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Latest News in Israel – 15th December

Terrorist stabs two Border Policemen with screwdriver in Jerusalem

Two Border Police officers are in light condition after being stabbed in the head and upper body with a screwdriver by an Arab terrorist near Lion’s Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on Wednesday afternoon.

While details of the attack remain unclear, Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the incident took place shortly before 1 p.m. Magen David Adom paramedics treated both officers at the scene, before transferring them to Hadassah University Medical Center in Ein Kerem.

The unidentified suspect is from the West Bank, and was shot by responding officers, Rosenfeld said. He was also treated at the scene before being rushed to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in critical condition.

Rosenfeld did not confirm reports that a 12-year-old sustained a light head wound during the attack, and is also being treated at an area hospital.

Police temporarily cordoned off the scene, searched for other potential suspects, and have opened an investigation, he said.

Lion’s Gate was a flashpoint area during the so-called “stabbing intifada,” from September of last year through much of this year.

The last stabbing attack occurred there in May, when a 60-year-old Israeli man was assaulted.

Wednesday’s attack came one day after an attempted car ramming occurred when a Palestinian woman drove her vehicle toward Border Police and then charged officers on foot with a knife.

The unidentified Palestinian woman was arrested Tuesday afternoon at the Kalandia Crossing checkpoint, separating Jerusalem from Ramallah.

According to Rosenfeld, the attempted attack took place shortly after 2 p.m., when the suspect drove her car in the wrong direction toward police guarding the checkpoint.

“The officers fired warning shots in the air, and the female terrorist exited her vehicle with a knife and charged them screaming ‘Allahu Akbar!,’” said Rosenfeld. “She was disarmed and arrested at the scene without being injured, and the area was temporary closed off.” An investigation has been opened, he said.       (Jerusalem Post)

IS in Sinai: Israel conducted multiple airstrikes against us

The Islamic State terrorist group accused Israel of conducting multiple airstrikes against it in the northern Sinai peninsula, in a statement issued on its al-Amaq news agency Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, incoming rocket alert sirens sounded in southern Israel, as a result of a missile launched in Sinai. However, the projectile did not clear the border and landed within Egyptian territory.

According to the IS news agency, Israel carried out three strikes over the course of three days in the area of Sheikh Zuweid in the northern peninsula. The Israel Defense Forces would not respond to the allegation.

In addition, Abdullah Kishta, a former senior member of Hamas who joined the Islamic State, was killed in Sinai, according to IS-affiliated media. But the circumstances of Kashta’s death were not immediately clear.

For the past two years, Kishta had reportedly worked as a bridge between the Islamic State and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, assisting in smuggling fighters in and out of the coastal enclave.

Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai called Kishta out by name as a link between the two terrorist groups last year, saying the IDF had “proof” of the direct connection.

In July, a former Israeli senior official told Bloomberg news that Israel had carried out drone strikes against terrorists operating in the Sinai Peninsula in recent years.

The airstrikes were conducted with Egypt’s knowledge and blessing, according to the ex-official, who spoke to the US-based news site on condition of anonymity.

While it has become a well-known secret that Jerusalem and Cairo cooperate closely on security measures in the Sinai and Gaza, many of the details of that relationship have been kept a closely guarded secret.

Islamists in the restive Sinai who have since pledged allegiance to the Islamic State have waged an insurgency against Egyptian forces since the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Fighting has intensified in recent years following a coup by current President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to remove Muslim Brotherhood-linked leader Mohammed Morsi from power.

Israeli military officials believe that despite ideological differences, Hamas in Gaza is cooperating with extremists affiliated with Islamic State or other armed groups in Egypt’s neighboring Sinai region.

They praise Egypt’s crackdown on Hamas’s cross-border smuggling tunnels, which had been a main conduit for weapons into Gaza, and say the Egyptian military is doing an admirable job in a fierce battle against IS militants in Sinai.

Israel has allowed Egypt to move heavy weapons like tanks, artillery and attack helicopters into the Sinai to fight extremists, overlooking provisions in the landmark 1979 peace treaty between the two countries.

The two sides also are considered to have close intelligence ties.

The two countries have entered something of a golden age in their relationship since Sissi assumed the country’s leadership in 2013.

“This is one of the best times we’ve ever had” in terms of cooperation between governments, Israeli ambassador to Cairo Haim Koren said earlier this year. “There’s good cooperation between the armies, we have understandings about the Sinai Peninsula, and basically, we see (eye-to-eye) on development of the region.”   (the Times of Israel)

PM hails Azerbaijan cooperation as beacon of Jewish-Muslim coexistence

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday hailed Israel’s multi-billion dollar military cooperation with Azerbaijan as a positive example of Muslim-Jewish coexistence.

