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

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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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Iran’s Khamenei: Israel a ‘cancerous tumor’ that ‘must be eradicated’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Khamenei: Israel a ‘cancerous tumor’ that ‘must be eradicated’

Iran’s supreme leader says destruction of Jewish state is ‘possible and will happen,’ slams ‘traitorous countries’ for not defending Palestinians

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech during Labor Day at a workers' meeting, April 30, 2018. (AFP Photo/Iranian Supreme Leader's Website /HO)

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech during Labor Day at a workers’ meeting, April 30, 2018. (AFP Photo/Iranian Supreme Leader’s Website /HO)

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday lashed out at Israel, calling the Jewish state the “cancerous tumor” of the region that must be “removed and eradicated.”

In a series of tweets Sunday, Khamenei leveled harsh criticism at Israel for its handling of the violent Hamas-orchestrated “March of Return” protests along the Gaza border.

“Our stance against Israel is the same stance we have always taken,” he said. “#Israel is a malignant cancerous tumor in the West Asian region that has to be removed and eradicated: it is possible and it will happen.”

For Iranians, Khamenei said the issue of Palestine was not motivated by politics, but was “an issue of the heart… and faith.”

Khamenei.ir@khamenei_ir

For , the Palestinian cause is not a tactical issue, nor is it a ‘political’ strategy. It’s an issue of beliefs, an issue of the heart and an issue of faith. 2/27/10

A day earlier, the supreme leader took to Twitter to warn “traitorous countries” that refused to confront Israel militarily in order to appease the US, saying that “resistance is the only way to save #Palestine from oppression.”

Khamenei has previously branded Israel as “barbaric,” “infanticidal,” and the “sinister, unclean rabid dog of the region.” More recently, he blamed “Zionists” for the anti-government demonstrations held across Iran earlier this year.

His tweets over the weekend came amid a tense few days along the Gaza border that saw multiple exchanges of mortar and rocket fire and violence along the security fence.

On Friday, a 21-year-old volunteer Gazan paramedic was shot dead as she tried to help evacuate wounded protesters near Israel’s perimeter fence. UN officials condemned Razan Najjar’s killing, and thousands of Palestinians attended her funeral on Saturday. The IDF said it was investigating the incident.

Later Saturday night and early Sunday morning, Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza resumed firing rockets over the border, shattering an official ceasefire agreement. In response, the IDF said Israeli jets carried out two rounds of airstrikes in the Gaza Strip.

Razan al-Najjar (R), a 21-year-old Palestinian paramedic, tends to an injured colleague during clashes near the border with Israel, east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on May 15, 2018. (AFP/ SAID KHATIB)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu departed Israel Monday morning for Europe to rally support from key allies for amending the international nuclear deal with Iran and for pushing Tehran-backed forces out of neighboring Syria.

The Israeli leader is set to meet with leaders from Germany, France and Britain, beginning with German Chancellor Angela Merkel later on Monday.

Netanyahu has long identified Iran as Israel’s greatest threat, pointing to its nuclear program, calls for Israel’s destruction and support of anti-Israel terrorist groups.

Before departing, the prime minister told his cabinet that archenemy Iran would top his agenda and voiced optimism for a successful visit. Israel has been a leading critic of the international nuclear deal with Iran, and more recently, has said it will not allow Iran to establish a permanent military presence in war-torn Syria.

Agencies contributed to this report

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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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Israel destroys ‘unique’ Hamas tunnel extending into Israel via Egypt

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israel destroys ‘unique’ Hamas tunnel extending into Israel via Egypt

Army strikes in Gaza seal off tunnel — intended for both smuggling and attacks according to IDF — that reached 900 meters into Israel

The Israeli army on Tuesday afternoon struck what it said was a Hamas tunnel in the Gaza Strip that extended hundreds of meters into Egyptian and Israeli territory.

The IDF said the U-shaped attack tunnel destroyed near Rafah and the Kerem Shalom border crossing was still under construction and not yet usable.

