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Latest News in Israel – 16th July

Updates from Israel and the Jewish World

Compiled by Dr Ron Wiseman

Hamas using WhatsApp to gain intelligence on IDF troop movements

Hamas has stepped up its efforts to gain intelligence about the Israel Defense Forces, Ynet news reports on Monday.

The terror group’s members have been using the popular messaging app WhatsApp to pose as Israeli soldiers in order to wean classified information from real IDF servicemen.

“In one case, a Hamas member ‘proved’ his identity by presenting a schedule of paratroopers trained in the fighting in Gaza,” Ynet reports.

The Israeli news site says that the use of WhatsApp is a new wrinkle in Hamas’ ongoing efforts to gain sensitive information from soldiers, particularly in the Gaza Division. In earlier attempts, it used dating and sports sites, as well as Facebook, targeting Israeli soldiers based on their location and phone number.

But a case reported this month has sparked concern within the IDF, Ynet says. A soldier from a paratrooper battalion received a message from someone presenting himself as another soldier and asking for information about training in his battalion.

This type of information can be of great value, as it may include the times a battalion leaves the area and when it’s replaced by a new battalion, Ynet reports, noting that the kidnapping of IDF soldiers that led to the Second Lebanon War and the recent killing of a Hamas terrorist along the Gaza border occurred during transition periods of this kind.

The Israeli soldier, suspicious, informed his superior officers.

But the Hamas operative appeared to do a competent job pretending to be an Israeli soldier, using military slang, writing in Hebrew and using an Israeli number.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Office said of this incident, “The IDF is aware of the enemy’s actions, monitors its efforts on social networks, and calls on soldiers and civilians to conduct themselves safely on the Internet and continue to act alertly and responsibly…

“These days marked the anniversary of Operation Broken Heart, in which the IDF exposed Hamas activity against social network employees. The operation contributed greatly to raising the awareness and alertness of the soldiers, a fact realized in this latest case.”

Operation Broken Heart was a campaign the IDF launched in July of last year to warn soldiers of efforts by Hamas to hack their phones and install spyware through two dating sites and a World Cup app. About 100 soldiers fell for the ploy, the Army said at the time.   (WIN) Anna Ahronheim

Senior Hamas official calls on members of Palestinian diaspora to kill Jews

A senior Hamas official has urged members of the Palestinian diaspora to kill Jews around the world.

Fathi Hammad, a member of Hamas’s politburo who is considered a hard-liner and is known for his fiery rhetoric, made the statement in a speech at a protest in the border region between the Gaza Strip and Israel on Friday.

“Our patience has run out. We are on the verge of exploding. If this siege is not undone, we will explode in the face of our enemies, with God’s permission and glory. The explosion is not only going to be in Gaza but also in the [West] Bank and abroad, if God wills,” Hammad said, referring to significant Israeli restrictions on the movement of people and goods between Israel and Gaza.

“But our brothers [in the diaspora] are still preparing. They are trying to prepare. They are warming up. A long time has passed with them warming up. All of you 7 million Palestinians abroad, enough of the warming up. You have Jews everywhere and we must attack every Jew on the globe by way of slaughter and killing, if God permits. Enough of the warming up,” he added.

Israel has said that it maintains the restrictions on movement into and out of Gaza to prevent Hamas, an Islamist terror group sworn to Israel’s destruction, and other terror groups from importing weaponry.

A Hamas official in Gaza tried to distance the terror group from Hammad’s comments, insisting that they do not represent its official position.

“These are personal statements that do not represent Hamas. They are no more than emotional comments that he may have said because of the killing of one of our members,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the Israeli press, told The Times of Israel. “Our problem is not with the Jews, but rather the occupation and the Zionist movement that is occupying Palestine.”

On Thursday, according to the Israel Defense Forces, Israeli soldiers apparently misidentified a Hamas operative for an armed terrorist in the border region between Gaza and Israel and shot him dead.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Arabic-language spokesman, Ofir Gendelman, tweeted Sunday that Israel would “use [Hammad’s comments] to gather support for us and reveal Hamas’s true face. Thanks Fathi!”

Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director for Human Rights Watch, slammed Hammad for the comments, describing them as “absolutely vile.”

“Calls to kill based on one’s religion have no place in a freedom movement & should be relegated to the dustbin of history,” Shakir tweeted on Sunday.

A number of Palestinian social media users including Ahmad Abu Artema, an activist in Gaza, also lashed out at Hammad’s comments.

“Our enemy is the occupation and not Jews. There are many Jews supportive of what is right and just in the world,” he said in a Facebook post on Saturday.

In his speech, Hammad also appeared to call on Palestinians in the West Bank to stab Israelis.

