Islamic Jihad calls ceasefire as Israel hits back at 30-plus rockets from Gaza

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL NEWS PAPER)

 

Islamic Jihad calls ceasefire as Israel hits back at 30-plus rockets from Gaza

Iran-backed terror group says it will halt fire after talking with Egypt; no acknowledgement of deal by Israel, which strikes IJ targets in 95 raids

Palestinians check damage to buildings destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City on October 27, 2018 after salvos of rocket fire from Gaza. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Palestinians check damage to buildings destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City on October 27, 2018 after salvos of rocket fire from Gaza. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Islamic Jihad announced Saturday it had agreed to an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire to end an escalating exchange of fire with Israel, as Israeli jets struck sites in the Gaza Strip belonging to the Palestinian terror organization.

A spokesman for the group told the Gaza-based Safa news site that a ceasefire agreement went into effect following Egyptian communication with its leadership.

He said Islamic Jihad would remain committed to the ceasefire as long as Israel did likewise.

There was no immediate acknowledgement of the ceasefire declaration in Israel, which in the past has denied proclamations by Gaza-based terror groups regarding understandings to end fighting.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman was meeting with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and other top security officials at the time of the announcement.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman meets with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and other top military officers at Israel Defense Forces headquarters in Tel Aviv on October 27, 2018. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

A few hours after Islamic Jihad announced the ceasefire, the Eshkol Regional Council lifted orders that residents must remain in close proximity to bomb shelters.

Restrictions remained in place, however, limiting gatherings outdoors to 100 people and those indoors to 500.

The declaration by Islamic Jihad to end the rocket fire came as the Israel Defense Forces said fighter jets struck eight targets tied to the Iran-backed terror group in three separate military facilities after Israel was hit by salvos of rockets from Gaza overnight and on Saturday morning.

The Gaza targets included weapons production sites and a factory that makes parts for subterranean tunnels, the army said, adding that the later was near a school.

The top IDF spokesperson earlier blamed Iran and Syria for the Islamic Jihad rocket attacks. Though he did not accuse Hamas of taking part in the launches, Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis reiterated that Israel considers the terror group responsible as Gaza’s rulers.

Another IDF spokesman, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, said the rocket strikes were ordered by operatives from the overseas branch of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps stationed in Syria and warned Israel may not limit its response to Gaza.

“From our perspective, part of the address by which we will deal with this fire is also in Damascus and the Quds Force,” he said. “Our response is not limited geographically.”

Israel Defense Forces

@IDFSpokesperson

1. This Palestinian Islamic Jihad cement factory, which was used to build cross-border terror tunnels, was built RIGHT NEXT TO a , putting the children of at risk.

View image on Twitter

Israel Defense Forces

@IDFSpokesperson

2. We also struck this Islamic Jihad weapons manufacturing facility – they use their weapons to try to kill innocent Israeli civilians, we use our weapons to destroy their weapons. pic.twitter.com/bKqyBsaZwf

34 rockets were fired at Israel overnight and Saturday morning, according to the IDF, 13 of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system.

Two of the rockets fell in Gaza and the rest landed in open areas.

The Defense Ministry’s liaison to the Palestinians said a mortar launched during the barrages struck the ambulance terminal at the Erez border crossing, the sole pedestrian passage between Gaza and Israel.

In response to the rocket fire, Israeli aircraft and attack helicopters attacked 95 targets in Gaza belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The army said the targets included military and weapons manufacturing facilities through the Strip, a factory in Khan Younis producing cement used in subterranean tunnels and a four-story building in Gaza City headquartering Hamas security services.

The IDF said in a statement Saturday morning it “views with great severity the rocket attacks tonight against Israeli communities.” It blamed Hamas for creating “a terror-enabling atmosphere…near the border fence which led terror groups in the Strip to carry out tonight’s attack.”

A four-story building in Gaza City’s Daraj neighborhood belong to Hamas’ General Security Services is seen on October 27, 2018, moments before it was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike. (Israel Defense Forces)

Palestinian sources speaking to the Ynet news website claimed the attacks were carried out against the objections of the Hamas terror group that rules Gaza, though this had no official confirmation.

Israel views Hamas as ultimately responsible for any attacks emanating from the territory it controls, regardless of the source.

In response to the rocket barrages, the IDF’s Home Front Command overnight issued instructions restricting gatherings in the Gaza periphery: up to 100 people in open areas and 500 people in closed spaces.

The rocket fire comes amid a deadly flareup in violence in the Gaza Strip. Earlier on Friday, thousands of Palestinians gathered at five locations along the border, burning tires and throwing rocks and firebombs at Israeli troops who responded with tear gas and occasional live fire.

Five protesters were killed and another 170 were injured in the clashes with IDF troops, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said. One of those killed was blown up by his own hand grenade, which exploded prematurely, witnesses said.

Earlier this week, a rocket was launched at southern Israel from Gaza, triggering sirens in a number of communities in the Eshkol region, ending a week-long stretch of relative calm in the coastal enclave. In response to that attack, the IDF said it hit eight Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, including training bases and a weapons production facility.

A picture taken on on October 27, 2018 shows an explosion caused by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

The ramped up tensions are likely to complicate the mission of Egyptian mediators, who have intensified their shuttle diplomacy to achieve calm and prevent a full-blown conflict between Gaza’s Hamas rulers and Israel.

Weekly large-scale riots by Gazans, and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers, have become a mainstay along the Strip’s security fence since March 30, as part of a Hamas-led effort known as the “March of Return.”