The military said the tunnel crossed from Gaza into Egypt and from there into southern Israel, and was intended both for smuggling weapons and for attacks against Israel.

Its full length was around 2 kilometers (1.2 miles), the army said, and the segment inside Israeli territory was 900 meters (half a mile) long.

The military discovered the tunnel in the past two weeks, an army spokesperson said.

The army called the tunnel’s design “unique.”

“This is a very long tunnel,” a source told the Ynet news site. “It also had exit shafts on the Egyptian side. The tunnel was dealt with using airstrikes [in Gaza], and in the coming hours will also be taken care of on our side to neutralize it entirely.”

Israeli officials reportedly informed Egyptian counterparts of the planned strike on the tunnel, according to Hebrew-language media. It was not clear if Israeli strikes on the tunnel included action over the border in Egypt.

A map handed out by the Israeli military showing the apparent route of a Hamas tunnel that extended from Gaza to Israel and Egypt, and destroyed by Israel on May 29. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

The destruction of the tunnels came as Israeli planes pounded Gaza in response to a morning barrage of mortar fire, including one shell that landed in a kindergarten playground shortly before children were due to arrive.

The IDF said it struck over 35 terror targets in Gaza throughout the day, belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. These included weapons caches, naval targets and terror headquarters, the IDF said.

A picture taken from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 29, 2018, shows smoke billowing over buildings following an Israeli air strike on the Palestinian enclave. (AFP/ SAID KHATIB)

Hamas identified one of the targets as a training facility.

Some 28 mortar shells and rockets were fired into Israel by Palestinian terror groups Tuesday morning, and media reported dozens more in the afternoon following the strikes.

Three Israeli soldiers were lightly injured from shrapnel in the afternoon attacks.

The military said a total of 25 projectiles had been knocked down by Iron Dome missile defense batteries as of 4 p.m., though the tally was not official.

The morning attacks were mounted by the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, apparently in revenge for the IDF killing three of its members in a cross-border exchange earlier in the week.

In a statement, Islamic Jihad described its assault as “a blessed response of the resistance,” adding, “our people’s blood is not cheap.”

The Israeli military, however, ultimately blamed the barrages on the Hamas terror group, which rules Gaza, saying the barrages were the result of the organization’s “failures” to successfully attack Israel during the recent riots along the border.

There was no claim of responsibility for the afternoon barrage. As a matter of policy, the Israeli army considers Hamas, which rules Gaza, to be responsible for any attack emanating from the beleaguered coastal enclave.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had vowed to respond “with great force” to the mortar shells, one of which landed just outside a kindergarten less than an hour before children were due to arrive.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said the military had launched a “massive and forceful” retaliatory attack.

Defense officials reportedly said the next 24 hours would be “intense” amid the worst escalation on the Gaza border since the 2014 war, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge.

The army evacuated the Zikim beach near Gaza, while local authorities in the region told residents to stay near their bomb shelters in the coming hours.

An Israeli soldier takes cover as rocket sirens blare in southern Israel on May 29, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Israel views the attacks on it and on its communities by Hamas and Islamic Jihad from the Gaza Strip with great severity,” Netanyahu said earlier, during a conference in the northern Galilee region, ahead of urgent security consultations set to take place later in the day.

“The IDF will retaliate with great force to these attacks,” the prime minister added. “Israel will make anyone trying to harm it pay a heavy price, and we view Hamas as responsible for preventing such attacks against us.”

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman earlier called a “special situational assessment” at army’s Tel Aviv headquarters with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and other senior figures from Israel’s security services, his office said.

Judah Ari Gross and Michael Bachner contributed to this report.

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The ONLY ONES To Blame For The Gaza Deaths And Injuries Are The Hamas Leaders!

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(THE EDITED TITLE ABOVE IS FROM THE OWNER OF THIS BLOG SITE (OLDPOET56) THE TITLE BELOW IS FROM THE ‘TIMES OF ISRAEL’)

Israel lost the PR battle over Gaza. Was it unwinnable or just mismanaged?

