‘They Wanted To Kill Us All’: Nicaragua Reels After Bloody Church Siege

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

‘They Wanted To Kill Us All’: Nicaragua Reels After Bloody Church Siege

A student who had taken refuge at the Church of the Divine Mercy amid a barrage of armed attacks is embraced by a relative on Saturday after he was transported to the Managua Metropolitan Cathedral.

Cristobal Venegas/AP

Nicaragua saw another weekend of deadly violence, as forces in support of President Daniel Ortega besieged student protesters in a church and attempted to assert control over several areas outside the capital.

Students have been at the center of anti-government demonstrations since they began April 18. What started as a “protest against now-rescinded changes in public pensions” became “a full-fledged call to end the authoritarian rule,” reporter Maria Martin tells NPR. The government has responded with brutal force.

Overnight Friday, protests at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua in the capital took a dramatic turn, ultimately leaving at least two people dead and several others injured.

For two months, students at the university in Managua have set up barricades during protests that have drawn the wrath of pro-government forces. On Friday, about 200 students on the sprawling campus were pinned down by police and paramilitaries into a nearby Catholic church that they had been using as a field hospital.

The Washington Post’s Joshua Partlow, reporting on the protests, was trapped in the Church of the Divine Mercy along with the students. He described what he saw:

“Not long after 6 p.m., with several high-pitched cracks, the mood took a dark turn. The faraway shooting was suddenly nearby. The paramilitaries had appeared, cutting off the only exit from Divine Mercy and firing at the remaining barricade just outside the church.

“It became clear that everyone inside — dozens of students, at least two priests and two doctors, neighbors, volunteers and journalists, including me — would not be going anywhere.

“Most of the students accepted this realization with stoicism and remarkable calm. Many had been taking sporadic fire on and off for the past two months, and they seemed accustomed to it. They carried the wounded into the Rev. Raul Zamora’s rectory and put them on chairs or on the blood-spattered tile floor. Outside, at the barricade, other students shouted and fired their mortars against the unseen ­assailants.

“Over the next hours, the fighting ebbed and flowed. A flurry of gunfire would force everyone indoors, then people would drift into the courtyard. At times, they chanted ‘Viva, Nicaragua,’ shot their mortars in the air and vowed to never leave their posts. Around sunset, dozens of them knelt in a circle, held each other and prayed.”

The siege stretched on for some 15 hours, ending when members of the clergy negotiated for the students to be allowed to leave. They were transported to the Managua Metropolitan Cathedral, according to the Post.

Roman Catholic Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes said two students were killed during the confrontation, according to The Associated Press.

Mourners attend the wake of Nicaraguan university student Gerald Vasquez who was killed over the weekend when police forced students out of the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua in Managua.

Cristobal Venegas/AP

“It was a really hard night. They discharged their entire heavy arsenal against stones and mortars,” a sobbing young man who was afraid to given his name told the AP. “They wanted to kill us all.”

Sunday saw more violence, just outside Managua, Reuters reported. The Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights said at least 10 people were killed when security forces and paramilitary groups loyal to Ortega attacked people in the city of Masaya and communities of Monimbo.

In Masaya, pro-government forces were trying to take down barricades and reassert control over the area in what the government was calling “Operation Clean-up,” according to the BBC. The government says the “blockades are harming businesses and disrupting the lives of Nicaraguans,” the broadcaster reports.

The weekend violence is part of a brutal crackdown that human rights groups say has resulted in the deaths of nearly 300 people.

Human rights groups have criticized the Nicaraguan government for its tactics. For example, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has accused the government of “excessive and arbitrary use of police force,” as well as using paramilitary groups called “shock groups” to put down protests. It has called for the groups to be dismantled.

The BBC described “hooded and masked men opening fire on protesters” during recent protests, and says that “the government says the protesters are trying to stage a coup d’etat against Mr Ortega.”