These demonstrations take place each Friday, regularly sending massive amounts of thick smoke into the Israeli communities nearby, as Palestinians burn tires along the border and send incendiary devices affixed to balloons into Israel to spark fires.

The period since March 30 has also included a number of significant flareups and extended clashes. Another rocket launched from the Gaza Strip last week struck a home in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, causing significant damage, but no injuries as the family inside had reached their bomb shelter in time.

In recent weeks, the situation along the border has grown more precarious, as indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas — with the Egyptian military and United Nations acting as intermediaries — have reached a critical turning point.

A Palestinian holds a Palestinian flag as he uses a slingshot to hurl rocks at Israeli troops during clashes near the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on October 26, 2018. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Israel has called for a cessation to all violence, including both the clashes on the border and the daily arson attacks that have burned large swaths of land in the south, in exchange for certain economic incentives and an easing of the blockade around the coastal enclave, which is imposed by Israel to prevent Hamas importing weapons.

At least 160 Palestinians have been killed and thousands more have been injured in the clashes with IDF troops, according to AP figures. Hamas, an Islamist terror group that seized control of the Strip in 2007 and seeks to destroy Israel, has acknowledged that dozens of the dead were its members. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a sniper on the border.

The Associated Press and Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.

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Israel’s Liberman Has It All Wrong About Hamas

 

Israel’s Liberman Has It All Wrong About Hamas

 

A couple of days ago Israel’s Defense Minister Liberman asked the government for permission to strike Hamas “hard” when, not if, but when the next war brakes out with the Rulers of the Gaza Strip. Mr. Liberman said that he wanted to strike a decisive blow against Hamas so that there could be at least a four or five-year lull in Hamas offensives against the Israeli people. To this statement of Mr. Liberman I have to say, sir, you have got it all wrong and I will get to my reasoning in just a moment. If you would like to you can find this information of which I am writing about in the past two days articles from the “Times Of Israel.”

 

Yesterday one of Hamas’s rockets that they tend to fire off into Israel daily hit an Israeli home and last night Israeli jets struck several Hamas targets in the Conclave. Israel said that one Palestinian was killed and seven wounded in Israel’s return fire. Hamas says that about 25 were killed and another fifty or so were wounded, and of course Hamas says that a great number of the dead were children on their way to school. Every day since March 30th of this year Hamas has staged a violent confrontation at the Border Fence with Israel during their so call march of return. For the past several months these demonstrators have been sending kite bombs into Israel in an attempt to kill and destroy. If any Nation on earth was having to put up with this on their borders any Nation would have long ago reacted violently and decisively against these act of war that Hamas has been guilty of purporting, yet for the sake of the innocent civilians inside the Conclave Israel has stayed their hand. After Israel struck back at Hamas targets yesterday the leaders of Hamas said that Israel was trying to destroy the current truce. To that I say, truce, what truce? Hamas has been breaking that “truce” everyday for at least the past seven months. So I guess what Hamas means by that is a one-sided truce, one where Hamas commits acts of war everyday but where Israel does nothing about it.

 

Now, to the point of my article to you today on why I say that Mr. Liberman has it wrong about how Israel must address Hamas from this point forward. For more than a decade now since the Israeli government gave the Gaza Strip back to the Palestinian people and to a little bit lesser of an extent the West Bank also, these lands have been used for staging grounds for attacks on the people of Israel. Israel gave this land to the Palestinian people in what was supposed to be a “land for peace deal” yet since doing so there has been no peace and the hate groups like Hamas that reside within those lands vow that there will never be any peace with Israel until there is no such thing as a Nation of Israel. In my opinion, Israel must make it very plain to all of the people of the Gaza Strip that all hostilities toward Israel must stop at once. Reality is that the people within the Conclave, even if they themselves do want to have peace and much more freedom, they know that these hate groups will never allow peace. So, Israel must tell everyone in the Gaza Strip that it is up to them if they want to live in peace and the only way to have peace is if every member of Hamas and all of the other terrorist groups are killed by the citizens of the Strip.  It is easy to say that this will never ever happen and I know of only one way where my idea could work. That idea is simple, Israel must let the citizens of the Strip know as an absolute fact that if the violence does not stop at once that when Israel is forced to attack Hamas again that Israel is going to make every possible effort to kill every member of every terrorist group.  Reality is that in doing so that hundreds of thousands of civilians may well be killed also. In other words, if the people of the Strip do not quickly kill all members of these terrorist groups themselves, the Strip is going to be scorched!

IDF: Over 100 bombs, grenades hurled at troops during Friday’s Gaza riots

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

IDF: Over 100 bombs, grenades hurled at troops during Friday’s Gaza riots

Military says it is working on detonating duds, releases footage of attempts to breach and sabotage border fence during rallies in which 7 Palestinians reported killed

Over 100 improvised bombs and grenades were hurled at Israeli troops during Friday’s riots at the Gaza border, the military said Saturday.

The army released footage of the violent demonstrations, which it said were the worst in two months, depicting attempts to breach and sabotage the security fence.

It also said IDF forces were still engaged in the controlled detonation of unexploded bombs and grenades.

Meanwhile in Gaza Saturday funerals were held for the seven Palestinians killed in the previous day’s violence, including two teen boys.