“Israel is the Jewish state and Azerbaijan is a Muslim state with a large Muslim majority,” Netanyahu said after meeting with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev. “Here we have an example of Muslims and Jews working together to promise a better future for both of us.”

A secular state that has long had warm relations with Israel, the overwhelmingly Muslim Azerbaijan is one of Israel’s main trading partners, buying weapons systems and providing the Jewish state with the lion’s share of its oil.

“The world sees so much intolerance and darkness, this is an example of how the Muslim-Jewish relationship can and should be everywhere,” Netanyahu said on the first leg of his historic two-day visit to Muslim-majority countries in bid to further develop security, economic, and diplomatic ties.

Netanyahu in his remarks also noted the growing cooperation between the two countries in the energy, agriculture, IT and education sectors.

At the press conference, Aliyev said that Baku has purchased nearly $5 billion in Israeli weapons over the years.

“We actively cooperate in the area of defense industries. This cooperation has lasted for many years already,” Aliyev told Israeli and Azerbaijani reporters at Baku’s Zagulba Palace.

“To give you one figure to illustrate how broad this cooperation is, so far the contracts between Azerbaijani and Israeli companies with respect to purchasing of defense equipment is close to $5 billion. To be more precise, $4.85 billion.”

Bibi in Azerbaijan

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) greeted by Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev at Baku’s Zagulba Palace

Though most of the military contracts have already been executed, Aliyev said there was room for increased partnerships with Israel.

Two Israeli officials said they were surprised that Azerbaijan chose to reveal exact figures detailing its defense deals with Israel.

Earlier this year, Armenian forces claimed Baku deployed Israeli-made kamikaze drones in a battle against them in the ongoing fighting over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory.

According to reports, Baku is interested in acquiring Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, a deal that was likely to be discussed during Netanyahu’s visit.

“We’re very satisfied with the level of this cooperation,” Aliyev told reporters.

Nearly 98 percent of Azerbaijan’s 10 million inhabitants are Muslim, the vast majority of them Shiites, along with a tiny, 20,000-member Jewish minority.

Netanyahu was to later Tuesday lay a wreath at Şəhidlər Xiyabanı, or Martyrs Lane, a memorial dedicated to Azeris killed by the Soviets during the 1990 January Massacre and the Nagorno-Karabakh War, which lasted from 1988 to 1994. He also planned to visit the Ohr Avner Jewish educational complex, run by the Chabad movement, where he was scheduled to meet with representatives of Azerbaijan’s Jewish community.

On Wednesday, Netanyahu and his delegation will travel to Kazakhstan for talks with officials interested in Israeli counterterrorism know-how and in doing business with Israel’s high-tech sector, a means of diversifying its economy, which is currently dominated by exports of hydrocarbons.                  (the Times of Israel)

Car-ramming foiled at West Bank checkpoint, police say

Police said an East Jerusalem woman tried to carry out a car-ramming attack Tuesday at the flashpoint Qalandiya crossing in the West Bank.

The incident began when the woman, 31, a resident of the Beit Hanina neighborhood, approached the crossing at high speed in her vehicle. Troops opened fire, forcing her to stop. She then emerged from the car, shouting Allahu akbar (God is great).

Guards at the checkpoint subdued and arrested her, police said, adding that she was in possession of a knife.

There were no injuries to the woman or security forces.

The crossing, which links the capital to the Palestinian refugee camp of the same name, has seen many attempted attacks over the last year.

On November 22 a Palestinian man armed with a knife was shot and killed by Israeli security forces as he attempted to stab a guard there. According to police, the assailant walked toward guards manning an area meant for vehicular traffic. When asked for his ID, he drew a knife and “tussled” with a guard. He was then shot by responding forces.

A spate of stabbings by Palestinian assailants that began a year ago has waned over the last six months, though sporadic attacks have persisted.

From October 2015 to October 2016, 36 Israelis, two Americans and an Eritrean national were killed in stabbing, car-ramming and shooting attacks.

According to AFP figures, some 238 Palestinians, a Jordanian and a Sudanese migrant were also killed during the violent spurt, most of them in the course of carrying out attacks, Israel says, and many of the others in clashes with troops in the West Bank and at the Gaza border, as well as in Israeli airstrikes in the Strip.  (the Times of IsraeL)

The Palestinian Jihads against Israel

by Khaled Abu Toameh                     The Gatestone Institute


“We will not recognize Israel because it will inevitably go away. And we will not backtrack on the option of armed struggle until the liberation of all Palestine.” — Khalil Al-Haya, Hamas senior official.