Trump keeps claiming credit for fixing things that aren’t fixed

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(TRUMP: AMERICA’S IDIOTIC FRAUD IN CHIEF, IS HE POSSIBLY THE BIGGEST FOOL IN THE WHOLE WORLD?) (opinion by: oldpoet56)

Trump keeps claiming credit for fixing things that aren’t fixed

(CNN)Never shy about taking credit, President Donald Trump twice recently claimed to have solved a problem that turned out to still be a problem.

He wanted the problem of North Korea’s nuclear weapons to be solved after his historic meeting with Kim Jong Un last month, and he wanted the problem of children separated by the US government from their parents to be solved with the swipe of his pen on an executive order.
But weeks later, the North Korean nuclear threat still very much exists, and the problem of children separated from their parents has worsened as the US government clearly does not know exactly how many children it has or how to get them back to their parents.
These are unrelated stories, obviously, but they share what’s become a truism of White House — which is that Trump likes to take credit for things he hasn’t quite accomplished. The details will come later.
Trump touts North Korea denuclearization

Trump touts North Korea denuclearization
It’s not unlike the famous old quote attributed to Vermont Sen. George Aitken, a Republican, who put forward a plan for the US in Vietnam in 1966. The United States should declare victory and get out, he’s been quoted as saying. Whether Aitken said it that way or not and what exactly he meant has been debated.
Trump actually did sort of declare victory on North Korea immediately upon touching down on US soil after the summit in June with Kim.
“Just landed – a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office,” Trump said on Twitter. “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”
Trump was basking in success of his trip at the time and clearly wanted it to seem as historic as possible.
But his declaration was premature. The agreement he signed in North Korea was more of an entree into figuring out the details. And his administration, since his tweet, has reaffirmed that there is still a nuclear threat from North Korea. Obviously. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shuttles back and forth to hammer out the hard details. Meanwhile, North Korea’s nuclear program continues.
Trump has not been chastened, however. Most recently, he’s sought credit for not being in the middle of a nuclear war.
“Many good conversations with North Korea-it is going well! In the meantime, no Rocket Launches or Nuclear Testing in 8 months. All of Asia is thrilled. Only the Opposition Party, which includes the Fake News, is complaining. If not for me, we would now be at War with North Korea!”
OK! (Set aside that Trump was the one tempting nuclear war with his previous taunting of Kim. He’s asking for credit for avoiding a war he was inching toward.)
On the subject of the immigrant children, the administration was slow to realize its moral mistake in separating the children from parents at the border. The resulting chaos is just becoming clear.
Trump signs executive order to end family separations
Trump signs executive order to end family separations
“We’re going to have strong, very strong borders, but we’re going to keep the families together,” he said. “I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated.”
“So we’re keeping families together and this will solve that problem,” Trump said. And then, just before he signed the executive order, he added, “You’re going to have a lot of happy people.”
He hasn’t said much at all about the issue since then.
But problems became apparent immediately. The executive order sought to detain undocumented families together and it ran afoul of a law that mandated children not be detained indefinitely. And while the stated purpose was to reunite families, it’s not clear that’s happened much at all. In fact, the government this week made clear it had separated even more children than previously thought.
These are only the most recent examples.
There’s no such thing as Obamacare anymore,” he said after Republicans passed their tax reform bill, even though Republicans’ tax bill only zeroed out the penalty for not obtaining health insurance coverage.
CNN’s Greg Krieg looked at a long list of things Trump has tried to take credit for earlier this year.
But these new examples are something else. They’re Trump taking credit for the efforts of his own administration before his own policies can be enacted, which is why they feel so premature. He’s trying to take credit for things where no credit is yet deserved.

Why Palestinians care what Donald Trump thinks about Jerusalem

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Why Palestinians care what Donald Trump thinks about Jerusalem

Israelis appreciated but mostly shrugged at last month’s US Embassy move, but Palestinians exploded in fury. The gap reveals much about their predicament

Palestinians prepare to set fire to an Israeli flag and portraits of US President Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a protest at the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip, April 13, 2018. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

Palestinians prepare to set fire to an Israeli flag and portraits of US President Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a protest at the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip, April 13, 2018. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

The US Embassy has moved. With the exception of the effect the move purportedly had on the ailing health of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and acknowledging Palestinian claims that the violence on the Gaza border was mostly due to the American recognition of Jerusalem, or at least its western half, as Israel’s capital, this latest round of Jewish-Arab scuffling seems to have died down.