Mourners carry the body of Mohammed al-Houm, 14, who was killed during a violent protest along the Israel-Gaza border, during his funeral in the Bureij refugee camp, in central Gaza on September 29, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Anas BABA)

Tens of thousands of Palestinians protested along the Gaza border fence, throwing hand grenades, bombs, rocks, and burning tires in clashes with IDF troops, who responded with tear gas, live fire, and air strikes.

almog boker@bokeralmog

רימונים שנזרקו אותם לעבר כוחותצהל במהלך הפרות הסדר בגבול הרצועה.
הפיצוצים שיישמעו בשעות הקרובות בעוטף עזה תוצאה של נטרול וזיכוי המטענים שנזרקו אותם לכיוון החיילים.

The protest was one of the largest and most violent in recent weeks and comes following the break down of indirect talks with Israel over a cease-fire and warnings that the terror group Hamas, which rules Gaza, was gearing up for another conflict.

חדשות עשר

@news10

רצועת עזה: תיעוד של ההפגנות שהתרחשו אתמול מהצד הפלסטיני של גדר המערכת שבה לקחו חלק כ-20 אלף מפגינים. במהלך ההפגנה הושלכו למעלה מ-100 מטענים מאולתרים ורימוני נפץ לעבר לוחמי צה”ל וגדר המערכת @OrHeller

Seven people were killed, including a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old, and at least 210 Palestinians were wounded, including an 11-year-old boy, who was in a serious condition, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. It said 90 of the wounded were hit by live fire.

The ministry identified three of the dead as Nasser Mosabih, 12, Mohammed al-Houm, 14, and Iyad Al-Shaar, 18, and said they were shot. The other four were in their twenties.

The IDF said about 20,000 Palestinians took part in violent protests, spread out among a few locations along the Gaza security fence.

Palestinians react as tear gas canisters fired by Israeli forces rain down during clashes along the Israeli border fence, east of Gaza City on September 28, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

In two cases IAF aircraft carried out strikes against grenade throwers, the army said, noting there were no injuries to IDF forces.

One of the strikes was on a Hamas post, the army said.

IDF troops also responded with tear gas and other less-lethal riot dispersal means as well as live fire “in accordance with the rules of engagement,” the army said.

Also, Palestinians launched several fire balloons into Israel, causing at least 16 blazes near Israeli towns near the Gaza Strip, a spokesman for the Israeli Fire and Rescue Services said. Firefighters were working to extinguish them.

The UN called Saturday for Israel and Hamas to rein in the violence. “I am deeply saddened by reports that seven Palestinians, including two children, were killed, and hundreds of others injured, by Israeli forces during demonstrations in the Gaza Strip yesterday (Friday),” the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, Jamie McGoldrick, said in a statement. “I call on Israel, Hamas and all other actors with the ability to influence the situation, to take action now to prevent further deterioration and loss of life.”

The riots have increased in recent weeks, going from a weekly event to near nightly protests since Hamas halted indirect talks with Israel aimed at a ceasefire. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza has also worsened and reconciliation talks with the Palestinian Authority have broken down.

Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and actively calls for Israel’s destruction, has increased the pace of rioting and demonstrations against Israel, and created new units tasked with sustaining tensions along the border fence including during nighttime and early morning hours.

Almost every evening, thousands of Gazan’s now gather for violent demonstrations at the Erez crossing and elsewhere, as part of Hamas’s attempts to signal to Israel that it wants an economic solution to the Gaza Strip.

The Egyptian efforts to reconcile Hamas and Fatah have not borne fruit at this stage, and the possibility of a long-term ceasefire with Israel has apparently stalled, Thursday’s analysis by Times of Israel’s Avi Issacaharoff said. The economic situation has once again reached an unprecedented low, stoking fury among Gazan’s that is being directed against Israel, the PA, Hamas, and even Egypt.

On Friday, the Haaretz daily quoted Israeli security sources as saying that Hamas is preparing for war, bolstering its forces significantly over the past few weeks.

That assessment is not new, IDF sources told Haaretz, having warned repeatedly that the situation is more likely to escalate than to calm down. However, recently the army noted that the terror group appears to actively be readying itself for a limited conflict with Israel. It is only a question of when Hamas will decide to go to war, the paper said.

Israeli officials believe there are two main causes pushing Hamas toward military escalation, the newspaper report said — the failed reconciliation talks with PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, which controls the West Bank and has maintains a choke hold on Gaza’s finances in a bid to pressure Hamas to cede control of the territory; and the ongoing humanitarian crisis of the enclave under the Israeli-Egyptian blockade, made worse in recent months by the US slashing its aid to the PA and its funding for UNRWA, the UN body responsible for the welfare of Palestinian refugees, which funds schools and major relief projects in the Strip.

A Palestinian woman walks past a closed health center that run by United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) during a strike of all UNRWA institutions in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on September 24, 2018. (AFP/Said Khatib)

The surge of violence in Gaza began in March with a series of protests along the border that were dubbed the “March of Return.” The clashes have included regular rock and Molotov cocktail attacks on troops, as well as shooting and IED attacks aimed at IDF soldiers and attempts to breach the border fence.

Gaza protesters have also launched incendiary kites and balloons into Israel, sparking fires that have destroyed forests, burned crops, and killed livestock. Over 7,000 acres of land have been burned, causing millions of shekels in damages, according to Israeli officials. Some balloons have carried improvised explosive devices.

Israeli fire has killed at least 140 Palestinians during the protests since late March, according to AP figures. Hamas has acknowledged that dozens of the fatalities were its members.

