Rockets Rain Down On Gaza Strip And Israel

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

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

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

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

PM of Israel

@IsraeliPM

WATCH: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks today at the joint statement with IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi and ISA Director Nadav Argaman (English captions available).
Full remarks:https://bit.ly/2pVXulD 

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“Over the past year, this arch-terrorist was the main instigator of terrorism from the Gaza Strip. He initiated, planned and carried out many terrorist attacks,” Netanyahu added — including “hundreds of rockets at communities in the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip.”

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

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

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

Anas Baba/AFP via Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israel Accuses ‘Islamic Jihad’ of Sabotaging Understandings with Hamas

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

 

Israel Accuses ‘Islamic Jihad’ of Sabotaging Understandings with Hamas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senior Hamas official Fathi Hammad. (Screenshot: YouTube)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Islamic Jihad threatens to escalate Gaza violence to all-out war

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Islamic Jihad threatens to escalate Gaza violence to all-out war

The spokesman for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad says the armed terror group in the Gaza Strip is poised to escalate deadly violence against Israel to an all-out war.

“The resistance is on the verge of a new level in facing aggression; a level that could lead to open war,” Mosab Al Braim tells the Hamas-linked al-Risala daily. “It will hurt the enemy like our people are hurting.”

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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HOW DOES ISRAEL’S MILITARY COMPARE TO IRAN?

(THIS ARTICLE SI COURTESY OF NEWSWEEK)

 

HOW DOES ISRAEL’S MILITARY COMPARE TO IRAN?

Relations between Israel and Iran are at breaking point. The multinational nuclear deal signed with Iran is on the verge of collapsing—partly thanks to Israeli lobbying against it. Iranian leaders have warned that if it fails, the country will resume its uranium enrichment program, a step Israel considers a threat to its very existence.

Meanwhile, multiple Israeli strikes have sought to dislodge Iranian forces from Syria, where Tehran enjoys increasing influence. Israeli leaders are fighting hard to stop Iranian soldiers deploying along its northern border.

Though it would appear that neither nation wants a full-scale war, the potential for miscalculation and escalation remains. Both nations have considerable military clout, and any prolonged confrontation between them would be bloody.

RTS1IFO9Israeli forces are seen near a border fence between the Israeli-occupied side of the Golan Heights and Syria, on November 4, 2017. Israel is wary of Iran’s growing influence across its northern border.REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD

Iran is a much larger country with a far higher population than Israel, but numbers alone do not dictate military capability—combat technology and experience are vital factors too. Technological capability is even more important in an era where technology is changing the way war is waged, allowing nations to hit each other harder, from further away and with less human involvement.

A small nation with a population of just 8.5 million, Israel’s military punches significantly above its weight. Formed amid a war with seven Arab neighbors, the country’s short history is punctuated with conflicts fought for its survival. This tough history combines with a burgeoning technology sphere and close relations with powerful western nations to create one of the world’s most formidable fighting forces.

According to Global Firepower, Israel has approximately 170,000 active personnel with a further 445,000 in reserve. Conscription exists for all non-Arab citizens of Israel over the age of 18, giving the country a large and well-trained pool of fighters to call up in the event of war.

Though less sophisticated than Israel, the Iranian military is a force to be reckoned with. Its large population—around 82 million—enables Tehran to maintain a standing force of around 534,000 soldiers, with a further 400,000 in reserve, making it the largest force in the Middle East.

In a drawn-out engagement, national manpower becomes an important issue. Iranian available manpower is around 47 million compared with just 3 million for Israel. Of course, how important this is will depend on the nature of any war being fought.

RTXYQI5Members of Iranian armed forces march during the Army Day parade in Tehran on April 18, 2013.REUTERS/HAMID FOROOTAN/ISNA/HANDOUT

In 2017, Israel spent $16.5 billion on its armed forces, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Iran was not far behind on $14.5 billion. Though this does not seem like a big gap, the fact that Israel is spending billions more than Iran on a smaller military indicates the gulf in the quality of equipment used.

Israel fields more tanks than Iran—2,760 compared to 1,650. Israel wins this matchup on quality as well as quantity, the latest version of its Merkava tank being one of the best and most heavily defended in the world. Iran is mostly using second-rate tanks, though it has announced the development of the new Karrar platform, which it claims will be able to compete with top-class opponents.

The Israeli air force is one of the best in the world, equipped and trained to the highest level. Its pilots are experienced too, having regularly conducted missions against targets in Syria, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and even Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Its 250 or so fighters include a handful of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft, one of just four fifth-generation fighter planes in the world. Israel will eventually have 50 F-35s.

