade-long Israeli-Egyptian blockade, imposed after the terror group violently seized power in Gaza in 2007, and to assert Palestinian demands for millions to “return” to lost properties in what is now Israel.

But Israel maintains that Hamas uses the protests as a cover for violent attacks at the border and attempts to breach into Israeli territory.

On Friday, the IDF accused Hamas of orchestrating the damage to Kerem Shalom, saying the ruling terror group was “harming the wellbeing of Gaza residents and paralyzing their daily life.”

A Palestinian uses a slingshot to hurl stones during clashes with Israeli troops along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, east of Gaza City, on May 11, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

“Israel along with many other countries are working to bring food, equipment, and fuel to the residents of the Gaza Strip, and Hamas is preventing them from entering, and are carrying out activities that endanger the operations of the border crossings,” the IDF said.

According to the Hamas health ministry, around 50 Palestinians have been killed since protests and clashes began along the Gaza border on March 30 and hundreds of others have been wounded by gunfire. Israel says it only opens fire when necessary to stop infiltrations, damage to the fence, and attacks.

Hamas acknowledged that five of its terrorists were among the fatalities after the first Friday demonstration, but has since refrained from acknowledging whether its men are among the dead. Israel has identified other fatalities as members of terrorist groups.

On Thursday, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar said he hopes to see a mass breach of the Israeli border during next week’s protests timed to coincide with the US embassy’s move to Jerusalem.

Israel has repeatedly expressed concern over the possibility of a mass breach of the Gaza fence, in which Palestinians would stream across with terrorists among them, wreaking havoc. Sinwar has vowed in the past that protesters would “breach the borders and pray at Al-Aqsa,” referring to the major Muslim shrine in Jerusalem.

Hamas has said if the protests “don’t achieve their goals,” they will continue.

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Hamas terror chief hopes to see hundreds of thousands storm Israel-Gaza fence

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

((OPED BY OLDPOET56) IT IS MY OPINION THAT ISRAEL MUST PUT A BULLET BETWEEN THE EYES OF HAMAS LEADER YAHYA SINWAR AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. IT IS ALSO MY OPINION THAT AFTER THEY DO THIS THAT EVERY TIME HAMAS ASSIGNS A NEW ‘TERROR CHIEF’ THAT THEY TOO MUST BE ASSASSINATED AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. IT NEEDS TO BECOME KNOWN THAT THIS WILL HAPPEN EVERY SINGLE TIME A NEW ‘TERROR CHIEF’ IS ASSIGNED, THAT EXCEPTING THIS POSITION IS A QUICK DEATH SENTENCE TO ANYONE WHO TAKES UP THIS MANTLE.)  

Hamas terror chief hopes to see hundreds of thousands storm Israel-Gaza fence

‘What’s the problem with hundreds of thousands breaking through a fence that is not a border?’ asks Yahya Sinwar ahead of mass rallies next week

The Gaza leader of Hamas said Thursday he hopes to see hundreds of thousands of Palestinians breach the border fence from Gaza into Israel at protests to coincide with next week’s US embassy move to Jerusalem.

In his first major briefing to international media since becoming head of the Gaza terror group in 2017, Yahya Sinwar implied he would like to see thousands of Palestinians crossing into Israel as part of the culmination of more than a month of protests.

Asked what he wanted to see from protests on Monday and Tuesday, Sinwar pointed out Israel has never specifically defined its borders.

“What’s the problem with hundreds of thousands breaking through a fence that is not a border?”

Sinwar said he hoped Israel would not shoot at what he called “peaceful” protests.

Hamas, an Islamist terror group, seeks to destroy Israel.

The Hamas-led demonstrations are ostensibly aimed to protest the decade-long Israeli-Egyptian blockade, imposed after the terror group seized power in Gaza in 2007, and to assert Palestinian demands for millions to “return” to lost properties in what is now Israel.

Israel says, however, that the terror group uses the protests as a cover for attacks at the border and attempts to breach it.

Monday’s demonstration will cap six weeks of protests and coincides with the US move of its Israel embassy to Jerusalem and the date when Palestinians mark 70 years of “displacement.” Two-thirds of Gaza’s 2 million people are descendants of Palestinians who fled or were expelled from their homes during the war surrounding Israel’s establishment.

According to the Hamas health ministry, 48 Palestinians have been killed since protests and clashes began along the Gaza border on March 30 and hundreds of others have been wounded from gunfire. Israel says it only opens fire when necessary to stop infiltrations, damage to the fence, and attacks.

Hamas acknowledged that five of its terrorists were among the fatalities after the first Friday demonstration, but has since refrained from acknowledging whether its men are among the dead. Israel has identified other fatalities as members of terrorist groups.

No Israelis have been hurt, and Sinwar said that was evidence the protests were “peaceful.”