“O, the people of the West Bank, until when will you be quiet?” he said. “We want knives to come out. Five shekels. How much does the neck of a Jew cost? Five shekels or less?”

Hamas officials have frequently encouraged and praised stabbing, shooting and ramming attacks in the West Bank and Israel.

In the past year, Hammad has made a number of incendiary comments against Israel.

In late July 2018, for example, he called on Muslims to kill Zionist Jews.

“O Muslims, wherever you find a Zionist Jew, you must kill him because that is an expression of your solidarity with the al-Aqsa Mosque and an expression of your solidarity with… your Jerusalem, your Palestine and… your people,” he said at the time in a speech at a funeral at the Great Omari Mosque in Gaza City.

Hammad also claimed on Friday that Hamas has established a factory to produce explosive belts, and threatened that if Israel did not end its restrictions on movement, “You will be killed by our belts.”

He warned the Palestinians could enter Israeli territory through the fence between Gaza and Israel wearing the belts.

Hamas and Israel have agreed to unofficial ceasefires multiple times over the past year, but the former has frequently accused the latter of not implementing their clauses. Gaza-based officials have said the ceasefires entail terror groups in Gaza halting violence in the border area in exchange for Israel relaxing its restrictions on movement.  (the Times of Israel) Adam Rasgon

Political leaders across the spectrum condemn conversion therapy remarks by Minister of Education

Israel’s newly-appointed Minister of Education Rafi Peretz came under harsh criticism by elements across the political spectrum on Sunday after he stated during a Saturday night interview that conversion therapy for gay people is a possibility and that he has provided such therapy to his students in the past.

Minister of Justice Amit Ohana, Israel’s first openly gay minister, stated Sunday that he “sharply denounces” Peretz’s words.

“This is not the position of the state of Israel,” he clarified.

Several elements in the political arena called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to fire Peretz, an orthodox rabbi and former Israel Air Force pilot who was appointed minister only a month ago.

Netanyahu himself stated that Peretz’s statement was “unacceptable.”

He spoke to Peretz on Saturday night, during which Peretz offered clarifications for his statement and underscored that “the Israeli educational system will continue to accept all children, regardless of their sexual orientation.”

Former minister of education Naftali Bennett, an orthodox man, rejected Peretz’s statement and said that “Israeli society is diversified, and no one should convert anyone. We accept any person as he is.”

He further said that Peretz’s statements “do not reflect the opinions of the religious public, which disagrees with the obsessive war on LGBTs.”

Peretz later attempted to clarify his statement by pointing out that he did not claim that a child should be sent to conversion therapy.

He further related that while meeting with his students who felt conflict with their sexual orientation he had referred them to professionals for treatment.

“The education system I head will continue to accept all boys and girls, regardless of their sexual proclivities,” he stated.

In Australia, the president of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry Anton Block told J-Wire: “Israel’s Minister of Education has recently made disgraceful comments likening assimilation of Jews in western countries to ‘a second Holocaust’, and defending widely-discredited ‘therapies’ to convert gays to heterosexuals, which have caused gay men to commit suicide.

It is bad enough to hear these ignorant prejudices expressed by private individuals from time to time, but it is utterly shameful and brings discredit upon the State of Israel when it is coming from an Israeli government Minister.  Prime Minister Netanyahu was correct to condemn these comments as ‘unacceptable’.               (JWire) Staff

Gaza border fires: 138 incidents,180 acres burnt

Since the return of the incendiary balloon arson attacks from Gaza at the start of April this year, KKL-JNF and Israeli Fire and Rescue Service firefighters found themselves fighting dozens of fires each day. With millions of children and youth out of school for their summer vacation, KKL-JNF surveyed the burnt areas in local forests to determine the degree of damage done to tourism sites.  This information will enable KKL-JNF staff to prepare the region for visitors as soon as calm returns to the region.

KKL-JNF found that the damage wrought by this year’s fires was much more limited compared to last year. This was thanks to the quick response of the firefighting teams and successful cooperation between all the different forces in the field. In addition, KKL-JNF found that the preventive measures taken in the forests over the past winter paid off by minimizing the spread of the fires. Preventive measures included removing pruned branches from the forest, cutting dry weeds and creating buffer zones between forested areas.

Local tourism and recreation sites did indeed suffer damage, which was likewise limited in scope with good chances for rehabilitation. For example, a fire at the Asaf Siboni scenic lookout near Kibbutz Nir Am caused relatively minimal damage, with mainly the surrounding vegetation affected.

