Syria shoots down Israeli warplane as conflict escalates

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

(The Devil is in Tehran, His name is Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the un-elected Dictator who calls himself the ‘Supreme Leader’)(trs) 

Syria shoots down Israeli warplane as conflict escalates

Crash site of an Israeli F-16 jet in northern Israel. Photo: 10 February 2018Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionThe Israeli F-16 jet crashed near a village in northern Israel

An Israeli F-16 fighter jet has crashed after being hit by Syrian air defences during an offensive in Syria, the Israeli military says.

The two pilots parachuted to safety before the crash in northern Israel. It is believed to be the first time Israel has lost a jet in the Syrian conflict.

The plane was hit during air strikes in response to an Iranian drone launch into Israeli territory, Israel says.

The drone was shot down. Israel later launched further strikes in Syria.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) say they hit aerial defence batteries and Iranian military sites in the latest strikes.

Israeli air strikes in Syria are not unusual, the BBC’s Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman says, but the loss of an Israeli fighter jet marks a serious escalation.

In other developments in the Syrian conflict on Saturday:

  • A Turkish helicopter was shot down as the country continued its offensive against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria. Two soldiers on board were killed, the Turkish military says
  • UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said the past week was one of the bloodiest in Syria since the conflict began in 2011 – with at least 277 civilian deaths reported

How did events unfold on Saturday morning?

The Israeli military says a “combat helicopter successfully intercepted an Iranian UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] that was launched from Syria and infiltrated Israel”.

It tweeted footage which it says shows the drone flying into Israeli territory before being hit.

In a further response, the IDF “targeted Iranian targets in Syria”, according to the military. The mission deep inside Syrian territory was successfully completed, it said.

After coming under Syrian anti-aircraft fire, the F-16’s two crew members ejected and were later taken to hospital. One of them was “severely injured as a result of an emergency evacuation”, the IDF said.

It is the first time Israel has lost an aircraft in combat since 2006 when an Israeli helicopter was shot down over Lebanon by a Hezbollah rocket, the Jerusalem Post reports.

All five crew on board – including a female flight mechanic – were killed in that incident.

Anti-aircraft effects over the Syrian-Israeli border in the Golan Heights. Photo: 10 February 20218Image copyrightEPA
Image captionAnti-aircraft fire smoke over the Syrian-Israeli border in the Golan Heights

Alert sirens sounded in areas of northern Israel and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights because of Syrian anti-aircraft fire.

Residents reported hearing a number of explosions and heavy aerial activity in the area near Israel’s borders with Jordan and Syria.

An Israeli F-16 takes off. File photoImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe fighter jet was carrying out strikes on Iranian targets in Syria, the Israelis say (file picture)

Syrian state media quoted a military source as saying that the country’s air defences had opened fire in response to Israeli “aggression” against a military base on Saturday, hitting “more than one plane”.

What did Israel do next?

Israel launched its second wave of strikes in Syria. Eight of the Syrian targets belonged to the fourth Syrian division near Damascus, IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus said.

All the Israeli aircraft from this sortie returned safely.

“Syrians are playing with fire when they allow Iranians to attack Israel,” the spokesman warned.

He added that Israel was willing to exact a heavy price in response but was “are not looking to escalate the situation”.

Meanwhile Iran and the Tehran-backed Hezbollah movement in Lebanon – which are allied with the Syrian government – dismissed reports that an Iranian drone had entered Israeli airspace as a “lie”.

Russia expressed “serious concern” over the Israeli air strikes and called for all sides to show restraint.

What is the Iranian presence in Syria?

Iran is Israel’s arch-enemy, and Iranian troops have been fighting rebel groups since 2011.

Tehran has sent military advisers, volunteer militias and, reportedly, hundreds of fighters from its Quds Force, the overseas arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

It is also believed to have supplied thousands of tonnes of weaponry and munitions to help President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and the pro-Iranian Hezbollah, which is fighting on Syria’s side.

Tehran has faced accusations that it is seeking to establish not just an arc of influence but a logistical land supply line from Iran through to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Presentational grey line

A powerful new element

Analysis by BBC’s diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus

For years Israel has been striking at weapons stores and other facilities in Syria with a single goal – to disrupt and, as far as possible, to prevent advanced Iranian missiles being delivered to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Syria has often been the conduit for these shipments, but the changing balance of power there, with the Assad regime’s survival bolstered by Iranian help, has introduced a powerful new element – a direct Iranian role in the crisis.

A more confident Iran is alleged by Israel to be setting up bases in Syria(whether for its own or its proxy Shia Muslim militia forces is unclear).