But he warned the protests risked spiraling out of control. “The Gaza Strip is like a hungry tiger that has been starved and left in a cage for 11 years,” Sinwar said.

“Now the tiger is loose, and nobody knows what it will do.”

Israeli firefighters attempt to extinguish a fire in a wheat field near the Kibbutz of Nahal Oz, along the border with the Gaza strip, on May 8, 2018, after it was caused by incendiaries tied to kites flown by Palestinian protesters from across the border. (AFP/Menahem Kahana)

On Wednesday, Sinwar said the mass protest will be “decisive,” vowing that he and other top officials were “ready to die” in a campaign to end Israel’s decade-old blockade of the territory. Israel maintains the blockade to prevent Hamas, a terror group that seeks to destroy Israel, from importing weaponry.

In a speech to hundreds of Gazan youths, he said Hamas has rejected international proposals to stop the weekly, often violent gatherings.

“We can’t stop these protests. We are supporting, even leading, them,” he said. The protests will be “like a tiger running in all directions,” he said.

Going further, he said Hamas leaders “are ready to die along with tens of thousands” as the marches climax next week.

Israel says Hamas uses the marches as cover for terrorist attacks.

Activists have been burning tires along the fence, throwing stones at Israeli troops, and flying incendiary kites over dry fields on the Israeli side of the border in recent Fridays. Some of the youths brandished wire cutters, a popular tool in weekly attempts to cut through the border fence.

An Islamist terror group which seeks to destroy Israel, Hamas violently took control of Gaza from Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah in 2007, two years after Israel withdrew its military and civilian presence from the Strip. Israel and Egypt maintain a security blockade of Gaza. Israel says this is vital to prevent Hamas — which has fought three rounds of conflict against Israel since seizing Gaza, firing thousands of rockets into Israel and digging dozens of attack tunnels under the border — from importing weaponry.

A Palestinian man uses a slingshot during weekly protests along the Gaza border near the city of Khan Younis on May 4, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Though they were initially planned as non-violent demonstrations, the protests were co-opted by the Hamas terror group, which rules Gaza and whose leaders have said their goal is to erase the border and “liberate Palestine.”

The Israeli military has faced international and domestic criticism over its use of live fire, with the United Nations and European Union calling for an independent investigation rejected by Israel.

Israel has repeatedly expressed concern over the possibility of a mass breach of the Gaza fence, in which Palestinians would stream across with terrorists among them, wreaking havoc. Sinwar has vowed in the past that protesters would “breach the borders and pray at Al-Aqsa,” referring to the major Muslim shrine in Jerusalem.

Sinwar was freed in a prisoner swap with Israel in 2011 and was elected as the movement’s Gaza chief in 2017.

Hamas has said if the protests “don’t achieve their goals,” they will continue.

At previous peace talks, the Palestinians have always demanded, along with sovereignty in the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the Old City, a “right of return” to Israel for Palestinian refugees who left or were forced out of Israel when it was established. The Palestinians demand this right not only for those of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who are still alive — a figure estimated in the low tens of thousands — but also for their descendants, who number in the millions.

No Israeli government would ever be likely to accept this demand, since it would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish-majority state. Israel’s position has generally been that Palestinian refugees and their descendants would become citizens of a Palestinian state at the culmination of the peace process, just as Jews who fled or were forced out of Middle Eastern countries by hostile governments became citizens of Israel.

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West Bank Information Via The ‘CIA Fact Book’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA FACT BOOK)

 