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Israel: Parents say they alerted PA, Israel before deadly stabbing of Fuld

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Terrorist’s parents say they alerted PA, Israel before deadly stabbing of Fuld

Palestinian official says stabber’s father informed PA forces of son’s disappearance, while IDF says mother told soldiers that her son planned to commit an attack

17-year-old Khalil Jabarin, who fatally stabbed Israeli Ari Fuld in a West Bank terror attack on September 16, 2016 (Screenshot/Twitter)

17-year-old Khalil Jabarin, who fatally stabbed Israeli Ari Fuld in a West Bank terror attack on September 16, 2016 (Screenshot/Twitter)

The parents of a Palestinian teenager who carried out a deadly terror attack in the central West Bank on Sunday warned both Palestinian Authority and Israeli security forces about their son before the lethal stabbing, according to a senior PA official and Israeli military sources.

On Sunday, 17-year-old Khalil Jabarin of Yatta, a village south of Hebron, fatally stabbed 45-year-old Ari Fuld, an American Israeli resident of the Efrat settlement and a father of four, outside a shopping mall at the Gush Etzion Junction.

A senior PA official based in the southern West Bank said Jabarin’s father warned PA security forces that his son had gone missing Sunday morning, after he fought with him about going to school.

“The father and his son got into a fight this morning. The father wanted his son to go to school, but he refused and eventually the father beat him,” the official, who asked not to be named, told The Times of Israel. “The son then ran away and the father told the security forces that his son went missing. The security forces tried to find him, but they weren’t able to before [the stabbing].”

Ari Fuld, who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist outside a West Bank shopping mall on September 16, 2018. (Facebook)

When asked if the PA security forces informed their Israeli counterparts that Jabarin had gone missing, the official said that the father had only informed them that his son had disappeared and not that he was planning to carry out an attack.

“All we knew was that the boy had run away. So we did not inform the Israeli side,” the Palestinian official said. “We did not know he was planning to carry out a stabbing.”

Jabarin’s mother, however, went to the nearby Meitar checkpoint in the southern West Bank and told soldiers, at approximately the same time the stabbing took place, that her son planned to commit an attack, according to the Israeli army.

She did not provide specific details about where or when she believed Jabarin would carry out an attack, the army said.

Israeli security forces planned to arrest members of the terrorist’s family in order to further investigate what information they had about his plans before he carried out the attack, the IDF added.

Shortly before noon on Sunday, Jabarin stabbed Fuld in the back, as they stood on the sidewalk outside the shopping mall, which is frequented by both Israelis and Palestinians.

Despite his wounds, Fuld chased and shot his attacker before collapsing to the ground. Fuld was rushed to Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center in serious condition. After resuscitation efforts failed, doctors there pronounced his death.

Jabarin was shot by Fuld and another armed civilian at the scene. He was taken to Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus in moderate condition with multiple gunshot wounds, hospital officials said.

Ari Fuld, father of four, and resident of Efrat. Fuld was a member of the emergency squad in Gush Etzion, pictured here at a celebratory event on October 31, 2017, carrying his rifle with. He was killed by a Palestinian terrorist in a stabbing attack at the Gush Etzion junction on September 16, 2018. (Gershon Elinson/FLASH90/File)

Jabarin’s grandfather, Jamal, who is also the principal at the school where Jabarin studied, said family members were concerned when the teenager did not show up to school Sunday morning.

“Nobody knows what happened exactly. At 7 a.m., the boy was missing, and we started searching for him everywhere. We even notified the Palestinian security forces and the coordination services with Israel [the Israeli Civil Administration],” Jamal Jabarin said.

“He told his mother he was going to train, and he wore sports clothes,” the principal added. “She waited for him to return.”

The family was stunned by the attack, he said, calling Khalil “a quiet boy, learned, respectful, conscientious.”

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Top Hamas official: Ceasefire talks with Israel in ‘final stretch’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Top Hamas official: Ceasefire talks with Israel in ‘final stretch’

Kahlil al-Hayya tells Lebanese TV Hamas wishes to reach a long-term accord with the Jewish state

Senior Hamas leader Khalil al-Hayya is seen in the Egyptian capital Cairo on November 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mohamed El-Shahed)
Senior Hamas leader Khalil al-Hayya is seen in the Egyptian capital Cairo on November 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mohamed El-Shahed)

Negotiations for a long-term ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas are in “the final stretch,” a senior member of the terror group said Friday.

Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen TV quoted Kahlil al-Hayya as saying the deal would follow understandings reached at the end of the 2014 war between the sides. He did not elaborate.

Al-Hayya added that Hamas supports reaching an accord.

The Hamas leader was speaking from Cairo, where a Hamas delegation was said to be discussing the deal being mediated by Egypt and the UN.

On Friday thousands of Gazans demonstrated along the Israeli border in weekly Hamas-backed ‘March of Return’ demonstrations. Hamas leadership had urged the public to participate in Friday’s protests.

Palestinian protesters demonstrate at the Israel-Gaza border, east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on August 17, 2018 (AFP/Said Khatib)

Rioters hurled rocks, improvised bombs and Molotov cocktails at soldiers and burned tires to create a smokescreen. Others launched incendiary balloons towards Israel.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza reported that two men had been killed and around 250 injured, of which at least 25 were said hit by live fire.

On Thursday Al-Mayadeen reported that the long-term deal taking shape will last for a year and see the establishment of a cargo shipping connection between Gaza and Cyprus. Israel will have security control over the sea traffic between the Palestinian coastal enclave and Cyprus, according to the report from the TV channel, which cited sources familiar with the details.