By contrast, Iran fields around 160 fighter jets, none of which are as advanced as the F-35. Furthermore, its pilots are less well-trained and experienced than their Israeli counterparts.

Neither nation is a significant maritime power. Iran has more than 30 submarines, five frigates, three corvettes and more than 200 patrol craft. Israel currently has five submarines, three corvettes, eight missile boats and 45 patrol boats. Considering the geography, the naval theater is unlikely to play any significant role in a potential conflict.

RTX2UPSIAn Israeli soldier sits inside a F-35 fighter jet after it landed at Nevatim air base in southern Israel on December 12, 2016.REUTERS/AMIR COHEN

In the event of an all-out war, Israel holds the nuclear trump card. Notoriously secretive about its nuclear arsenal, the country is believed to possess between 75 and 400 warheads. The weapons can be delivered using Israel’s Jericho ballistic missiles, submarine-launched cruise missiles or even fighter planes.

Iran has no nuclear capability. Even if talks break down, it will take many years before Tehran joins the nuclear club. Iran is working hard to improve its ballistic missile arsenal, already one of the most potent in the region and well-able to hit Israel.

But Iran has other tricks up its sleeves. Financial and military support for anti-Israeli militant groups across the Middle East give it an unconventional way to hit its rival in the event of conflict. The Shiite Lebanese Hezbollah group, especially, is a worry for Israeli leaders. Hezbollah has a well-trained and well-equipped military, far more powerful than the Lebanese army and able to operate freely.

Hezbollah’s experience fighting alongside regime forces in Syria has given it vital combat exposure. The group maintains a huge rocket arsenal, and its weapons can hit anywhere in Israel. Iran also provides support to the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad groups in Gaza, which maintain smaller, but still significant, rocket capabilities.

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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Behind Islamic Jihad’s barrage of attacks on Israel, the hand of Iran

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Behind Islamic Jihad’s barrage of attacks on Israel, the hand of Iran

It is hard to believe that the Gaza terror group would have opened fire on Israeli citizens, potentially pushing the Strip toward war, without the support of its Iranian sponsors

Avi Issacharoff
Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists march during a military drill near the border with Israel, east of the town of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, on March 27, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)

Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists march during a military drill near the border with Israel, east of the town of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, on March 27, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)

Tuesday morning’s barrages of mortar shells and rockets into southern Israel were quickly rumored in Gaza to be the work of the Islamic Jihad terror group. And hours after more than two dozen mortar shells hit Israel, the IDF carried out retaliatory strikes that were mainly directed at Islamic Jihad’s military wing.

Islamic Jihad’s role indicates we are witnessing an attempt by Iran to spark a war on the southern border. And if the deterioration of the situation is not halted in the very near future, the attempt may prove successful. Already we have seen an attack on Israeli targets unprecedented since 2014’s Protective Edge conflict, with a consequent Israeli response against targets in Gaza.

The Islamic Jihad barrages were ostensibly aimed at avenging Israel’s reported killing of three of its operatives, who were attempting an attack, earlier this week in the Rafah area. That was the immediate pretext. But the nature and scale of the Islamic Jihad response — heavy fire at civilian targets in Israel — indicates that revenge was not the only motivation. It is possible that this is at root an Iranian move, seeking to have Israel pay a price in the south for targeting Iran in the north — across the border in Syria.

After all, it is hard to believe that Islamic Jihad, a smaller ally-rival of Hamas which is financed and trained primarily by the Iranians, would have initiated this kind of action, with its dramatic consequences for Gaza, without Tehran’s approval.

Israeli soldiers stand guard next to an Israeli Iron Dome defense system, designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, deployed along the border with the Gaza strip on May 29, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)

Israel has been making clear of late that it operates freely in Syria against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps there; it may well be that there are those in Tehran who want to counter that via the Gaza Strip, or at least to stir up Israel’s southern border and therefore distract Israel’s attention from the north.

Where does Hamas, the terror group that rules Gaza, fit into this? Hamas was quick to welcome the barrages fired at Israel. And the IDF has also targeted several Hamas facilities. Yet the fact remains that Hamas’s activities in recent months indicate that it is not particularly interested in an escalation, and Israel recognizes this.

Hamas has put the brakes on a potential deterioration into all-out conflict more than once of late, even after its forces were hit. The most obvious recent example of this was on May 14, the day the US inaugurated its embassy in Jerusalem, Nakba Day, when more than 60 Gazans were killed in violent clashes with Israel at the Gaza border. Hamas later acknowledged that almost all of the fatalities were its members. Yet it ordered the dispersal of the protests at the border that evening, to avoid a potential descent into war.