The survey also found that since this recent wave of kite terror, the number of events increased significantly over the past few months. In April of this year, there were only nine fire events, while in June firefighters dealt with 82 events. As of July 5, there have been 138 fire incidents over an area of 180 acres in the region bordering on the Gaza Strip, 120 of which were in forests. The forests that suffered the most serious damage were the Be’eri and Kisufim forests. The regions of Nahal Hanoun, Shovalim, Nahal Habesor, Netivot, Shokeda, Sderot, Erez, G’varam and Yad Mordechai also sustained damage.

KKL-JNF World Chairman Daniel Atar noted, “KKL-JNF Southern Region workers are working around the clock to protect the Western Negev communities and forests. The challenges they are facing are extremely difficult, which is why I am pleased that people of their caliber have this task. I hope that now, with the children on summer vacation and the signed political agreements, the fires will subside and we will soon be able to go back to working for the benefit of the southern communities and Negev tourism.”

“We didn’t want to believe that we’d have to deal with incendiary kite terror this year too,” said KKL-JNF Land Development Authority Director Yaron Ohayon. “However, prior preparation and the experience that KKL-JNF workers gained last summer prepared them for yet another season of fires and incendiary kites. In spite of the high number of incidents, we have been successful in keeping the fires small, thanks to gaining quick control of the flames and putting the fires out rapidly.”   (Jerusalem Post) KKL-JNF

Anti-Israel Year 12 assessment task angers Melbourne Jewish community

A sample exam paper for Year 12 students claimed as fact that ­Israel has persecuted Arabs by demolishing their homes ­because “they don’t follow the Jewish religion”.

The contents of the paper provided to Victorian schools has angered the Jewish community, which has criticised the “false” and “libellous’’ claim for potentially fuelling anti-Israel sentiments through the community.

The Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation last night agreed to recall all copies of the practice ­assessment task meant for Health and Human Development students, following a complaint from a prominent Jewish school in Melbourne.

The paper, part of the council’s 2019 package of school-­assessed coursework tasks, known as SACs, that are provided to schools for a fee, contains questions and answers, including one asking students to demonstrate how religious discrimination affects mental health and wellbeing.

According to the sample ­answer provided: “An example of an individual being persecuted for their religion could be the Arab families living in Israel who practise the Islam religion rather than the Jewish religion. Including unlawful demolition of homes and forced displacement and detainment of these families.” It claims that “when a person is discriminated against … it could push a person to become more dogmatic in following their ­religion, possibly leading to ­extremism”.

Mount Scopus Memorial College principal Rabbi James Kennard said he was “naturally disturbed” when the contents of the paper were brought to his ­attention and immediately lodged a complaint.

“I didn’t expect to find something very political, very biased and inaccurate in a Year 12 sample assessment paper,” Rabbi Kennard told The Australian. “It’s an utter falsehood. It creates a negative impression of Israel, which is actually a centre of ­religious tolerance … and the only democratic country in the Middle East.” He said it was a “libellous” to suggest “Israel is to blame for extremism”.

The council, a professional body representing health and physical education teachers, initially defended the document.

“We make sure that for the ­answers we provided, there would be evidence for them,” said professional learning manager Bernie Holland, adding SACs were written by four expert teachers and reviewed by two others.

Mr Holland said the subject matter dealt with in the unit ­required students to consider inequality and discrimination based on race, religion, sex, sexual orientation and gender identity, which could prove “controversial” at some schools. As a result, teachers were encouraged to cater sample questions to their own circumstances, he said.

However, it is understood that council chief executive Hilary Shelton contacted Rabbi Kennard last night to advise that “it was not anticipated nor intended that the example … would offend any individual or group”. She said the council had requested a recall of all issued copies of the sample SAC and reissued a new sample assessment addressing the key knowledge area.

However, Rabbi Kennard said he wasn’t concerned about only Jewish students.

“I will be explaining to my students that this not something they should pay any attention to but I’m also concerned about students at other schools,” he said.

“What is the effect on these students reading this stuff?”

Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler said it was absurd that the publishers elected to single out Israel, “a country where Arab citizens have full equal rights” to highlight ­religious discrimination.

“We should all be concerned that ACHPER have hijacked an important educational issue in the curriculum,” he said.

Mount Scopus student Ramona Chrapot, a “proud Jewish student”, said she was concerned that “innocent and unsuspecting” students were being misled.

“It’s instilling in them something that just isn’t right,’’ she said. (the Australian) Rebecca Urban

Mary and Joseph “Palestinian refugees” says New Zealand Greens MP

A New Zealand Greens Party MP has upset the New Zealand Jewish Council by naming Joseph and Mary as Palestinian refugees.

Golriz Ghahraman had tweeted of the parents of Jesus: “They were literally Palestinian refugees. And she (Mary) normally had her hair covered because that’s what modesty looked like in her culture…”

She had been answering a tweet suggesting that by the New Testament, the parents of Christ were refugees.