But it is also alleged to be developing missile factories, both there and in Lebanon, to make the supply lines to Hezbollah less vulnerable.

Israel’s campaign to disrupt missile supplies is becoming ever more complex.

And Iran risks becoming a direct actor in this conflict, ever closer to Israel’s own borders.

map
Presentational grey line

IDF Destroys Another Hamas Attack Tunnel

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

TUNNEL ENTERED ISRAEL BENEATH KEREM SHALOM GOODS CROSSING

IDF destroys Hamas attack tunnel that penetrated Israel and Egypt

Israeli jets strike in southern Gaza; army denies Palestinian claims the cross-border passage — the third destroyed by Israel in three months — was used for smuggling

The Israel Defense Forces on Sunday said it had destroyed a border-crossing Hamas attack tunnel, the third in recent months, that penetrated hundreds of meters into both Israeli and Egyptian territory from the Gaza Strip, in an airstrike in southern Gaza on Saturday night.

“We completed the destruction of a third terror tunnel,” spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told reporters early Sunday morning, denying claims made by Hamas that it was a smuggling tunnel.

The tunnel, which was constructed differently from most tunnels in Gaza, began in the city of Rafah and crossed into Israel under the Kerem Shalom Crossing, through which hundreds of trucks ordinarily cross into the coastal enclave with goods from Israel each day, he said.

“We understand this tunnel belongs to Hamas,” Conricus added, saying the military believed the terror group saw it as a “significant asset.”

That assessment came from the fact that the tunnel ran underneath the Gaza crossing, which was kept closed on Sunday, as well as below the gas and diesel pipelines into the Strip and a nearby IDF post, he said.

An attack tunnel that was bombed by Israeli jets on January 13, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

“This is a severe breach of Israel’s sovereignty, a serious threat to Israeli civilians and a threat to the humanitarian efforts that Israel allows for the people in the Gaza Strip,” the military said in a statement.

The army spokesperson credited the discovery and destruction of the tunnel to a combination of “cutting-edge” technology and intelligence.

It was the third tunnel entering Israeli territory destroyed by the IDF in under three months. On October 30, the army blew up an attack tunnel that belonged to the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group, in the process killing 12 members of the organization, along with two Hamas operatives. On December 10, the military demolished a second tunnel, this one controlled by Hamas.

However, in both of those cases, the tunnels were destroyed from inside Israeli territory, unlike the one on Saturday night, which was hit from inside Gaza by Israeli jets, Conricus said.

“If you do something once, it’s a chance; if you do something twice, it’s a coincidence; if you do something three times, there’s a method,” he said, hinting at further tunnel demolitions to come.

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot made the destruction of Palestinian terror groups’ attack tunnel a top priority for the military, following the 2014 Gaza war, which saw extensive use of tunnels by the Hamas terrorist group.

Over the past year, the army has been constructing an underground barrier around the Gaza Strip that is meant to block attempts to dig into Israel.

Military officials have noted that more tunnels will likely be destroyed in coming months as the barrier nears completion.

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, left, visits an attack tunnel dug by a Palestinian terrorist group from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel during a visit to the area on December 20, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)

Conricus’s comments marked the first time an army official has publicly acknowledged that the military has the capability to successfully strike tunnels from the air, though others have alluded to it in the past.

Last week, the IDF also struck what many assumed to be a tunnel in the Gaza Strip, following a series of mortar attacks.

In its statement at the time, the army referred to the target of the attack on January 4 as “significant terror infrastructure.”

According to official Palestinian media, that “infrastructure” was farmland in the southern Gaza Strip, prompting many to assume that it was, in fact, a tunnel beneath the field, though not necessarily one that crossed into Israeli territory.

The message to the leaders of Gaza and its citizens is clear — invest in the sanctity of life and not in [digging your own] catacombs

On Twitter, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman praised the IDF’s “professional and accurate” Saturday night airstrike.

“The destruction of the attack tunnel network is a key feature of our policy of consistently striking Hamas’s strategic capabilities,” Liberman wrote Sunday morning. “The message to the leaders of Gaza and its citizens is clear — invest in the sanctity of life and not in [digging your own] catacombs.”

Earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, before taking off for an official visit to India, threatened Hamas with “even greater force” following the Saturday night strike.

“This evening the IDF attacked Hamas’s central terror infrastructure in the Gaza Strip,” he said. “There are those who have said the IDF just targeted sand dunes — this is incorrect. Hamas must understand that we will not tolerate the continuation of these attacks and will respond with even greater force.”