West Bank

Introduction The September 1993 Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements provided for a transitional period of Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Under a series of agreements signed between May 1994 and September 1999, Israel transferred to the Palestinian Authority (PA) security and civilian responsibility for Palestinian-populated areas of the West Bank and Gaza. Negotiations to determine the permanent status of the West Bank and Gaza stalled following the outbreak of an intifada in September 2000, as Israeli forces reoccupied most Palestinian-controlled areas. In April 2003, the Quartet (US, EU, UN, and Russia) presented a roadmap to a final settlement of the conflict by 2005 based on reciprocal steps by the two parties leading to two states, Israel and a democratic Palestine. The proposed date for a permanent status agreement was postponed indefinitely due to violence and accusations that both sides had not followed through on their commitments. Following Palestinian leader Yasir ARAFAT’s death in late 2004, Mahmud ABBAS was elected PA president in January 2005. A month later, Israel and the PA agreed to the Sharm el-Sheikh Commitments in an effort to move the peace process forward. In September 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew all its settlers and soldiers and dismantled its military facilities in the Gaza Strip and withdrew settlers and redeployed soldiers from four small northern West Bank settlements. Nonetheless, Israel controls maritime, airspace, and most access to the Gaza Strip. A November 2005 PA-Israeli agreement authorized the reopening of the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt under joint PA and Egyptian control. In January 2006, the Islamic Resistance Movement, HAMAS, won control of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). The international community refused to accept the HAMAS-led government because it did not recognize Israel, would not renounce violence, and refused to honor previous peace agreements between Israel and the PA. HAMAS took control of the PA government in March 2006, but President ABBAS had little success negotiating with HAMAS to present a political platform acceptable to the international community so as to lift economic sanctions on Palestinians. The PLC was unable to convene throughout most of 2006 as a result of Israel’s detention of many HAMAS PLC members and Israeli-imposed travel restrictions on other PLC members. Violent clashes took place between Fatah and HAMAS supporters in the Gaza Strip in 2006 and early 2007, resulting in numerous Palestinian deaths and injuries. ABBAS and HAMAS Political Bureau Chief MISHAL in February 2007 signed the Mecca Agreement in Saudi Arabia that resulted in the formation of a Palestinian National Unity Government (NUG) headed by HAMAS member Ismail HANIYA. However, fighting continued in the Gaza Strip, and in June, HAMAS militants succeeded in a violent takeover of all military and governmental institutions in the Gaza Strip. ABBAS dismissed the NUG and through a series of presidential decrees formed a PA government in the West Bank led by independent Salam FAYYAD. HAMAS rejected the NUG’s dismissal and has called for resuming talks with Fatah, but ABBAS has ruled out negotiations until HAMAS agrees to a return of PA control over the Gaza Strip and recognizes the FAYYAD-led government. FAYYAD and his PA government initiated a series of security and economic reforms to improve conditions in the West Bank. ABBAS participated in talks with Israel’s Prime Minister OLMERT and secured the release of some Palestinian prisoners and previously withheld customs revenue. During a November 2007 international meeting in Annapolis Maryland, ABBAS and OLMERT agreed to resume peace negotiations with the goal of reaching a final peace settlement.
History The territory now known as the West Bank was a part of the British Mandate of Palestine entrusted to the United Kingdom by the League of Nations after World War I. The terms of the Mandate called for the creation in Palestine of a Jewish national home without prejudicing the civil and religious rights of the non-Jewish population of Palestine.

The current border of the West Bank was not a dividing line of any sort during the Mandate period, but rather the armistice line between the forces of the neighboring kingdom of Jordan and those of Israel at the close of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. When the United Nations General Assembly voted in 1947 to partition Palestine into a Jewish State, an Arab State, and an internationally-administered enclave of Jerusalem, a more broad region of the modern-day West Bank was assigned to the Arab State. The West Bank was controlled by Iraqi and Jordanian forces at the end of the 1948 War and the area was annexed by Jordan in 1950 but this annexation was recognized only by the United Kingdom (Pakistan is often, but apparently falsely, assumed to have recognized it also). The idea of an independent Palestinian state was not on the table. King Abdullah of Jordan was crowned King of Jerusalem and granted Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank and East Jerusalem Jordanian citizenship.

During the 1950s, there was a significant influx of Palestinian refugees and violence together with Israeli reprisal raids across the Green Line.

In May 1967 Egypt ordered out U.N. peacekeeping troops and re-militarized the Sinai peninsula, and blockaded the straits of Tiran. Fearing an Egyptian attack, the government of Levi Eshkol attempted to restrict any confrontation to Egypt alone. In particular it did whatever it could to avoid fighting Jordan. However, “carried along by a powerful current of Arab nationalism”, on May 30, 1967 King Hussein flew to Egypt and signed a mutual defense treaty in which the two countries agreed to consider “any armed attack on either state or its forces as an attack on both”. Fearing an imminent Egyptian attack, on June 5, the Israel Defense Forces launched a pre-emptive attack on Egypt which began what came to be known as the Six Day War.

Jordan soon began shelling targets in west Jerusalem, Netanya, and the outskirts of Tel Aviv. Despite this, Israel sent a message promising not to initiate any action against Jordan if it stayed out of the war. Hussein replied that it was too late, “the die was cast”. On the evening of June 5 the Israeli cabinet convened to decide what to do; Yigal Allon and Menahem Begin argued that this was an opportunity to take the Old City of Jerusalem, but Eshkol decided to defer any decision until Moshe Dayan and Yitzhak Rabin could be consulted. Uzi Narkis made a number of proposals for military action, including the capture of Latrun, but the cabinet turned him down. The Israeli military only commenced action after Government House was captured, which was seen as a threat to the security of Jerusalem. On June 6 Dayan encircled the city, but, fearing damage to holy places and having to fight in built-up areas, he ordered his troops not to go in. However, upon hearing that the U.N. was about to declare a ceasefire, he changed his mind, and without cabinet clearance, decided to take the city. After fierce fighting with Jordanian troops in and around the Jerusalem area, Israel captured the Old City on 7 June.