That doesn’t mean Israeli-Palestinian tensions have decreased, of course. A confluence of powerful moments on the Palestinian calendar — the embassy move on May 14; the recurring Gaza protests launched by Hamas from March 30 until mid-May; Nakba Day on May 15, mourning the displacement of the Palestinians upon Israel’s founding; the May 17 start of the holy month of Ramadan; and even the upcoming Naksa Day on June 5, which mourns the Israeli victory in the 1967 Six Day War — coupled with Hamas’s fraught political position in Gaza have all pushed the sides to new rounds of violence, and may do so again at any time.

But it wasn’t just the calendar. Israelis and Palestinians remain strangers to each other despite living such close and intertwined lives. Each has only a sketchy, piecemeal grasp of what motivates and frightens the other across the ethnic and religious divide.

This gap in comprehension was the reason many Israelis were surprised by the frantic Palestinian response to the American embassy’s opening in Jerusalem. Most Israeli Jews certainly appreciated the gesture, but did not seem to take part in the gushing platitudes of politicians about its unique strategic or “historic” significance.

The Palestinians disagreed. Political factions vied with one another in their expressions of rage over the American move. The Palestinian Authority declared a school strikeurged mass protests across the West Bank and Gaza, cut direct talks with the Trump administration and announced the US had forsaken its role as a peace broker in the region. Protests mounted in the West Bank and Hamas announced its seven-week-long campaign of border rallies in Gaza.

In the process, Palestinian rhetoric shed light on how they view their strategic position, and how their current strategy is failing them.

The Palestinian resort to internationalizing the conflict — the appeal to international institutions, the BDS campaign, and the like — is rooted in the deepest anxieties of Palestinian nationalism. The only real alternative to internationalization (besides terrorism, of course, which vanishingly few Palestinians still view as a winning strategy) is to meaningfully engage with Israel and Israelis, a step too ideologically and politically painful for any major Palestinian faction to contemplate seriously. (Some factions will agree to negotiate with Israeli officials; none with any following will agree to push for engagement or coexistence with Israeli Jewish society.)

Then, too, there is the fact that the appeal to the world’s conscience fits the Palestinian meta-narrative of dispossession. In the telling of the Palestinian national movement, the injustice of Palestinian displacement is larger than the narrow question of Palestinian suffering; it violates history’s deepest logic and purpose, its moral arc. A strategy premised on the existence and political potency of an amorphous moral conscience capable of mobilizing a broader humanity to act in the Palestinians’ favor validates this narrative of lost-but-inevitably-to-be-reclaimed justice. It makes the insistence that an idealized pre-Israeli condition can yet be restored a little less ludicrous and a little more believable.

There is a risk, however, to this reliance on the world’s moral emotions. An indelicate framing of the question might be: What if the international community does not in any meaningful sense exist? What if there are very few nations (even among Arab states) that would risk hard interests in the name of an idealistic call for justice, especially when that call is so hard to apply to the messy conditions of this conflict? Even the Palestinians’ most vocal allies — Turkey, for example — see in the Palestinian cause not a fight for the well-being of Palestinians, but a politically convenient battlefield on which to pursue their own broader ideological battle over the future of Islam and their place in global affairs. It doesn’t help, of course, that the half of Palestinian politics represented by Hamas actively pursues a politics of violence that makes it all the harder for foreign players to act in defense of the Palestinians.

As they discovered yet again with the US Embassy’s move to Jerusalem on May 14, there are costs to the overreliance on the politics of foreign nations: it leaves you vulnerable when those politics change.