The army denied the claim made by Hamas late Saturday night that the Israeli jets had targeted a smuggling tunnel between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.

“We know it’s a terror tunnel because it passes under different strategic assets,” Conricus said, referring to its proximity to the fuel pipelines into Gaza, the Kerem Shalom Crossing and a military installation nearby.

The army spokesperson also denied earlier reports in Hebrew media that the jets had targeted a shipment of long-range missiles into Gaza.

According to Conricus, the tunnel was dug in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, some 900 meters from Israel, and extended 180 meters into Israeli territory.

On the other end, it also extended hundreds of meters into Egypt, which could have allowed fighters in Gaza to attack Israeli positions from the Sinai Peninsula, he said.

Asked if the tunnel could have functioned as both a smuggling and attack tunnel, the army spokesperson responded, “It could have, but we deal with the infrastructure.”

As the tunnel entered Egyptian territory, the army was in contact with Cairo about its destruction, Conricus said, but would not elaborate on the extent of the cooperation.

The tunnel’s design was out of the ordinary, not matching the size of some larger tunnels and lacking the domed roof of smaller attack tunnels.

The strike came shortly after the military announced it would not be opening the Kerem Shalom Crossing into the Gaza Strip on Sunday, following a “situational assessment.”

UN trucks carrying building materials for projects funded by UNRWA arrive in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip after crossing the Israeli Kerem Shalom crossing on December 10, 2013. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

It is the second time Kerem Shalom has been closed in under a month.

Israel shut down the crossing on December 14 following multiple rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza, along with Erez Crossing, through which people enter and exit the Strip. Erez reopened a day later, and Kerem Shalom was reopened on December 17.

On Friday, approximately 1,000 Palestinians took part in violent demonstrations in four locations along the security fence surrounding Gaza, rolling burning tires and throwing rocks at the barrier and the soldiers on the other side, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

In response, “troops fired live rounds selectively toward three main instigators, who posed a threat to IDF soldiers and the security fence,” the army said.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said dozens of Palestinians were injured by live fire, rubber bullets and tear gas during the riots.

On Saturday, the Defense Ministry’s chief liaison to the Palestinians warned residents of the Gaza Strip that the Hamas terror organization was using them in its quest for violence against Israel.

“Hamas terrorists send young people to riot at the [Gaza border]… while hiding behind them and claiming that these riots are spontaneous and peaceful,” Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), said on Facebook.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

READ MORE:

Palestinian woman who slapped IDF soldiers charged with assault

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE JTA NEWS)

 

Palestinian woman who slapped IDF soldiers charged with assault

14SHARES

(IDF spokesperson video screenshot)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A military court in Israel indicted a Palestinian woman who was filmed alongside her more famous cousin slapping and harassing IDF soldiers standing guard in a West Bank Palestinian village.

Nour Tamimi, 21, was indicted on Sunday on charges of aggravated assault of a soldier and preventing soldiers from carrying out their duties. She likely will remain in prison until the end of her legal case.

Nour Tamimi was filmed with her cousin Ahed Tamimi, 16, and her aunt Nariman Tamimi earlier this month slapping and harassing the soldiers in the village of Nabi Saleh in an apparent attempt to provoke a violent response. The video went viral on social media.

It is believed that Ahed and her mother also will soon be indicted on similar charges. The court reportedly is investigating previous encounters the teen has had with Israeli soldiers

The Tamimis are well-known anti-occupation activists. Two weeks ago, Israeli troops shot a male cousin, 15, in the face with a rubber bullet, and he was for several days in a medically induced coma, an incident that the family says prompted the women to push the soldiers away from the family home.

Ahed Tamimi is well known as a leader of youth protests against Israeli soldiers in the West Bank.

The video and her arrest set off wide debate within Israel, among some who felt the soldiers should have acted more quickly and forcefully; others who insisted they showed admirable restraint; and still others who felt Israel is persecuting the Tamimi family.

Senior Hamas leader among dozens arrested overnight in West Bank

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Senior Hamas leader among dozens arrested overnight in West Bank

Sheik Hassan Yousef detained on suspicion of ‘promoting’ the terror group’s activities amid spike in violence, Shin Bet says

Sheikh Hassan Yousef is arrested in his home by IDF troops, October 20, 2015. (Screen capture from YouTube)

Sheikh Hassan Yousef is arrested in his home by IDF troops, October 20, 2015. (Screen capture from YouTube)

Israeli troops, in raids across the West Bank overnight Tuesday, arrested 32 Palestinians for suspected involvement in terror activities and violent rioting, as well as a senior Hamas figure, security forces said.

Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a Hamas leader in the West Bank and one of the group’s founding members, was arrested in Ramallah, the Shin Bet security service said.

He is suspected of “involvement in promoting and advancing Hamas’s activities in the West Bank,” it confirmed in a statement after Palestinian media broke news of the arrest.

Yousef was recently released from administrative detention, and has been arrested many times in recent years. Earlier this week, he called for a violent response to US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

A Palestinian protester pulls a burning tire during clashes with Israeli security forces near an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 9, 2017, following the US president’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

Since Trump announced his decision last Wednesday, the West Bank has seen daily protests that have at time devolved into clashes.

Hamas last week called for a new intifada, or uprising, against Israel over the US decision, urging Palestinians to confront soldiers and settlers, and allowing thousands of Gazans to clash with Israeli troops at the Gaza border fence. Its leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, on Friday praised the “blessed intifada,” urged the liberation of Jerusalem, and made plain the group was seeking to intensify violence against Israel.

In his address, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace a new approach was long overdue, describing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.

Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites. The final status of Jerusalem is a key issue in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, who claim the eastern neighborhoods of the city as their future capital.

The move was hailed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum, but rejected by the international community.

Police find a rocket, fired from Gaza, inside a kindergarten in the southern Israeli town of Sderot on December 9, 2017. (Israel Police)

Alongside the clashes in the West Bank, recent days have seen an escalation in violence around Gaza, where Yousef’s Hamas group holds sway.

In the latest in a series of tit-for-tat exchanges, the Israeli Air Force early Wednesday morning struck a Hamas facility in the southern Gaza Strip in retaliation for Palestinian rocket fire hours earlier.

On Sunday, Israel demolished a Hamas attack tunnel that penetrated hundreds of meters into Israeli territory from the southern Gaza Strip. It was the second tunnel destroyed by Israel in less than six weeks.

During the overnight raids, IDF medics treated an elderly Palestinian woman who had a heart attack in the village of al-Zubeidat, near Jericho, but eventually pronounced her dead after their efforts failed.

The IDF denied implications made by Palestinian media that the woman’s heart attack was triggered by stun grenades thrown by Israeli troops after residents threw rocks at them. An army official said the two incidents were unrelated, happening at significantly different times during the night.

READ MORE:

3,000 Palestinians hold violent protests

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

3,000 Palestinians hold violent protests across West Bank, Gaza over Jerusalem

200 injured, most of them lightly, in riots in Hebron, Qalqilya, Bethlehem, Ramallah, against Trump’s recognition of Israel’s capital; Palestinians say one killed at Gaza fence

  • Israeli forces scuffle with people in Jerusalem's Old City on December 8, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Thomas COEX)
    Israeli forces scuffle with people in Jerusalem’s Old City on December 8, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Thomas COEX)
  • Palestinians in West Bank village of Hawara clash with IDF forces on December 8, 2017, during riots over US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital on December 8, 2017. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)
    Palestinians in West Bank village of Hawara clash with IDF forces on December 8, 2017, during riots over US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 8, 2017. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)
  • Israeli Police officers stand guard during a protest at Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem on December 8, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Israeli Police officers stand guard during a protest at Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem on December 8, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • A Palestinian rioter uses a sling shot against Israeli security forces during clashes after in the West Bank city of Hebron on December 8, 2017. (Hazem Bader/AFP)
    A Palestinian rioter uses a sling shot against Israeli security forces during clashes after in the West Bank city of Hebron on December 8, 2017. (Hazem Bader/AFP)
  • An Israeli soldier throws a stun grenade toward Palestinian rioters during clashes in the West Bank city of Hebron on December 8, 2017. (Hazem Bader/AFP)
    An Israeli soldier throws a stun grenade toward Palestinian rioters during clashes in the West Bank city of Hebron on December 8, 2017. (Hazem Bader/AFP)
  • A Palestinian protester throws rocks at Israeli security forces near a checkpoint in the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 8, 2017. (Abbas Momani/AFP)
    A Palestinian protester throws rocks at Israeli security forces near a checkpoint in the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 8, 2017. (Abbas Momani/AFP)
  • Palestinian protestors clash with Israeli security forces near a checkpoint in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on December 8, 2017. (Musa al-Shaer/AFP)
    Palestinian protestors clash with Israeli security forces near a checkpoint in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on December 8, 2017. (Musa al-Shaer/AFP)

An estimated 3,000 Palestinian protesters held demonstrations and clashed with Israeli security forces at some 30 locations across the West Bank and Gaza Strip on Friday after midday prayers, in a show of anger over US President Donald Trump’s declared recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Palestinian officials said one demonstrator was killed at the Gaza border fence. At one point the Gaza health ministry said another man was killed, but later retracted the statement, saying he was in serious condition.

