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Latest News in Israel – 17th October

Israeli air force destroys Syrian anti-aircraft battery in retaliatory strike

The Israeli Air Force attacked and destroyed a Syrian SA-5 anti-aircraft battery east of Damascus Monday morning after it fired a surface-to-air missile at Israeli jets.

The SA-5 missile battery, which was stationed some 50 kilometers east of the Syrian capital, fired at Israeli jets that were on a routine aerial reconnaissance flight in Lebanese airspace, IDF Spokesman Brig.Gen. Ronen Manelis stated.

“We see the Syrian regime as responsible and see these missiles as a clear Syrian provocation, and it will not be accepted,” Manelis stated, adding that while Israel has no intention to enter into the civil war in Syria, Israel will react to all provocations.

Manelis told journalists that Russia was updated about the incident, in which no Israeli jets were harmed, in real time, and that it will be brought up during the visit of the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu who is set to land in Israel in the coming hours.

Moscow intervened in the Syrian conflict in September 2015, and officials from Israel and Russia meet regularly to discuss the deconfliction mechanism system implemented over Syria to prevent accidental clashes between the two militaries.

Shoigu will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and other senior officials to discuss the Jewish State’s ongoing concerns regarding Iran’s entrenchment in Syria and the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah by Tehran through Damascus.

Israel rarely comments on foreign reports of military activity in Syria but has publicly admitted to having struck over 500 Hezbollah targets in Syria, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that strikes will continue when “we have information and operational feasibility.”

During an IAF operation in March to strike a Hezbollah arms convoy in Syria, regime air defense fired three surface-to-air missiles towards IAF jets. It was the most serious incident between the two countries since the war in Syria began six years ago.

Following that incident, Liberman warned against any further launching of missiles by the Syrian regime, threatening to destroy all Syrian air defenses. (Jerusalem Post)

‘Fatah, Hamas agree to make joint decisions on violence, peace’

Fatah and Hamas agreed in talks in Cairo last week to make joint decisions on matters related to escalating violent conflict with Israel as well as making peace, the London-based Arabic daily Asharq al-Awsat reported on Sunday, citing well-informed Palestinian sources.

The two rival parties held reconciliation talks in Cairo last week, under the auspices of the Egyptian Intelligence Directorate, which concluded on Thursday in the signing of an agreement to partially restore the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority’s presence in the Gaza Strip.

A leaked copy of the agreement’s text does not include a reference to joint decision-making on matters related to escalating violent conflict or making peace. Nonetheless, the sources who spoke to the Arabic daily said there is “a clear agreement that no side will unilaterally make major decisions like [signing] a peace agreement to end the conflict or starting a [violent] confrontation with Israel.”

Regarding escalating conflict with Israel, the sources added that there is “an implicit understanding” that Hamas and Fatah will make collective decisions relating not only to the Gaza Strip but also to the West Bank, which they said means Hamas will stop trying to ignite conflict in the latter territory.

Since its founding in the late 1980s, Hamas has planned deadly attacks in the West Bank against Israelis as well as encouraged and blessed them.

Speaking with Egyptian television in early October, Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh said that his party is ready to agree jointly with Fatah and other Palestinian factions about “when and how to resist” Israel.

“We in Hamas are ready to dialogue with our brothers in Fatah and the rest of the factions to agree on how to make decisions, including that of the decision of resistance,” Haniyeh said. “We have no problem with the decision of resistance being a joint decision.”

In the same interview, however, Haniyeh also said that he opposes the disarmament of Hamas’s armed wing, which is composed of some 25,000 members who possess thousands of guns and rockets.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas has long demanded that the PA control all weapons in the West Bank and Gaza.

A senior Palestinian official in Ramallah on Sunday said he was not aware of a physical or verbal agreement between Hamas and Fatah on making joint decisions on violence and peace. However, the official said he personally believes both parties will abide by such a principle in the near future.  (Jerusalem Post)

In deal with Fatah, Hamas said to agree to halt attacks from West Bank

The terror group Hamas has reportedly agreed to halt its attempts to carry out attacks against Israelis from the West Bank under the Palestinian reconciliation agreement signed Thursday with its rival faction Fatah, which controls the Palestinian Authority.