The IDF spokesperson is taking heavy flak for his handling of last week’s border clashes; some say he’s a scapegoat

Judah Ari Gross

Palestinians wave their national flag as they demonstrate near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, east of Jabaliya, on May 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABED)

Palestinians wave their national flag as they demonstrate near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, east of Jabaliya, on May 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABED)

While the army of Israel succeeded in fending off repeated infiltration attempts from the Gaza border during mass protests and clashes over the past seven weeks, the State of Israel lost the fight for public opinion — resoundingly, according to some.

“There’s a war being waged, and we’re not even on the battlefield,” Deputy Minister for Public Diplomacy Michael Oren told The Times of Israel.

The story accepted by much of the world appears to be one of largely peaceful Palestinian protests met by overwhelming, disproportionate lethal force by the powerful Israel Defense Forces, said Oren. This beat out the Israeli narrative that says this was a military campaign by the Hamas terrorist group, which regularly calls for the destruction of the Jewish state, using human shields as a cover for its attacks along the fence with the intention of getting as many of its own civilians shot by Israeli troops as possible, he said.

Universal sympathy for Israel was never likely.

Israeli officials repeated that Hamas was trying to get mobs of Gazans through the fence, including its own gunmen, potentially to carry out attacks inside Israel, and that the IDF’s prime obligation was to ensure this did not happen. But precisely because it didn’t happen, this was a mere claim on Israel’s part — and it was set against actual pictures of dead and injured Gazans.

Palestinian mourners surround the body of Yazan al-Tubasi, wrapped in the flag of the Hamas terror group, after he was killed during clashes in Gaza the previous day, during his funeral in Gaza City on May 15, 2018. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Over 100 Palestinians, including two journalists, have been killed by the IDF since the border clashes began on March 30, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, while there has been just one Israeli casualty reported — an IDF soldier, who was lightly wounded by a rock.

During these weekly riots, most of the demonstrators keep away from the security fence, staying in tents a few hundred meters back, but there are thousands who approach the border, hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli soldiers on the other side or damaging the security fences and trying to break through them. So-called “terror kites” laden with containers of burning fuel were also flown into Israel, setting fire to hundreds of dunams of farmland and fields.

In response, Israeli forces have used tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds, which were aimed at the legs unless there was a direct, immediate threat to life, in which case shots were aimed at the torso. The army maintains that snipers adhered to strict rules of engagement and required approval from a commander in order to shoot. Israeli human rights groups have questioned the legality of the army’s rules of engagement, taking the issue to the High Court of Justice, where the case has yet to be resolved as of time of writing.

Some weeks have also seen direct clashes between armed Palestinians and Israeli forces.

Though a coalition of various organizations in Gaza proposed the march, the Hamas terror group, which has ruled the coastal enclave since taking it over in 2007 in a violent coup, quickly coopted it — providing free buses to the border, offering money to those who were injured, and sending its operatives to the fences disguised as civilians.

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)

“The idea was ours, but the real situation is another story,” Ahmad Abu Artema, a Palestinian activist generally credited with starting the march, told the Financial Times newspaper last month, after the first riots.

While Artema and the original organizers maintain that the protests were meant to be nonviolent, Hamas leaders made it clear that this was not their aim. “We will tear down their border and tear out their hearts from their bodies,” Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’s chief in Gaza, shouted during a rally on April 6.

At least one-fifth of the people killed were actively engaged in armed clashes with IDF troops — either using firearms or explosives — when they were shot. According to the army, a number of Palestinians were also shot dead as they tried to plant improvised explosive devices along the security fence, though the IDF would not provide an exact figure.

But the majority of those killed appeared to be unintended fatalities, who died from what were meant to be nonlethal wounds to the legs or were struck by bullets that missed their target.

A picture taken on May 14, 2018, from the southern Israeli kibbutz of Nahal Oz across the border with the Gaza Strip shows Israeli soldiers keeping position and Palestinian protesters gathering along the border fence with Israel. (AFP/JACK GUEZ)

While this disparity in the number of casualties between the two sides is the result of the military actions to prevent infiltrations on the border, and not a lack of deadly intent by Hamas and other terrorist groups in the Strip, it nevertheless exists.

