Saudi: Israel Strikes Hamas in Gaza after Rocket Fire

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

 

Israel Strikes Hamas in Gaza after Rocket Fire

Sunday, 8 December, 2019 – 12:15
Rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, November 13, 2019. (AP)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Israeli jets bombed several Hamas positions in Gaza early Sunday, hours after three rockets were fired from the Palestinian enclave toward southern Israel.

The military said in a statement the airstrikes targeted military camps and a naval base for Hamas.

There were no immediate reports of casualties, reported The Associated Press.

On Saturday evening, Israel announced that its air defenses, known as “Iron Dome,” intercepted two of three missiles coming from Gaza. Later, it said all three rockets had been shot down.

No Palestinian group claimed responsibility for the rocket fire. The Israeli army said Hamas was responsible for any attack transpiring in Gaza.

Cross-border violence between Israel and Palestinian factions in Gaza has ebbed and flowed in recent years. Last month, the two sides fought their worst round of violence in months.

Leaders from Hamas and the smaller but more radical Islamic Jihad are in Cairo, talking with Egyptian officials about cementing a ceasefire that would see some economic incentives and easing of restrictions on Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned at his weekly cabinet meeting Sunday that no steps would be made toward any form of ceasefire as long as rocket fire continued.

He said last month’s onslaught, in which 34 Palestinians were killed, including a top militant commander, would be just a “promo” to what came next if aggression from Gaza continued.

Hamas has fought three wars with Israel since seizing Gaza in 2007 and dozens of shorter skirmishes.

Israel: US Christians build field hospital in Gaza

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

US Christians build field hospital in Gaza, deepening rift between PA and Hamas

PLO official claims project, funded by pro-Israel evangelical donors, serving ‘military, intelligence and security’ purposes, but terror group brushes off concerns

Construction of field hospital in the Gaza Strip near the Erez crossing. (Screenshot from the Friend Ships-Project-Camp Gaza Facebook page)

Construction of field hospital in the Gaza Strip near the Erez crossing. (Screenshot from the Friend Ships-Project-Camp Gaza Facebook page)

A field hospital being built by a US Evangelical Christian aid group in the northern Gaza Strip has become a source of controversy for the already feuding Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership and the Hamas terrorist group that controls the coastal enclave.

An official in the West Bank has claimed the project, spearheaded by pro-Israel donors, is a front for American and Israeli intelligence operations, an allegation Gaza’s rulers have dismissed as “unfounded.”

Over the past several months, trucks carrying materials and equipment for the hospital have entered Gaza, which suffers from inadequate health infrastructure. Now American volunteers affiliated with Friend Ships, the aid group, have begun building the medical facility adjacent to the Erez crossing, the sole pedestrian passageway between Israel and the enclave.

Pictures posted on Facebook last week showed the volunteers erecting tents a short distance from the barrier separating Israel and Gaza.

The construction of the hospital is one part of the unofficial ceasefire understandings between Israel and terror groups in Gaza, which the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership has fiercely protested.

From Syria to Gaza

Friend Ships, whose evangelical founders Don and Sondra Tipton have expressed strong support for Israel, has described the project as “a multi-faceted mobile (tent-based) medical facility.”

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“We will have [telemedicine] for worldwide consultation with specialists, a large children’s play area, hydroponics training program and distribution center,” the organization’s website said.

Friend Ships, which is headquartered in Louisiana, plans to eventually provide a wide range of health services at the hospital, including cancer treatment, physical therapy, post-traumatic stress disorder therapy, dental care, among others, according to the group’s website.

The hospital will include equipment that Friend Ships used for a similar project close to Syria, Al-Monitor, a news site based in Washington, reported in June.

The group also operated a field hospital in the Golan Heights in 2017-2018 with Israel’s permission, where medical staff treated some 7,000 Syrians.

The medical facility in Gaza will include 16 wards with a “focus on diagnosing patients with hereditary or life-threatening diseases” and receive funding from the Qatari government, the Al-Monitor report said.

Mohammed al-Emadi, a Qatari envoy who maintains contacts with Hamas, the PA and Israel, told a press conference in May that the hospital will occupy an area equivalent to 40 dunams.

Exploring Israel on the weekend

Friend Ships has also been advertising opportunities to volunteer at the hospital, highlighting the chance to travel through Israel on days off.

“Friend Ships Camp Gaza will offer a wonderful opportunity to work in an important and productive project and at the same time, to see and enjoy the Biblical sites of Israel,” its website said.

A post on the Friend Ships Facebook page said volunteers will learn about the region and “become part of what God is doing there today.”

Sondra Tipton, one of the founders of the organization, told a Louisiana news outlet in 2015 about her passion for Israel: “We feel like it’s very important for people to realize that Israel is a true democracy and a true friend to the United States and then from a Christian point of view, the Bible is emphatic about the land of Israel being the apple of God’s eye and how, as believers in Jesus, we need to stand with the Israelis.”

Illustrative: An injured Palestinian man arrives at a hospital to receive treatment following an Israeli air strike in Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip, on December 8, 2017 .(AFP/Mohammed Abed)

Friend Ships, the IDF, and the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories, the branch of the Defense Ministry responsible for liaising with the Palestinians, declined to comment.

Brewing controversy between Palestinian factions

In the past week, however, the hospital has transformed into a major source of controversy between the rivals Fatah and Hamas.

After Palestinian news sites reported on the photos of the volunteers last Tuesday, which were posted on the Friend Ships Facebook page, a number of Fatah, PA and PLO officials lashed out at the project.

Senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad claimed on Palestine TV, the official PA television channel, on Monday, that the hospital was for “military, intelligence and security” purposes. He later confirmed to The Times of Israel that he was referring to the US and Israeli intelligence.

PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh accused the hospital on Monday of serving the Trump administration’s peace plan.

PLO Executive Committee member Wasel Abu Yousef told The Times of Israel on Tuesday that he believed the hospital was deepening the division between the West Bank and Gaza because its planning and construction was not coordinated with the PA.