No specific decision had been made to capture any other territories controlled by Jordan. After the Old City was captured, Dayan told his troops to dig in to hold it. When an armored brigade commander entered the West Bank on his own initiative, and stated that he could see Jericho, Dayan ordered him back. However, when intelligence reports indicated that Hussein had withdrawn his forces across the Jordan river, Dayan ordered his troops to capture the West Bank. Over the next two days, the IDF swiftly captured the rest of the West Bank and blew up the Abdullah and Hussein Bridges over the Jordan, thereby severing the West Bank from the East. According to Narkis:

First, the Israeli government had no intention of capturing the West Bank. On the contrary, it was opposed to it. Second, there was not any provocation on the part of the IDF. Third, the rein was only loosened when a real threat to Jerusalem’s security emerged. This is truly how things happened on June 5, although it is difficult to believe. The end result was something that no one had planned.

The Arab League’s Khartoum conference in September declared continuing belligerency, and stated the league’s principles of “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it”. In November 1967, UN Security Council Resolution 242 was unanimously adopted, calling for “the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East” to be achieved by “the application of both the following principles:” “Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict” (see semantic dispute) and: “Termination of all claims or states of belligerency” and respect for the right of every state in the area to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries. Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Lebanon entered into consultations with the UN Special representative over the implementation of 242. The text did not refer to the PLO or to any Palestinian representative because none was recognized at that time.

In 1988, Jordan ceded its claims to the West Bank to the Palestine Liberation Organization, as “the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.”