The Israeli army said it fired on two “inciters” at the fence. It said there was six points along the fence where protesters gathered and burned tires. The Red Cross in Gaza reported that 15 people were injured by tear gas and rubber bullets.

In the West Bank, the Palestinian demonstrators threw rocks and Molotov cocktails, and set fire to tires and rolled them at Israeli security forces, who generally retaliated with less-lethal riot dispersal equipment, like tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets, and in some cases with live fire.

Palestinian protesters also burned pictures and effigies of Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as Israeli and American flags.

Unusually, Palestinian Authority security forces allowed demonstrators to carry Hamas flags, Israel Radio reported. It said some Palestinians branded the protests the start of a new intifada uprising.

Palestinian officials reported over 200 people injured in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the vast majority of them lightly, from tear gas inhalation. Seven were hit by live bullets, and 45 by rubber bullets, the Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance service said.

Palestinian rioters throw stones towards Israeli troops at an Israeli checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 8, 2017. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

The Israel Defense Forces said it knew of at least 10 injured Palestinians in the West Bank.

Two Palestinian protesters were shot by Israeli troops during a violent demonstration at the Gaza border, the army said. Local media reported that one of them was critically wounded.

No soldiers from the Israel Defense Forces or Border Police were reported injured.

Israeli officials said six Palestinians were arrested during the protests.

Palestinians clash with Israeli troops during a protest against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, Friday, Dec. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)

Among the estimated 30 demonstrations in the West Bank, the largest took place in Ramallah, Hebron, Bethlehem, Al-Arroub, Tulkarem, Qalandiya, and Bayt Ummar, the army said. Smaller demonstrations were also reported in Ramallah, Nablus, Hawara and Nabi Saleh.

In Jerusalem, hundreds of Palestinian rallied after Friday prayers near the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a flashpoint site in the holy city which, along with the Dome of the Rock, sits on the Temple Mount. The holiest place in Judaism, the mount is known to Muslims as Haram al Sharif. PLO and Turkish flags were raised during Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa.

Most of the thousands of worshipers dispersed peacefully after Friday prayers in the Old City. But hundreds of demonstrators burned Israeli flags while others chanted, “The war is approaching, Al-Quds Arabiya,” using the Arabic name for Jerusalem and declaring it an “Arab” city. Protesters also chanted, “Let us die as martyrs — there is no place for the State of Israel.”

A protest erupted briefly at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate, and was cleared by police. Demonstrators threw objects at the security forces deployed there. Israel Radio said Arab members of Knesset were seen in the crowds.

The Red Crescent said that one injured Palestinian man was transferred from Damascus Gate to the hospital after being injured by police.

Israel had bolstered its security deployment in Jerusalem, but despite the heightened alert, police did not impose any restrictions on Muslim worshipers praying at Al-Aqsa. (At times of expected violence, Israeli authorities sometimes limit access to the site for young men.)

Israeli Police officers stand guard during a protest at Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem on December 8, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Additional IDF battalions were also sent into the West Bank.

In Gaza, thousands took to the streets and marched to denounce Trump’s proclamation.

The Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Trump had issued “a declaration of war against the Palestinian people,” Army Radio reported. The US president had harmed the Arab and Muslim nation, the Fatah spokesman said. “Someone with no right to intervene had awarded [Jerusalem] to someone with no right to it,” the radio reported quoted the spokesman saying.

On Thursday, Hamas terror group leader Ismail Haniyeh called for a new Palestinian intifada, or uprising.

US President Donald Trump holds up a signed memorandum recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as US Vice President looks on, at the White House, on December 6, 2017. (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

In a Wednesday address from the White House, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace a new approach was long overdue, describing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.

The move was hailed by Prime Minister Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum. Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.

Security assessments had expected tens of thousands to take part in the Friday protests and the IDF was particularly concerned that “lone wolf” attackers could try to carry out terror attacks, the Ynet news site reported.

Soldiers were stationed at potential confrontation points during the day and were later to deploy to prevent any attempts to carry out attacks on settlements over the Sabbath, the report said.

Dov Lieber contributed to this report.