Spokesperson of the New Zealand Jewish Council Juliet Moses told J-Wire: “Calling Mary and Joseph Palestinian refugees is ahistorical and disrespectful to the Jewish community, and no doubt the Christian community too. Jesus and his family were Jewish.

They lived in Judea (where Jews come from), they went to synagogue, they followed the Jewish law. The Romans called him “King of the Jews”.

Judea was renamed Palestine by the Roman Empire, long after Jesus’ death, in order to erase any Jewish connection to the land.

Ms Ghahraman, by refusing to acknowledge that Jesus was Jewish, including when many people pointed out her error, is continuing to erase that connection, a favourite tactic of those who aim to delegitimise the modern day Jewish presence in the land. This is an ongoing pattern of disrespect to and marginalisation of the Jewish community by Ms Ghahraman, which at this point must be assumed to be deliberate and antisemitic. It is well past time the Green Party leaders addressed this behaviour.”

Media reports that a spokesperson for Green Party co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson said Ghahraman was going to work with Jewish communities to improve dialogue.

“Golriz has unreservedly apologised for her poorly worded remarks and we support her.”But Juliet Moses said: “There has been no apology from Ghahraman that I’m aware of. “    (JWire) Staff

Ethiopian-Israelis protest in Jerusalem as cop who killed teen is freed on bail

Dozens of Ethiopian-Israelis and their supporters protested in Jerusalem on Monday as a police officer accused of killing a teenage member of the community last month was released from house arrest on a reported bail of NIS 5,000 ($US1,400) and with other restrictions.

Over a dozen protesters were arrested as police cleared demonstrators who were disrupting traffic.

The protests came as a Knesset committee met to discuss the country’s failings in absorbing Ethiopian immigrants.

Outside the Knesset, a few dozen demonstrators protested and chanted slogans such as “a murdering cop has to be in prison,” “we are all Solomon Tekah” and “not black, not white, we’re all humans.”

Some sought to block a nearby road before being cleared by police, who arrested seven people.

“As a mother, I’m scared. You raise a child, he goes out and you don’t know what police could do to him,” said Eden Gamber, a mother of two from Ramle in central Israel.

Police said the demonstration was not authorized and protesters ignored their instructions and blocked the road, disturbing traffic.

Protesters later rallied on Jaffa street in the capital, where police said another six people were arrested for blocking the light rail tracks.

The death of 19-year-old Solomon Tekah on June 30 sparked three days of nationwide protests which at times turned violent and saw damage to property.

The officer, who has not been publicly named, was off duty when he shot Tekah in Haifa. He has claimed he was trying to break up a street fight and was set upon by three youths who hurled stones at him, endangering his life.

The officer said he did not target Tekah, and instead fired at the ground. A Police Internal Investigations Department probe found that the bullet ricocheted on the ground and hit Tekah, fatally wounding him.

Tekah’s parents were in the Rose Garden near the parliament during the protest on Monday. They would not comment on the release of the policeman who is accused of killing their son without consulting their attorney.

The mother of Yosef Salmasa, whose family claims he was driven to suicide five years ago, months after a violent arrest by police, was also at the protest, Channel 13 TV news reported.

“There is no justice. They see us as less than dogs,” she told the crowd.

The Haifa Magistrate’s Court freed the officer from house arrest earlier on Monday but he still faces court-ordered restrictions in light of expected charges of reckless homicide. The suspect is barred from entering the Zevulun police station in Haifa for 45 days and is prevented from visiting the scene of the killing.

Attorney Yair Nadashi, representing the officer, told Channel 12 TV news that his client has gone into hiding with his family due to threats made against them, but hopes one day to return to his job with police. Nadashi said the officer regrets the outcome of shooting and sends his condolences to the Tekah family.

The officer is expected to face charges of reckless homicide, which carries a sentence of up to 12 years in jail. This new categorization, which came into existence five days ago in a justice system reform, is applicable when a suspect is thought to have taken an unreasonable risk but without the intention of causing death — e.g., playing with a loaded weapon or driving dangerously.

According to Hebrew-language media reports Monday, the PIID said the investigation into the shooting has been completed and the case transferred to the State’s Attorney’s Office.

The Tekah family responded Monday to the expected downgrading of the offense from manslaughter to reckless homicide, saying: “The whole family seeks for the truth to be discovered and justice served, and unfortunately the decisions of the PIID and State Prosecutor’s Office in their public statements show a tendency to attribute reduced responsibility to a police officer who killed our loved one in his prime.”

The family’s lawyer, too, bemoaned the fact that the change in the law meant that the officer could face lesser charges, and said that the officer’s release was a “direct continuation of unfortunate conduct” by officials.