In a report Sunday, the London-based Pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat quoted “knowledgeable” Palestinian sources who said the two sides had agreed that major decisions such as signing a peace deal or starting a violent conflict with Israel would be made collectively.

“Regarding [violent or peaceful] confrontation, there is an implicit understanding that this includes the Gaza Strip as well as the West Bank,” the sources said.

While the agreement not to carry out attacks from the West Bank does not appear explicitly in the leaked text of the pact, the report said the implicit understanding was connected to an understanding between the two sides for a “principle of partnership,” a phrase which appears in the document’s preamble.

Speaking Tuesday morning to Israel Radio, former PA foreign minister Ashraf al-Ajrami, who is considered close to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said he had heard that the Egyptians demanded a ceasefire from Hamas as the reconciliation negotiations continue.

Hamas has repeatedly refused to disarm and dismantle the 25,000-strong fighting force it controls in the Gaza Strip. However, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said before negotiations began that the terror group would agree that decisions regarding war and peace would be collective, national matters.

Abbas was adamant before the talks began that no unity government would be formed without Hamas completely disarming.

“One authority, one law and one weapon,” Abbas said he was demanding, adding he would not allow Hamas to retain an army apart from the state like the terror group Hezbollah does in Lebanon.

It remains unclear now how the future of Hamas’s military will affect continuing negotiations between the two sides, but neither has openly backed down from their original positions.

While Hamas has for years agreed to a ceasefire against Israel from the Gaza Strip, its West Bank operatives have continued to plan and provoke attacks against Israelis.

This has led to a partnership between Israel and the PA’s security services, which also benefit from foiling Hamas’s terror efforts in the West Bank. The PA has frequently arrested Hamas operatives in the West Bank, and in some case accused them of plotting to overthrow Abbas’s rule.

The official who signed Thursday’s deal for Hamas was deputy political chief Saleh al-Arouri, who in recent years has served as the terror group’s head of West Bank operations, and who said after the signing ceremony that unity would enable the Palestinians to work together against “the Zionist enterprise.”

Arouri is believed by Israel to have planned numerous terrorist attacks including a kidnapping-murder of three Israeli teens in the West Bank, considered among the main catalysts of the 2014 Israel-Hamas war.

Hamas seized control of Gaza from Abbas’s Fatah in a violent coup in 2007. It has since fought three major rounds of conflict against Israel, which it openly seeks to replace with an Islamist state.

However, at the same time, Hamas has said it is willing to accept a Palestinian state along the 1967 lines. In the agreement signed Thursday, it states the both sides, including the terror group, seek a state “on all the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital.”

Israel, along with the so-called Middle East Quartet — the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia — has said it opposes any Palestinian unity government if Hamas does not renounce terrorism, accept Israel’s right to exist, and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements. (the Times of Israel)

Two rockets fired from Sinai on Israel

IDF confirmed that two rockets were fired on Israel from Sinai. Earlier on Sunday a terrorist attack in North Sinai claimed the lives of six Egyptian soldiers.

IDF spokesperson confirmed that two rockets were fired on Israel from Sinai on Sunday evening. The rockets landed within the land of the Eshkol Regional Council in the north-western Negev. The rockets had been located.

The Egyptian military stated that 24 militants and six soldiers had been killed on Sunday when over a hundred militants attacked security outposts outside Sheikh Zuweid. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. The militants used car bombs, rocket propelled grenades, and light weapons.

Hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and policemen had been killed since 2013 in the struggle against militants affiliated with the Islamic State in the Sinai Peninsula.

Israel has a 240 – Kilometer border with Sinai and rockets had been fired on Israel from Sinai in May, April and February by the same militants. The February attack was aimed at the city of Eilat, which was targeted by four rockets, three were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile system and the fourth landed in open territory. (Jerusalem Post)

Police disarm Arab teen with pipe bomb in West Bank

Police disarmed and arrested a 17-year-old male from Jenin Sunday afternoon after the suspect allegedly attempted to enter a West Bank military courthouse armed with a pipe bomb.

According to police, the weapon was discovered at noon when the unidentified suspect attempted to pass through a metal detector at the outdoor entrance to Samaria Military Court adjacent to the Arab village of Salem.