Illustrative. A photo provided by the pro-regime Syrian Central Military Media, shows anti-aircraft fire rise into the sky as Israeli missiles hit air defense positions and other military bases around Damascus, Syria, on May 10, 2018, after the Israeli military says Iranian forces launched a rocket barrage against Israeli bases on the Golan Heights, in the most serious military confrontation between the two bitter enemies to date. (Syrian Central Military Media, via AP)

Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar and Ismael Haniyeh have been engaged in various secretive contacts of late — intermittently involving Egypt and, separately Qatar — intended to yield understandings for a long-term Hamas-Israel ceasefire. Evidently, however, there are other players — Islamic Jihad and Iran — who want to heat things up.

Islamic Jihad’s attacks on Israel are also embarrassing Hamas in the eyes of the Gaza public. Hamas knows that if its forces do not prevent a continuation of Islamic Jihad fire — whether through the use of force, or threats, or both — there is a considerable likelihood that Gaza will once again find itself at war with Israel. But if Hamas does intervene against Islamic Jihad, its image as the “resistance” against Israel will be undermined. It would risk becoming perceived as another kind of “Palestinian Authority,” collaborating with the Zionist enemy in return for quiet and/or economic benefit.

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Hamas official: 50 of the 62 Gazans killed in border violence were our members

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Hamas official: 50 of the 62 Gazans killed in border violence were our members

Salah Bardawil’s confirmation means number of acknowledged members of terror groups who died on Monday and Tuesday is now 53

Palestinian demonstrators burn tires near the Gaza-Israel border, east of Gaza City, on May 14, 2018 (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

Palestinian demonstrators burn tires near the Gaza-Israel border, east of Gaza City, on May 14, 2018 (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

A Hamas official on Wednesday acknowledged that 50 of the 62 Palestinians reported killed during Gaza border riots on Monday and Tuesday were members of the Islamist terrorist group, bringing the total number of known members of terror groups among the fatalities up to 53.

“In the last rounds of confrontations, if 62 people were martyred, 50 of them were Hamas,” said Hamas official Salah Bardawil in an interview with the Palestinian Baladna news outlet.

The Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad had said on Tuesday that three members of its Saraya al-Quds military wing were killed by Israeli forces in Khan Younis.

The Israeli military shared a portion of Bardawil’s interview with an Arabic news outlet, accompanied by English captions.

IDF

@IDFSpokesperson

Hamas official, Dr. Salah Al-Bardawil is clear about terrorist involvement in the riots

“This proves what so many have tried to ignore: Hamas is behind these riots, and the branding of the riots as ‘peaceful protests’ could not be further from the truth,” said IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus.

According to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, 62 people in total were killed during border clashes on Monday and Tuesday.

Israel has not put out its own official death toll, but officials have questioned the accuracy of the Hamas-provided figure. In one case, a Gazan doctor told the Associated Press that an 8-month-old baby, who the Gaza ministry said died after inhaling Israeli tear gas on Monday, had a preexisting medical condition and that he did not believe her death was caused by tear gas.

The Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday had said that at least 24 members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad were killed in day-long clashes Monday. At that stage, Hamas acknowledged 10 of the dead were its members.

Hamas press release on May 15, 2918, announcing the deaths of 10 of its Interior Ministry members in clashes with the IDF the day prior. (Courtesy)

The IDF said its number was based on a joint investigation with the Shin Bet security service.

“Most of the people [from terror groups] killed belonged to the Hamas terror group, and some to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad,” an IDF spokesperson said.

Among the dead, the IDF said on Tuesday, were all eight members of a cell of armed Hamas operatives who were killed in a gun battle as they sought to breach the fence in the northern Gaza Strip.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said 60 people were killed in Monday’s demonstrations, most by gunfire, and more than 2,700 were injured. Another two Palestinian men were killed Tuesday as smaller protests broke out in Gaza, the ministry said.

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and other senior officers monitor the Gaza security fence during violent protests along the border on May 14, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israel has blamed Hamas for the deadly violence, saying the terror group encouraged and led the protests, which included attacks on Israeli troops and attempts to breach the border fence. The IDF said Sunday that Hamas planned to send armed terrorists through any breach in the fence to “massacre” Israelis.

After the first “March of Return” protests in March, Hamas acknowledged that five of its terrorists were among the fatalities, but it subsequently refrained from acknowledging whether its men were among the dead.

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

For Hamas, the terror group that rules Gaza and seeks Israel’s destruction, Monday’s border protest was the culmination of a weeks-long campaign to try to break the blockade on the territory. Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent Hamas from acquiring weaponry and attacking the Jewish state.

