Bipolar Hamas Fires Dozens Of Rockets Into Israel: IDF Then Pounds Gaza

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

As dozens of rockets hit Israel, IDF pounds Gaza in heaviest strikes since 2014

Palestinians fire over 100 projectiles at Israel; In Sderot, 3 Israelis wounded, empty synagogue damaged by rocket; 2 Palestinians said killed as IAF hits Hamas complex

A picture taken on July 14, 2018 shows a smoke plume rising following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

A picture taken on July 14, 2018 shows a smoke plume rising following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

Israeli aircraft on Saturday attacked more than 40 targets in the Gaza Strip in the most extensive daytime assault since 2014’s Operation Protective Edge as Palestinian terror groups fired repeated salvos of rockets and mortar shells into Israel.

Three Israelis were moderately wounded when a rocket hit a house in Sderot. Palestinians said two teens were killed and 14 injured in the Israeli strikes.

The surge in violence intensified after midnight Friday-Saturday as the Israel Defense Forces hit an attack tunnel and Hamas training bases in Gaza in response to the moderate wounding of an IDF officer by a hand-grenade thrown during a border riot on Friday.

During the night, Palestinians fired more than 30 projectiles into Israel and kept up the attacks on Saturday, firing a further 100 rockets and mortar shells. Residents of Israeli border communities spent the night in bomb shelters and were cautioned to remain close to the shelters during the day.

In the evening, several rockets were fired toward the town of Sderot. Iron Dome intercepted several of them. Two rockets fell in the town, hitting a house and an empty synagogue. Three people were moderately wounded by shrapnel and evacuated to the hospital, the Magen David Adom rescue service said.

The air force said Saturday it had bombed a multi-story Hamas training complex in the Gaza Strip, completely destroying the building and exposing a tunnel complex underneath. Palestinians reported that two teens were killed in the bombing.

The Hamas-run health ministry identified the dead as 15-year-old Amir al-Nimra and 16-year-old Louay Kahil. It said 14 others were wounded in the more than 40 Israeli strikes throughout the day.

The army said civilians were warned to leave the building before the strike.

The IDF said Iron Dome intercepted at least 20 projectiles that were headed for residential areas in total.

A picture taken on July 14, 2018 shows Palestinian rockets being fired from Gaza City towards Israel. ( AFP PHOTO / BASHAR TALEB)

Israel’s political leadership is considering a range of possibilities for trying to halt the rocket fire, including targeted assassinations of Hamas terror chiefs, the use of ground forces, and a ceasefire mediated by Egypt and/or others, but no decision had been made as of Saturday late afternoon, Hadashot TV news reported.

The primary target of the IAF strikes Saturday was the Hamas battalion headquarters in Beit Lahia, in the north of the Strip, the army said.

An aerial illustration of the Hamas Battalion headquarters in Beit Lahia. (IDF Spokesperson)

“The focus of the attack is a wide-scale strike of the Hamas Battalion HQ in Beit Lahia, which includes urban warfare training facilities, weapon storage warehouse, training compounds, command centers, offices and more,” the IDF said in a statement.

“In addition, a weapons manufacturing site and storage facilities housing various types of weapons, including Hamas’ naval capabilities, were struck,” it said.

The air force also attacked a Palestinian terrorist cell launching mortars. Palestinian media said the IDF had shelled the home of a senior Islamic Jihad leader, but there was no confirmation from the army.

The IDF spokesman said the aim of the operation was to “restore a sense of security” and that the military would “respond as necessary” to a wide range of scenarios.

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The Hamas-run health ministry said it had not received any reports of injuries in the Israeli strikes.

According to IDF spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, the operation had three aims: To end the incendiary kites and balloons from Gaza, end the large-scale border protests, and end the rocket and mortar fire.

IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis (screen capture of National Assembly footage)

“There are three factors occurring that we view seriously and cannot allow to continue,” he said, adding that this was the largest daytime Israeli strike on Gaza since the 2014 Gaza War.

Media reports said that Egyptian intelligence services had contacted the Hamas leadership in Gaza to try to prevent a further escalation of violence.

In the Saturday afternoon salvo, Palestinians fired more than 60 rockets and mortar shells and sirens wailed frequently in southern Israel. Army Radio reported that at least one projectile was intercepted, with the remainder falling in unpopulated areas.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

A farm building was lightly damaged in one border community, with no harm to any animals reported.

Local residents, who had earlier been told they could return to their usual routines after an earlier barrage overnight Friday, were instructed to remain close to bomb shelters, and large gatherings of people were to be canceled.

The day of tension and violence came after terrorists fired more than 30 rockets and mortars toward Israel overnight Friday in the wake of IDF strikes on a number of Hamas targets in Gaza in response to violence along the border.

No injuries or damage were reported but warning sirens wailed for much of the night in border communities including the Sdot HaNegev Regional Council area and the town of Sderot.

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The army earlier on Saturday said it targeted two Hamas attack tunnels as well as other military compounds in the Strip, including those involved in the spate of incendiary kite and balloon attacks.

Even as the airstrikes were being carried out, the IDF said rockets were fired toward Israel.

According to the IDF, six projectiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome aerial defense system. One rocket landed inside a kibbutz in the Shar HaNegev Regional Council area.

Hamas on Saturday said the barrage of rockets and mortar shells into Israeli territory overnight was fired by the “resistance” to “stop Israeli escalation.”

The spokesman for the terrorist group, Fawzi Barhoum, also said the projectiles were an “immediate response” that was meant to “deliver the message” to Israel.

The army said it held Hamas responsible for all violence emanating from Gaza, which the terror group has ruled since 2007.

“The Hamas terror organization is responsible for the events transpiring in the Gaza Strip and emanating from it and will bear the consequences for its actions against Israeli civilians and Israeli sovereignty,” the army said, adding that “the IDF views Hamas’ terror activity with great severity and is prepared for a wide variety of scenarios.”

The IDF said aircraft had attacked “an offensive terror tunnel in the southern Gaza Strip, in addition to several terror sites in military compounds throughout the Gaza Strip, among them complexes used to prepare arson terror attacks and a Hamas terror organization training facility.”

The IDF published video of its air strikes.

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The latest round of violence has threatened to spark a further conflagration after weeks of tensions along the volatile border.

Israel in recent weeks has repeatedly warned Hamas that while it has no interest in engaging in the kind of conflict that led to the sides fighting three wars over the past decade, it would not tolerate its continued efforts to breach the border fence and its campaign to devastate Israeli border communities with incendiary attacks.

On Friday, thousands of Palestinians gathered near the Gaza border for their near-weekly protest. The army said protesters attacked soldiers with grenades, bombs, Molotov cocktails, and rocks.

A 15-year-old Palestinian who tried to climb over the fence into Israel was shot dead, media reports in Gaza said.

Later the IDF said an Israeli officer was moderately wounded by a grenade thrown at him during the clashes at the border.

On Saturday, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza announced that a 19-year-old succumbed to his wounds sustained at the clashes a day earlier.

It was not clear whether the two deaths were tied to the attack that wounded the Israeli officer.

Gaza officials said 220 others were hurt in Friday’s riots. Most were treated at the scene, while several dozen were taken to hospital. The violence was held under the banner of “Identifying with Khan al-Ahmar,” a West Bank Bedouin village whose planned demolition by Israel is being debated at the High Court.

Since March 30, weekly clashes have taken place on the Gaza border, with Israel accusing Hamas of using the demonstrations as cover to carry out attacks and attempt to breach the security fence. The “March of Return” protests have also seen Palestinians fly airborne incendiary devices toward Israeli territory, sparking hundreds of fires in southern Israel and causing millions of shekels in estimated damages.

The Israeli army reportedly notified Hamas in recent days that if the incendiary kite and balloon attacks from the Gaza Strip don’t cease, Israel would respond with major military action.

Palestinians prepare a kite with flammable materials that they will fly into southern Israel from Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on June 22, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

On Monday, Israel announced it was shutting down the Kerem Shalom border crossing — the Strip’s main crossing for commercial goods — in response to the endless stream of incendiary and explosive kites and balloons that have been flown into southern Israel, sparking fires that have burned thousands of acres of land and caused millions of shekels in damages. Humanitarian and essential supplies continue to enter Gaza.

The IDF has sought to avoid an escalation of hostilities on the southern front despite the attacks, but according to the Haaretz daily, the political pressure to act has been building as the economic and psychological harm caused by the fires takes its toll.

On Wednesday, incendiary kites and balloons sparked 19 fires of varying sizes in Israel, according to local government officials. Fifteen of them occurred in the Eshkol region, which abuts the southern Gaza Strip. The other four occurred in the Sha’ar Hanegev region, which lies to the northeast of the coastal enclave.

In response, the Israeli military conducted an airstrike against a group of Palestinians it said was launching incendiary balloons toward Israel from the southern Gaza Strip, east of the city of Rafah. There, too, no injuries were reported.

After shuttering Kerem Shalom, the army said humanitarian aid, notably food and medicine, would still be allowed into Gaza, but would require special permission from the military liaison, Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rokon, to the Palestinians.

The military said the closure would continue so long as Palestinians persist in launching incendiary kites and balloons into Israel.

Agencies contributed to this report. 

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Hamas Delegation in Cairo to Discuss Palestinian Files

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

 

Hamas Delegation in Cairo to Discuss Palestinian Files

Thursday, 12 July, 2018 – 07:45
Gaza – Asharq Al-Awsat
A senior delegation from Hamas Politburo arrived in Cairo on Wednesday upon an invitation from Egyptian intelligence officials who are seeking to resolve pending Palestinian files.

The delegation is led by Saleh al-Arouri, deputy head of the Hamas Politburo, who came from abroad along with Moussa Abu Marzouq, Hussam Badran and Izzat al-Rashq. Two officials – Khalil al-Hayya and Rouhi Moshtaha – came from the Gaza Strip. The head of the movement in Gaza, Yehya Sinwar, could not join the delegation for health reasons.

Fawzi Barhoum, spokesman for the movement, said in a press statement that the delegation would discuss with the Egyptian officials bilateral relations and developments in the Palestinian and Arab affairs.

The movement’s Politburo has held important meetings over the past few days, through safe means of communication between its members, in Gaza and Turkey simultaneously.

In a statement on Tuesday, the movement said it had decided to accept the Egyptian invitation for dialogue, underlining its willingness to achieve national reconciliation and unity on the basis of partnership in the resistance and the decision-making.

“The optimal condition for achieving this reconciliation is to immediately lift unjust sanctions on the Gaza Strip and to rebuild the PLO through a new national unity council, according to the Beirut 2017 outputs and the comprehensive implementation of the Cairo Agreement of 2011,” the statement said.

Sources in Hamas told Asharq Al-Awsat that the delegation would confirm to the Egyptian side that based on its “positive initiative”, it has facilitated many measures to allow the government to assume its duties in Gaza Strip.

The sources added that the movement would stress that it was not responsible for the assassination attempt against Palestinian Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah during his visit to Gaza on March 13.

The delegation will also express to Cairo its dissatisfaction with the attitude of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority for blaming the movement for the incident, noting that investigations conducted by Hamas have shown that the attack was perpetrated by militants with extremist ideology, who were recruited by members of the Palestinian and Israeli intelligence.

Other sources in Hamas said that the delegation would discuss in Cairo the need to resolve crises in Gaza and alleviate the humanitarian situation there.Hamas and Fatah leaders shake hands following the signing of a reconciliation deal at the Egyptian intelligence services headquarters in Cairo in October 2017. (AFP)

Israel Retaliates to Syrian Drone Incursion by Hitting Regime Positions near Golan

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

 

Israel Retaliates to Syrian Drone Incursion by Hitting Regime Positions near Golan

Thursday, 12 July, 2018 – 09:00
Israeli soldiers stand on tanks in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Israeli forces carried strikes against Syrian regime positions near the Golan Heights on Thursday in retaliation to a Syrian drone incursion a day earlier.

The Israeli military said in a statement that it hit three targets in retaliation for the incursion by a Syrian drone, which was shot down over northern Israel.

“We are still looking into why it crossed – whether it was on a military mission and crossed on purpose, or it strayed,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman. He said a stray drone was “not common”.

Israeli-issued black-and-white surveillance footage showed missiles hitting what appeared to be a hut, a two-storey structure and a five-storey structure amid hilly terrain.

The Israeli army “holds the Syrian regime accountable for the actions carried out in its territory and warns it from further action against Israeli forces,” the Israeli statement said after the strikes.

Syrian regime media said the positions were near Hader village in Quneitra province, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Israel has grown deeply alarmed by the expanding clout of Iran during the seven-year war in Syria.

Its air force has struck scores of Iranian deployments or arms transfers to Lebanon’s Iran-backed “Hezbollah”.

In Moscow, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged President Vladimir Putin, the regime’s key ally, to encourage Iranian forces to quit Syria, a senior Israeli official said.

David Keyes, a Netanyahu spokesman, said: “We don’t get involved in the civil war. We will act against anyone who acts against us.”

The Israeli official who requested anonymity said Russia was working to distance Iranian forces from the Golan and had proposed that they be kept 80 km (50 miles) away but that this fell short of Israel’s demand for their full exit along with that of Tehran-sponsored militias.

Russian officials had no immediate comment on the meeting.

Israel has been on high alert as regime forces advance on opposition factions in the vicinity of the Golan, which Israel took from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war.

Israel worries the regime could allow its Iranian allies to entrench near its lines.

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China pledges $15 million to Palestinians amid major push (To Buy) Mideast influence

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

China pledges $15 million to Palestinians amid major push for Mideast influence

President Xi announces plan to give Arab states more than $23 billion for economic development, calls them ‘natural partners’ of China

China's President Xi Jinping gives a speech during the 8th Ministerial Meeting of China-Arab States Cooperation Forum at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on July 10, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / WANG ZHAO)

China’s President Xi Jinping gives a speech during the 8th Ministerial Meeting of China-Arab States Cooperation Forum at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on July 10, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / WANG ZHAO)

China will provide Palestinians with more than $15 million in aid, President Xi Jinping told top Arab officials Tuesday, as Beijing seeks to build its influence in the Middle East and Africa.

The 100 million yuan pledge to Palestinians was made as part of a plan to give Arab states more than $23 billion in lines of credit, loans and humanitarian assistance for economic development.

The money will be earmarked for “projects that will produce good employment opportunities and positive social impact in Arab States that have reconstruction needs,” said Xi, without providing further details.

It is part of a special Chinese program for “economic reconstruction” and “industrial revitalization,” Xi told participants at a China-Arab States forum in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.

Beijing is also prepared to provide another one billion yuan ($151 million) to countries in the region to “build capacity for stability maintenance,” Xi said, using a term commonly associated with policing and surveillance.

Xi said that Syria, Yemen, Jordan and Lebanon would receive $91 million in humanitarian assistance.

Since taking office, Xi has overseen a concerted effort to expand Chinese influence in the Middle East and Africa, including the construction of the country’s first military base in Arab League state Djibouti.

China has already provided vast sums to Arab countries, with Djibouti alone owing some $1.3 billion, according to estimates from the US-based China Africa Research Initiative.