And though the vast majority of the Palestinians killed were identified as members of terrorist organizations, either by the IDF or by the groups themselves, this information came out only after the fact.

Similarly, the fuller story of one of the more enduring images of the violence — the funeral of an eight-month old Gaza baby purportedly killed after inhaling tear gas — emerged only after hours of headlines and TV news reports last Tuesday; her family acknowledged she had a congenital heart disease, which a Gaza doctor indicated to the Associated Press was the more likely cause of her death.

“Bloodbath” and “massacre” appeared in headlines in major American and European newspapers on articles about Monday’s border clashes.

“Hamas can’t cut through the fence, so it wants to get people killed in order to delegitimize Israel. And the press plays into that, the press enables Hamas to win,” Oren said in an interview Friday.

In the aftermath of Monday’s border riots, Israel came in for sharp criticism, not only in press reports, but also in international fora.

A day after the clashes, the United Nations Security Council held an emergency session on the border violence and was only blocked from releasing a statement against the “killing of Palestinian civilians exercising their right to peaceful protest” by a United States veto.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, gestures during a special session of the UN Human Rights Council to discuss ‘the deteriorating human rights situation’ in the West Bank and Gaza Strip following clashes on the Gaza border. (AFP Photo/Fabrice Coffrini)

On Friday, the UN Human Rights Council approved an independent inquiry into the deaths of the Palestinians on the border, with only the US and Australia voting against it.

The Palestinian Authority also contacted the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel for potential war crimes on Monday.

In the aftermath of these blows, some Israeli politicians and officials have looked for someone to blame, and many found it in the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, which played the central role in Israel’s official public relations efforts surrounding the Gaza border clashes.

But others say the army and its spokesperson Ronen Manelis are being used as a “scapegoat,” taking unfair flak for losing an unwinnable battle or, in the view of Oren, absorbing all the guilt for what is actually a deeper, national problem.

Who’s to blame?

One of the first to remark on the ostensible public relations failure was Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, who told Israel Radio there was “criticism that could be heard” regarding the army’s public relations efforts.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, he said, “could have operated better, maybe ahead [of the riots].”

Veteran Israeli military correspondent Ron Ben-Yishai also published a scathing critique of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit’s handling of the Gaza clashes last week, titled “The PR failure on the Gaza fence.”

Criticism of the unit ramped up after the leaking of a phone briefing between the head of the IDF’s international media department, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, and representatives from the American Jewish communities last week, in which the officer said the dramatic images emerging from Gaza of wounded protesters had given Hamas an “overwhelming victory, by knockout” in the fight for public opinion.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh delivers a speech on the first Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on May 18, 2018, at al-Omary mosque in Gaza City. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)

On Friday, former IDF spokesman and current Labor Party MK Nahman Shai condemned the unit for publicly acknowledging what was already clear to all: that Hamas had won the narrative battle.

“Hamas wanted the casualties, Hamas wanted people to die. Hamas wanted the pictures of the wounded and the overflowing hospitals and everything else,” Conricus was recorded as saying.

“It’s been very difficult to tell our story,” he told the American Jewish leaders, acknowledging, “Some of that, I’m sure, is my fault.”

Nothing that Conricus said would be much of a surprise to followers of the Gaza coverage, though he was perhaps more candid than spokespeople are expected to be. The IDF also said in a statement that the recording released by Haaretz was edited and removed important context for his remarks.

Shai criticized the officer for “giving out compliments to Hamas.”

Scapegoats

Malcolm Hoenlein, the longtime executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, defended Conricus and his commander Manelis, saying they were being unfairly criticized.

IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis. (Israel Defense Forces)

“You see them getting knocked in some press reports, and it’s just not understandable,” he said.

“They become scapegoats,” Hoenlein said.