Monday’s demonstrations also protested the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, viewed as a major provocation by the Palestinians and the Arab world. Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Palestinian protesters look up at falling tear gas cannisters dropped by an Israeli quadcopter drone during clashes near the border with Israel east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on May 15, 2018. (AFP/ SAID KHATIB)

Hamas has said protests would continue in a weekly format, but it was not clear if it would be able to maintain momentum during the fasting month of Ramadan, which begins this week.

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Islamic Jihad Sets Sniper Sights On Top IDF Commanders

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Islamic Jihad sets sniper sights on top IDF commanders in threatening new video

Iran-backed Gaza-based terror group shows footage of IDF’s head of Southern Command and top liaison to the Palestinians filmed on Gaza border

The Gaza-based, Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group on Thursday released a video showing IDF soldiers and senior officers in the crosshairs of a sniper, threatening the commanders on Israel’s 70th Independence Day.

In the video, the sniper appears to train his sights on Israeli troops and officers at the Gaza border fence. Among those seen is Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the Defense Ministry’s outgoing head of liaison to the Palestinians, as well as Southern Command chief Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir.

“You murder our people in cold blood and think you are protected, when the scopes of our snipers have been set on your senior commanders,” the terror group wrote in Hebrew and Arabic at the end of the video.

The video shows the sniper in a house in Gaza along with other Islamic Jihad members while observing the generals, who are seen alongside other IDF soldiers.

Coordinator of the Government’s Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, is seen alongside other senior IDF commanders through the crosshairs of a sniper in a video released on April 19, 2018, by the Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group. (Screen capture: Twitter)

Mordechai, the Defense Ministry’s outgoing Coordinator of the Government’s Activities in the Territories, has toured Israel’s border with the Strip during the last few weeks along with Zamir to coordinate a response to widespread Palestinian protests that have led to bloody clashes.

He is defined by Israeli authorities as an individual under threat from Hamas, the terror organization which rules Gaza, and has had security forces guarding his house since the 2014 Gaza war.

The edited footage was apparently filmed during the Friday demonstrations in recent weeks dubbed the “March of Return,” according to the Ynet news site.

Palestinian protesters burn an Israeli flag during clashes with Israeli forces near the border with Israel, east of Gaza city in the central Gaza strip, on April 13, 2018. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

The encampments set up as part of the protests will be moved 50 meters closer to the border with Israel on the fourth protest slated for this Friday, the organizers of the mass demonstrations announced on Wednesday.

The National Forum for the March of Return, one of several Palestinian groups behind the weekly demonstrations, said that the decision came to “affirm our right to return” — a reference to the Palestinian demand that Israel allow tens of thousands of refugees and their millions of descendants to “return” to homes and lands inside Israel which they left or were forced from during Israel’s 1948 Independence War.

Egypt has reportedly been exerting pressure on Hamas and other Palestinian groups to halt the mass protests. The Egyptians, according to reports, have expressed fear that the demonstrations could spin out of control and ignite another war between Hamas and Israel.

A Palestinian youth swings a sling shot during clashes after a demonstration near the border with Israel, east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, on April 1, 2018. (AFP/Said Khatib)

According to the Hamas-run health ministry in the Gaza Strip, 35 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli gunfire since the beginning of the marches three weeks ago. Hamas has acknowledged that several of those killed were its members, and Israel has identified other fatalities as members of terrorist groups.

Last Friday, at least 10,000 Gazans took part in large-scale demonstrations, with the IDF saying some protesters hurled an explosive device and firebombs at Israeli troops deployed at the border, as well as making “several attempts” to damage the fence and cross over into Israeli territory. A week earlier, about 20,000 Palestinians took part in the demonstrations, and the week before an estimated 30,000.

Ahmed Abu Rtaimeh, a member of the National Forum for the March of Return, said on Wednesday that the demonstrations would continue “with full force” in the coming weeks.

He told the Hamas-affiliated Al Resalah news website that the March of Return had “imposed a new struggle reality that has vitalized the Palestinians and redefined the Palestinian cause as a cause of a people who want to return to their country.”

Israeli governments have rejected the notion of a mass “right of return” for Palestinians into the borders of the state of Israel, arguing that an influx of millions Palestinians would spell the end of the Jewish nation-state. Israel has called for Palestinian refugees to be absorbed into a future Palestinian state, just as Israel took in hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing Arab nations in the Middle East and North Africa.

Of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who left or were forced out of Israel when the country was established, a figure estimated in the low tens of thousands are still believed to be alive. But their descendants, considered refugees under the unique designation afforded by the UN to Palestinians, number in the millions.

At the Gaza border on successive Fridays in recent weeks, Gazans have been holding mass demonstrations, termed “March of Return,” which Gaza’s Hamas terrorist rulers say ultimately aim to see the removal of the border and the liberation of Palestine.

Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.

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