Hadashot TV news reported Thursday that the head of the Shin Bet security agency has warned cabinet ministers that excluding the Palestinian Authority from the accord in Gaza will send a message that terrorism is rewarded.

Head of Shin Bet security service Nadav Argaman attends a Foreign Affairs and Defense committee meeting at the Knesset on July 12, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“Pushing aside [Abbas] from the process [of reaching an] agreement will strengthen Hamas in the West Bank and prove terror pays,” Nadav Argaman was quoted as saying. “Such a move would also weaken the moderates and prove to Palestinians that only the path of violence achieves results.”

Hamas and the PA have been at odds since the terror group violently took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. A number of reconciliation agreements between them have failed to patch up their differences, most recently an Egyptian-sponsored deal signed in October.

Recent months have seen repeated rounds of intense violence between Israel and Hamas, along with weekly border protests at the Gaza border that have regularly included rioting, attacks on Israeli troops and attempts to infiltrate and sabotage the border fence.

At least 160 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the weekly protests began, a Hamas ministry says. Hamas has acknowledged that dozens of those killed were its members.

One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper.

In addition to the border clashes, southern Israel has experienced hundreds of fires as a result of incendiary kites and balloons flown over the border from Gaza. Over 7,000 acres of land have been burned, causing millions of shekels in damages, according to Israeli officials.

Hamas has long made access to a sea port a key strategic goal. Under the conditions of Israel’s naval blockade, goods heading to Gaza are currently shipped to Israeli ports and then trucked into Gaza.

Trucks carrying goods enter the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom Crossing after it was reopened by Israel on August 15, 2018. (Flash90)

Israel has imposed a blockade on Gaza since Hamas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction, seized the territory from the PA. It says the blockade is in place in order to prevent weapons and other military equipment from entering the Strip.

Hamas has fought three wars with Israel in the last decade.

Sources told Al-Mayadeen that the forthcoming deal will include Qatari funding for Gaza’s electricity bills in cooperation with Israel, and Qatari payment of civil service employees’ salaries in Gaza in cooperation with Egypt.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman pitched the idea of setting up a floating dock for Palestinian sea traffic in Cyprus when he met with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades in June, Hadashot news reported at the time.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman leads a Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting at the Knesset on July 2, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The plan was conditional on the return of two Israeli civilians and the bodies of two IDF soldiers held by Hamas, the television report said.

Two apparently mentally ill Israeli civilians — Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed — who entered Gaza of their own volition in 2014 and 2015, respectively, are currently being held Hamas, along with the remains of two slain IDF soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul.

According to a Channel 10 report Thursday, Liberman met with Qatar’s envoy to Gaza during his trip to Cyprus, and the two discussed efforts to reach a ceasefire in Gaza and Qatari proposals to improve humanitarian conditions in the Strip, as well as the return of the Israeli citizens and IDF soldiers’ bodies.

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Egypt said to warn Hamas: Israel will renew assassinations if fire persists

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Egypt said to warn Hamas: Israel will renew assassinations if fire persists

Terror group’s leaders have reportedly turned off their phones, gone underground over fears of targeted killings by Israeli military

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh (L) and Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar attend a rally marking the 30th anniversary of the terror group's founding in Gaza City, on December 14, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh (L) and Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar attend a rally marking the 30th anniversary of the terror group’s founding in Gaza City, on December 14, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)

Egypt has warned Hamas that Israel will seek to assassinate the terror group’s leaders if rocket fire from the Gaza Strip does not cease, according to an Israeli television report on Thursday.

Egyptian intelligence cautioned Hamas that Israel could renew targeted killings if the terror group further exacerbates tensions on the Gaza Strip border, Hadashot television news said.

Previous media reports in recent months have indicated that Israel conveyed similar threats to Gaza rulers Hamas through Egyptian channels during periods of increased violence on the border.

Separately, Israel Radio on Thursday night quoted Hamas officials as saying political and military leaders from the terrorist group have turned off their cellphones over the last day and went into hiding for fear of being assassinated.

Hamas leaders were also signaling they were not responsible for a rocket attack targeting the southern city of Beersheba earlier on Thursday, Hadashot reported, in an apparent attempt to defuse the tensions.

The reported Egyptian warning to Hamas came amid a major flare-up in tensions on the Gaza border, with over 180 rockets and mortar shells fired at southern Israel since Wednesday night.

The projectiles injured at least seven people and caused damage to homes, businesses, and infrastructure throughout the region, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

In response, the Israeli Air Force struck over 150 Hamas “terror sites” in the Strip, the army said. Palestinian officials said a pregnant woman and her infant daughter were killed in the Israeli strikes, along with one Hamas fighter, who was reportedly in a car used by a rocket-launching Hamas cell that was targeted by an IDF aircraft.

The Hamas-run health ministry named the woman as Aynas Abu Khamash, 23, and her daughter, 18-months-old, as Bayan. According to Ashraf al-Qidra, a spokesman for the ministry, they were killed in an Israeli strike on the central Gaza Strip early Thursday morning. Mohammed Abu Khamash, Aynas’s husband, was seriously injured in the strike, he said.

Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a spokesman for the IDF, said he could not comment on the specific case of the Abu Khamash family, but stressed that the army targeted “only military sites” in its raids.

On Thursday evening, the Israeli Air Force flattened a five-story building in northern Gaza that served as a headquarters for Hamas’ internal security service, the army said.

The IDF said the strike on the building in the northern Gaza Strip, which also served as a cultural center in the coastal enclave, was in response to “rocket fire by the Hamas terror group against the city of Beersheba earlier in the day.”