The investigation into the shooting has so far reportedly corroborated the officer’s version of events.

The shooting incident immediately sparked renewed accusations of police brutality and racism toward the Ethiopian community. Days after the shooting, protesters across Israel blocked roads, burned tires and denounced what they said is systemic discrimination against Israelis of Ethiopian descent.

The demonstrations escalated after Tekah’s funeral, when some protesters set vehicles on fire, overturned a police car and clashed with officers and others who tried to break through their makeshift roadblocks.

Ethiopian Jews, who trace their lineage to the ancient Israelite tribe of Dan, began arriving in large numbers in the 1980s, when Israel secretly airlifted them to the Holy Land to save them from war and famine in the Horn of Africa. (the Times of Israel) Staff

Netanyahu: EU response on Iran reminiscent of appeasement of Nazis

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned a European Union response on Monday to Iran’s breaches of nuclear limitations, saying it recalled failed diplomacy with Nazi Germany ahead of World War Two.

“(It) reminds me of the European appeasement of the 1930s,” Netanyahu said in a video statement in Hebrew that was posted on Facebook.

The comments came after EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said none of the parties to a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran saw its increased uranium enrichment as “significant non-compliance.”

“Then, too, there were those who stuck their head in the sand and did not see the approaching danger,” said Netanyahu, who has often cast Iran’s nuclear projects as a mortal menace to Israel and the wider world.

“It seems there are those in Europe who will not wake up until Iranian nuclear missiles land on European soil. But then it will be too late, of course,” Netanyahu said.

Israel’s main ally the United States quit the Iran nuclear deal last year, deeming it insufficient. That left Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany as parties to the deal.

Israel has predicted that, should European powers join Washington in reimposing sanctions on Tehran, that could prompt the Iranians to enter talks on a more limiting nuclear accord.

Alluding to Israel’s long-standing if veiled threat of a last-resort war against its arch-foe, Netanyahu said: “In any event, we will continue to do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran getting nuclear weaponry.”

The EU ministers drew no conclusions on what action should next be taken to head off a feared U.S.-Iranian conflict.

But by suggesting that Iran’s non-compliance was not significant, it could anger the United States, which last week warned it would intensify sanctions on Iran over its breaches.

“For the time being, none of the parties to the agreement has signalled their intention to invoke this article,” Mogherini told a news conference in Brussels, referring to a mechanism to punish non-compliance.

“(It) means that none of them for the moment, for the time being with the current data we have had in particular from the (UN nuclear watchdog) IAEA, (consider Iran’s) non-compliance…to be significant non-compliance.”  (Ynet News) Reuters

Muslim Paramedic Tells Guests at Jewish Wedding in Israel How He Saved Bride’s Life After Car Crash

A Muslim paramedic who is part of a response unit for United Hatzalah shared a story at a Jewish wedding in Israel last week about how he saved the bride’s life in 2009.

United Hatzalah shared a video on Twitter showing paramedic Muawiya Kabha standing up during the chuppah ceremony and recounting the incident in April 2009 when he arrived at the scene of a car crash to find the bride, Shachar Kugelmas, seemingly dead.

Kabha said, “When I arrived there after two minutes, the doctor told me, ‘This injured girl, don’t touch her. From my side, I have already declared her dead. Let’s treat the driver.’ I told him, ‘Okay you treat the driver,’ and I stayed treating Shachar. From above, something told me I need to treat Shachar.”

“When I got to Shachar, she was in cardiac arrest. And per protocol, the doctor was right, we needed to declare the death. But what I felt from above is that I still need to try and save her,” Kabha added.

Paramedic Muawiya Kabha speaking at the wedding of Shahar Kugelmas and Nir David..

The paramedic did CPR on Kugelmas for 40 minutes when she was still stuck inside the car, he explained at the wedding to applause, as the bride wiped away tears. He also said at that point, the police already said on the radio that Kugelmas was dead, and her parents heard the news.

Kabha continued to perform CPR on Kugelmas while accompanying her to the hospital, and at the entrance of the hospital she had a heartbeat.

“That same night when I returned home I didn’t have hope. I put my head on the pillow and thought the Angel of Death may have beaten me, but I knew that I did everything I could to try to save her. In the end, I must have done what I needed to do because look, Shachar is with us,” he said.

Kabha concluded his speech by thanking the bride, saying, “People ask me all the time, how do you keep going after all the death you see in your work? The answer is here. Shahar, I am able to continue my work because of you. Because I saved your body, but you saved my soul. Every time I remember calls that I have been to, I remember you and your smile. Thank you, thank you. Mazal Tov. I love you both.”