The abandonment of Gaza by Israel in 2005 drove the Palestinian vote for Hamas the next year. It also explains why many Palestinians continue to support Hamas — because they still believe that violence is the way to defeat Israel.

Hamas believes that Israel does not have the right to defend itself against rockets and terror attacks. It even considers Israel’s self-defense as an “act of terror.”

In yet another sign that exposes Hamas’s ongoing preparations to attack Israel, the movement last week held a drill with live ammunition in the northern Gaza Strip.

“What has been achieved so far is a small jihad, and the big jihad is still awaiting us.” — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas is convinced that his “diplomatic jihad” against Israel is no less effective than Hamas’s jihad of terrorism.

Yet even if Abbas manages to achieve reconciliation with Hamas, this move should not be seen as sign of pragmatism on the part of the Islamist movement. Under no circumstances will Hamas relinquish its policy of the destruction of Israel and its replacement with an Islamist state.

From Abbas’s point of view, Hamas’s terrorism will only increase the pressure on Israel to capitulate. Here Abbas has an ally in Hamas: to multiply jihads to force Israel to its knees.

The Palestinian Islamist movement, Hamas, which is currently celebrating the 29th anniversary of its founding, misses no opportunity to broadcast its stated reason for being: to wage jihad (holy war) in order to achieve its goal of destroying Israel. Those who allege that Hamas is moving toward pragmatism and moderation might take note.

Last week, tens of thousands of Palestinians took to the streets of the Gaza Strip to participate in rallies marking the anniversary of the founding of Hamas. As in previous years, the rallies were held under the motto of jihad and “armed resistance” until the liberation of all Palestine, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Another message that emerged loud and clear from the rallies: Hamas will never recognize Israel’s right to exist.

This year’s rallies once again also served as a reminder of the enormous popularity that Hamas continues to enjoy among Palestinians — not only in the Gaza Strip, but also in the West Bank, where supporters of the Islamist movement celebrated the occasion, but on a smaller scale and with a lower profile, out of fear of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israeli security forces.

Khalil Al-Haya, a senior Hamas official, outlined in a speech before his supporters in the Gaza Strip his movement’s strategy, namely to pursue the fight until the elimination of Israel. “We will not recognize Israel because it will inevitably go away,” he declared.

“And we will not backtrack on the option of armed struggle until the liberation of all Palestine. Since its establishment, Hamas has been — and will remain — a Palestinian Islamic national and resistance movement whose goal is to liberate Palestine and confront the Israeli project. The liberation of the Gaza Strip is just the first step toward the liberation of Palestine — all Palestine. There is no future for the Israeli entity on our homeland.”

When Hamas leaders talk about the “liberation” of the Gaza Strip, they are referring to the total unilateral Israeli disengagement from that area in 2005. Hamas and many Palestinians have never viewed the full withdrawal from the Gaza Strip as a gesture on the part of Israel. Nor have they ever considered the disengagement as a sign that Israel is no longer interested in controlling the lives of nearly two million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip.

On the contrary, Hamas and many Palestinians continue to see the Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip as a sign of weakness. In fact, this disengagement is why Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary election in 2006, when it took credit for driving Israel out of the Gaza Strip through suicide bombings and rockets. Back then, this abandonment of land by Israel drove the Palestinian vote for Hamas. It also explains why many Palestinians continue to support Hamas — because they still believe that violence is the way to defeat Israel.

Many Palestinians see Israeli concessions, gestures and unilateral moves as proof of capitulation, rather than positive signs testifying to Israel’s peaceful intentions. These “concessions for peace” by Israel further increases Palestinians’ appetite for launching armed attacks against Israel. Today, many Palestinians are convinced that they can achieve more through stabbings, vehicular rammings and shooting attacks than sitting with Israel at the negotiating table.

The Qatar-based Hamas leader, Khaled Mashaal, seized the anniversary as an opportunity once again to remind everyone of his movement’s real goals. Speaking on the Al-Jazeera TV network, which serves as a platform for the Muslim Brotherhood organization (Hamas is an offshoot of Muslim Brotherhood), Mashaal said:

“We are moving forward with our resistance to achieve our national project… We are looking forward to liberating Palestine and cleansing the Al-Aqsa Mosque and protecting it from division and demolition. We also seek the return of the refugees to their homeland and the liberation of our prisoners from Israeli jails.”

When he talks about “cleansing” Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Hamas leader is referring to Jewish visits to the Temple Mount. Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have been exploiting these visits to incite their people against Israel. They claim that Jewish visitors are “desecrating” the holy site and should not be allowed to set foot there. These words mirror those used by President Mahmoud Abbas, who said that Palestinians will not allow Jews to “defile with their filthy feet” the Al-Aqsa Mosque (although no Jew has entered the mosque itself).