The military threatened that the attack was “an expression of the IDF’s intelligence and operational capabilities, which will expand and intensify as necessary.”

Eighteen Palestinians were wounded in the Israeli strike, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. The degree of their injuries was not immediately known.

The attack on the building was one of the IDF’s first strikes on a site deep inside a city in Gaza since the 2014 war. Most of the strikes previously conducted by Israel targeted facilities outside major population centers. In addition, the Rimal neighborhood in which the building was located is one of the more upscale areas of Gaza City.

This decision was seen as an attempt by the military to show Hamas that it was prepared to step up its attacks against the terror group if rocket and mortar fire continued to strike southern Israel from the Gaza Strip.

The site where a mortar shell from the Gaza Strip hit an apartment building and cars in the southern Israeli city of Sderot, on August 9, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Minutes after the Israeli strike on the building began, incoming rocket sirens blared in the Eshkol region of southern Israel, sending thousands of residents into bomb shelters, where they had already spent much of the day in light of frequent attacks from the Gaza Strip throughout the previous two days.

A second wave of sirens were triggered shortly after the IDF confirmed that it had conducted the strike at 8:00 p.m. A third round of sirens went off an hour later.

There were no injuries or damage caused by any of those rocket attacks, Israeli officials said.

The renewed rocket attacks came amid a period of heightened tensions along the Gaza border, following months of clashes and exchanges of fire.

Earlier this week, there had been reports of intensive talks between Israel and Hamas for a long-term ceasefire.

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PM walks out on Druze over criticism from leader who had warned of ‘apartheid’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

PM walks out on Druze over criticism from leader who had warned of ‘apartheid’

Incensed over Facebook post from last month in which Amal As’ad said Israel was headed toward ‘apartheid,’ Netanyahu ends summit meant to solve nation-state law crisis

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 2r, meets with the spiritual leader of the Druze community in Israel, Sheikh Muafak Tarif, 2l, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on July 27, 2018. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 2r, meets with the spiritual leader of the Druze community in Israel, Sheikh Muafak Tarif, 2l, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on July 27, 2018. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu angrily walked out of a meeting with Druze leaders on Thursday evening when a prominent Druze activist and former IDF brigadier general angrily criticized the controversial nation-state law passed last month.

The tense meeting, which included ministers Yariv Levin and Ayoub Kara, came two days before a planned mass protest in Tel Aviv organized by Druze activists and fellow opponents of the nation-state law in its current iteration.

At the meeting, held in the IDF headquarters compound in Tel Aviv, Brig. Gen. (res.) Amal As’ad told Netanyahu the Druze weren’t interested in a new benefits package, but in feeling like part of the nation.

Netanyahu then stood up, insisted he would not allow disrespect of an Israeli prime minister or the state, and suggested the meeting continue in his office in a smaller forum that included the community top spiritual leader, Sheikh Muafak Tarif, and mayors of Druze towns, but without As’ad and other Druze former top IDF officers who are leading the campaign against the law.

Brig. Gen. (res.) Amal As’ad in Tel Aviv on August 2, 2018. (Hadashot TV screen capture)

According to As’ad, who spoke to Hadashot television news after the meeting, Tarif refused the smaller meeting, and Netanyahu left the room.

The Druze leaders then walked from the Kirya compound to Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, where preparations for the Saturday night demonstrations are already underway.

Netanyahu was apparently angered by a recent Facebook post from As’ad in which he accused the prime minister of leading Israel on a trajectory of becoming an “apartheid state,” and called the law “evil and racist.”

Initial reports from the Prime Minister’s Office had indicated that As’ad repeated the apartheid claim during the sit-down with Netanyahu, sparking the walk-out, but As’ad said late Thursday those reports were wrong.

“The word ‘apartheid’ was not used during the meeting with the prime minister at all,” he said in a Facebook post. “The solution to the crisis is in the hands of the prime minister and I’m confident he can solve it if he wants.”

As’ad, a former infantry commander and veteran of multiple wars who lost a brother in fighting in the Gaza Strip, in the past expressed support for the Likud party. He has been active in initiatives to commemorate the sacrifices of Druze IDF soldiers.

Yesh Atid leader MK Yair Lapid charged in a tweet Thursday that Netanyahu “has once again shown that what he wants is not a nation-state law, but a fight over the nation-state law” for ostensible narrow political gain.

Sheikh Muafak Tarif, spiritual leader of the Israeli Druze community, attends a conference of the Zionist Druze Movement in Herzliya, on July 16, 2018. (Flash90)

The meeting between Druze leaders and the prime minister followed two weeks of anger and protests among the Druze community over the Knesset’s refusal to include any mention of equality for minorities in the nation-state law, which attempts to enshrine Israel’s character as a Jewish state.

While Netanyahu met the Druze leaders, the law’s original sponsor, Likud MK Avi Dichter, faced the community’s rage at a ceremony to honor Druze veterans at a college in the northern town of Carmiel.

“You dog, you racist,” one man shouted at Dichter, bursting onto the auditorium stage. The man was later identified as Amir Hanifas, head of the newly-formed Forum Against the Nation-state Law.

Activists and supporters of the Druze community in Israel hold a protest tent against the nation-state law passed by the Knesset in July 2018, in Tel Aviv on August 1, 2018. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Dichter’s security guards attempted to intervene, but the lawmaker, a former head of the Shin Bet security service, pushed the guards away.