Kugelman’s husband, Nir David, said that the bride’s father invited Kabha to the wedding, adding, according to The Jerusalem Post, “Without Muawiya, the wedding yesterday would never have taken place. Shahar had no idea he was going to speak at the wedding ceremony.”     (the Algemeiner) Shiryn Ghermezian

As Hamas loses tunnels option, terror faction takes to air and sea

Gazan terror organizations are looking into armed drones and sea-based commando cells, while concentrating fire at Israel’s Iron Dome defense system to overwhelm it.

by Yaacov Lappin   JNS

https://www.jns.org/as-hamas-loses-tunnels-option-terror-faction-takes-to-the-air-and-sea/

The discovery of the latest cross-border Hamas tunnel this week stretching from the Gaza Strip into Israel is a reminder of the fact that Hamas will soon lose this attack capability.

The tunnel was discovered during the construction of Israel’s underground barrier, which is designed to block the path of Hamas’s diggers. The subterranean wall uses sensors that send alerts to the Israel Defense Forces if Hamas attempts to dig in Israel’s direction.

Since the end of the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas, the IDF has discovered 18 cross-border tunnels, using advanced detection systems, and more recently, through the construction of the underground wall.

The 40-mile-long barrier is due to be complete by the end of this year. When it will be done, armed terror squads from Gaza are expected to lose the ability to sneak under the Israeli border to conduct killing and kidnap missions in future wars.

Yet Hamas’s military wing still has a complex network of defensive combat tunnels, which run under Gaza. This “underground city” enables terror cells to move around out of sight of the Israeli Air Force, and transfer personnel and weapons around the Strip, particularly in the event of an Israeli ground offensive. It seems safe to assume that the IDF is busy mapping out these tunnels, too, and that it is developing ways of turning them into death traps in a future conflict.

Since the end of the 2014 conflict, enough cement has entered Gaza to build 16 Burj Khalifa skyscrapers in Dubai—the tallest building in the world. That cement has largely gone underground, feeding Hamas’s war machine.

Gaza’s soft sandstone made it possible for diggers to make rapid progress during the peak days of the tunnel project. The tunnels contained rails, electricity, ventilation, communications lines and oxygen tanks—tanks that were originally sent to Gaza for hospital use.

The tunnels are a symbol of Hamas’s priorities: The military build-up always takes precedent over investing funds in Gaza’s civilian population.

Shifting to other attack methods

Hamas is, however, a learning organization, and it appears to have realized some time ago that time is running out on the attack tunnels.

As a result, it and other terror factions in Gaza have doubled down on other offensive capabilities.

Foremost among these is the rocket arsenal. Unlike Lebanon, Gaza is not known to have guided rockets at this time, but the size of the Gazan rocket arsenal is growing, and the threat is one of sheer quantity.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the 15,000-strong terror faction (compared to the 35,000-strong Hamas), has also been investing heavily in expanding its own rocket arsenal and was able to overtake Hamas in possessing the largest quantity of projectiles in Gaza.

Both organizations receive Iranian money—some $100 million in the past two years, according to Mossad chief Yossi Levi—and Iranian technical know-how. They convert these into a sprawling domestic-arms industry that produces Gaza’s rocket arsenal at home, without the need to depend on smuggling.

Hamas uses every component at its disposal for rocket manufacturing, even salt for propellant needed during the initial launch phase. The combined arsenal of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad exceeds 20,000 rockets.

During a recent escalation that erupted in May following a PIJ sniper attack, Gazan terrorist factions fired 690 projectiles at southern Israel in a mere two days and tried to overwhelm the Iron Dome air-defense system.

Iron Dome nevertheless performed well, intercepting 86 percent of rockets heading for populated areas. Still, Gaza’s factions were able to concentrate their fire in a lethal manner. Four Israelis were murdered in the escalation, including one whose vehicle was hit with a Hamas anti-tank missile. Such weapons have also become a focus area for Gaza’s factions.

Both organizations are also trying to create armed drone fleets. PIJ used one such drone in a failed effort to bomb an IDF tank during the May escalation; this incident is an indication of the growing importance of this attack method.

Israeli home front the primary target

Hamas, meanwhile, is working on an ability to launch sea-based attacks using terrorist commando cells.

These activities are all presumably occurring under the watchful and piercing eye of the IDF, which is preparing accordingly.

According to Brig. Gen. (res.) Shachar Shochat, former Air Defense Command chief, non-state actors have placed the Israeli home front as their prime target. The dispersion of rocket launchers in built-up civilian Gazan areas forms an additional challenge. An ongoing cat-and-mouse game of solutions and challenges is underway.

The May escalation also contained a hint of Israel’s overwhelming offensive capabilities.