READ MORE:

Hamas member nabbed entering Israel spills info on Gaza tunnels

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Hamas member nabbed entering Israel spills info on Gaza tunnels

IDF says Ahmad Magdi Muhammad Avid, caught as he crossed border fence from Palestinian enclave, was active for years with terror group

Illustrative. A picture taken on May 6, 2016, from the Israeli side of the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip shows the exit of a newly unearthed Hamas attack tunnel. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)

Illustrative. A picture taken on May 6, 2016, from the Israeli side of the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip shows the exit of a newly unearthed Hamas attack tunnel. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)

A member of Hamas’s military wing, captured after he entered Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip, has provided Israeli investigators with a wealth of information about the terror group’s tunneling operations, the IDF said Thursday.

In a statement, the army said Ahmad Magdi Muhammad Avid, 23, from Shejaiya in the Gaza Strip, was captured on September 27 after crossing the border fence in northern Gaza. He was not armed at the time of his capture and the army did not say what his purpose was for crossing the heavily guarded border.

Avid was a member of the Hamas military wing, which he joined in 2013. He trained in the use of anti-tank weapons, military engineering operations, and sniping. He was also involved in tunnel digging in the area of Shejaiya and was a member of the Hamas border patrol forces.

During his interrogation, Avid gave up a considerable amount of information about the Hamas tunneling operation in the Gaza Strip, including attack tunnels leading into Israel and tunnels inside Gaza intended for use in battles against the IDF, the statement said.

“The investigation of Ahmad Avid once again revealed Hamas’s terror activities, using tunnels to advance terrorist activity against Israel,” the army said.

Hamas terrorist Ahmad Magdi Muhammad Avid, who was captured by the IDF as he crossed into Israel from the Gaza Strip, September 27, 2017. (IDF spokesperson)

He was indicted on October 23 at the Beersheba District Court on “serious” security-related charges, the army said, though it did not specify.

On October 30, Israel blew up an attack tunnel leading into Israeli territory that was being dug by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad together with Hamas.

In total, 14 terrorists were killed, two of them from Hamas and the rest from Islamic Jihad, including two senior commanders. The bodies of five of the Islamic Jihad terrorists, who were working on the tunnel inside Israeli territory, were recovered by the IDF a few days later. The IDF said it had not intended to kill terrorists when it destroyed the tunnel. In comments after the blast, IDF officials also noted that many of the terrorists died not in the explosion, but in botched Gazan rescue attempts.

Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, has used tunnels dug under the border to launch terror attacks inside Israel. It also has prepared an extensive network of tunnels inside the coastal enclave for its fighters to use in battles against a possible incursion by the IDF, as it did during the summer 2014 war.

READ MORE:

Iran: (Demonic Hypocritical) Iran blasts ‘bloodthirsty’ Israel after terror tunnel destroyed

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Iran blasts ‘bloodthirsty’ Israel after terror tunnel destroyed

Tehran accuses Jewish state of ‘seven decades of crimes, bloodshed and child-killing’ against the Palestinians

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (center right) meets with senior Hamas officials in Tehran on August 7, 2017. (screen capture)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (center right) meets with senior Hamas officials in Tehran on August 7, 2017. (screen capture)

Iran on Monday condemned Israel as “bloodthirsty” after the Israel Defense Forces blew up an attack tunnel stretching from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, killing seven people, including two commanders of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group.

“The bloodthirsty Zionist regime is trying to bend the will of the oppressed people of the occupied territories to guarantee its security by killing Palestinian youths,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Bahram Qassemi said, according to the Iranian Tasnim news agency.

“This is while seven decades of crimes, bloodshed and child-killing could not weaken the determination of this patient and courageous people at all,” he added.

The IDF on Monday said it “neutralized a terror tunnel” that was discovered inside Israeli territory near the Gaza Strip and is believed to have been dug after 2014. The tunnel was being built by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group.

The blast killed at least five members of Islamic Jihad’s military wing, including a senior commander and his deputy, and two members of Hamas’s military wing died in rescue efforts. At least 12 others were injured, Gaza’s health ministry said. Many reports said the terrorists were killed inside the tunnel, though this was not definitively clear.

The statement from Iran came days after a Hamas delegation visited Tehran and officials in the Iranian regime praised the Gaza rulers for not abandoning its armed struggle against Israel.

The IDF said the tunnel was “detonated from within Israel, adjacent to the security fence.”

Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah earlier on Monday accused Israel of trying to foil ongoing unity efforts between them in destroying the tunnel.

In a statement, Hamas called the Israeli measure “a desperate attempt to sabotage efforts to restore Palestinian unity and maintain the state of division.”