“Look at these kids,” Hanifas yelled at him, pointing to the young veterans. Hanifas told Dichter he “should be ashamed” and “shouldn’t appear before the Druze.”

Hanifas then reportedly called Dichter a “Nazi,” leading the lawmaker to shout back, “I won’t be called Nazi. I lost family to the Nazis, when they murdered my mother’s family. I’m called Avraham Moshe for my grandfather who was murdered by Nazis.”

Dichter’s encounter took place at a ceremony handing out scholarships to 80 Druze IDF veterans from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews at Carmiel’s Ort Braude technical college. The academic scholarships are named for the late Salim Shufi, a Druze former member of the Sayeret Matkal commando unit.

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פעילים בני העדה הדרוזית התפרצו לנאומו של ח״כ אבי דיכטר בטקס הענקת מלגות לימודים לסטודנטים בני העדה בכרמיאל. דיכטר, מיוזמי חוק הלאום, נשאר על הבמה. הפעילים קראו לדיכטר להתבייש ואמרו לסטודנטים שהיה עליהם לסרב לקבל את המילגה @nitzanglusman

Hanifas was detained by police after the incident.

In a statement before the Carmiel ceremony, the Fellowship said the meeting between Dichter and Druze veterans would be “an opportunity for open and honest dialogue with the youth of the [Druze] community about the nation-state law and the controversy it has sparked.”

Netanyahu has been trying to placate Druze anger at the new law with a package of benefits.

A concession plan envisions new legislation to anchor the status of the Druze and Circassian communities in law and provide benefits to members of minority groups who serve in the security forces, the PMO said in a statement Wednesday. Support of Druze religious, education, and culture institutes would also be included in the legislation.

In addition, recognition of the contribution made by all minorities and communities that participate in the defense of the state would be written into the country’s Basic Laws, which, similar to a constitution, underpin Israel’s legal system and are more difficult to repeal than regular laws.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with representatives of the Druze community at his office in Jerusalem on August 1, 2018. (Prime Minister’s Office)

Unlike Arab Israelis, members of both the Druze and Circassian minorities are subject to Israel’s mandatory draft and serve in large numbers alongside Jewish soldiers in some of the IDF’s most elite units.

Since the beginning of the week, several Druze IDF officers have said they will resign their commissions in protest of the legislation, which was passed as a Basic Law on July 19.

The nation-state law — which for the first time enshrines Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people” and says “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people” — has sparked widespread criticism at home including from Israel’s minorities and opposition political parties, and from the international community and Jewish groups abroad. It also downgrades the status of Arabic so that it is no longer an official language in Israel.

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IDF shoots down Syrian fighter jet that entered Israeli airspace

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

IDF shoots down Syrian fighter jet that entered Israeli airspace

Two Patriot missiles fired at Sukhoi aircraft that penetrated two kilometers into Israeli territory, military says

Smoke trails from two Israeli Patriot interceptor missiles that Israel says shot down a Syrian fighter jet are seen in northern Israel on July 24, 2018. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Smoke trails from two Israeli Patriot interceptor missiles that Israel says shot down a Syrian fighter jet are seen in northern Israel on July 24, 2018. (David Cohen/Flash90)

The Israeli Air Force shot down a Syrian fighter jet that traveled two kilometers into Israeli airspace on Tuesday afternoon, the military said.

“Two Patriot missiles were fired at a Syrian Sukhoi-model fighter jet,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

The IDF said the aircraft was monitored as it approached the border with the Golan Heights.

“It penetrated two kilometers into Israeli airspace and was shot down,” the army said.

According to Sky News Arabia, the plane crashed inside southwest Syria, in the Yarmouk Basin, an area still under the control of the Islamic State terrorist group. It was not immediately clear if the pilots ejected before the fighter jet was shot down or what their condition was.

The official Syrian news outlet SANA confirmed that Israel had shot at one of its fighter jets, but said the plane was inside Syrian airspace at the time it was targeted.

According to SANA, Israel fired at “one of our war planes, which are leveling [terrorist] encampments in the Saida region on the outskirts of the Yarmouk Basin, in Syrian airspace.”

A military source quoted by SANA accused Israel of aiding “terrorists” in the country’s southwest, where the Syrian air force has been conducting extensive bombing raids throughout the day against a number of opposition groups.

File: A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 bomber lands at the Russian Hmeimin military base in Latakia province, in the northwest of Syria, on December 16, 2015. (Paul Gypteau/AFP)

It was not immediately clear if the plane was a Sukhoi-22 or a Sukhoi-24, two different types of Russian-made fighter jets in use by the Syrian Air Force, the Israeli military said.

The IDF said it had noticed increased air force activity in southwestern Syria, near the border, since the morning.

“We have passed a number of messages, in a number of languages, in order to ensure that no one violates Israeli air space,” IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told reporters.

The spokesman said Israel has been in regular contact with the Russian military, which operates extensively in southwestern Syria, in order to prevent any conflict with Moscow.

According to the IDF, the fighter jet took off from the Iran-linked T-4 air force base in central Syria, which Israel has bombed in the past, and traveled “at high speed” toward the Golan Heights.

Conricus said there was no “confusion” about the fact that this was a Syrian fighter jet. In the past, Israel has hesitated in shooting down incoming aircraft out of concerns they might belong to Russia.

Israel stressed that it will continue to enforce the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement, which requires Syria to abide by a demilitarized zone between the two countries

A Syrian fighter jet is seen in flames after it was hit by the Israeli military over the Golan Heights on September 23, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/JALAA MAREY)

This was the first time that Israel shot down a Syrian fighter jet since 2014, when another Russian-made Sukhoi fighter jet entered Israeli airspace and was targeted with a Patriot missile.