Friend Ships has since removed almost all of its posts related to the hospital from its Facebook page and wiped other information about it from its website.

Hamas, meanwhile, has pushed back against the Ramallah-based Palestinian officials’ allegations, calling them baseless.

“The statements of Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh and PLO Executive Committee and Fatah Central Committee member Azzam al-Ahmad are based on false and unfounded data,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassim told Dunya al-Watan, a Gaza-based news site on Tuesday. “They wove them together with imaginary information.”

Hamas deputy chief in Gaza, Khalil al-Hayya, also questioned the intentions of the hospital’s critics. But he said the terror group would not hesitate to shut it down if it determined the humanitarian project was against its interests.

Hamas senior political leader Khalil al-Hayya during a press conference at the end of two days of closed-door talks attended by representatives of 13 leading political parties held in the Egyptian capital Cairo on November 22, 2017 (AFP/Mohamen El-Shahed)

“If we found anything in it that undermines our national or security interests, we will tell them to leave,” he told the Islamic Jihad-linked Palestine Today on Tuesday.

A source familiar with the details of the project, who asked to remain nameless, called the claims leveled against the hospital “complete nonsense.”

An official in the Hamas-run health ministry declined to specifically comment on the hospital, but said that it welcomes any effort to improve the health sector in Gaza.

“The Israeli restrictions on movement of goods and people have totally undermined the health sector. We are dealing with a major shortage in our hospitals in terms of medicines and medical supplies,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said in a phone call. “So we believe any efforts to mitigate these dire circumstances are positive.”

Israeli officials have said they maintain limitations on movement to prevent terror groups in Gaza from importing weapons or the means to build them into the territory.

Talal Okal, a Gaza-based analyst, said he thought the hospital shows that the ceasefire understandings between Hamas and Israel were moving forward.

“It s a clear indication that Hamas and Israel are advancing the understandings,” he said in a phone call. “But what we really need in Gaza is to improve the existing hospitals and health centers. We don’t need a field hospital.”

AFP contributed to this article.

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Rockets Rain Down On Gaza Strip And Israel

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

Rocket fire rained from the sky across the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, leaving at least seven people dead in Gaza and dozens more injured on either side Tuesday. Among the dead was Bahaa Abu el-Atta, commander of a militant group in Gaza known as Palestinian Islamic Jihad, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The IDF announced early Tuesday that it had successfully targeted Abu el-Atta in an airstrike — a move that set off a furious barrage from Gaza. The Israeli military says militants retaliated by launching scores of rockets into Israel, where residents in the country’s center and south scrambled into shelters and schools closed amid the wail of air raid sirens.

“He was a ticking bomb,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of Abu el-Atta during a news conference Tuesday, asserting that the militant leader was “in the midst of planning additional attacks in the immediate short term.”

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WATCH: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks today at the joint statement with IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi and ISA Director Nadav Argaman (English captions available).
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“Over the past year, this arch-terrorist was the main instigator of terrorism from the Gaza Strip. He initiated, planned and carried out many terrorist attacks,” Netanyahu added — including “hundreds of rockets at communities in the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip.”

The prime minister noted that he and Israeli military and intelligence leaders approved the operation 10 days ago and that they waited for a “unique window of opportunity to carry out the action, under optimal conditions with maximum chance of success and minimal chance for hitting anyone uninvolved.”

Still, the Palestinian news agency WAFA reports that the attack killed not only Abu el-Atta and his wife but also at least three other Palestinians. At least 45 other people in Gaza reportedly were injured, according to Gaza health officials, and at least 19 people in Israel were injured in the retaliation.

A mother mourns her 25-year-old Palestinian son Tuesday in Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip. Israel said it had carried out an airstrike in the area amid an escalation of violence between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants.

Anas Baba/AFP via Getty Images

Syria’s state-run media agency says that around the same time as the Israeli raid on Gaza, Israeli warplanes fired missiles at a residential building in Damascus, where SANA reports two civilians were killed and 10 others injured. The attack targeting another Islamic Jihad commander, Akram al-Ajouri, reportedly failed to harm him but killed his son and granddaughter.

Israel did not comment Tuesday on the reported attack in Syria.

“Israel executed two coordinated attacks, in Syria and in Gaza, in a declaration of war,” Khaled al-Batsh of Islamic Jihad said at a funeral for Abu el-Atta in Gaza, according to Reuters. The wire service noted that other mourners replied by firing their weapons in the air and chanting, “Revenge!”

Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, condemned Abu el-Atta’s killing in a series of statements Tuesday, saying the move represented a “dangerous escalation and a continuation of the Israeli aggression and terrorism against the Palestinian people and resistance.”

“Targeting an icon of the Palestinian resistance reveals preliminary intentions of the Israeli occupation to go into a new battle against the Palestinian resistance in order to export its internal crises and impose new rules of engagement,” said Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesperson for the organization, which the U.S. and Israel consider a terrorist group.

“This aggression will backfire in the face of Israeli occupation and its criminal leaders,” he added. “The Israeli occupation has started such attack and thus has to pay a price for it.”

The spasm of cross-border violence, the deadliest to rack the region in months, comes at a turbulent time in Israel’s domestic politics.

Two muddled elections this year have failed to break a stalemate between Netanyahu’s conservatives and the centrist Blue and White party of his rival Benny Gantz. Just last month, Netanyahu acknowledged his failure to form a new governing coalition, leaving the mandate to Gantz. But with both their parties nearly evenly matched among lawmakers, it’s unclear whether Gantz will have any greater success.

If he, too, fails to form a government, Israel faces the prospect of holding yet a third election in the span of less than a year.

Hamas Controlled Zoo: Cramped Gaza Zoo Reopens, Only Months After Closure

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

 

Cramped Gaza Zoo Reopens, Only Months After Closure

Sunday, 22 September, 2019 – 11:30
Two lions and three cubs are penned in cages only a few square metres in size at a zoo in the Gaza Strip VIA AFP
Asharq Al-Awsat
A lioness is beaten with sticks while her cubs are dragged away — a Gazan zoo closed after a long campaign has reopened, with conditions seemingly as bad as ever.

The Rafah Zoo in the southern Gaza Strip was known for its emaciated animals, with the owners saying they struggled to find enough money to feed them.

In April, international animal rights charity Four Paws took all the animals to sanctuaries, receiving a pledge the zoo would close forever, AFP reported.

But last month it reopened with two lions and three new cubs, penned in cages only a few square meters in size.

Critics say the owners want to bully Four Paws or other animal welfare organizations into giving them thousands of dollars to free the animals into their care.

Four Paws paid the zoo’s owners more than $50,000 in the year before its closure for medical treatments, food and caretakers.

The zoo’s owner insists the reopening is solely for the enjoyment of local residents.

Meanwhile, when AFP visited the zoo recently, the badly stuffed corpse of a lion was displayed near the entrance. An ostrich in a three-meter-square pen pecked endlessly at the cage’s bars, while two monkeys sat chewing on litter.

At the far end the lion and lioness were kept in separate cages, each only a few square meters.

The owners were seeking to remove the cubs from their mother to play with visiting children.

To do so they hit the lioness with sticks and banged on the cage to confuse her, with staff later taunting her when the cubs had been taken out.

“A lion needs 1,000 square meters to play in. Here they have seven square meters,” Mohammed Aweda, a prominent animal enthusiast in Gaza, told AFP.

“The zoo won’t survive during the winter, because they are lacking in daily goods which cost a lot. For you or I or anyone who owns a zoo (in Gaza), the economy is very tough.”

The newly reopened zoo’s manager Ashraf Jumaa, from the same family that owned the old one, said they brought the new lions through tunnels from Egypt. However others suggested they were bought from another animal centre in northern Gaza.

He denied they wanted to blackmail Four Paws.

“The first goal is entertainment, not trade. The main reason we reopened the zoo was people in the area that supported us,” he said.

He said it would be less expensive because there were fewer animals, but admitted they would struggle to afford enough food once the cubs were fully grown.

“Every day they will need between 22 and 30 kilos of meat costing between 100 and 150 shekels (between $28 and $43),” he said.

They currently receive around 50 visitors a day, he said, with tickets on average costing two shekels (around $0.50).

Four Paws said footage it saw from the zoo was “very concerning”.

“The animals are not kept in species-appropriate conditions. They seem to be in bad conditions and urgently need medical attention and proper food,” it said

An official from the Gaza agriculture ministry, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there had been no coordination regarding the zoo’s reopening.

According to AFP, he said Gaza needed a large park meeting international standards.

Hamas senses Israeli weakness

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Deadly Friday attack shows W. Bank heating up, as Hamas senses Israeli weakness

Netanyahu government is perceived to be trying to pay off Hamas in return for calm in Gaza, and that’s emboldening the terrorists in the West Bank too

Avi Issacharoff
Illustrative: Palestinians hold Hamas flags and chant slogans during a celebration organized by Hamas in the West Bank city of Nablus, on Friday, August 29, 2014 (AP/Nasser Ishtayeh)

Illustrative: Palestinians hold Hamas flags and chant slogans during a celebration organized by Hamas in the West Bank city of Nablus, on Friday, August 29, 2014 (AP/Nasser Ishtayeh)

The terrorist attack at a spring near Dolev on Friday, in which Rina Shnerb was killed and her father and brother were injured, was far from a bolt from the blue given the current atmosphere among Palestinians in the West Bank. And there are growing concerns that things could get far worse.

As so often in the past, the initial reaction from some in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government focused on the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, blamed as the inciter of terrorism. Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich, for instance, called for the dismantling of the PA and Israeli annexation of the West Bank, neglecting to mention that the PA has been working in coordination with the IDF to try to thwart terror attacks.

The ferment among West Bank Palestinians, the growing calls for violence and the escalation in terrorism are being stirred from Gaza by its ruling terror group, Hamas, in its ongoing face-off with Netanyahu. What Netanyahu’s bitter critic and former defense minister Avigdor Liberman described Friday as the prime minister’s “surrender” to the terrorists — his agreement to allow Qatar to distribute funds in Gaza to needy families (and in the past to Hamas employees), the easing of certain restrictions at border crossings, the improved electricity supply — amid intermittent rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, is seen on the Palestinian side as proof of weakness. Weakness to be exploited.

Mourners carry the body of 17-year-old Israeli Rina Shnerb, who was killed by a bomb in a terror attack while visiting a spring near Dolev in the West Bank, during her funeral in the city of Lod on August 23, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP); inset: Rina Shnerb (Courtesy)

Israel is understood to be capitulating to Hamas demands, more than in the past, precisely when the level of violence is rising — with the rocket attacks, attempts by armed infiltrators to breach the Gaza border fence, violent demonstrations at the border and more. The Israeli government, including Minister Smotrich of course, is seen to be following a policy of seeking to pay off Hamas in return for relative calm. This is being internalized in the West Bank too, which means not only that more terrorism seems likely, but that the West Bank is generally in greater ferment, with Fatah activists also perceiving an Israeli capitulation.

The rising tension also comes after six months during which the PA — fuming that Israel was holding back part of the tax funds it collects on behalf of Ramallah, to compensate for the PA’s payments to the families of dead terrorists and to jailed terrorists and security prisoners — refused to accept any of the tax payments at all. That meant some 160,000 employees were receiving only half their salaries. This week, the PA announced that it had accepted a partial payment, of just over half a billion dollars, after reaching an agreement with Israel on the issue, in order to avert the collapse of the PA.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, meets Hamas deputy chief, Saleh al-Arouri, second right, and the Hamas delegation, in Tehran, Iran, July 22, 2019. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

The reduced salaries are only one factor behind the rising tensions in the West Bank. There is also the diplomatic crisis between the US and Israel on one side, and the Palestinians on the other. Even as Israel celebrates the pro-Israel declarations of the Trump administration and the growth of settlements, such moves prompt rising antipathy, and calls for violence, on the Palestinian side, including within Abbas’s Fatah faction. There are indications that we could be near to an eruption of terrorism and/or widespread protests akin to the start of the second intifada in 2000 or the so-called “stabbing intifada” in the fall of 2015.

Needless to say, Hamas is doing its utmost to exploit the bitterness in the West Bank. The Gaza leadership (even as it negotiates indirectly with Israel), and the leadership overseas headed by Saleh al-Arouri, are working relentlessly to orchestrate terror attacks in the West Bank. Most are being thwarted. But, as we saw on Friday, not all.

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Israel Accuses ‘Islamic Jihad’ of Sabotaging Understandings with Hamas

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

 

Israel Accuses ‘Islamic Jihad’ of Sabotaging Understandings with Hamas

Saturday, 24 August, 2019 – 09:45
A woman raises a Palestinian flag during clashes with Israeli soldiers on the Gaza border with Israel on Friday, August 23, 2019 (Reuters)
Tel Aviv – Asharq Al-Awsat
Israel has allowed Qatari funds to be transferred to the Gaza Strip amid reports that it has also agreed for using part of the money to pay the salaries of Hamas employees.

Meanwhile, an Israeli army spokesman issued a statement slamming the “Islamic Jihad” and accusing it of sabotaging ceasefire agreements with Hamas, and threatening to impose sanctions on it.

The statement was issued in an attempt to counter widespread criticism in Israel over its understandings with Hamas, which “hasn’t stopped its rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip,” critics say.

Israeli far-right parties are openly demanding a war that would end Hamas’ rule.

Israel has lately come under rocket and mortar attacks, responding with heavy shelling on sites in the Gaza Strip. Yet it continued to implement its understandings with Hamas to ease the Israeli siege on the impoverished enclave.

In response, far-right leaders slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with some describing him as “coward” and “weak,” and accusing him of remaining silent on the rocket attacks.

Netanyahu is widely seen as wanting to avoid an escalation in the Gaza Strip before the September 17 general elections.

Israeli Minister of Energy Yuval Steinitz, a member of Israel’s cabinet, said Netanyahu is working “firmly but in a wise and deliberate manner,” adding that “Israel’s response to the incidents in the south was strict.”

He stressed that “Israel is preparing for a large-scale military operation in Gaza in case it finds no other solution.”

But Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who also serves as a cabinet member, said that “keeping up with Hamas” does serve Israel.

He noted that there is no suitable solution to confront the missile attacks other than reoccupying the Strip and overthrowing Hamas’ rule.

Smotrich and other right-wing leaders called for resuming the assassinations of Palestinian officials in Gaza and abroad.

Ministers close to Netanyahu have leaked news saying that Hamas isn’t responsible for the rocket attacks.

They said Hamas has sent this message to Israel through Qatar and Egypt, pointing the finger at Islamic Jihad, accusing it of disapproving the understandings between Hamas and Israel.

“We do not plan to accept terror attacks and rocket fire against our citizens,” the Israeli army’s Arabic-language spokesperson, Avichay Adraee, said in a statement.

“Hamas, as the ruler of the Strip, must enforce its authority over Islamic Jihad and prevent these terror attacks and plots,” Adraee said.

He stressed that the Islamic Jihad is responsible for any failure to implement the conditions of the ceasefire agreements and that it will “suffer the consequences” for these activities.

Israel: Hamas: Hezbollah and Iran will join war if Israel tries to ‘break resistance’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Hamas: Hezbollah and Iran will join war if Israel tries to ‘break resistance’

Official from Gaza-based Palestinian terrorist group tells Lebanese paper of understandings reached in Tehran meeting last month

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, meets Hamas deputy chief, Saleh al-Arouri, second right, and the Hamas delegation, in Tehran, Iran, July 22, 2019. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, meets Hamas deputy chief, Saleh al-Arouri, second right, and the Hamas delegation, in Tehran, Iran, July 22, 2019. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

An official with Palestinian terror group Hamas on Saturday told a Lebanese newspaper that in the next major conflagration, should the Gaza rulers feel that Israel is trying to “break” the group, its regional allies will join forces with Hamas.

This was one of the understandings reached between Hamas and Iran during a high-level meeting last month in Tehran, the pro-Hezbollah Lebanese paper al-Akhbar reported (in Arabic) on Saturday.

“If the Israeli enemy launches aggression against the Gaza Strip, and we estimate that it is a confined battle that will not develop into a war to break us, we will face it alone,” the official was quoted by the paper as saying.

“But if the enemy [Israel] tries to break the resistance, the rest of the axis will join the battle,” he went on, in reference to Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah.

The Islamic Republic is a longtime financial supporter of Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, sworn to Israel’s destruction, and the al-Quds Brigades, Islamic Jihad’s military branch. Iran also funds Hezbollah, which is similarly sworn to Israel’s annihilation.

In the July meeting between nine senior Hamas officials — including Saleh al-Arouri, the deputy chief of the Hamas politburo, and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — Iran agreed to massively increase its monthly payments to the terror group in exchange for intelligence on Israeli missile capabilities, Israel’s Channel 12 reported earlier this month.

Tehran expressed willingness to raise its monthly financial backing to the terror group to an unprecedented $30 million per month, according to the report citing an unnamed Arab source.

That will represent a massive increase in Iranian support for the Gaza rulers. A report by the Ynet news site from August 2018, citing Palestinian sources, said Iran’s payments to Hamas at the time amounted to $70 million per year (less than $6 million per month).

In exchange for the funding, Tehran asked Hamas to provide intelligence about the location of Israel’s missile stockpiles, the report said. It was not immediately clear if the raise was strictly conditioned on the intelligence provided by the terror group.

The Hamas members said they would convey the request to the movement’s leaders in Gaza.

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani, center, attends a meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Revolutionary Guard commanders in Tehran, Iran, September 18, 2016. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

According to the report, Qassem Soleimani, the head of  the Iranian Revolutionary Guards al-Quds Force, also joined the meeting and members of Hamas’ military wing explained the difficulties they were facing and shortages in arms and equipment.

Hamas also reportedly asked Iran to act as a mediator for the terror group with Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, after ties were cut off during the Syrian civil war.

The report also noted that ahead of the visit Saudi Arabia had unsuccessfully been trying to pressure Hamas to cut ties with Iran.

During his visit to Tehran, al-Arouri said that Hamas and Iran stand on “the same path” in fighting Israel, Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported at the time.

“We are on the same path as the Islamic Republic — the path of battling the Zionist entity and the arrogant ones,” he said, according to the report.

Arouri visited Iran with several other high-ranking Hamas officials, including Moussa Abu Marzouk, Maher Salah, Husam Badran, Osama Hamdan, Ezzat al-Rishq and Ismail Radwan.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh told a group of Turkish journalists at the time that he hoped the delegation’s visit would achieve “important results.”

Arouri, who was elected as Hamas’s deputy chief in October 2017, has traveled to Iran at least five times over the past two years. He has frequently heaped praised on Iran.

“Iran is the only country that says that entity [Israel] is cancerous and should be uprooted from the region,” he told the pro-Hamas Al-Quds TV in February 2018. “It is the only country that is prepared to provide real and public support to the Palestinian resistance and others to confront the entity.”

report in August by the Haaretz daily said that Israeli intelligence officials believe Hamas and Iran have come to an agreement for the terror group to open a war front against Israel from the southern coastal Strip in the event of conflict breaking out with Iran’s allies on the Jewish state’s northern border.

The report quoted a senior security official as saying the intelligence establishment estimates Hamas and the Islamic Jihad group will try to force Israel to move forces and air defense systems to the south at the expense of troops fighting in the north.

The report said that Israeli intelligence sources believe Iran has increased its involvement in the Strip in order to turn Hamas into its operational arm against Israel.

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Israel: Hamas and Islamic Jihad praise ‘heroic’ West Bank slaying of student

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Hamas and Islamic Jihad praise ‘heroic’ West Bank slaying of student

Terror groups stop short of claiming responsibility for killing Dvir Sorek; Islamic Jihad hints attack partially in response to razing of homes near East Jerusalem last month

Palestinians look on as Israeli soldiers take part in a house-to-house search operation in the West Bank village of Beit Fajjar near Bethlehem on August 8, 2019, following a stabbing attack. (HAZEM BADER / AFP)

Palestinians look on as Israeli soldiers take part in a house-to-house search operation in the West Bank village of Beit Fajjar near Bethlehem on August 8, 2019, following a stabbing attack. (HAZEM BADER / AFP)

Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad heaped praise on a deadly attack on a student in the West Bank Thursday, but stopped short of claiming responsibility for the fatal knifing.

The body of Dvir Sorek, 18, was discovered bearing stabbing marks in the predawn hours of Thursday outside of a West Bank settlement where he was studying, the Israel Defense Forces said, describing the killing as a terror attack.

The army has launched a massive manhunt for the killer or killers centered around the Etzion settlement bloc south of Jerusalem.

In a statement, Hamas said it praised “our people’s heroic fighters who carried out the heroic operation that killed a soldier in the occupation’s army.”

Sorek studied at the Machanayim yeshiva in the Migdal Oz settlement as part of a military program known in Hebrew as hesder. Though formally a soldier, he was unarmed and not in uniform at the time of the attack, nor had he yet undergone military training.

Hazem Qassim, a spokesperson for the Hamas terror group, told the Gaza-based Shehab news outlet that the attack was proof of the failure of security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority security forces.

Israeli security forces at the scene where the body of an off-duty, out-of-uniform Israeli soldier was found dead with stab wounds, near the settlement of Migdal Oz in the Etzion region, on August 8, 2019. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

The cooperation is seen as a key component to Israeli security operations in the West Bank and is seen as a bulwark against Hamas.

The Islamic Jihad terror group intimated that the attack was partially in response to Israel knocking down several residential buildings late last month in the Wadi Hummus neighborhood near Jerusalem’s Sur Baher neighborhood and the West Bank security barrier.

“The heroic operation is a natural response to the occupation’s terrorism and crimes at the expense of our people, land and holy sites. It is the right of our people to push back against the destruction and demolition of citizens’ homes in Wadi Hummus, a crime that requires a painful and deterring response,” it said in a statement.

Some of the demolitions took place in Areas A and B of the West Bank, which technically fall under full Palestinian administrative control.

Dvir Sorek, 19, a yeshiva student and off-duty IDF soldier who was found stabbed to death outside a West Bank settlement on August 8, 2019 (Courtesy)

The owners of the properties have said they received construction permits from the PA government in Ramallah, but Israel said the buildings were erected in violation of a military order that bans construction adjacent to the security barrier.

Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad have frequently encouraged and praised stabbing, shooting, car-ramming and other attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers.

The military said it was investigating if Sorek was killed as part of an attempted kidnapping, similar to Hamas’s abduction and murder of Naftali Fraenkel, 16, Gilad Shaer, 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19, in the same area of the West Bank in June 2014.

Senior Hamas official Fathi Hammad. (Screenshot: YouTube)

In recent months, the Shin Bet security service warned that the Gaza-based Hamas has put considerable effort and resources into recruiting operatives to carry out attacks in the West Bank and Israel.

“A number of Hamas military cells have been uncovered in the Judea and Samaria area in recent weeks who were operating under the instruction of Hamas in the Gaza Strip and who were planning to carry out terror attacks against Israeli and Palestinian Authority targets,” the Shin Bet said Tuesday.

“The operatives in the West Bank were instructed to form cells in order to carry out kidnappings, shootings and stabbings, purchase weaponry, and find and recruit additional operatives for terrorist activities,” the security service said.

Members of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Islamist terror group Hamas, take part in a march in Gaza City, July 25, 2019. (Hassan Jedi/Flash90)

On Tuesday, the army said it uncovered a large bomb in Hebron that was slated to be used for an attack in Jerusalem.

In mid-July, Fathi Hammad, a senior Hamas official, suggested he was unsatisfied with the number of stabbing attacks Palestinians in the West Bank have recently carried out against Israeli Jews.

“O, the people of the West Bank, until when will you be quiet?” Hammad, a member of Hamas’s politburo who is considered a hard-liner and is known for his fiery rhetoric, said at a protest in the border region between the Gaza Strip and Israel at the time. “We want knives to come out. Five shekels. How much does the neck of a Jew cost? Five shekels or less?”

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Israel: Goodbye withdrawal, hello sovereignty: The triumph of the settlers

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Goodbye withdrawal, hello sovereignty: The triumph of the settlers

Even rightist Israeli governments used to subconsciously regard them as potentially temporary, settler leaders say. Now, they claim, that’s all changed. Next stop: Full integration

SHILOH, West Bank — On the road leading to Shiloh stands a large sculpture, Dovecote, erected at the time that the settlement was founded in 1978. The work of Igael Tumarkin, it was implanted by Peace Now activists to symbolize their contention that the settlement enterprise in general, and Shiloh in particular, were obstacles to any hope of Israeli-Palestinian peace. An inhospitable concrete and metal structure, the sculpture looks like anything but a home for the doves that symbolize reconciliation and harmony.

As we drove past Dovecote last week in the company of Yigal Dilmoni, the CEO of the Yesha (Settlements) Council, he pointed it out with an indulgent chuckle. Rather than the towering reprimand it was intended to constitute, it is regarded by the Jews of modern Shiloh, he indicated, as a symbol of their endurance and maybe even their triumph. Dovecote is still here. But so, too, is Shiloh. Established by a handful of families and a few hundred yeshiva students 41 years ago, the settlement today has a population of about 4,000.

In the intervening decades, a succession of archaeological digs have unearthed storage jars, pottery and evidence of sacrifices here, among other findings attributed to pre-Temple-era Israelite’s, and work continues in and around an area that some archaeologists believe may have been the location of the Tabernacle, where the Ark of the Covenant sat for 369 years when the ancient Israelite’s first entered the Holy Land.

Tourists watch a movie during a visit to the archaeological site of Tel Shiloh in the West Bank, March 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

The Shiloh archaeological park now draws some 120,000 visitors a year from around the world, one of our hosts told us proudly when a small group of Times of Israel editorial staffers visited on Wednesday.

She herself grew up here, the daughter of one of those initial pioneering families, she said, as she pointed out the key finds and showed us two multi-media presentations underlining the site’s centrality to Jewish history.

Dr. Scott Stripling, head of the current excavation at biblical Shiloh, exhibits a find. May 22, 2017. (Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel)

With the Jewish people belatedly restored to their ancient homeland in today’s Israel, the desire to revive a vibrant Jewish presence at a place like Shiloh, with its pivotal Biblical resonance, is easily appreciated. Except, of course, that Shiloh lies in the West Bank, in the Biblical Judea and Samaria, outside modern Israel, and home to anywhere from two to three million Palestinians, depending on who’s counting.

For the four decades that Shiloh gradually expanded, therefore, it did so — like the rest of the West Bank settlement enterprise — in an ongoing twilight zone of dubious legitimacy, encouraged less and more openly by different Israeli governments, fighting to make its way closer to the mainstream Israeli political consensus.

Construction of new homes in the Israeli settlement of Shiloh. November 17, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Not annexation. Sovereignty

Over the last few years, though, that quest for Israeli legitimacy seems to have made unprecedented progress. Traumatized by the strategic onslaught of West Bank-hatched suicide bombings known as the Second Intifada, by Hamas’s takeover of Israeli-evacuated Gaza, and Hezbollah’s dominance of the former Israeli security zone in southern Lebanon, mainstream Israel has become increasingly disinclined to relinquish adjacent territory in the unreliable cause of peace.

And in the final weeks before the last elections, in April, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began speaking about plans to gradually annex all of the West Bank settlements — home to some 450,000 Jewish Israelis — evidently regarding such a declared policy as a vote-winner.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inaugurates a new promenade in the West Bank settlement of Efrat on July 31, 2019. (Courtesy)

Netanyahu has maintained the stance in the run-up to September’s election redo — declaring on a visit to Efrat last Wednesday that not a single settlement home or settler will be uprooted on his watch, and that the settlers will remain “forever.”

While this position is anathema to much of the international community and to many of those in Israel who see some kind of separation from the Palestinians as essential if Israel is to maintain both its Jewish and its democratic nature, Netanyahu may have an ally in the Trump administration, whose diplomatic team has said it is not predicating its much-anticipated peace deal on a two-state solution.

Rather than continuing to regard themselves in the way they felt successive governments regarded them, as a potentially temporary presence that might be uprooted at any moment, settler leaders decided to take their destiny into their hands. Instead of merely talking about their enterprise as permanent, they began working to ensure permanence

As Dilmoni made clear in his conversation with us, however, Netanyahu’s talk of the gradual annexation of all the West Bank’s Jewish settlements — blocs, isolated settlements, illegal outposts and all — which might until relatively recently have been regarded as a sensational victory — is now deemed insufficient. The vision being advocated by his Yesha Council, he said firmly, “is sovereignty.” He repeated for emphasis: “Not annexation, sovereignty.”

The way Dilmoni told it, as we sat around the table at the Shiloh visitors center and gift shop, settler leaders made a strategic decision about five years ago: Rather than continuing to regard themselves in the way they felt successive governments regarded them, as a potentially temporary presence that might be uprooted at any moment, they decided to take their destiny into their hands. Instead of merely talking about their enterprise as permanent, they began working to ensure permanence.

Yesha Council leaders Shilo Adler, Hananel Dorani and Yigal Dilmoni (right), pictured on May 9, 2018. (Flash90)

Along with the diplomatic challenge to their legitimacy, he said, the settlers had faced “a perception challenge. Even though we were marking 50 years of settlement,” he explained, “in the subconscious, this area was considered by government ministries to be temporary… There was no strategic planning. No ministry had plans for this area.”

The settlers’ potentially transient presence was reflected, for instance, by the “black hole” where Judea and Samaria should have been on the government’s master plan for transportation, said Dilmoni.

Tourists visit the archaeological site of Tel Shiloh in the West Bank, March 12, 2019. (AP/Sebastian Scheiner)

At one point, he recalled, the Yesha Council was allocated NIS 300 million for road improvements, “but we couldn’t spend it,” because there was no official plan. “We could add an extra lane to an existing road; install a traffic light, but that was about it… Band-Aids.”

Development was continually being planned for the periphery — the Galilee to the north, and the Negev to the south — “but nobody was looking to the east… even though, obviously, if you want to reduce housing prices in the Tel Aviv area, the place to build is to the east, in Judea and Samaria.”

Today, all that is changing, he said. As part of their effort to assert their permanence, they hired their own experts to draw up a master plan for transportation throughout Judea and Samaria, with major roads and highways integrating West Bank transportation into the Israeli transportation system. Now the government has taken over, and is currently preparing a plan that includes the West Bank in the national vision, he said, which will solve the acute traffic problems on West Bank roads, reduce fatalities, and smooth the access from the settlements to the employment heart of central Israel. Two and a quarter billion shekels has already been allocated to West Bank transportation in the past few years, he said. The Etzion bloc, south of Jerusalem, for instance, will have a second tunnel/bridge access road constructed in three to four years, he predicted.

The same integrated strategic planning is now taking shape for electricity, water and environmental issues, said Dilmoni, again essentially incorporating the settlements and their infrastructure into Israel.

‘If I had expressed confidence a few years ago that Israel will indeed extend sovereignty here, I would have sounded delusional. Now, the American ambassador says it. In a second, President Trump will say it. Netanyahu says it. This thing is getting closer’ — Yigal Dilmoni, Yesha Council CEO

What this all adds up to, said Dilmoni, a friendly, fast-talking and dynamic personality, is “strategic planning for a permanent presence.”

“We’re staying here; we’re not moving,” he said. “And the Arabs are here; maybe some will move, or not; but they’re not going anywhere.”

Practical integration is not all, however.  What “completes the vision,” he said, is that sought-after formal status, that goal of Israeli sovereignty, which he insisted is increasingly realizable. “If I had expressed confidence a few years ago that Israel will indeed extend sovereignty here, I would have sounded delusional,” he said, smiling.

“Now, American Ambassador [David Friedman] says it. [Friedman said in June that Israel, under certain circumstances, has the “right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank.”] [White House special envoy] Jason Greenblatt says it. [Greenblatt has rejected the designation of  the West Bank as illegally occupied.] In a second, President Trump will say it. Netanyahu says it. He doesn’t say it as election propaganda; he says it because that is what is going to happen. This thing is getting closer.”

US President Donald Trump, left, turns to give a pen to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, at the White House in Washington, March 25, 2019 after signing the official proclamation formally recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. From left, White House adviser Jared Kushner, US special envoy Jason Greenblatt, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (AP/Susan Walsh)

Asked “sovereignty over what precisely,” Dilmoni says that’s up for discussion, but is adamant that the Yesha Council is “opposed to sovereignty on the specific settlements only, and opposed to [sovereignty] just on the [major] blocs” — such as the Etzion bloc, Ariel, Ma’aleh Adumim. “We won’t agree to that.”

In the course of a series of stops during our settlements tour Wednesday, various officials and ordinary settlers with whom we spoke advocated different variations of this same confident vision. Some argued for Israeli sovereignty over the approximately 10% of the West Bank that takes in the settlements and their potential wider footprints; others called for sovereignty throughout Area C, the 60% of the West Bank that includes all settlements and perhaps 150,000-300,000 Palestinians; still others backed sovereignty throughout the West Bank.

Window of opportunity

But what, then, in a reality where Israel is permanently intertwined with the Palestinian populace — in a formal or de facto single entity between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River — would become of Israel as a majority Jewish country? Or would this enlarged Israel, newly sovereign in parts or all of the West Bank, subvert its democracy by denying those now rather “Israeli” Palestinians equal rights? “The questions of political issues, citizenship, the vote issues, we can discuss separately,” said Dilmoni.

“To my happiness, when Trump speaks of economic development before political, he’s right. That world view — economic development before trying to solve political issues — I think that’s the right approach.”

Right now, several officials told us, there’s a ‘window of opportunity’ — a chance to designate as authorized and legitimate under Trump what was so frowned upon by the Obama administration; to do for at least part of Judea and Samaria what the US president has already done for Jerusalem and the Golan Heights

When we pointed out that this is not exactly what the administration is saying, and that it has in fact made clear that its multi-billion dollar economic ideas package, as unveiled at June’s Bahrain workshop, requires a political framework, Dilmoni recalibrated a little: “I hear [them saying] the economy is a very important element, before we get into the political element.”

Plainly, the advent of a US administration so empathetic to the settlement enterprise has furthered the settler leaders’ confidence in their permanence. But they also recognize that in America’s politics, if not recently in Israel’s, the pendulum swings. Right now, several officials told us, there’s a “window of opportunity” — a chance to designate as authorized and legitimate under Trump what was so frowned upon by the Obama administration; to do for at least part of Judea and Samaria what the US president has already done for Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

Avigdor Liberman speaks at a cornerstone laying ceremony for a new synagogue at his home settlement of Nokdim, October 23, 2014. Photo by Gershon Elinson/Flash90

Hence, noted Dilmoni, the “anger” among many at Avigdor Liberman, the Yisrael Beytenu leader who condemned Israel to September’s repeat elections by declining to provide Netanyahu with a coalition majority. “There could have been a right wing government now, with a supportive US administration,” making key strategic decisions on the status of settlements that the current, transitional government is not allowed to take. Half a year of the precious two-to-six more Trump years has been lost, he lamented.