Mashaal, who in the past few years has been living as royalty in Qatar (the country that is the main patron of Muslim Brotherhood), went on to emphasize that Hamas has “not changed its strategy of liberating Palestine.” He also said that, “Military work remains the backbone of liberation.” Hamas, he added, “Continues to believe in the full liberation of Palestine and that jihad and resistance are the only means to expel the occupation and liberate Palestine and the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque.” According to Mashaal, Hamas continues to look toward Arab and Islamic countries, including Iran, for the military, financial and political support to achieve its goal of destroying Israel.

Hamas’s armed wing, Ezaddin Al-Qassam, boasted on this occasion that 22 of its men have been killed since the beginning of 2016, while preparing for the next war with Israel. Most of the Hamas men were killed when the tunnels in which they were working in collapsed. Hamas continues to build new tunnels and renovate those that were destroyed during the last war with Israel in 2014. Hamas says it wants to use these tunnels in the future to infiltrate Israel and kill or kidnap Israeli civilians or soldiers.

Ironically, while Hamas pursues its round-the-clock efforts to prepare for war against Israel, its leaders do not hesitate to depict themselves as victims, and warn of supposed Israeli plans to launch a “new aggression” against Palestinians. Hamas believes that Israel does not have the right to defend itself against rockets and terror attacks. It even considers Israel’s self-defense as an “act of terror.”

Take, for example, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum’s recent assessment. Lashing out at U.S. aid to Israel, Barhoum said that the American military and financial aid to Israel constitutes “official support for terrorism.”

This is effectively Hamas’s message to the new U.S. administration: Stop supporting Israel with weapons and money because that hinders our goal of destroying Israel. In yet another sign that exposes Hamas’s ongoing preparations to attack Israel, the movement last week held a drill with live ammunition in the northern Gaza Strip. The drill enacted, among other things, an incursion into a civilian populated area. Hamas said the drill was the fruit of 380 hours of non-stop military training of its “Special Units.”

Hamas’s rhetoric and actions leave no room for doubt as to its intentions. Twenty-nine years after its establishment, a defiant Hamas continues to believe that Israel can, and should, be destroyed. The dream to eliminate Israel remains alive and well among many Palestinians, as evidenced at Hamas rallies by the massive turnouts.

Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, however, are kissing cousins when it comes to Israel. Hamas’s talk of jihad against Israel is right in line with Abbas’s speech before the 7th Congress of Fatah, which convened in Ramallah two weeks ago. “What has been achieved so far is a small jihad, and the big jihad is still awaiting us,” Abbas declared.

According to Abbas’s aides, the PA president was referring to a different type of jihad — one that relates to his ongoing efforts in the international arena to isolate and delegitimize Israel, to force it to make far-reaching concessions to the Palestinians. Abbas’s diplomatic warfare against Israel began several years ago, with the PA’s efforts to join international institutions and seek unilateral recognition in the UN of a Palestinian state. His ultimate goal is to have the international community exert pressure on Israel to withdraw fully to the pre-1967 lines. Abbas wants to establish a Palestinian state with the help of the international community, and not through direct negotiations with Israel. He is convinced that his “diplomatic jihad” against Israel is no less effective than the Hamas jihad of terrorism.

This Abbas talk of “small” and “big” jihad comes at a time when Abbas and Hamas are in courting mode. Some reports have suggested that Abbas recently sent conciliatory messages to Hamas in yet another bid to end the dispute between the two sides. He and Khaled Mashaal have had regular phone contact, with both expressing a desire to end the conflict between them. The reports have even suggested that the two rival parties may be preparing to resume their “reconciliation” talks in Doha under the auspices of Qatar. Last October, Abbas met in Doha with Mashaal and another Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh, as part of his rapprochement with the Islamist movement. The meeting was said to be held in a cordial atmosphere, and some Palestinian political analysts point to a warming of relations between the two sides.

Yet even if Abbas manages to achieve reconciliation with Hamas, this move should not be seen as a sign of pragmatism on the part of the Islamist movement. Under no circumstances will Hamas relinquish its policy of the destruction of Israel and its replacement with an Islamist state. The movement’s own words on its anniversary provide the best proof of this intention. To their credit, Hamas leaders are nothing if not honest about their commitment to Israel’s destruction. Abbas certainly will not attempt to convince Hamas to abandon this fundamental goal. So, as far as Hamas is concerned, reconciliation means that Abbas will move closer to the Islamist movement and not vice versa.