Lacking any other strategic horizon, it’s no wonder Palestine’s cause seemed to many Palestinians to be dramatically set back by the election of a populist American right-winger as president.

The point here is not to argue that Trump is actually bad for the Palestinians, at least in the sense that another American president might be better. It’s arguable that a Hillary Clinton presidency, or even a Bernie Sanders one and its undoubted sympathy for the Palestinians, would not really tilt events very much in the Palestinians’ direction. Palestine’s troubles run deep, and Palestinian leaders have a long history of squandering foreign sympathy. The point here is only to say that many Palestinians believe their cause has been dramatically set back by Trump’s rise.

And so Palestinians exploded over Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem, which suddenly and viscerally clarified the extent to which their long-established strategic truths offer exceedingly few good answers in this ever-changing world.

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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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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.

צבא ההגנה לישראל

@idfonline

בשעה זו כמה עשרות מפרי סדר משחיתים ומציתים מוקדים בצדו הפלסטיני של מעבר הסחורות בכרם שלום. הפורעים פוגעים בצינורות הגז ובדלק המועברים מישראל לרצועת עזה ומיועדים לשימוש תושבי רצועת עזה https://bit.ly/2IhvqQD 

 

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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Islamic Jihad Sets Sniper Sights On Top IDF Commanders

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Islamic Jihad sets sniper sights on top IDF commanders in threatening new video

Iran-backed Gaza-based terror group shows footage of IDF’s head of Southern Command and top liaison to the Palestinians filmed on Gaza border

The Gaza-based, Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group on Thursday released a video showing IDF soldiers and senior officers in the crosshairs of a sniper, threatening the commanders on Israel’s 70th Independence Day.

In the video, the sniper appears to train his sights on Israeli troops and officers at the Gaza border fence. Among those seen is Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the Defense Ministry’s outgoing head of liaison to the Palestinians, as well as Southern Command chief Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir.

“You murder our people in cold blood and think you are protected, when the scopes of our snipers have been set on your senior commanders,” the terror group wrote in Hebrew and Arabic at the end of the video.

The video shows the sniper in a house in Gaza along with other Islamic Jihad members while observing the generals, who are seen alongside other IDF soldiers.

Coordinator of the Government’s Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, is seen alongside other senior IDF commanders through the crosshairs of a sniper in a video released on April 19, 2018, by the Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group. (Screen capture: Twitter)

Mordechai, the Defense Ministry’s outgoing Coordinator of the Government’s Activities in the Territories, has toured Israel’s border with the Strip during the last few weeks along with Zamir to coordinate a response to widespread Palestinian protests that have led to bloody clashes.

He is defined by Israeli authorities as an individual under threat from Hamas, the terror organization which rules Gaza, and has had security forces guarding his house since the 2014 Gaza war.

The edited footage was apparently filmed during the Friday demonstrations in recent weeks dubbed the “March of Return,” according to the Ynet news site.

Palestinian protesters burn an Israeli flag during clashes with Israeli forces near the border with Israel, east of Gaza city in the central Gaza strip, on April 13, 2018. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

The encampments set up as part of the protests will be moved 50 meters closer to the border with Israel on the fourth protest slated for this Friday, the organizers of the mass demonstrations announced on Wednesday.

The National Forum for the March of Return, one of several Palestinian groups behind the weekly demonstrations, said that the decision came to “affirm our right to return” — a reference to the Palestinian demand that Israel allow tens of thousands of refugees and their millions of descendants to “return” to homes and lands inside Israel which they left or were forced from during Israel’s 1948 Independence War.

Egypt has reportedly been exerting pressure on Hamas and other Palestinian groups to halt the mass protests. The Egyptians, according to reports, have expressed fear that the demonstrations could spin out of control and ignite another war between Hamas and Israel.

A Palestinian youth swings a sling shot during clashes after a demonstration near the border with Israel, east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, on April 1, 2018. (AFP/Said Khatib)

According to the Hamas-run health ministry in the Gaza Strip, 35 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli gunfire since the beginning of the marches three weeks ago. Hamas has acknowledged that several of those killed were its members, and Israel has identified other fatalities as members of terrorist groups.