The Israeli Air Force, for its part, struck more than 350 terror targets across Gaza in retaliation, killing approximately 30 Hamas and PIJ operatives, and destroying many high-value enemy targets that were embedded within civilian neighborhoods. The combination of quality intelligence and precision firepower is designed to deal with the asymmetric challenge from Gaza.

Meanwhile, Israel’s ground forces, who have not set foot in Gaza in five years, are preparing a range of new abilities in case they are called to enter the Strip the next time that warning sirens begin going off in Israeli cities.

The Hamas March to Destroy Israel

by Khaled Abu Toameh                    The Gatestone Institute

https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/14548/hamas-march-destroy-israel

  • By choosing to hold the protests under the banner of the “Three No’s,” the organizers of the “Great March of Return” have again proven that the weekly demonstrations are not about improving the living conditions of Palestinians or easing restrictions imposed on the Gaza Strip. Instead, the message the organizers are sending to the Palestinians and the rest of the world is: “We don’t recognize Israel’s right to exist and therefore we will never make negotiate or make peace with it.”
  • Hamas’s two other “No’s” – no to recognizing Israel and no to making peace with Israel – do not come as a surprise. In fact, Hamas appears to be reminding Palestinians of its true objectives as outlined in its 1988 charter: “There is no solution for the Palestinian question expect through Jihad (holy war). Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors…[Hamas] believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered.”
  • This is all that Hamas has to offer the Palestinians 12 years after its violent takeover of the Gaza Strip? Sadly, thousands of Palestinians continue to heed Hamas’s call for trying to breach the border with Israel every Friday while ignoring that it is their leaders who are mainly responsible for dragging them from one disaster to another.

When the Palestinians launched the weekly protests along the Gaza-Israel border in March 2017, they said that their No. 1 goal was to force Israel to lift the “blockade” on the Gaza Strip. The protests, however, according to the organizers, have another goal: achieving the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees and their descendants to their former homes inside Israel.

The protests, held under the banner “The Great March of Return,” have since been hijacked by Hamas and other Gaza-based Palestinian armed groups who are using them to advance their political agendas.

The weekly demonstrations are no longer aimed either at lifting the “blockade” on the Gaza Strip or paving the way for millions of refugees and their descendants to return to their former homes.

On July 12, the weekly protests along the border with Israel were held under the banner of “No to negotiations [with Israel], no to reconciliation [with Israel] and no to recognizing the [Israeli] entity.”

The Three No’s appear based on the Khartoum Resolution issued at the conclusion of the Arab League summit convened three months after the 1967 Six-Day War between Israel and the Arab countries: No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel and no negotiations with it.

By choosing to hold the protests under the banner of the “Three No’s,” the organizers of the “Great March of Return” have again proven that the weekly demonstrations are not about improving the living conditions of Palestinians or easing restrictions imposed on the Gaza Strip. Instead, the message the organizers are sending to the Palestinians and the rest of the world is: “We don’t recognize Israel’s right to exist and therefore we will never make negotiate or make peace with it.”

Even some Palestinians have expressed astonishment over the Gaza protests’ “Three No’s,” calling them “unrealistic” and “absurd.”

Hassan Asfour, a former Palestinian Authority (PA) cabinet minister and political analyst, scoffed at the organizers’ decision to use the “Three No’s” during the protests along the border with Israel. Denouncing the decision as “damaging,” Asfour said that the organizers of the demonstrations “have become stranger to the public scene and are engaging in political cynicism.” He added:

“Unrealistic slogans never serve the national struggle. We do not believe there is a Palestinians who would have been able to read that slogan (the “Three No’s”) without being ridiculed because he sees how Arab interaction with Israel has become closer than interaction with the Palestinians.”

Next week’s Friday protests will be held under the banner “Burning the Zionist flag.” The organizers announced that the “peaceful” and “popular” protests will continue “until the Palestinians achieve their rights.” The protests along the border with Israel, they said, are also aimed at foiling US President Donald Trump’s plan for peace in the Middle East, also known as the “Deal of the Century,” and abrogating the Oslo Accords signed in 1993 between Israel and the Palestinians.

In the eyes of Hamas and the organizers of the weekly demonstrations, burning the “Zionist flag” and foiling a peace plan to end the conflict with Israel is part of a “peaceful” and “popular” protest.

Last June, the weekly protests were held under the banner “The Friday of foiling the Bahrain conference” – reference to the recent US-led “Peace to Prosperity” economic workshop sponsored by the Trump administration. The Palestinian Authority called on Palestinians and Arabs to boycott the workshop on the pretext that it was part of Trump’s scheme to “liquidate the Palestinian cause.”