“Israel has a very clear policy: No plane, and certainly not a Syrian plane, is allowed to enter our airspace” without the appropriate authorization, Israel’s former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin told Army Radio soon after Tuesday’s incident. “Any plane identified as an enemy plane is shot down,” he said.

In February of this year, the Syrian military shot down an Israeli F-16 fighter jet as it was taking part in a bombing raid against an Iranian-linked airfield in central Syria after an Iranian drone penetrated Israeli airspace, according to the IDF. The F-16’s pilot and navigator were injured as they bailed out of the aircraft, which crashed to ground in northern Israel.

Tuesday’s breach of Israeli airspace and the interception set off incoming rocket alert sirens throughout northeastern Israel, sending thousands of residents rushing to bomb shelters for the second day in a row.

An Israeli man watches the smoke trail of a David’s Sling interceptor missile in the northern Israeli city of Safed after the interceptor was fired toward a Syrian SS-21 missile, on July 23, 2018. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Residents of northern Israel reported seeing white trails in the sky.

The Safed municipality told residents that air defense systems in the area had fired interceptor missiles and said there were no special safety instructions in light of the situation.

The alarms could be heard in the Golan Heights and Jordan Valley regions, the army said.

The sirens came a day after Israel launched two David’s Sling interceptor missiles at a pair of Syrian surface-to-surface missiles carrying approximately a half ton of explosives each that appeared to be heading toward Israel, but ultimately landed inside Syria. The Israeli interceptors did not strike the Syrian missiles: one was self-detonated by the IAF; the second reportedly fell to earth inside Syria.

The military’s air defense systems that detect and track incoming missiles and rockets are less accurate immediately after a projectile is launched, as they have less information on its trajectory. As the missile or rocket flies, the systems can better predict where it is likely to land.

Monday’s incident, which ultimately turned out to have been a false alarm, was the first known operational use of the David’s Sling system, which was declared operational last year.

The David’s Sling makes up the middle tier of Israel’s multi-layered anti-missile defense network.

In recent weeks, sirens in northern Israel have been triggered by the military shooting down unmanned aerial vehicles entering Israeli airspace from Syria.

On July 13, the Israeli military used an anti-aircraft Patriot missile to shoot down a Syrian army drone that was flying over the demilitarized zone separating Israel from Syria. Two days earlier, a Syrian military unmanned aerial vehicle penetrated some 10 kilometers (six miles) into Israeli territory before it too was shot down by a Patriot missile. The IDF said it had allowed the drone to fly so deeply into Israeli territory as it was not immediately clear if it belonged to the Russian military.

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Israel launches ‘wide-scale attack’ against Hamas, after Israeli soldier killed near Gaza fence

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Israel launches ‘wide-scale attack’ against Hamas, after Israeli soldier killed near Gaza fence

Jerusalem (CNN)The Israeli Air Force launched a “wide-scale attack” against Hamas military targets in Gaza on Friday, after an Israeli soldier died after being hit by gunfire from the coastal enclave, according to the Israeli military.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said the shooting attack took place Friday during a Palestinian protest along the fence separating Gaza and Israel.
It’s the first Israeli soldier killed along the Gaza fence since the last war between Israel and Hamas in 2014, the army said.
The IDF responded first with tank and artillery fire, killing four people according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
Hamas said in a WhatsApp message to journalists that three of the four people killed were members of its armed Qassam Brigades.
In addition to the shooting incident, there were also multiple explosives thrown toward Israeli soldiers during the unrest, the IDF said.
Later Friday, the army said at least three rockets were fired toward Israel from Gaza. Two of the launches were intercepted by the Iron Dome aerial defense system, the military said. There are no reports of any casualties from the rocket fire.
In its most recent round of airstrikes, the Israeli military said it attacked dozens of military targets located in a Hamas battalion headquarters in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. The IDF said it had “eliminated the battalion’s command and control capabilities, the battalion commander’s office, as well as unique aerial defense capabilities.” In addition, the air force said it targeted a drone warehouse, aerial defense systems, observation posts and a factory used for underground infrastructure manufacturing.
Nickolay Mladenov, the UN’s chief Middle East envoy, called on the two sides to step back from further escalation.
“Everyone in Gaza needs to step back from the brink. Not next week. Not tomorrow. Right NOW! Those who want to provoke Palestinians and Israelis into another war must not succeed,” he tweeted.
A fireball illuminates Gaza City's skyline as the Israeli military launches a "wide-scale attack" on targets in Gaza.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Mladenov in a phone conversation that if Hamas continues to fire rockets toward Israel, the response will be “much stronger” than they think.
“The responsibility for the destruction and the loss of life will be on Hamas,” Lieberman said.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement: “Attack will be met with attack. Our people will continue until they get their rights and end the blockade, because they have the right to live freely.”
Tension along the fence has been simmering for months, at times erupting into violence. Recent weeks have also seen a sharp increase in arson attacks in Israel from balloons and kites launched from Gaza.
The violence has also stymied international attempts to alleviate conditions for the two million people living in Gaza.
Israel has maintained a land, sea and air blockade on the coastal enclave since June 2007, when Hamas took over Gaza.
The blockade effectively locks the more than 2 million Gaza residents inside the territory and is seen by the UN as a major contributor to the deterioration of living conditions there. Israel says it’s a necessary security measure.

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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