The body of Palestinian Marwan Alagha,22, is carried by mourners after he was killed when Israel blew up what it said was a tunnel stretching from the Gaza Strip into its territory, at Naser hospital in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on October 30, 2017. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

Earlier this month, the two factions signed an agreement in Cairo allowing for the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority to resume control of Gaza — which Hamas seized in a near civil war with Fatah in 2007 — by December 1.

Fatah spokesperson and vice-chairman of the party’s revolutionary council Fayez Abu Eita echoed Hamas’s sentiment that the move by the Israeli army to detonate the tunnel in Gaza was aimed at disrupting the unity talks.

“This crime comes in the context of [sowing confusion] and creating tension in the atmosphere in order to thwart the Palestinian national reconciliation,” he said, in a statement carried in the official PA news outlet Wafa.

Abu Eita said that despite the incident, the Palestinians would push ahead with the unity plan.

“The one who is most harmed by Palestinian national reconciliation is the occupation. The implementation of the reconciliation agreement is the optimal response to this crime,” he said.

The incident raised tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, with both Hamas and Islamic Jihad vowing revenge.

Israel deployed its Iron Dome anti-missile system in the area and declared the border region a closed military zone.

“The explosion took place inside Israeli territory. The majority of the dead were activists that entered the tunnel after it was exploded and died in the Gaza Strip, and not as a result of the explosion,” said IDF spokesperson Avichay Adraee.

“We are not interested in an escalation, but we are ready for all scenarios,” he said.

The IDF said the tunnel ran from the Gazan city of Khan Younis, crossed under the border, and approached the Israeli community of Kibbutz Kissufim.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman hailed the IDF for destroying the attack tunnel, with the two leaders attributing its discovery to Israel’s new “breakthrough technology.”

The prime minister said Israel holds Hamas responsible for all military action against Israel emanating from the Gaza Strip and “whoever hurts us, we hurt them.”

Israeli soldiers patrol close to the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip on October 30, 2017, near Kibbutz Kissufim in southern Israel. (AFP PHOTO/MENAHEM KAHANA)

Despite an assassination attempt on Hamas’s internal security chief Tawfiq Abu Naim on Friday, blamed variously on Israel and Islamic State, the terror group says it will continue to abide by the Cairo agreement and hand over control of Gaza’s border crossing to the PA on Wednesday.

The fate of the Hamas security forces after it transfers power to the PA in the territory is one of the most delicate issues facing the reconciliation process.

Abbas wants the handover to be comprehensive and include all security institutions, but the Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, has said “no one” can force his group to disarm.

Israel and the United States have meanwhile said that Hamas must disarm as part of any unity government.

They have also said it must recognize Israel and sever ties with Iran.

The Abbas-led Palestine Liberation Organization has recognized Israel, but Hamas, an Islamist terror group which seeks Israel’s destruction, has not. Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008.

Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this report. 

READ MORE:

Israel: IDF, We don’t apologize for killing terrorists

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

IDF responds to criticism: We don’t apologize for killing terrorists

Bennett excoriates army after spokesman says tunnel blast was intended to destroy infrastructure, not kill Islamic Jihad commanders; Liberman derides Jewish Home leader’s critique

Israeli soldiers sit on a tank close to the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip on October 30, 2017, near Kibbutz Kissufim in southern Israel. (AFP PHOTO/MENAHEM KAHANA)

Israeli soldiers sit on a tank close to the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip on October 30, 2017, near Kibbutz Kissufim in southern Israel. (AFP PHOTO/MENAHEM KAHANA)

After politicians Kcriticized the army on Tuesday for appearing to apologize for killing terrorist leaders in the bombing of a Gaza attack tunnel the day before, the military clarified that its comments were taken out of context and that it does not regret their deaths.

On early Monday afternoon, the Israel Defense Forces blew up an attack tunnel that had entered Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip. At least seven terrorists, including two senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad commanders, were killed in the blast and its aftermath, a dozen more were wounded and, as of Tuesday afternoon, five were still missing in the rubble, according to the coastal enclave’s health ministry.

Several hours after the demolition of the tunnel, IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis responded to a reporter’s question about the goal of the tunnel blast, saying that the operation was intended only to destroy the underground infrastructure and was “not in any way” meant to assassinate senior terrorist leaders.

Taking to Twitter in response to the comment, Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday morning accused the military of “apologizing” for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad commanders’ deaths.

“It is forbidden to apologize for successfully destroying terrorists,” Bennett wrote. “Let’s be clear – these were terrorists involved in digging an attack tunnel inside Israeli territory with which they intended to kill Israeli women and children.”