In fact, Mahmoud Abbas seems to believe that Hamas’s and his jihads complement each other. Thus, Hamas will continue its deadly jihad, while Abbas will pursue his “diplomatic jihad” against Israel. From his point of view, Hamas’s terrorism will only increase the pressure on Israel to capitulate. Here Abbas has an ally in Hamas: to multiply jihads to force Israel to its knees.

Jerusalem likely disappointed by Trump’s secretary of state pick

by   Herb Keinon    The Jerusalem Post


Nobody will admit it, but it is safe to assume Jerusalem was disappointed Tuesday when US President-elect Donald Trump announced the winner of his secretary of state sweepstakes.

It’s not because Jerusalem dislikes or does not trust Trump’s nominee, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson – policy makers in Israel, like those in most other non-oil producing countries, don’t know that much about him. It’s just that the Netanyahu government really liked some of the other candidates that were bandied about over the last five weeks: Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and John Bolton.

Giuliani, Romney, Bolton – these are men that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has known for years and with whom he shares a similar world view. Tillerson, however, is a largely unknown quantity.

Jerusalem knows that Tillerson is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and that he has worked intensively in Arab countries with which ExxonMobil does business. But no one seems to have any idea about where he stands on issues such as the settlements, Jerusalem and the two-state solution.

Some are making assumptions, however, that because he was highly recommended for the position by former secretaries of state James Baker and Condoleezza Rice, and because he is reportedly close to former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, that he doesn’t have a warm spot in his heart for either the settlement enterprise or Israel. But Tillerson has left no public record of comments on these issues to support that assumption. In short, his positions on the Mideast conflict are, at this point, anyone’s guess.

One thing it is important to keep in mind, said Danny Ayalon, a former Israeli ambassador to the US and deputy foreign minister, is that US secretaries of state “serve at the pleasure of the president, and we know that Trump is closer to Israel on issues like the settlements.”

In fact, Ayalon said that taking into account Trumps’ informal advisers, such as his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, “I don’t think we could have a better team than we have now with the advisers around him.”

Ayalon said Tillerson’s nomination fits in perfectly with Trump’s pattern, relying “more on his intuition and instincts rather than regular analysis and staff work. There is great chemistry, he trusts him, he is appointed.”

Ayalon served as ambassador from 2002-2006, and said the closest he got to Tillerson was at a meeting he held in Houston in 2003 with a delegation of officials from the energy sector. At the time, Tillerson was an ExxonMobil vice president.

It is clear, Ayalon said, that Tillerson has “extensive, extensive contacts in the Arab world.” But whether he will use that in Israel’s favor or to its detriment “remains to be seen.”

For instance, Ayalon said, it seems clear at this time that Trump would like to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem. But once he gets into office, he will get reports from the State Department saying such a move will upset US relations with the Arab world, and receive briefings from the intelligence community saying such a step would place US citizens and diplomats at risk around the world.

Given the extent of Tillerson’s contacts, Ayalon said, it is clear that he would hear from those contacts, and perhaps even from Putin himself, if Trump signals once he is president that he is serious about moving the embassy.

Ayalon added that Tillerson’s ties in the Arab world are – on their own – neither good nor bad, but that “it depends on how he will use them.”

These ties, he said, could actually be very helpful now that Jerusalem has converging interests with a number of Sunni countries – such as Egypt, Jordan and the Persian Gulf states. Put to proper use, these contacts could strengthen the under-the-radar cooperation between Israel and those countries, he maintained.

Jonathan Rynhold, a specialist on Israel-US relations at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, said Israel’s main concern with Tillerson has nothing to do with the Palestinians or his contacts with the Arab world.

“The main concern is about his closeness with Russia, and this primarily has to do with Syria and the sense that Russia provides an umbrella for the growth of Iranian power on the ground in Syria,” he said. “Obviously, that’s a problem for Israel.

“The fact that he has worked for oil companies is less of a concern,” Rynhold continued. “So did [former secretary of state George] Shultz and [former vice president Dick] Cheney. And they were very pro-Israel. That is less of an issue. The real issue is closeness with Russia, and that creates a potential clash with Israel.”

Asked why Tillerson’s closeness with Russia should be a problem for Jerusalem, which itself has good ties with Moscow, Rynhold said that while Israel has an understanding with Russia in Syria to ensure the two air forces don’t accidentally clash there, Israel does not have excellent relations with Russia.

“At the end of the day, every time that the US takes a step backward, forces that are either hostile or less friendly to Israel fill in that gap and Russia is one which is less friendly and creates an umbrella for the hostile,” he said. “And we are concerned about that.”