The financial largess has raised concerns both at home and abroad over the vulnerability of poor nations to such massive debt.

Last year Sri Lanka was forced to hand over majority control of its Hambantota port to China after being unable to repay its loans.

Syrian President Bashar Assad addresses the newly elected parliament in Damascus, Syria, on June 7, 2016. (SANA, the Syrian official news agency, via AP)

China has also provided diplomatic support for Syrian President Bashar Assad in the country’s seven-year civil war.

At the heart of Xi’s vision is the “Belt and Road” initiative, a $1-trillion infrastructure program billed as a modern revival of the ancient Silk Road that once carried fabrics, spices and a wealth of other goods between Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

The Arab states’ position at the center of the ancient trade route makes them “natural partners” in China’s new undertaking, he said, adding he expected the summit would end with an agreement on cooperation on the initiative.

“Chinese and Arab peoples, though far apart in distance, are as close as family,” he said, describing a romanticized history of trade along the Silk Road.

The project, which has already financed ports, roads and railways across the globe, has spurred both interest and anxiety in many countries, with some seeing it as an example of Chinese expansionism.

“China welcomes opportunities to participate in the development of ports and the construction of railway networks in Arab states” as part of a “logistics network connecting Central Asia with East Africa and the Indian Ocean with the Mediterranean,” said Xi.

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So: There Is A $3 Million Bounty Put On Your Child’s Head, Now What?

(I GOT THE IDEA FOR THIS ARTICLE FROM A ‘TIMES OF ISRAEL’ ARTICLE THAT WAS WRITTEN/PUBLISHED ON JULY 3rd, 2018. YET THE COMMENTARY ON THEIR ARTICLE IS FROM MY OWN THOUGHTS, OLDPOET56)

In Israel on July 2nd of 2018 the Knesset voted a new law into place that the Palestinian Government does not like. This law was voted into effect by a vote of 87 to 15. This law says that If the PA does not quit paying their people to kill Israeli citizens as well as others in Israel like tourists that the Israeli government will withhold the amount the PA pays to these murderers and their families from the yearly tax revenue Israel pays to the PA. The spokesman for the PA Mr. Nabil Rudeineh stated yesterday (July 3rd, 2018) that this new law crosses a “Red Line” and that it amounted to a “declaration of war on the Palestinian people.”

 

In 2017 the PA paid $198 Million to so called ‘Martyrs’ families and $160 Million to the ‘Palestinian Prisoner’s Club.’ This $358 Million is equal to about %7 of the PA’s total budget of $5.1 Billion. I would like for you to think about these numbers for a moment as quite honestly, they shocked me that they were so high. The following is a small breakdown of these larger numbers. A Palestinian prisoner who is serving a 20-30 year sentence for a terrorist crime receives $2,772 per month, for life, this breaks down to over $600.00 per week. Those serving a 3-5 year sentence receive $554.00 per month for life, this would equal a little over $125.00 per week. This moral sickness gets even worse, if the prisoner is married, has children, lives in Jerusalem, or holds an Israeli citizenship, they receive even more payments. Reality is that some Palestinian prisoners who have killed Israeli citizens will be paid about $2.8 Million in their lifetime. The PA government is a physical and moral disaster yet they are not quite has inept and as evil as Hamas who rules the Gaza Strip, that shows people just how horrible Hamas is at taking care of their own citizens. Think about it, last year the government of the PA paid out $358 Million to people who murdered Israeli citizens and visitors to Israel. What good could the PA government have done with that $358 Million? Could that money have built maybe 3 or 4 hospitals or maybe 20 medical clinics. How about if they had put that money into their electrical grid, paved more roads, improved sanitation or used to improve their food supply?

 

Think about this reality for a moment, if you were to decide to visit Israel on a business trip or as a tourist, you have a $2-3 Million dollar price on your head. If you visit Israel with your family and a Palestinian murderers your wife/husband, your 5 year old daughter or your 1 month old son they will receive more income from the PA government for those murders than they could ever make working in the West Bank or Gaza Strip in their whole lifetime. These payment numbers go even higher if a Palestinian is able to kill an Israeli soldier. Think what the payment would be if they were able to kill a member of the Knesset, or a member of the PM Cabinet? Better yet, I wonder what the price is that the PA government has put on the head of Israel’s Prime Minister, Mr. Netanyahu or for the head of President Trump or one of his family members?

 

My response to the PA government is that they have already declared war on Israel and it is because it is they who crossed the Red Line of moral decency when they put a bounty on the head of every man, woman and child in Israel. Reality also is that the PA has declared war on every visitor of every country in the world. The PA is just like Hamas in the reality that as working governments they are totally worthless and that they both are more interested in murdering civilians than they are in building an infrastructure for their own people within their own borders. In Palestine there could have been a peaceful two State solution many years ago if the PA and Hamas had wanted it to be so. Instead they have chosen to commit, to train and to bankroll murderers. Now I ask you, just how in the hell do you have peace talks with people whose first goal in life is to murder you and your family or to pay someone to do it for them?

 

Cairo Invites Hamas for Talks over Reconciliation: With Fatah

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

 

Cairo Invites Hamas for Talks over Reconciliation

Wednesday, 4 July, 2018 – 09:30
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh gestures during an interview with Reuters in Gaza. Reuters file photo
Ramallah – Asharq Al-Awsat

Egypt’s intelligence service invited the head of Hamas Politburo, Ismail Haniyeh, to visit Cairo within the next few days to discuss various issues, mainly the stumbling Palestinian reconciliation.

Several sources in Hamas confirmed that Haniyeh had received an invitation to visit the Egyptian capital along with a senior delegation from the movement.

The sources expected the visit to take place as soon as possible, “perhaps next week.”

The sources said the main aim of the invitation was to resume Egypt’s efforts to complete the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.

Egypt decided to intensify its contacts with all parties in order to remove obstacles to the implementation of the agreement it sponsored on October 12 last year.

Egyptian efforts came after the appointment of a new Egyptian intelligence chief.

Before Hamas received an invitation to visit Cairo, Fatah Central Committee member Azzam al-Ahmad held talks with Egyptian officials in this regard.

Al-Ahmad said that Egypt has started moving towards completing the reconciliation file.

Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Egypt wanted to reach a specific agreement with Hamas on controversial issues with Fatah, such as security empowerment, as well as the possibility of forming a unity government to prepare for the general elections.

Egypt has also asked Hamas to maintain peaceful “return marches” so as not to cause a deterioration of the situation that could lead to a new war.

Abbas had announced his intention to take national and financial measures against the Gaza Strip after the assassination attempt on the Palestinian prime minister in Gaza last March.

The assassination attempt froze all contacts on reconciliation that had already been stalled between the two movements.

‘Jordan, Palestine and Saudi Arabia warn Israel against Turkey’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HAARETZ NEWSPAPER AND AL JAZEERA NEWS AGENCY)

 

‘Jordan, Palestine and Saudi Arabia warn Israel against Turkey’

Israeli daily Haaretz alleges the three Arab states have warned Israel of creeping Turkish influence in East Jerusalem.

The report notes that senior officials from the three Arab countries told Israel that Turkey was "extending its influence in Arab neighbourhoods of Jerusalem." [EPA-EFE]
The report notes that senior officials from the three Arab countries told Israel that Turkey was “extending its influence in Arab neighbourhoods of Jerusalem.” [EPA-EFE]

Saudi ArabiaJordan and Palestine have warned Israel on separate occasions about Turkey’s creeping influence in East Jerusalem, according to a reportby Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

The report notes that senior officials from the three Arab countries told Israel that Turkey was “extending its influence in Arab neighbourhoods of Jerusalem” which they said was “part of an attempt by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to “claim ownership over the Jerusalem issue.”

Israeli sources claimed to have been aware of Turkey’s expanding influence and say they have been monitoring Ankara’s efforts for more than a year.

According to the report, Jordanian officials are said to have been upset with Israel‘s slow response which they described as “sleeping at the wheel”, especially since the signing of a 2016 reconciliation agreement which Israel is adamant to maintain.

Officials from the Palestinian Authority also expressed concern at Turkey’s drive to further its influence in East Jerusalem which comes in the form of donations to Islamic organisations in Arab neighbourhoods or through organised tours by Turkish Muslim groups with close ties to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Israeli defence officials told the Israeli daily that the phenomenon had reached its peak in 2017 with hundreds of Turkish nationals establishing “a regular presence in and around the city” and increasingly clashing with police forces during Friday prayers at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque.

“They’re trying to buy real estate and strengthen their political standing,” an unnamed police source is quoted as saying.

“It’s also a source of concern for the PA, which doesn’t want to have another country claiming responsibility for East Jerusalem.”

Jordan’s concerns stem from the fact that Turkey’s efforts to widen its influence risk compromising the Hashemite Kingdom’s position as the custodian of Islam’s third holiest site.

Saudi Arabia for its part is worried that Erdogan’s ambitions in Jerusalem may help boost his image in the Arab and wider Muslim world which would, in effect, present him “as the only leader truly standing up to Israel and the Trump administration”.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

Palestinian Leaders Are Rejecting A Peace Plan They Have Never Seen

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL NEWSPAPER)

 

Kushner to Palestinians: Don’t let your leaders reject a plan they haven’t seen

Senior White House adviser, in region ahead of peace proposal rollout, appeals to Palestinian people in effort to bypass Ramallah’s boycott of administration

Jared Kushner, son-in-law and senior adviser to US President Donald Trump, speaks at the inauguration ceremony of the US Embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

Jared Kushner, son-in-law and senior adviser to US President Donald Trump, speaks at the inauguration ceremony of the US Embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner appealed directly to the Palestinian people, urging them to not let their “scared” leadership reject the Trump administration peace plan, which the Palestinian Authority has yet to see. Directly critiquing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, he said he was not sure Abbas truly wanted an accord.

In an interview with a Palestinian paper published Sunday, Kushner said he is ready to work with Abbas, but voiced doubt the 83-year-old leader has the ability or desire to make peace because he has not altered his negotiating position in over two decades.

“There have been countless mistakes and missed opportunities over the years, and you, the Palestinian people, have paid the price,” Kushner said, according to a transcript of the interview provided by the White House. “Don’t let your leadership reject a plan they haven’t even seen.”

“A lot has happened in the world since this conflict began decades ago. The world has moved forward while you have been left behind. Don’t allow your grandfather’s conflict to determine your children’s future,” he added.

The top US peace adviser was in the region ahead of the launch of a fresh peace effort. The trip, which took Kushner and US President Donald Trump’s Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt to Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt, did not include meetings with the Palestinian leadership.

Kushner, Greenblatt and other White House officials have been effectively blackballed by Ramallah, which was angered by Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his decision to move the US embassy there in May.

The interview with the East Jerusalem-based Al Quds newspaper was seen as an attempt by the Trump administration to reach out to the Palestinian people, despite the official boycott.

US presidential adviser Jared Kushner, left, meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on June 21, 2017 (PA press office)

In the interview, Kushner said the Palestinians should speak to their own leaders and “give them the courage to keep an open mind” toward achieving peace.

Referring to comments by Abbas adviser Nabil Abu Rudeineh, who said Saturday that the US peace mission was a waste of time, Kushner said the Palestinian leaders fear the plan might receive popular support.

“I think the Palestinian leadership is saying those things because they are scared we will release our peace plan and the Palestinian people will actually like it because it will lead to new opportunities for them to have a much better life,” Kushner said.

“President Abbas says that he is committed to peace and I have no reason not to believe him,” he said. “However, I do question how much President Abbas has the ability to, or is willing to, lean into finishing a deal. He has his talking points which have not changed in the last 25 years. To make a deal both sides will have to take a leap and meet somewhere between their stated positions. I am not sure President Abbas has the ability to do that.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas chairs the Fatah Central Committee meeting at the Palestinian Authority headquarters, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 29, 2018.(Majdi Mohammed/AP)

“I greatly respect that there are many things he [Abbas] has done well for establishing the foundations of peace, but I don’t think the Palestinian people feel like their lives are getting better and there is only so long you can blame that on everyone other than Palestinian leadership,” he added.

Kushner said the international community is “getting frustrated with Palestinian leadership and not seeing many actions that are constructive towards achieving peace.”

Kushner admitted he had not tried to contact Abbas directly ahead of his Middle East tour but noted, “President Abbas knows we are in the region and we have many mutual contacts who convey messages – he knows that we are open to meeting him and continuing the discussion when he is ready. He has said publicly he will not meet us and we have opted not to chase him.”

“If President Abbas is willing to come back to the table, we are ready to engage; if he is not, we will likely air the plan publicly,” said Kushner.

Kushner suggested that Israeli and Palestinian leaders could hold a referendum on whether or not to accept the Trump peace plan as “a way for them to take less political risk on endorsing a solution, but that is still a few steps ahead of where we are now.”

Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, speaks to journalists during a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah on April 21, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)

Kushner, who together with Greenblatt has reportedly been trying to raise aid funding from Gulf states for the Gaza Strip, also rejected recent criticism by senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat who on Saturday accused the Americans of trying to use the situation in Gaza to divide the Palestinians and topple the PA.

“The last I checked they are divided, they are not connected by government or land and it’s needlessly become a dire humanitarian situation because the Palestinian leadership has made it a political situation,” Kushner said. “It’s time for the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to stop using the people of Gaza as pawns. The narrative of victimhood may feel good for the moment and help you grab headlines but it doesn’t do anything to improve lives.”

Ramallah officials, who have sought to squeeze the Strip’s Hamas rulers by withholding salaries and goods as a means of retaking power there, have said plans to fund infrastructure projects to ease the humanitarian crisis in the enclave were tantamount to attempting to split Gaza from the Abbas-ruled West Bank.

“The people of Gaza are hostages to bad leadership,” Kushner said, warning that continued attacks on Israeli territory from Gaza would prevent the humanitarian situation from improving as Israel and Egypt would continue to impose their blockade aimed at prevent Hamas from smuggling in weapons.

“As long as there are rockets being fired and tunnels being dug, there will be a chokehold on resources allowed to enter. It’s a vicious cycle. I think the only path for the people of Gaza is to encourage the leadership to aim for a true ceasefire that gives Israel and Egypt the confidence to start allowing more commerce and goods to flow to Gaza,” said Kushner.

“We have said from the beginning that there is no path to peace without finding a solution for Gaza.”

Palestinian children fill jerrycans with drinking water from public taps in the southern Gaza Strip, June 11, 2017. (Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)

The US earlier this year cut some $250 million to the budget of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, or UNRWA.

Despite the difficulties, Kushner said he remains hopeful the Israelis and Palestinians can overcome their past grievances.

“Yes, there is a lot of hatred and a lot of scar tissue, but I do not underestimate humankind’s ability to love. To be successful, we must be willing to forgive in the present, not forget the past, but work hard towards a brighter future.”

Peace, he predicted, would have a significant impact on the Palestinian economy.

“Israel’s prosperity would spill over very quickly to the Palestinians if there is peace. Many countries from around the world are ready to invest if there is a peace agreement,” he said.

A US official told Israel’s Channel 10 news that “the interview is part of the American administration’s attempt to address the Palestinian people directly before presenting its peace plan.”