Withdrawal? What withdrawal?

Still, the fact that such fury is reserved for Liberman, himself a fellow settler, underlines the extent to which potent, genuinely ideological opposition to the settlers and their goals has become marginalized. Where the Labor party under the likes of Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak was intermittently supportive, ambivalent and hostile, and sometimes governed the country, today’s Labor barely exists. Meanwhile, the main political opposition to Netanyahu, Benny Gantz’s Blue and White alliance, includes champions of settlement alongside more dovish members whose only common cause is ousting the prime minister and the ills for which he is perceived to stand.

Ayelet Shaked speaks to reporters in the West Bank settlement of Efrat on July 22, 2019. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Indeed, the main ideological opposition to the pro-settlement Netanyahu going into September’s elections comes not from the left or center-left, but from the still more pro-settlement, Ayelet Shaked-headed, United Right alliance.

The political shift is nothing short of extraordinary. Barely a quarter-century ago, after all, Rabin was warily shaking hands with Yasser Arafat on an agreement-in-principle to gradually withdraw from much of the West Bank. By 2000, Barak was offering to relinquish some 90% of the territory, involving the uprooting of most of the settlements. Only a decade ago, Ehud Olmert was ready to withdraw from almost the entire West Bank, with one-for-one land swaps.

Bill Clinton looks on as Yitzhak Rabin (left) and Yasser Arafat shake hands during the signing of the Oslo Accords, September 13, 1993. (Courtesy GPO)

Now settler leaders, rather than battling against governments advocating withdrawal, are divided over whether to demand Israeli sovereignty in 10%, 60% or 100% of the territory.

Dilmoni and his colleagues are patently upbeat, believing that their “planning for permanence” strategy is paying off, and with good reason: Polls show the Israeli public is divided and uncertain over the fate of the West Bank, but some are clearly moving in their direction, not just empathetically but literally: “We had 3% growth in the settlements last year, with an average of 4.2% over the past decade — and that’s more than double the national average,” he said, reeling off a list of key statistics. The 450,000-470,000 settlers are diverse — a third ultra-Orthodox, a third modern Orthodox, and a third secular, he said. It’s a very young population — 48% aged 18 and under; 53% with the right to vote, compared to 72% nationwide. “Classrooms are overflowing. Birth rates are high. Demand to move here is huge,” and not only to settlements close to the pre-1967 lines.

“Why not?” he asked rhetorically. “It’s affordable, there’s clean air, good schools, we’re close to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. It’s nice if people move for ideology; but it’s also great if they move for economy.”

***

Igael Tumarkin’s Dovecote sculpture outside Shiloh (Ovedc Elef Milim / Wikipedia)

Outside Shiloh, Igael Tumarkin’s “Dovecote” sculpture was recently spruced up and freshly painted — an act of somewhat ironic renewal that reflects the local residents’ sense of confidence, and of permanence. Far from an intrusive, reproving presence, it’s something the residents enjoy looking at as they pass.

Proof of your victory, I suggested to Dilmoni. He smiled and half-demurred. “I don’t want to brag that we’ve won,” he said softly. “Others would say it appears that we’re winning.”

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Israel:10-year-old Palestinian said seriously wounded in West Bank clash with IDF

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

10-year-old Palestinian said seriously wounded in West Bank clash with IDF

Boy reportedly hit in head by rubber bullet during demonstration in Kafr Qaddum; IDF says riot control methods used against protesters who threw stones, burned tires

Illustrative -- Palestinian protesters throw back a tear gas canister fired by Israeli troops during a protest near the West Bank city of Nablus, June 28, 2019 (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Illustrative — Palestinian protesters throw back a tear gas canister fired by Israeli troops during a protest near the West Bank city of Nablus, June 28, 2019 (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

A 10-year-old Palestinian boy was said to be seriously wounded during a clash with the Israel Defense Forces at a violent demonstration against the security barrier in a West Bank village on Friday afternoon.

According to Haaretz, citing Palestinian reports, the boy was hit in the head by a rubber bullet during the clash in the village of Kafr Qaddum, west of Nablus.

The IDF confirmed to Haaretz that control methods were used to disperse violent demonstrators, but that live ammunition was not deployed.

“In response to a violent demonstration by some 60 Palestinians, during which they burned tires and threw stones, soldiers used various means to disperse the protests, but not with live ammunition. The army received a report of a wounded person around ten years old,” the statement read.

The incident came as the IDF prepared for possible violence on the Gaza border Friday afternoon, a day after a member of Hamas was shot dead by troops in what the army characterized as “a misunderstanding.”

On Thursday, in an unusual move, the military acknowledged that the man had been erroneously identified by soldiers as an armed terrorist, but was apparently an operative trying to stop Palestinian youths from breaching the security fence.

A Palestinian protester throws a Molotov cocktail at an Israeli military vehicle during protests along the Gaza border with Israel on July 5, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)

The army’s statement appeared to be an effort to calm tensions with Hamas and prevent another round of violence on the border.

Hamas’s military wing said in a statement that it would not let the death go “unpunished” and Israel “would bear the consequences of this criminal act.”

The Hamas field commander killed in the incident was Mahmoud Ahmad Sabri al-Adham, 28.

Al-Adham’s death threatened to spark another round of large-scale violence between Israel and terror groups in Gaza.

Throughout the past year and a half, the two sides have fought several bouts — with terror groups firing mortar shells, rockets and missiles at Israeli cities and towns, and the IDF retaliating with airstrikes — often sparked by smaller incidents along the border.

Thursday’s border incident came amid a relatively calm period along the normally restive frontier, following a reported ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas.

In recent days, leaders of the terror group have threatened to bring back the high level of violence along the border — riots, arson attacks and clashes — if Israel does not continue to abide by the terms of the ceasefire agreement.

On Tuesday, Hamas launched a highly unusual training exercise that simulated the capture of IDF special forces operating in the territory.

Judah Ari Gross and AFP contributed to this report

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