Last Friday, at least 10,000 Gazans took part in large-scale demonstrations, with the IDF saying some protesters hurled an explosive device and firebombs at Israeli troops deployed at the border, as well as making “several attempts” to damage the fence and cross over into Israeli territory. A week earlier, about 20,000 Palestinians took part in the demonstrations, and the week before an estimated 30,000.

Ahmed Abu Rtaimeh, a member of the National Forum for the March of Return, said on Wednesday that the demonstrations would continue “with full force” in the coming weeks.

He told the Hamas-affiliated Al Resalah news website that the March of Return had “imposed a new struggle reality that has vitalized the Palestinians and redefined the Palestinian cause as a cause of a people who want to return to their country.”

Israeli governments have rejected the notion of a mass “right of return” for Palestinians into the borders of the state of Israel, arguing that an influx of millions Palestinians would spell the end of the Jewish nation-state. Israel has called for Palestinian refugees to be absorbed into a future Palestinian state, just as Israel took in hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing Arab nations in the Middle East and North Africa.

Of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who left or were forced out of Israel when the country was established, a figure estimated in the low tens of thousands are still believed to be alive. But their descendants, considered refugees under the unique designation afforded by the UN to Palestinians, number in the millions.

At the Gaza border on successive Fridays in recent weeks, Gazans have been holding mass demonstrations, termed “March of Return,” which Gaza’s Hamas terrorist rulers say ultimately aim to see the removal of the border and the liberation of Palestine.

Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.

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5 Things Written by Martin Luther King Jr. That Everyone Should Read

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)

 

Dr. Martin Luther King addresses some 2,000 people on the eve of his death—April 3, 1968—giving the speech "I've been to the mountaintop."
Dr. Martin Luther King addresses some 2,000 people on the eve of his death—April 3, 1968—giving the speech “I’ve been to the mountaintop.”
Bettmann/Getty Images
By LILY ROTHMAN

6:30 PM EDT

The words written about Martin Luther King Jr. during his too-short life and in the half-century since his assassination — 50 years ago Wednesday, on April 4, 1968 — would be impossible to count. King himself left a deep archive of writings, speeches and sermons, too. His spoken orations in particular are a powerful reminder of why he was destined to become part of the pantheon of American icons.

“One has to remember that King above all was a preacher,” says Carolyn Calloway-Thomas, chair of African American and African Diaspora Studies at the Indiana University Bloomington and an editor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Sermonic Power of Public Discourse.

While she notes that he was so prolific that it’s near impossible to choose, Calloway-Thomas spoke to TIME about the pieces of King’s work that everyone should know about. They are:

“The Death of Evil upon the Seashore” (May 17, 1956)

“The death of the Egyptians upon the seashore is a glaring symbol of the ultimate doom of evil in its struggle with good.”

This sermon was delivered to a massive crowd at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York on the occasion of the two-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling against school segregation, at an early moment in this phase of the civil rights movement, with the Montgomery bus boycott still ongoing. To Calloway-Thomas, the sermon is noteworthy for the optimistic vision it presented at such a moment. “He had to help African-American people imagine themselves,” she says. “I think the Death of Evil upon the Seashore is that speech.”

It wasn’t the first time King preached on these ideas, and in fact the link he draws between the Biblical exodus and the story of African-American progress toward freedom and equality was an old one, but those present noted that his delivery that day was particularly moving. “He taps into that reservoir, that myth of the Hebrew children in bondage,” Calloway-Thomas says, “and he elevates it and makes it more publicly known.”

Read the full speech here

Letter from a Birmingham Jail (April 16, 1963)

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Yes, this is a letter, not a speech or sermon — but Calloway-Thomas says it’s worth including on such a list anyway. After all, the circumstances that created this letter are inherently linked to the fact that he couldn’t deliver a speech in person. At the time, King found himself jailed in Alabama after ignoring an injunction against protests in Birmingham. During that time, a group of clergymen wrote an open letter urging him away from protests. He wanted to respond but, from the jail, his only option if he wanted to answer quickly was to write it down. “Ideas have moments and if those moments aren’t used, you lose that rhetorical moment and it no longer has the force it had,” Calloway-Thomas says.

So, in a format she likens to a spoken call and response, he answers the questions that were posed to him about his methods. While also explaining that he’s on strong biblical footing, he provides the public with a way to understand the work he’s doing. His rhetorical skills are also on display as he uses a story about his 6-year-old daughter’s early perceptions of racism and segregation to underline that the matter is not theoretical. In the years since, this letter has become one of 20th century American history’s most famous documents.

Read the full letter here

“I Have a Dream…” (Aug. 28, 1963)

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

The speech that remains Martin Luther King Jr.’s most famous oration — one of the most famous orations in American history, if not world history — is that well-known for a good reason, Calloway-Thomas says. This was the moment when the world as a whole really saw King, and the moment was carefully orchestrated, framed by the Lincoln Memorial. “Think about how dazzling that was!” she says. “Think about the robust visuals and the lovely words echoing from Dr. King. It was an elixir that was made to circulate.”

But, she says, the power of his voice and the impact of the image can sometimes overwhelm the full message of the speech. “Dr. King had some pretty radical statements in that speech,” Calloway-Thomas adds. “Most people gloss over the part in that speech where King says that if we overlook the urgency of now there’ll be a rude awakening. I’ve never seen a student go to that section of the speech; people go right to ‘I have a dream’ and they don’t notice the threat.”

Read the full speech here

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A COLLEGE STUDENT SAVED A DROWNING SQUIRREL USING A TRICK SHE LEARNED FROM ‘THE OFFICE’
I HAVE A DREAM THAT ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.’ MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.’S GRANDDAUGHTER, 9, GIVES POWERFUL SPEECH AT MARCH FOR OUR LIVES

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“A Time to Break Silence” (April 4, 1967)

“We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors.”

In this speech, King publicly answers his conscience, as Calloway-Thomas puts it, on the matter of the Vietnam War. With an undercurrent of “anguish” about the fact that he feels he must speak, and must criticize the choices of Lyndon Johnson, who had often been an ally, he entered the arena of opposition to the war.

“This is an unsettling moment. People paid attention, but that meant there was backlash,” she says. President Johnson and many others felt that he ought to stay focused on domestic civil-rights issues and leave the foreign policy to them, but in this speech he makes clear why those two topics cannot truly be separated. That idea, Calloway-Thomas says, parallels the experience of earlier fighters for justice, such as Frederick Douglass, who got to the world stage with one kind of story — their personal freedom narratives, in that case — and shocked some of their allies when they showed that their thinking was far more expansive.

Read the full speech here

“I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” (April 3, 1968)

“I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”

Start with the date on this one: that’s April 3, 1968, the night before King was assassinated. In this speech, which summons King’s primary background as a preacher, he returns to the story of Moses. Rather than speaking on the joy of the Exodus, though, he turns to the end of Moses’ life, and his death just outside the Promised Land to which he had delivered his people. King casts himself as another leader who may not be there for the end of the journey. “He used Christian values and Democratic traditions to bring people together, so it’s not surprising that he goes to this idea,” Calloway-Thomas says. “What’s significant here is when it occurred. It was almost apocalyptic. Because it occurred at that time it has lingering significance and carries with it an abundance of pathos.”

Of course, as Calloway-Thomas says, we can imagine a scenario in which King gave this speech and then lived. The emotional resonance of his words might be lessened without the seemingly prescient layer of fate, but the story would be there all the same. “Here’s a man talking about longevity, here’s a man talking about god’s Will, here’s a man talking about going up to the mountaintop and looking skyward toward heaven and looking over into the Promised Land,” she says. “It’s a gorgeous story.”

Read the full speech here

Violent Protest Toward Others

Violent Protest Toward Others

(FIRST PUBLISHED ON DECEMBER 8th, 2014)

When we as humans disagree with a decision of a court or of a politician we here in America do have the Constitutional right to peacefully protest those decisions. Peacefully, fully peacefully, we can demonstrate yell and holler till our lungs explode if we so wish. We of course can also use the ballot box to get rid of the politicians we are mad at, or we can even run for that office ourselves if we wish.

Now I would like to mention a few things that we should not do, that we have no right at all to do. This is in reference to today’s article in a San Francisco newspaper about protesters being violent in Berkeley. The folks are protesting their dislike of legal decisions made about other people, who are also somewhere else. They have the right to protest, but they do not have any right to be violent to some innocent person or their property, no one has that right. Turn this equation on its head for a moment, reverse the situation. For example say I am a person who sitting home watching College Football and protesters come marching down my street overturning or burning cars, looting homes and beating some of the residents, is that fair to me, what did I do? Or if I am the one protesting and I come down your street and start doing those same things, have you and your family not been violated?

Why does the human brain make it possible to choose to act like trash? O yes, free choice! And this is how we decide to use that free choice, pathetic. Anyone with a grain of decency about themselves as a person does not commit violence on innocent people or their property. If you are doing such things and you consider yourself to be a decent person, you are lying to yourself for you are showing the world not so much your anger, but your ignorance. If we confess to be a Christian and we are doing these things, please stop and repent, these kind of actions are not okay for any of us to do. If people know us as a Christian we all let our little light shine whether we are wanting it to or not by the actions we do, not just by our words. All people, not just people of faith must reign in such ignorance if we are going to be able to withstand the direct attacks against our Nation and our way of life. There are thousands at our borders each year who desperately wish to be allowed in, most of these people have knows poverty and violence beyond our nightmares. Most just want a peaceful place to live, work, play and to raise their children, we have that any yet we seem hell-bent on destroying it.

 

If we say that we honor the memory and the man who Doctor Martin Luther King was then we are not among those who are committing any of the violence. If we say we are followers of Jesus Christ but we burn crosses and walk around in white sheets we know nothing of the love or character of Christ. There are those who use any such excuses for the five-finger discounts for Christmas presents, do we honestly believe that Jesus would do that? I have one last question for you as I close this comment today. When these people are destroying other people’s property, when they are stealing other people’s property, when they are beating people who had nothing to do with the event that you are protesting about, are we really doing what we are doing in someones memory? Or are we displaying all the characteristics of a diseased wild animal that shows all the signs that we can not be trusted to safely be among the human race and must be locked away from a peace-loving society?

As A Race (Human) We Are Sick And Pathetic

As A Race (Human) We Are Sick And Pathetic

 

I have a question for each and every one of you, are you sick yet? There’s a lot of different kinds of sick as we all know even if we are just speaking of viral which I am not. I am speaking about the soul of the human race, and this is also an issue in itself, believe it or not. Just in case your brain threw up a question mark, I do mean that there are billions of people who either believe that this life is all there is, so they have no concern for anyone else’s tomorrows because they do not believe in the concept of Souls. But you know what is worse than this line of thought? There are many people who do not believe that everyone is even worthy of being considered as a human being.

 

I like almost all of us do believe in their being such a thing as an all-powerful Creator of all things, a Master Deity. I have learned through study, witnessing, and listening that people consider people who are different from themselves in some way to be inferior to themselves, even Soulless. How do you think it was considered by the US Federal government from Andrew Jackson through General Grant to remove or wipe off the map the Indian People, they were “soulless savages” don’t you see? How did those who considered themselves to be “people of God” decide it was okay to enslave “by race”? Slavery has been a sickening reality world-wide since the invention of ego and hate, other words, for a very long time. Slavery, indentured or other wise is a heart breaking thing even when it is all about the financial aspects. In the Americas Europeans tried first to enslave the original continents populations and when that didn’t work out so well the slave trade in Africans blossomed. It is an unfortunate sickening reality an estimated 35,000,000 people live as slaves right now, today. (very recent UN stat). But if you are an African or a black American you are not a slave here in this country because of your skin color nor do you even know or have met anyone for those reasons that was ever a ‘legal’ slave. People must all quit the slave mentality and start from this second forward to start treating absolutely everyone as an equal human being. I know, it’s not going to happen, we as a human race are just to hate filled and stupid to act toward each other as God instructed us to do.