At the workshop, the Trump administration unveiled the economic portion of the “Deal of the Century” — a plan that “represents the most ambitious and comprehensive international effort for the Palestinian people to date and which has the ability to fundamentally transform the West Bank and Gaza and to open a new chapter in Palestinian history.”

The thousands of Palestinians who participated in the protest against the Bahrain workshop were in fact saying no to economic prosperity and improving their own living conditions. Ironically, the organizers of the weekly protests were acting against their own declared goal: ending the “blockade” and improving the economy and living conditions of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Last April, the organizers of the weekly protests again proved that the demonstrations near the border with Israel are totally unrelated to the suffering of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. This April protests were held under the banner”Together against normalization [with Israel], ” and The demonstration was directed against some Arab states that were accused by Palestinians of normalizing their relations with Israel.

Bizarrely, while the organizers of the weekly protests are voicing their opposition to negotiations with Israel, they are at the same time conducting indirect talks with Israel on ways to reach a truce between Israel and Hamas.

The indirect negotiations are being held under the auspices of Egypt and the United Nations. Last week, a senior Egyptian security delegation visited Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip as part of an effort to preserve those truce understandings.

Hamas said that under the unwritten terms, Israel agreed gradually to lift restrictions imposed on the Gaza Strip in exchange for calm. The Israeli measures include expanding the fishing zone and allowing Qatar to deliver financial aid to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. However, continued rocket and arson balloon attacks from the Gaza Strip toward Israel have hindered the implementation of the understandings.

On the one hand, Hamas is sending Palestinians to clash with Israeli soldiers along the Gaza-Israel border under the banner of “No to negotiations [with Israel].” On the other hand, Hamas is begging the Egyptians and the UN to help arrange a ceasefire with Israel. The pounding seems a way of trying to coerce the Israelis into bigger concessions, faster.

Hamas’s two other “No’s” — no to recognizing Israel and no to making peace with Israel — do not come as a surprise. In fact, Hamas appears to be reminding Palestinians of its true objectives as outlined in its 1988 charter:

“There is no solution for the Palestinian question expect through Jihad (holy war). Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors…[Hamas] believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered.”

Evidently Hamas, instead of seeking ways to solve the economic crisis in the Gaza Strip, is taking advantage of the weekly protests to advance its ideology.

In addition, Hamas is now seeking to take Palestinians 52 years back, to the days when the Arab countries issued their three No’s.

This is all that Hamas has to offer the Palestinians 12 years after its violent takeover of the Gaza Strip? Sadly, thousands of Palestinians continue to heed Hamas’s call for heading to the border with Israel every Friday while ignoring that it is their leaders who are mainly responsible for dragging them from one disaster to another. Now that Hamas has again revealed its true intentions, it should change the name of the weekly protests from the “Great March of Return” to the “March to destroy Israel” or the “March to destroy peace.”

The Problem with Opposing Israel’s “Occupation” – Jonathan S. Tobin (JNS-Israel Hayom)

A two-state solution that would be predicated on Israel’s leaving the West Bank is a position endorsed by only a minority of Israelis under the current circumstances. Most Israelis think that following that advice would be a rerun of Ariel Sharon’s 2005 experiment in which he withdrew every soldier, settler, and settlement from Gaza – only to see the creation of a terrorist state on their country’s southern border. Israeli voters have made it clear that replicating that disaster in the larger and more strategically important West Bank would be insane.

When Israel’s foes say “occupation,” they don’t mean a two-state solution that would create a peaceful Palestinian state alongside Israel. To the contrary, when anti-Zionists and most Palestinians say they want to end the occupation or speak of justice for the Palestinians, they’re talking about a “one-state solution” in which the one Jewish state on the planet is eliminated.

As far as the Palestinian Authority’s official media and education system are concerned, Tel Aviv and Haifa, let alone Jerusalem, are every bit as “occupied” by the Jews as the most remote hilltop settlement in the West Bank.

The reason why a Palestinian state in the West Bank doesn’t already exist is because the PA has repeatedly rejected Israeli offers that would have given them one. These refusals centered on the Palestinian leadership’s fear of being branded as traitors for agreeing to any pact that would recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state within any borders.

The same is true for complaints about the checkpoints and the security fence that Palestinians say make their lives miserable. They only exist because of the carnage that the Palestinians unleashed on Israelis during the Second Intifada, in which they answered a peace offer with a terrorist war of attrition.

While the status quo in the West Bank isn’t ideal for either side, the obstacle to peace remains the Palestinians’ futile clinging to their fantasy of occupying all of Israel. Americans should be wary of being lured into statements opposing “occupation.” What it really does is fuel the intransigence that makes peace impossible.