On Saturday night, Kushner and Greenblatt met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the second time in as many days, together with US envoy to Israel David Friedman.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2nd from right) meets at his Jerusalem office with the ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer (right); White House adviser Jared Kushner (center); US Ambassador David Friedman (second left); and special envoy Jason Greenblatt, on June 22, 2018. (Haim Zach/GPO)

The four continued discussions that had begun on Friday, which included talks on easing the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the peace plan, according to the White House.

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Gaza tensions flare: IDF strikes 8 more Hamas targets as rockets barrage south

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Gaza tensions flare: IDF strikes 8 more Hamas targets as rockets barrage south

18 rockets fired from strip in a number of separate incidents; four intercepted by the Iron Dome while an unspecified number fall in Israeli territory

An explosion is seen in Gaza City after an airstrike by Israel on June 18, 2018. (AFP/ MAHMUD HAMS)

An explosion is seen in Gaza City after an airstrike by Israel on June 18, 2018. (AFP/ MAHMUD HAMS)

Tensions flared on Israel’s border with Gaza early Wednesday morning as the IDF carried out a second round of overnight airstrikes on Hamas targets in response to a barrage of rockets fired from the Strip towards Israeli territory.

The IDF said fighter jets struck eight further “terror targets” on three separate Hamas military bases in the south of the Gaza Strip, in addition to several other sites that were targeted earlier in the night.

In total, 18 rockets were fired towards Israeli territory in a number of separate incidents, the army said. Of those, four rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system while an unspecified number fell in Israeli territory.

There were no immediate reports of injuries on either side of the border.

Earlier, Palestinians fired five rockets at southern Israel after Israeli aircraft hit  Hamas targets in the south of the coastal enclave in response to numerous arson attacks launched across the border by Palestinians, the military said.

The overnight incidents mirror several rounds of rocket fire and IDF strikes on Monday in which Israeli aircraft bombed Hamas positions in the southern Gaza Strip after a group of Palestinians launched incendiary balloons at southern Israel.

Following those strikes, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned that Israel would not allow Palestinian terror groups to continue launching incendiary devices into Israeli territory, the likes of which have caused hundreds of brush fires and burned thousands of acres of land in recent months.

“If anyone thinks it will be possible to continue with the daily kites and fires, they are wrong,” Liberman said during a tour of Israel Aerospace Industries, the country’s primary aerospace manufacturer.

An explosion is seen in Gaza City after an airstrike by Israel on June 18, 2018. (AFP / MAHMUD HAMS)

The Monday rockets were the first to be fired at Israel in over two weeks, breaking a tacit ceasefire that has largely held since a day-long flareup in late May.

Before the rocket attack, Israeli fighter jets carried out strikes on three military compounds and one weapons manufacturing plant in northern Gaza belonging to the Hamas terror group, which rules the Strip, the Israel Defense Forces said.

The army said it hit a total of nine targets spread out between the three Hamas facilities, in response to flammable and explosive-laden kites and balloons launched from Gaza that have wreaked havoc in Israel over the past several weeks.

“The attack was carried out in response to the launching of incendiary and explosive kites and balloons at Israeli territory. This is terrorist activity that endangers the lives of southern residents and has damaged large amounts of land,” the military said.

The army warned that it had the “intelligence knowledge and operational capability” necessary to conduct further strikes in Gaza if the balloon and kite attacks did not stop.

A masked Palestinian man launches a balloon loaded with flammable materials toward Israel, east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on June 17, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

The airstrikes on Hamas facilities appeared to be a new tactic by the military to deter Palestinians from flying the airborne arson devices into Israel, after its previous attempts to do so by firing warning shots at kite-flyers failed to yield results.

The Palestinian rocket fire appeared to come in response to the airstrikes.

The projectiles shot at Israel triggered sirens in the Hof Ashkelon region and the city of Ashkelon’s industrial area, sending thousands of Israelis into bomb shelters. The alarms were triggered in two waves, first at 4:40 a.m. and then again shortly after 5 a.m.

The Iron Dome missile defense system did not appear to have been activated, indicating the two incoming rockets that cleared the border struck open fields, where there was no risk to life and thus no need to intercept them.

Israel’s airstrikes in the Strip and the subsequent Palestinian rocket fire followed a day of airborne arson attacks by Gazans, who launched dozens of balloons laden with incendiary devices and explosives at southern Israel, sparking at least 20 fires, some of them large.

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US envoy to reporters: ‘Keep your mouths shut’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

(OPED: EVEN THOUGH I AGREE WITH THE U.S. ENVOY BELIEFS IN HIS BACKING OF ISRAEL IN THIS MATTER I STRONGLY DISAGREE WITH HIS “TRUMPIAN” B.S. THEOLOGY OF TELLING THE PRESS OR OTHER PEOPLE IN GENERAL TO “SHUT UP” AND TO NOT EXPRESS THEIR DIVERSE OPINIONS. YOU CAN’T HAVE A DEMOCRACY IF THE PEOPLE ARE OT ALLOWED TO HAVE BUT ONE OPINION.)(oldpoet56)

 

REPORTERS ‘CREATING IMPRESSIONS THAT HAVE NO BASIS IN FACT’

US envoy to reporters: ‘Keep your mouths shut’ on criticizing Israel over Gaza

David Friedman says the media should either figure out how anyone could have better dealt with the border protests or stop its negative coverage of the Jewish state

David Friedman speaking to the media in Jerusalem on June 4, 2018. (Lior Mizrahi)

David Friedman speaking to the media in Jerusalem on June 4, 2018. (Lior Mizrahi)

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman attacked the media on Monday over what he said was a failure to fairly cover deadly protests on the Gaza border over the past months, advising reporters to “keep your mouths shut” unless they know better than Israel how to deal with the demonstrations.