Hoenlein, who is generally seen as a major figure on Israeli and Jewish issues, described as insurmountable the challenge facing Manelis and Conricus of selling the IDF’s narrative in light of what he regarded as bias in the international media, either against Israel or against US President Donald Trump, whom many blamed for the violence in Gaza over his decision to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem last Monday, the day of the deadliest clashes.

“There was a bias that they started out against, which was not based on any facts. You could give the media all the information, but they were out to get [Israel]. Some of it is anti-Trump, some of it is other stuff,” Hoenlein said in a phone interview.

“I think they were doing a good job,” he said.

Executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Malcolm Hoenlein in Jerusalem, February 19, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash 90)

In addition to the phone call that was leaked, Conricus and Manelis made several calls to representatives from over 100 American Jewish organizations in order to provide them with information about the army’s Gaza operations and intelligence on Hamas’s efforts, which was passed on to the groups’ members and used in their lobbying efforts.

According to Hoenlein, this was an unprecedented level of contact with the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.

This can be seen as both the army taking initiative and other national bodies — the Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Strategic Affairs, Prime Minister’s Office — dropping the ball, which prompted the army to fill the vacuum.

“Other parts of the government could take a lesson from them in terms of how responsive they’ve been, how much they try to address our concerns and how available they’ve been for briefings on very short notice,” Hoenlein said.

MK Michael Oren. (Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90)

Deputy Minister Oren, who has criticized Israel’s handling of the public relations surrounding the Gaza riots since they started, said IDF Spokesperson Manelis and his unit were being used as a whipping boy, though he too said there was room for improvement.

“I feel bad for Ronen. He is being made into a scapegoat for a far, far deeper problem,” the deputy minister said.

According to Oren, the government has not made public diplomacy a priority, as many lawmakers and senior officials feel that “‘they’ just hate us, so it won’t help.”

I feel bad for Ronen. He is being made into a scapegoat for a far, far deeper problem

For instance, Oren noted that the government had not prepared a list of talking points and messages for Israeli diplomats to use in interviews ahead of the first round of demonstrations on March 30, despite having had ample time to do so.

“A couple weeks ago, when these riots started on a Friday, people were calling me, saying ‘What are our messages? What are our messages?’ My response was, ‘Wait a minute, we’ve had months to prepare for this, months. And you’re preparing messages now, after the riots? Are we insane?’” Oren said.

“I propose we set up a multi-agency body, with powers and budget, of which the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit is a part, but not the crucial part,” said Oren, who as deputy minister of public diplomacy would likely lead such an outfit.

Concrete steps

While the deputy minister said the real criticism should be focused more on the government’s disinterest in public diplomacy, and not Manelis and the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, he said there were concrete steps that the army could have taken to better express Israel’s messages.

The first was for the spokesperson’s unit to be faster, particularly in distributing visual materials.

IDF footage showing a group of five Palestinian men damage and break through the Gaza security fence, before one of them is shot dead, during a protest in Bureij, in the central Gaza Strip, on April 3, 2018. (Screen capture)

There is typically a delay, from a few hours to a few days, before the military releases photographs and videos. In the case of images made by army photographers, this is because the materials need to be reviewed and approved up the chain of command before they can be disseminated. In the case of footage from surveillance cameras or other operational equipment, there are also technical stopgaps — meant to prevent sensitive information from being leaked — that can hold up the distribution process.

These are issues that do not exist on the Gaza side of the security fence.

“What I need from the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit is to release pictures in real-time,” Oren said.

The second issue, also mentioned in Ben-Yishai’s article, was the army’s refusal to allow reporters to embed with troops along the border or even approach it, with very few exceptions.

The military forbade journalists from getting closer than a few hundred meters from the fence during the “March of Return” protests. While few Western reporters approached the border from the Gaza side, they were able to speak with participants and photograph the riots.

On the Israeli side, the only soldiers who could talk to the press were those farther back, guarding the nearby Israeli communities. They were also technically prohibited from speaking to journalists, though some did so off-record.