Geography Location: Middle East, west of Jordan
Geographic coordinates: 32 00 N, 35 15 E
Map references: Middle East
Area: total: 5,860 sq km
land: 5,640 sq km
water: 220 sq km
note: includes West Bank, Latrun Salient, and the northwest quarter of the Dead Sea, but excludes Mt. Scopus; East Jerusalem and Jerusalem No Man’s Land are also included only as a means of depicting the entire area occupied by Israel in 1967
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than Delaware
Land boundaries: total: 404 km
border countries: Israel 307 km, Jordan 97 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: temperate; temperature and precipitation vary with altitude, warm to hot summers, cool to mild winters
Terrain: mostly rugged dissected upland, some vegetation in west, but barren in east
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Dead Sea -408 m
highest point: Tall Asur 1,022 m
Natural resources: arable land
Land use: arable land: 16.9%
permanent crops: 18.97%
other: 64.13% (2001)
Irrigated land: 150 sq km; note – includes Gaza Strip (2003)
Natural hazards: droughts
Environment – current issues: adequacy of fresh water supply; sewage treatment
Geography – note: landlocked; highlands are main recharge area for Israel’s coastal aquifers; there are about 340 Israeli civilian sites–including 100 small outpost communities in the West Bank and 29 sites in East Jerusalem (July 2008 est.)
People Population: 2,461,267
note: in addition, there are about 187,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank and fewer than 177,000 in East Jerusalem (July 2009 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 37.3% (male 470,735/female 446,878)
15-64 years: 59.1% (male 744,822/female 708,695)
65 years and over: 3.7% (male 37,471/female 52,666) (2009 est.)
Median age: total: 20.5 years
male: 20.4 years
female: 20.8 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.178% (2009 est.)
Birth rate: 25.95 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 3.7 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.71 male(s)/female
total population: 1.04 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 15.96 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 17.87 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 13.93 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 74.54 years
male: 72.54 years
female: 76.65 years (2009 est.)
Total fertility rate: 3.22 children born/woman (2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: NA
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: NA
HIV/AIDS – deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: NA
adjective: NA
Ethnic groups: Palestinian Arab and other 83%, Jewish 17%
Religions: Muslim 75% (predominantly Sunni), Jewish 17%, Christian and other 8%
Languages: Arabic, Hebrew (spoken by Israeli settlers and many Palestinians), English (widely understood)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 92.4%
male: 96.7%
female: 88% (2004 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 14 years
male: 13 years
female: 14 years (2006)
Education expenditures: NA
Government Country name: conventional long form: none
conventional short form: West Bank
Religion The Muslim community makes up 75 percent of the population, while 17 percent of the population practice Judaism and the other 8 percent of the population consider themselves Christian.
Economy Economy – overview: The West Bank – the larger of the two areas comprising the Palestinian Authority (PA) – has experienced a general decline in economic conditions since the second intifada began in September 2000. The downturn has been largely a result of Israeli closure policies – the imposition of closures and access restrictions in response to security concerns in Israel – which disrupted labor and trading relationships. In 2001, and even more severely in 2002, Israeli military measures in PA areas resulted in the destruction of capital, the disruption of administrative structures, and widespread business closures. International aid of at least $1.14 billion to the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 2004 prevented the complete collapse of the economy and allowed some reforms in the government’s financial operations. In 2005, high unemployment and limited trade opportunities – due to continued closures both within the West Bank and externally – stymied growth. Israel’s and the international community’s financial embargo of the PA when HAMAS ran the PA during March 2006 – June 2007 interrupted the provision of PA social services and the payment of PA salaries. Since then the FAYYAD government in the West Bank has restarted salary payments and the provision of services but would be unable to operate absent high levels of international assistance.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $11.95 billion (includes Gaza Strip) (2008 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $6.641 billion (includes Gaza Strip) (2008 est.)
GDP – real growth rate: 0.8% (includes Gaza Strip) (2008 est.)
GDP – per capita (PPP): $2,900 (includes Gaza Strip) (2008 est.)
GDP – composition by sector: agriculture: 8%
industry: 13%
services: 79% (includes Gaza Strip) (2007 est.)
Labor force: 605,000 (2006)
Labor force – by occupation: agriculture: 17%
industry: 15%
services: 68% (June 2008)
Unemployment rate: 16.3% (June 2008)
Population below poverty line: 46% (2007 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Budget: revenues: $1.149 billion
expenditures: $2.31 billion
note: includes Gaza Strip (2006)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 11.5% (includes Gaza Strip) (2008)
Commercial bank prime lending rate: 7.73% (31 December 2006)
Stock of money: $1.574 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of quasi money: $3.048 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit: $1.455 billion (31 December 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $2.475 billion (31 December 2007)
Agriculture – products: olives, citrus, vegetables; beef, dairy products
Industries: cement, quarrying, textiles, soap, olive-wood carvings, and mother-of-pearl souvenirs; the Israelis have established some small-scale, modern industries in the settlements and industrial centers
Industrial production growth rate: 2.4% (includes Gaza Strip) (2005)
Electricity – production: NA kWh; note – most electricity imported from Israel; East Jerusalem Electric Company buys and distributes electricity to Palestinians in East Jerusalem and its concession in the West Bank; the Israel Electric Company directly supplies electricity to most Jewish residents and military facilities; some Palestinian municipalities, such as Nablus and Janin, generate their own electricity from small power plants
Electricity – consumption: NA kWh
Electricity – imports: NA kWh
Electricity – production by source: fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Exports: $339 million f.o.b.; (includes Gaza Strip) (2006)
Exports – commodities: olives, fruit, vegetables, limestone
Imports: $1.3 billion c.i.f.; (includes Gaza Strip) (2006)
Imports – commodities: food, consumer goods, construction materials
Economic aid – recipient: $1.4 billion; (includes Gaza Strip) (2006 est.)
Debt – external:
Currency (code): new Israeli shekel (ILS); Jordanian dinar (JOD)
Currency code: ILS; JOD
Exchange rates: new Israeli shekels (ILS) per US dollar – 3.56 (2008 est.), 4.14 (2007), 4.4565 (2006), 4.4877 (2005), 4.482 (2004)
Communications Telephones – main lines in use: 350,400 (includes Gaza Strip) (2007)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 1.026 million (includes Gaza Strip) (2007)
Telephone system: general assessment: NA
domestic: Israeli company BEZEK and the Palestinian company PALTEL are responsible for fixed line services; the Palestinian JAWAL company provides cellular services
international: country code – 970 (2004)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 0, FM 25, shortwave 0 (2008)
Radios: NA; note – most Palestinian households have radios (1999)
Television broadcast stations: 30 (2008)
Televisions: NA; note – many Palestinian households have televisions (1999)
Internet country code: .ps; note – same as Gaza Strip
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 8 (1999)
Internet users: 355,500 (includes Gaza Strip) (2007)
Transportation Airports: 3 (2007)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 3
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
under 914 m: 1 (2007)
Roadways: total: 5,147 km
paved: 5,147 km
note: includes Gaza Strip (2006)
Military Manpower fit for military service: males age 16-49: 545,653
females age 16-49: 515,102 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually: male: 30,233
female: 28,745 (2009 est.)
Military expenditures: NA
Transnational Issues Disputes – international: West Bank and Gaza Strip are Israeli-occupied with current status subject to the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement – permanent status to be determined through further negotiation; Israel continues construction of a “seam line” separation barrier along parts of the Green Line and within the West Bank; Israel withdrew from four settlements in the northern West Bank in August 2005; since 1948, about 350 peacekeepers from the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), headquartered in Jerusalem, monitor ceasefires, supervise armistice agreements, prevent isolated incidents from escalating, and assist other UN personnel in the region
Refugees and internally displaced persons: refugees (country of origin): 722,000 (Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA)) (2007)

Palestinian youths set Gaza’s own gas line

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

Palestinian youths set Gaza’s own gas line on fire at weekly fence protests

7,000 Gazans protest along security fence, fly dozens of ‘firebomb kites’ into Israel, fail to breach border; Hamas claims hundreds injured, no fatalities; two IDF drones go down