 

The human race is very sick today, all around the world you see pure hate. People violently oppressing others because of not only skin color or religion but over things like what country they were born in (like anyone had an option in that decision) or even what part of their own country a person is from. We have always had the financial problems between people who use  wealth to hate against the ones who have more than you, or hate towards people who are financially poorer than you. Hate goes in every direction if we let it, including to the depths of our hearts and souls.

 

Most all of us have come to realize that people in general do not like to be told what we have to do by people who don’t live by the same codes they choose to enforce upon others. Here I am speaking directly to and about government officials at every single level there is, every department. Presidents to Congress to the VA to Social Security personnel to each and every single law enforcement officer. People at times, sometimes a lot, abuse their positions as “our public servants”. I may have just angered a lot of police officers, so be it, but chill out for a moment. Are you a human being? Then you have erred in judgement at points in your life, and in your job, we all have. None of us are perfect. But, how bad some people in every walk of life choose to carry their ego toward others must improve and the only human way to do that is from inside of our own human brain, heart, and soul.

 

Police and politicians when they are evil or just simply mistake prone these faults are put up in lights for all to see. I spent almost all of my adult life behind the wheel of a semi tractor-trailer unit, when you make a mistake while behind the wheel, you stand out more in a crowd. Flying, it is said is much safer than driving our nations roadways, and I do agree with that, fewer idiots (people who have no clue what they are really doing). But, and a huge but, let the pilot mess up, and the whole world will know your name and face in less than a day.

Now I have seen and known many good law enforcement officers, but I have also know several that I would not trust with anything especially authority or a firearm. This situation in Ferguson MO where an officer shot and killed that young man of another race shows many acidic flaws in Americas underbelly. Of course the race issue, it always seems to be a race issue in this country when a white officer shoots a non white, especially if that person was black. Yet when a black officer shoots non black people our main stream media runs and hide. How do we here in America want our Law Enforcement Departments to perform their duties in regard to the race issue? Do we require that only white Officers are allowed to interact with the white people and only black Officers to interact with the black population as well as all the other races? Meaning in like manner that each race only enforces the laws of ethnicity?  You know what I mean, Hispanic toward only Hispanic, Indian only toward Indian and so on?

 

I do not know first hand exactly what all the events were in the Ferguson case, I wasn’t there, I didn’t see it. Here we must put our trust in the fact that God knows exactly what happened, exactly what was going through each mans mind. I do not want to sit in judgement of any other person, I have to many sins of my own. I do agree that after God that our next option is we have to trust the people in our legal system to be above corruption of bank account or mind. We all know that at times the human factor slaps us with the reality that some of these humans are in need of being replaced from their positions of authority. But, we as a human race here in America and around the world must do it without any violence when at all possible. No one ever has the right to be an aggressor toward another person, everyone has the right to defend themselves when being attacked, but only then. If there are no aggressors, there is no need for conflict. No violence here is except-able, and we can remove some of these people at the ballot box. Police departments, police your own in total honesty. Families, police your own, try your very best to be a positive light to the ones in your own home. Please pray for all the violence in your own communities, in your own families to totally cease. Unless we are just totally ignorant we had better realize that the Spirit of God sees everything, and He knows our every thought. He knows why we do what we do, there is no BS-ing our Creator, He knows exactly what the truth is and the truth is what He will judge every one of us on.

How Dare Israel Blow Up Hamas Tunnels That Are In Israel

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We attack those who seek to attack us.”

Sensitive moment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First test of unity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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