Israeli snipers prepare for massive protests by Palestinians in Gaza and the potential for demonstrators to try to breach the security fence on March 30, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF said the riots were violent, with participants trying to breach the fence and throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, but refused to allow journalists to see it firsthand.

The photographs distributed by the IDF of soldiers along the border also appeared to have been taken in the calm before the riots, before protesters set tires on fire, filling the skies with inky black smoke, and before the army started dropping tear gas, which was regularly blown back into Israel.

“You don’t see what it’s like to be an 18-, 19-year-old kid seeing people coming at you and know that if you let a breach of the fence happen, you’ve got 2,000 people armed with knives in Nahal Oz,” Oren said, referring to an Israeli community located less than a kilometer from the Gaza border.

“So the only perspective you get is the Palestinians’,” he said.

Palestinian demonstrators dressed in striped T-shirts resembling internment camp outfits hold up signs with slogans written in Hebrew reading ‘Soldiers, we are not objects, we are humans,’ ‘Gaza is the biggest and the ugliest prison in the world,’ ‘Gaza is a Nazi victim,’ and ‘Humanitarian disaster in Gaza, we want a solution,’ during a demonstration near the border with Israel east of Gaza City on May 13, 2018 (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

The IDF is generally loath to allow reporters to embed with soldiers during operational activities, though some exceptions have been made over the years, always under a tight watch by spokespeople.

This aversion comes, in part, from the last time the military allowed reporters such close contact with army units, during the 2006 Second Lebanon War. Following the conflict, the spokesperson’s unit faced significant criticism for the practice, as some tactical information was accidentally published in the media, along with internal army gossip, according to officers from that time.

In the past, the army has also had concerns that individual soldiers could face legal trouble abroad if they are identified in the media — as in the case of Maj. Gen. (res.) Doron Almog, who could not get off a flight to London in 2005 for fear that he would be arrested and tried for war crimes upon debarking. (The British foreign secretary later apologized for the affair, and the arrest warrant was withdrawn.)

The military was thus unlikely to alter this policy on its own, and “no one told them” to change it, Oren said.

Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, speaks to foreign correspondents, in his office in Gaza City, May 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

On Monday, Manelis accused the world of “falling for Hamas’s lies,” in an opinion piece published by the Wall Street Journal.

He brushed off all criticism of the spokesperson’s unit.

“Some of Israel’s greatest friends might have preferred that we had looked better in the media this past week, but between vanity and truth, the IDF always chooses truth,” Manelis wrote.

“The IDF will win where it matters — protecting our civilians in the face of terror,” Manelis wrote.

This seemed to prove Oren’s central criticism, that the military did not appreciate the importance of garnering — or at least not losing — public opinion, which can ultimately have an impact on the army’s ability to wage war.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., speaks at the 2018 California Democrats State Convention Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

“We think the primary battleground is the battleground. The primary battleground is not the battleground. The primary battleground is (US Senator) Dianne Feinstein and the Europeans. And that’s why we’re losing it; we’re not even fighting the right battle,” Oren said, referring to the Democrat lawmaker from California who last week supported an independent United Nations investigation of Israel’s actions on the Gaza border.

According to the deputy minister, however, the diplomatic and, potentially, legal fallout from the Gaza border violence will be a “pinprick” compared to what might come from a war with the Hezbollah terrorist group in Lebanon, which has tens of thousands of rockets and missiles stored in and around the homes of Lebanese civilians.

“The goal of the rockets — yes, it’s to cause us damage — but the main goal of the rockets is to get us to kill the people in the houses,” Oren said.

“Hezbollah and Hamas do not have a military strategy. They have a military tactic that serves a media, a diplomatic and a legal strategy,” he said.

“They know they can’t beat tzahal,” Oren said, using the Hebrew acronym for the army. “What they can do is create a situation where tzahal can’t act, where the tanks can’t roll and the planes can’t act.”

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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Hamas Delegation Heads to Cairo before US Embassy Move

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

 

Hamas Delegation Heads to Cairo before US Embassy Move

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

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

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

Hamas declined to comment on Hanieh’s departure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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