  • Palestinian medics and protesters evacuate a wounded man during a protest at the Gaza Strip's border with Israel, east of Khan Younis, on May 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
    Palestinian medics and protesters evacuate a wounded man during a protest at the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, east of Khan Younis, on May 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
  • A Palestinian man prepares an incendiary device attached to a kite before trying to fly it over the border fence with Israel, on the eastern outskirts of Jabalia in the Gaza Strip, on May 4, 2018. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)
    A Palestinian man prepares an incendiary device attached to a kite before trying to fly it over the border fence with Israel, on the eastern outskirts of Jabalia in the Gaza Strip, on May 4, 2018. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)
  • A picture taken on May 4, 2018 from the southern Israeli kibbutz of Nahal Oz across the border with the Gaza Strip shows a general view of clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians, with land scorched by incendiary kites seen in the foreground (bottom) and smoke from burning tires set ablaze by protesters in the background. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)
    A picture taken on May 4, 2018 from the southern Israeli kibbutz of Nahal Oz across the border with the Gaza Strip shows a general view of clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians, with land scorched by incendiary kites seen in the foreground (bottom) and smoke from burning tires set ablaze by protesters in the background. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)
  • Palestinian protesters run for cover from teargas fired by Israeli troops during a protest at the Gaza Strip's border with Israel, east of Khan Younis, on May 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
    Palestinian protesters run for cover from teargas fired by Israeli troops during a protest at the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, east of Khan Younis, on May 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
  • Palestinian paramedics carry a wounded man during a demonstration at the Israel-Gaza border, east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 4, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)
    Palestinian paramedics carry a wounded man during a demonstration at the Israel-Gaza border, east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 4, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)
  • A Palestinian man uses a slingshot during weekly protests along the Gaza border near the city of Khan Younis on May 4, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)
    A Palestinian man uses a slingshot during weekly protests along the Gaza border near the city of Khan Younis on May 4, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)
  • Palestinians take part in weekly clashes along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, east of Jabaliya, on May 4, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)
    Palestinians take part in weekly clashes along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, east of Jabaliya, on May 4, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)
  • Palestinians pose behind kites before trying to fly them over the border fence with Israel, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on May 4, 2018. Palestinians taking part in weekly clashes on the border have adopted a new tactic of attaching firebombs to kites to fly over the border fence into Israel. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)
    Palestinians pose behind kites before trying to fly them over the border fence with Israel, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on May 4, 2018. Palestinians taking part in weekly clashes on the border have adopted a new tactic of attaching firebombs to kites to fly over the border fence into Israel. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

Dozens of Palestinians broke into the Gaza side of the Kerem Shalom border crossing between Israel and the Hamas-run Strip on Friday evening, setting fire to the gas pipeline that supplies fuel to the Strip, the army said.

The Gazans, who did not break through to the Israeli side of the border, trashed their own supply infrastructure, Israeli military officials said.

The incident came amid the protests along the Gaza border, the sixth week of demonstrations, as part of the “March of Return.” At least  431 Palestinians were injured, Gaza officials said, as some 7,000 took part in the demonstrations, flew dozens of kites with petrol bombs into Israel, hurled stones at soldiers and tried to breach the border fence.

The IDF shared video of the Kerem Shalom incident, during which Palestinians broke into the Palestinian side of the crossing and damaged pipelines carrying gas and oil into Gaza, which already suffers from a large energy shortage.

“This is a cynical act that harms the welfare of Gaza residents and the humanitarian efforts carried out by Israel and many other countries,” the army said.

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Kerem Shalom is the main crossing for goods and humanitarian aid to pass into Strip from Israel.

Elsewhere, there were two mass attempts to damage and breach the security fence around the central Gaza Strip during the protests, the army said.

Israeli soldiers who were called to the scene of those attempts forced back the demonstrators using less-lethal riot dispersal weapons and live fire.

“Two attempts by a group of rioters to damage the fence and cross into Israeli territory from the central [Gaza] Strip were thwarted a short while ago,” the army said on Friday evening.

In total, 431 Palestinians were injured during the protests, including some 70 from live fire, the Hamas-run Gaza healthy ministry said.

There were no Palestinian deaths reported as of Friday evening, unlike in previous weeks. The IDF does not confirm Palestinian casualty figures, but it put the number of protesters at 7,000.

Thousands of Palestinians protest along the Gaza border with Israel, in the sixth ‘March of Return’ demonstration on May 4, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

During the Friday demonstrations, two small Israeli army drones crashed in the Gaza Strip. The military said the drones were not being used in an operational capacity before they fell, but were filming the protests. From video footage, at least one of the drones appeared to be a civilian model in use by the Israel Defense Forces.


It was not clear what caused the drones to crash. Palestinians claimed to have downed them.

According to the army, the 7,000 or so demonstrators were spread out among five main locations along the Gaza Strip. The protest began following the mid-afternoon prayers.

Though the first two weeks of demonstrations saw tens of thousands of protesters, the past month has seen far lower levels of participation.

Protesters rolled burning tires toward the Gaza security fence and threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at the Israeli troops on the other side of the border, the army said.

Palestinians hurl burning tires at the Gaza security fence during the sixth ‘March of Return’ demonstration on May 4, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

The soldiers responded to the more violent demonstrators with less-lethal riot dispersal weapons, like tear gas, and also with live fire in some cases.

An army spokesperson said soldiers used live rounds against “main instigators” in accordance with its rules of engagement.

According to the Hamas health ministry, 48 Palestinians have been killed since protests and clashes began along the Gaza border on March 30 and hundreds of others have been wounded from gunfire.

Hamas, an Islamist terror group which seeks to destroy Israel, acknowledged that five of its terrorists were among the fatalities after the first Friday demonstration, but has since refrained for acknowledging whether its men are among the dead. Israel has identified other fatalities as members of terrorist groups.

Illustrative: Black smoke rises from tires burned by Gaza protesters at the border with Israel, with Israeli soldiers seen in the foreground, April 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Israel says it only opens fire when necessary to stop infiltrations, damage to the fence and attacks.

Organizers of the protests said part of Friday’s plans included attempting to fly dozens of kites, some carrying firebombs, over the border fence.

A Guy Fawkes mask strapped to his belt and a Palestinian flag around his neck, Abdullah Issa, 22, said they hoped to send dozens of kites with Molotov cocktails over the fence.

“We will put Molotov cocktails on the Israeli farms,” Issa told the AFP news agency.

“They have no solution for the kites.”

According to the IDF, there was only one case of a kite making it over the border.

An Israeli soldier holds a kite flown over the border from Gaza in a tactic recently used by Palestinian protesters to start fires in Israeli on the Israel-Gaza border near the kibbutz of Kfar Aza on April 24, 2018. (AFP/Menahem Kahana)

These kites, dubbed “terror kites” by some in Israel, have posed a significant challenge to Israeli security services.

The fires started by these kites have destroyed some 800 dunam (200 acres) of wheat and barley fields, according to local Israeli farmers, who turned to the Tax Authority for compensation as “victims of terrorist activities.”

The military has yet to devise a comprehensive response to the threat posed by these kites. For now, soldiers track the kites after they cross the border and attempt to extinguish the resulting fires before they spread.

This has not always been successful. On Wednesday, dozens of acres of grassland were burned in the largest fire yet caused by these kites.

The “March of Return” is an eight-week-long set of protests that began on March 30 and is due to continue until at least mid-May. Though they were initially planned as non-violent demonstrations, the protests were apparently coopted by the Hamas terror group, which rules Gaza and whose leaders have said their goal is to erase the border and “liberate Palestine.”

A Palestinian man uses a slingshot during weekly protests along the Gaza border near the city of Khan Younis on May 4, 2018. (Said Khatir/AFP)

These weekly, sometimes daily, demonstrations have often turned violent, with Palestinians throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at Israeli troops on the other side of the border, who retaliate with live fire and less-lethal riot dispersal weapons like tear gas and rubber bullets.

The military has faced international and domestic criticism over its use of live fire, with the United Nations and European Union calling for an independent investigation rejected by Israel.

Nickolay Mladenov, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, poses for a photo during the INSS conference in Tel Aviv, January 30, 2018 (Jack Guez/AFP)

Last week, the UN’s special envoy to the region, Nickolay Mladenov, told the UN Security Council that both Israel and Hamas had to do more to prevent the deaths.

“There has also been an increasing number of dangerous incidents at the fence, including the planting of improvised explosive devices — at least one of which has detonated — the throwing of Molotov cocktails, and attempts to breach the fence,” he said.

“Israel must calibrate its use of force and minimize the use of live fire. Lethal force should be used only as a last resort,” he continued. “Hamas and the leaders of the demonstrations must keep protesters away from the Gaza fence and prevent all violent actions and provocations.”

Earlier this week, the IDF defended its rules of engagement in Israel’s High Court of Justice, saying that they were in line with both domestic and international law.

Last Friday, four Palestinians were killed and over 300 hurt during a particularly violent demonstration along the border, which included a large-scale rush of the security fence.

Mourners carry the body of Palestinian journalist Ahmed Abu Hussein, who died after being shot by Israeli troops while covering a border protest during his funeral in the Jebaliya refugee camp, Gaza Strip, Thursday, April 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Israel says Hamas uses the marches as cover for terrorist attacks.

“In recent weeks, we’ve once again seen the complexity of the situation, when our forces found themselves facing mass protests that served as cover for terrorist actions, attacks on soldiers, attempts at kidnapping, attacks on military posts, and attempts to infiltrate [Israeli] towns,” IDF chief Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said Tuesday.

Israel has repeatedly expressed concern over the possibility of a mass breach of the Gaza fence, in which Palestinians would stream across with terrorists among them, wreaking havoc. Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar has vowed in the past that protesters would “breach the borders and pray at Al-Aqsa,” referring to the major Muslim shrine in Jerusalem.

The demonstrations are due to continue until mid-May, which will mark the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, planned move of the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and Nakba Day, a commemoration of what Palestinians consider to be the expulsion from their land.

These “March of Return” protests are so named for the “right of return” demanded by Palestinians from Israel, which would allow them to go back to their native towns and cities.

At previous peace talks, the Palestinians have always demanded, along with sovereignty in the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Old City, this “right of return” to Israel for Palestinian refugees who left or were forced out of Israel when it was established. The Palestinians demand this right not only for those of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who are still alive — a figure estimated in the low tens of thousands — but also for their descendants, who number in the millions.

No Israeli government would ever be likely to accept this demand, since it would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish-majority state. Israel’s position is that Palestinian refugees and their descendants would become citizens of a Palestinian state at the culmination of the peace process, just as Jews who fled or were forced out of Middle Eastern countries by hostile governments became citizens of Israel.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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Turks, Saudis, UAE said to pump quarter billion dollars into East Jerusalem

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Turks, Saudis, UAE said to pump quarter billion dollars into East Jerusalem

Israeli officials fear funds to ‘rescue’ Muslim holy sites could touch off Palestinian violence in run up to US embassy move to Israeli capital

File: Waqf officials and others prepare to pray outside the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, rather than enter the compound via metal detectors set up by Israel following a terror attack, July 16, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

File: Waqf officials and others prepare to pray outside the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City, rather than enter the compound via metal detectors set up by Israel following a terror attack, July 16, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Less than two weeks away from the scheduled transfer of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are pumping a quarter of a billion dollars into the Islamic Waqf and a slew of Muslim organizations in East Jerusalem, Hadashot news reported Wednesday.

The Waqf (Muslim Trust) administers the Temple Mount, home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest shrine, as well as a slew of schools, orphanages, Islamic libraries, Islamic courts and other properties. The mount is the holiest place in Judaism as the site of the ancient temples. Israel maintains overall security control at the site.

The three countries are describing the move as an act of “rescue” to finance renovations at holy sites, but Israeli officials fear their involvement will go beyond money and could spark violence in the run-up to the ribbon-cutting on May 14, the TV report said.

On Sunday, Hadashot News reported that US President Donald Trump was looking increasingly likely to come to the ceremony and was mulling allowing convicted American spy Jonathan Pollard to come too by lifting restrictions that prevent him from travelling to Israel.

Jonathan Pollard (left), and his lawyer Eliot Lauer leave federal court in New York following a hearing, July 22, 2016. (AP/Larry Neumeister, File)

Pollard served nearly 30 years for spying for Israel, and since being paroled in 2015 has been prohibited from leaving US soil, barring him from moving to the Jewish state as he wishes.

Trump’s announcement late last month that “I may go” to the ceremony reportedly surprised Israeli officials who had received no indication from the Americans that he might be attending.

It had been previously reported that Trump had considered but decided against attending the inauguration.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is currently set to lead the 250-member delegation for the event, which will include 40 members of Congress and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka Trump. Other media reports have suggested that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo could lead the delegation, in lieu of a Trump arrival.

Welcomed by Israel, the Palestinians have seen the embassy move as a provocation, and have said it effectively negates the possibility of the Trump administration serving as an honest broker in peace talks. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other PA officials have refused to meet with anyone on Trump’s team since he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gestures as he speaks during a press conference on Jerusalem, in the West Bank city of Ramallah on April 11, 2018. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

The opening of the embassy will take place just two days after the deadline for Trump’s decision on whether or not to scrap the the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed in 2015 between Tehran and six world powers, including the US, under then-president Barack Obama.

The agreement curbed Tehran’s controversial nuclear enrichment program in exchange for relief from international sanctions.

Trump has termed the agreement the “worst deal ever” and has called on the other signatories to “fix it.”

He has threatened to tear up the deal unless new restrictions are imposed on Iran’s ballistic missile program and other military activities by May 12.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is campaigning for the deal to be fixed or nixed.

On Tuesday, he revealed that the Mossad intelligence agency had obtained 100,000 documents from Iran’s own secret nuclear weapons archive proving, he said, that the 2015 deal was based on “Iranian deception.”

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