Some criticism of Israel may be legitimate, Friedman allowed, but said journalists should have worked harder to find alternatives to Israel’s use of lethal force, which has left scores of Palestinians dead, before accusing the state of wrongdoing.

“It would seem to me that in a journalistic environment where nine out of ten articles that are written about the Gaza conflict are critical of Israel, you’d think that some journalists would take the time and go and meet with experts and try to understand what could have been done differently or better before they criticize. And I just haven’t seen it,” Friedman said at a media conference in Jerusalem.

Friedman said he had spent a great deal of time speaking to military experts in the US, Israel and other countries about the proper rules of engagement — which he said reporters should have done — and had found that the criticism of Israel was for the most part unfounded.

Palestinians run for cover from tear gas fired by Israeli forces near the border between the Gaza strip and Israel east of Gaza City on May 14, 2018. (AFP/ MAHMUD HAMS)

Saying that his criticism was mainly geared at US media, Friedman said reporters should “just keep your mouths shut until you figure it out. Because otherwise, all you’re doing is creating impressions that have no basis in fact. They fit a narrative. They fit an opinion. They fit an agenda. But it’s not reporting, because it’s not based on hard, factual analysis.”

Israel has defended its use of tear gas, as well as lethal force, as a means of defending the Gaza border during violent riots which have seen tens of thousands of people gather at the fence weekly, starting March 30. The protests peaked on May 14, coinciding with the US moving its embassy to Jerusalem.

Military officials said terrorists used the protests as cover to carry out attacks on troops or try to damage or infiltrate across the border. Dozens of the over 110 people killed were members of Hamas or other terror groups, according to Israel and Gazan sources.

A Palestinian uses a slingshot during clashes with Israeli forces along the border with the Gaza Strip, east of Gaza City, on May 18, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

Criticism of Israel renewed on Friday after a Gazan medic was shot and killed while apparently trying to help wounded protesters during a border demonstration. The IDF said it was investigating the case.

Friedman said experts had told him tear gas, water cannons and other nonlethal means of crowd dispersal would not have been effective during the weeks of riots and clashes, but did not provide more detail.

“If what happens isn’t right, what is right? What do you use instead of bullets?” he asked rhetorically.

The US envoy, who has been criticized for hawkish views closely mirroring those of Israel’s right-wing government, said the last several weeks had seen “lots and lots of criticism of Israel” in the media.

Israeli forces take position near the border between the Gaza strip and Israel east of Gaza City on May 14, 2018. (Thomas COEX/AFP)

“Some of it even may be legitimate. I think the State of Israel itself hasn’t concluded its own internal inquiries into what happened. Maybe there are things they could have done better. I am sure there’s always things you could do better,” he allowed, adding: “With all the criticism Israel’s gotten, nobody has identified the less lethal means by which Israel could have defended itself during the last four weeks. Nobody.”

Friedman said Israel had performed as best it could under what he described described as an unprecedented situation.

“Who did this better in some other circumstances? Where is the other case where 40,000 people rush the border under the cover of burning tires, with Molotov cocktails, pistols, kites painted with swastikas, starting fires everywhere — fires that are still burning today?” Friedman said.

“Where did that happen in some other place, where the people rushing the border were committed to killing the citizens on the other side, and somebody did it better? Where is the manual that says, when this happens, you do this, this and this, and you can avoid the loss of human life or bodily injury?”

Without this comparative analysis, “all the reporting is completely superficial,” Friedman said.

‘No democracy without free press’

During his speech, Friedman, a former bankruptcy lawyer, also had some good words for the media, hailing the First Amendment of the US Constitution and saying a free press was vital to a functioning democracy, even if it attacks positions he holds dear.

“We don’t have a democracy without a free press. It’s simply impossible to do that,” he said. “Criticism is fair game. It’s what I would expect and what I appreciate,” he added.

The comment seemed to contrast with some of those made by his boss, US President Donald Trump, who has recommended cracking down on media freedoms and dismissed critical reporting as “fake news.”

Having to grapple with the competing requirements of accuracy and speed was not a valid excuse for sloppy journalism, Friedman said Monday, speaking at the launch of the new Jerusalem office of The Media Line, an American news organization covering the Middle East. While everybody is entitled to their own opinion, not everybody is entitled to their own facts, he said.

“And the facts do matter. If you get the facts wrong, there ought to be some recognition and some accountability,” he said.

“And as long as there isn’t, I think people will continue to feel comfortable with getting it first and getting it wrong. Because if you’re getting it first and you’re getting it wrong, and there’s no price to pay, you’ll do it over and over again.”

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