Head of the Jewish Home party and Education Minister Naftali Bennett leads a faction meeting at the Knesset on October 23, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Bennett, who is a member of the security cabinet, said that although Monday’s operation was the deadliest incident in the coastal enclave since the 2014 Gaza war, Israel does not want an escalation of violence with Gaza.

“We are not looking for escalation,” he tweeted. “As a member of the cabinet which has been working since Operation Protective Edge to remove the threat of the tunnels, I give my full support to the army’s actions. The purpose of the IDF is to defeat the enemy, and it should continue to do so.”

In response to Bennett’s statement, an army spokesperson said that the military did not regret the deaths of the terrorists and didn’t make “even one apology” about the army operation.

The body of Marwan Alagha, 22, is carried by mourners after he was killed when Israel blew up a tunnel built by the Islamic Jihad terror group stretching from the Gaza Strip into its territory, at Naser hospital in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on October 30, 2017. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

The official said Manelis’s comment was in response to a question about the goal of the detonation, which was not specifically intended to kill terrorist leaders, but to destroy the infrastructure — “and that was done extremely well,” he said.

“The comments were responsible,” the spokesperson added.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, continuing the war of the words, attacked Bennett on Twitter, accusing him of harming Israel’s security.

“A briefing by the IDF spokesperson cannot be used for a blatant assault on the IDF and its commanders. Comments like this seriously damage the security of Israel and the IDF,” Liberman wrote.

“We will continue to operate with determination, strength and responsibility for the security of Israel’s citizens,” he said.

Opposition MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid), a retired IDF general, also slammed Bennett and the other right-wing politicians who criticized the military.

Israeli soldiers patrol close to the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip on October 30, 2017, near Kibbutz Kissufim in southern Israel. (AFP PHOTO/MENAHEM KAHANA)

“It is a shame that government ministers, instead of backing the IDF after an incident like this, chose once again to use it to score political points at the army’s expense,” he said in a statement.

Stern said he fully supported the army, and it was clear that there had been no apology. “The result of the IDF’s response was seven killed terrorists but a quiet night in the communities bordering the Gaza Strip — that is a great result,” he said.

The IDF said the terror tunnel was discovered inside Israeli territory near the Gaza Strip and is believed to have been dug after the 2014 Gaza war. The tunnel was being built by the Islamic Jihad terror group. It ran from the Gazan city of Khan Younis, crossed under the border for dozens of meters, and approached Kibbutz Kissufim.

The incident significantly raised tensions in the region, though so far there has been no military response from Islamic Jihad.

READ MORE:

How Dare Israel Blow Up Hamas Tunnels That Are In Israel

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We attack those who seek to attack us.”

Sensitive moment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First test of unity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israeli boy, 12, injured in rock attack at Hebron spring

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israeli boy, 12, injured in rock attack at Hebron spring

Video appears to show Palestinian assailant throw stone into well where children were sitting, knocking boy unconscious

An Israeli boy was knocked unconscious after being hit in the head by a stone while at a spring in the West Bank city of Hebron, in what the army said was an attack by a Palestinian assailant Saturday.

The incident occurred at the Abraham’s Well spring in the Jewish enclave of the city.

According to a spokesman for the Jewish community of Hebron, a man dropped a large stone on a group of children sitting at the spring, hitting one on the head.

The 12-year-old fell into the pool and had to be rescued by friends who immediately alerted the authorities, community representative Noam Arnon said.

Medics arrived at the scene and took the boy to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem where he received 10 stitches for the head wound.

A spokeswoman for the hospital said the boy regained consciousness and designated his injuries as minor.

The head of a 12-year-old boy after receiving 10 stitches to close a wound caused by a large rock that was dropped on him by a Palestinian in Hebron on October 21, 2017. (Courtesy: Jewish settlement in Hebron spokesperson)

Responding to an inquiry into the attack, the IDF spokesman said that an “unidentified Palestinian” was responsible for throwing the rock and that security forces were “searching the area for suspects.”

A video of what appears to be Saturday’s incident currently being disseminated on social media shows an assailant throwing the rock into the spring from above before running away.

Arnon said the video was obtained from army security cameras. The IDF said it did not release the footage, but did not deny the possibility that it was the source. Among those to share it was the former English-language spokesperson for the IDF.

The flashpoint city of Hebron, where a Palestinian majority lives in close proximity to a small minority of settlers who are heavily guarded by Israeli troops, has been the scene of numerous stabbings and attempted stabbings since a wave of attacks carried out by Palestinians began in October 2015.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

READ MORE: