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

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hamas identified one of the targets as a training facility.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judah Ari Gross and Michael Bachner contributed to this report.

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Just in case anybody forgot what Hamas’s ‘March of Return’ is really all about

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Just in case anybody forgot what Hamas’s ‘March of Return’ is really all about

Gaza’s terrorist rulers make no secret of their agenda. They are out to destroy Israel. Suicide bombers, rockets, and tunnels have failed. So now it’s mass marches on the border

David Horovitz
Islamist Hamas terror group leader Yihya Sinwar shouts slogans and flashes the victory gesture as he takes part in a protest near the border with Israel east of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip on March 30, 2018. (AFP/ Mohammed ABED)

Islamist Hamas terror group leader Yihya Sinwar shouts slogans and flashes the victory gesture as he takes part in a protest near the border with Israel east of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip on March 30, 2018. (AFP/ Mohammed ABED)

Just in case anybody forgot, Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip to the pre-1967 lines in 2005. It uprooted thousands of Israeli settlers from their homes. It dismantled all military infrastructure in the Strip. It has no physical presence there. It makes no territorial claims there.

Just in case anybody forgot, Hamas, an Islamist terrorist organization that avowedly seeks the destruction of Israel, seized power in Gaza in 2007 in a violent takeover from the forces of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Having attempted to terrorize Israel into capitulation with its strategic onslaught of suicide bombers in the Second Intifada, it has, since grabbing hold of Gaza, continued its efforts to terrorize Israel by firing thousands upon thousands of rockets indiscriminately across the border.

An Iron Dome Missile Defense battery set up near the southern Israeli town of Ashdod fires an intercepting missile on July 16, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Were it not for the Iron Dome rocket defense system, much of Israel would, as Hamas had hoped, have been reduced to rubble.

Hamas has also been incessantly digging attack tunnels under the border — another terror avenue that Israel appears to have gradually been closing off with new technology and underground barriers.

Indian TV crew films Hamas rocket launch from Gaza City residential area, August 5, 2014 (NDTV screenshot)

Just in case anybody forgot, Hamas has cynically and relentlessly exploited Gazans — a large proportion of whom have supported it in elections — by storing its rockets near or even inside mosques and schools, firing rockets from residential areas, and digging tunnels from beneath homes and civilian institutions. It has subverted all materials that can be utilized for the manufacture of weaponry, necessitating a stringent Israeli security blockade whose main victims are ordinary Gazans.

Organizing and encouraging mass demonstrations at the border in the so-called “March of Return” to face off against Israeli troops, while sanctimoniously and disingenuously branding the campaign non-violent, is merely the latest iteration of Hamas’s cynical use of Gazans as the human shields for its aggression.

Just in case anybody forgot, demanding a “right of return” to Israel for tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees and their millions of descendants is nothing less than a call for the destruction of Israel by demographic means. No Israeli government could accept this demand, since it would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish-majority state. Israel’s position is that Palestinian refugees and their descendants would become citizens of a Palestinian state at the culmination of the peace process, just as Jews who fled or were forced out of Middle Eastern countries by hostile governments became citizens of Israel.

Palestinians hand out sweets as they celebrate the passing of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, January 11, 2014. (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Just in case anybody forgot, the late prime minister Ariel Sharon oversaw the wrenching withdrawal from Gaza out of a declared desire to set Israel’s permanent borders, and did so unilaterally because he concluded that he could not reach a negotiated agreement with the Palestinian leadership. Had Gaza remained calm, and Sharon remained healthy, it is likely he would have ordered a pullout from much of the West Bank as well — paving the path to Palestinian statehood.

The rise of Hamas to power in Gaza, three rounds of bitter conflict, and an awareness that Israel would be isolated and unable to function if Hamas were to take over in the West Bank — with every location nationwide, notably including the airport, within range of rudimentary rockets — have buried unilateralism and rendered Israelis consensually terrified at the prospect of relinquishing adjacent territory. Thus Hamas, which purports to serve the Palestinian interest, doomed the prospect of Palestinian independence for the foreseeable future.

Organizing and encouraging mass demonstrations at the border in the so-called “March of Return” to face off against Israeli troops, while sanctimoniously and disingenuously branding the campaign non-violent, is merely the latest iteration of Hamas’s cynical use of Gazans as the human shields for its aggression.

But Hamas, of course, is not interested in Palestinian independence. Again, it strives for the elimination of Israel.

So, finally, just in case anybody forgets the context for Friday’s latest escalation of violence, they need only listen to Hamas’s Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar setting out the ultimate goal.  As he put it in an address to Gazans at the border on Friday, “The March of Return will continue… until we remove this transient border.” The protests “mark the beginning of a new phase in the Palestinian national struggle on the road to liberation and ‘return’… Our people can’t give up one inch of the land of Palestine.”

Fatalities from the March 30 violence on the Israel-Gaza border identified by Israel as members of terror groups. (Israel Defense Forces)
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Gaza rocket barrage appears to target ceremony for captured soldier

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Gaza rocket barrage appears to target ceremony for captured soldier

Video from scene shows family members of fallen sergeant Oron Shaul taking cover during concert marking his 24th birthday


The military censor did not allow the exact location of the strike to be published, as it could assist terrorist groups in fine-tuning their targeting for future attacks.

The launches were also directed toward the area where the ceremony was being held, at Kibbutz Kfar Aza, overlooking the place where Staff Sergeant Oron Shaul was killed in the 2014 Gaza war.

Sgt. Oron Shaul, whose death in Gaza on July 20, 2014 was formally confirmed by the IDF on July 25, 2014 (Photo credit: Courtesy)

The time and location of the event were publicized ahead of time.

Yesh Atid MK Haim Jelin, a former head of a regional council just outside Gaza who was at the ceremony, filmed the event for a Facebook Live video. The ceremony was attended by dozens of people, including a number of politicians.

The barrage came just after a musical performance, setting off loudspeakers in the area, which blared, “Code Red. Code Red,” the term for an incoming rocket attack.

Zehava Shaul, whose son Oron’s remains are being held by the Hamas terrorist group in Gaza, is led away from a ceremony in his honor after rockets are launched at Israel from the coastal enclave on December 29, 2017. (Screen capture)

Far from bomb shelters, Jelin and the other members of the audience took cover on the grass, lying on the ground with their hands over their heads.

In the video, Oron Shaul’s clearly distraught mother Zehava could be seen being escorted away.

The loud blasts of the rockets being intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system could be heard in the video, though they could not be seen because of heavy cloud cover.

In the video, one member of the audience could be heard shouting in anger, saying repeatedly that Israel should “conquer Gaza.”

An organizer of the event called for everyone to keep calm and to make their way back to the kibbutz’s bomb shelters.

However, Jelin and others said the ceremony should continue “for Oron’s sake.”

In a statement, Labor Party chief Avi Gabbay, who attended the event, said he was “filled with pride” that the ceremony went forward despite the attack.

Shortly after the rocket barrage, the Israel Defense Forces retaliated by attacking two Hamas positions with tank shelling and strikes from aircraft.

The rocket attack was the first such incident since December 18.

Police said one rocket that wasn’t shot down by the Iron Dome system was found outside a building that had sustained damaged from the impact. There were no reports of casualties.

This month saw two weeks of near-daily rocket launches, the largest incidence of missile-fire from the Strip since the 2014 Israel-Hamas war. These daily attacks had recently seemed to have come to an end.

According to Israeli assessments, the rockets are not being launched by Hamas, but by other terrorist groups in the Strip. However, analysts have noted that Hamas has been either unwilling or unable to clamp down on the groups, as it has in the past.

Protesting Trump’s December 6 declaration that Jerusalem is the Israeli capital, terror group Hamas, which runs Gaza and seeks Israel’s destruction, has called for a new intifada and vowed to liberate Jerusalem.

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IDF deploys Iron Dome, raises alert amid Gaza terror threat

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

IDF deploys Iron Dome, raises alert amid Gaza terror threat

Deployment of missile defenses comes 2 weeks after military destroyed an Islamic Jihad attack tunnel, leading to death of at least 12 of the group’s operatives

An Iron Dome missile defense system deployed near the southern Israeli town of Beersheba in 2014. (Flash90/File)

An Iron Dome missile defense system deployed near the southern Israeli town of Beersheba in 2014. (Flash90/File)

A number of Iron Dome missile defense batteries were deployed in central Israel on Monday, the military said, amid heightened tensions with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad since the army demolished the terrorist group’s border-crossing attack tunnel last month.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed the anti-missile systems had been installed in central Israel, but would not elaborate on their exact location, citing army policy.

The Iron Dome system, which is designed to shoot down short-range rockets and, in some cases, mortars was deployed to counter the threats made by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group, which has vowed to avenge its members killed in the tunnel blast and its aftermath.

Israeli officials have tried to dissuade the terrorist group, warning of a harsh retaliation by the IDF.

On Saturday, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, who runs the Defense Ministry’s chief liaison officer with the Palestinians, publicly warned Islamic Jihad in a video posted to YouTube. He addressed by name the terror group’s leader, Ramadan Shalah, and his deputy, Ziad Nakhaleh, who run the Gaza-based group from Damascus, and said they would be “held responsible” should Islamic Jihad attack Israel.

In the video, Mordechai said that Israel is “aware of the plot that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad is planning against Israel,” and warned that “any attack by the Islamic Jihad will be met with a powerful and determined Israeli response, not only against the Jihad, but also against Hamas.”

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad responded to Mordechai’s video on Sunday, saying the Israeli threats against its leaders constituted “an act of war,” and vowing to continue to try to carry out a revenge attack against Israel.

The “threats to target the movement’s leadership is a declaration of war, which we will confront,” Islamic Jihad said, according to a statement carried by its media affiliate Palestine Today News Agency.

Islamic Jihad said it would not back down on its “right” to retaliate against Israel for the tunnel explosion, which led to the death of 12 members of the terrorists group, including two commanders, as well as two members of Hamas’s military wing.

“We reaffirm our right to respond to any aggression, including our right to respond to the crime of aggression on the resistance tunnel,” the terror group’s statement said.

The Israel Defense Forces blew up the tunnel, which originated in the Gazan city of Khan Younis and crossed into Israeli territory, near Kibbutz Kissufim, on October 30.

According to the army, the tunnel had been under surveillance the entire time that it was inside Israeli territory and did not pose a threat to civilians.

The army said later that killing the terrorists was not the primary objective of the tunnel demolition.

The bodies of five terrorists who were working on the tunnel inside Israeli territory were recovered by the IDF, the army said.

According to Palestinian media, Hamas encouraged Islamic Jihad to abstain from retaliating both in order to prevent further escalation with Israel and to prevent the reconciliation talks it has been conducting with the Palestinian Authority from falling apart.

Mourners carry the coffin of Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement terrorist Arafat Abu Morshed during the funeral at the Bureij refugee camp, in central Gaza of Palestinians killed in an Israeli operation to blow up a tunnel stretching from the Gaza Strip into Israel, on October 31, 2017. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

In his YouTube message, Mordechai referred to those reconciliation efforts, saying the Palestinian Islamic Jihad was “playing with fire” and potentially threatening them, as well as the safety of Gaza Strip residents.

Earlier this month, a senior officer in the IDF’s Southern Command warned that the military suspected the terror group may retaliate for the tunnel demolition with attacks on soldiers serving near the border, rocket fire at southern Israeli communities or terror attacks in the West Bank.

“The [Palestinian] Islamic Jihad will have a hard time holding back,” said the unnamed senior official.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, November 12, 2017. (AFP/POOL/ABIR SULTAN)

On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu added his words of warning against those contemplating an attack. “These days, there are still those who toy with trying renewed attacks on Israel,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. “We will take a very strong hand against anyone who tries to attack us or attacks us from any sector.”

“I say this to every entity, rogue faction, organization — every one. In any case, we see Hamas as responsible for every attack that emanates from, or is planned against us in, the Gaza Strip,” he said.

Dov Lieber contributed to this report. 

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