“When the suspect attempted to enter the court house, he was searched at the metal detector by Border Police who found the pipe bomb on him,” Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

“He was immediately disarmed and the area was closed off as police bomb-disposal experts examined the scene and neutralized the weapon,” he said, adding that no one was wounded.

Rosenfeld said it remains unclear why the suspect was summoned to the court, and that an investigation has been opened. (Jerusalem Post)

‘Consider yourselves warned: Hamas operatives who taunt IDF soldiers will trigger reaction’

Maj.-Gen. Yoav (Poli) Moredchai, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, took to Facebook on Wednesday evening to warn Hamas to stop trying to taunt Israeli military forces safeguarding Israel’s border with Gaza.

In a post he penned that was published on COGAT’s official Arab-language Facebook page, the COGAT head turned directly to Hamas, the terror group ruling in the Gaza Strip, and warned it to rein in its operatives’ actions lest Israel should be forced to respond forcefully.

“The leadership of Hamas isn’t succeeding in controlling its operatives, and thus will lead to an Israeli reaction against Hamas operatives,” Mordechai wrote.

Mordechai was referring in particular to a recurring incident experienced by IDF soldiers who guard the border between Israel and the Strip. According to Mordechai, Hamas operatives have repeatedly tried to use laser beams to dazzle and potentially temporarily blind the soldiers.

“The leadership of the terror organization Hamas can’t control its operatives who continue in their taunting, consistent actions, which are expressed [in an attempt] to blind IDF soldiers guarding the border via laser beams,” Mordechai reiterated.

Mordechai then directed an accusatory finger at a senior Hamas member. “To be more specific,” he continued, “commander of the area of the northern Gaza Strip, Mahmad Ouda, who is known as the protégé of Mohammed Deif [commander of Hamas’ armed wing, the Izzadin Kassam Brigades], isn’t perceived as a man of authority amongst his operatives and they are the ones that tease IDF soldiers.”

“This situation is dangerous, seeing as the continuation of these taunting actions carried out by the terror operatives, even if not under the instruction of their commanders, could lead to an escalation especially in this sensitive period of development in the Palestinian arena,” Mordechai warned, referring to the ongoing attempts to reconcile between the different Palestinian factions who are currently trying to bring an end to a decade-long rift.

“Therefore,” Mordechai added to conclude his post, “consider yourselves warned. The continuation of this phenomenon will lead to a reaction by the IDF.”   (Jerusalem Post)

Israel to set up parliamentary probe into foreign gov’t funding of rights groups

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he intends to establish a parliamentary committee to investigate the funding Israeli NGOs receive from foreign governments.

Netanyahu told a gathering of Christian journalists at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem that the committee will probe “organizations that operate against” Israeli soldiers.

The IDF is the most moral army there is, Netanyahu declared, and vowed to put an end to the phenomenon of NGOs that harass IDF soldiers.

According to a report from the Haaretz daily, the decision to set up the committee was taken earlier in the day at a meeting of coalition party chiefs.

At the meeting, Netanyahu stressed the need to check the involvement of foreign governments in internal Israeli politics.

Sources said that all the coalition partners were in favor of the parliamentary committee that was proposed by coalition secretary Likud MK David Bitan.

Netanyahu has in the past pressed foreign governments to end funding for left-wing NGOs and refused to meet with visiting dignitaries who meet with these groups. In particular, he has singled out Breaking the Silence, an organization that collects testimonies from former Israel Defense Forces soldiers about alleged human rights violations they witness in the Palestinian territories during their military service.

Breaking the Silence has been a frequent target of ire for right-wing parties in Israel.

Last year, Israeli lawmakers passed into law the controversial Transparency Bill, which dramatically increases transparency requirements for fewer than two dozen Israeli NGOs — Breaking the Silence among them — that get most of their funding from foreign governments.

A Justice Ministry analysis of the legislation showed that nearly all the existing Israeli organizations set to be affected by the law’s new requirements were groups that oppose Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

During the discussion Sunday, Education Minister Naftali Bennett reportedly asked Netanyahu if there is a precedent for government involvement in the matter of NGOs and if there is a precedent  an investigative committee into such an issue. Netanyahu responded by giving the example of the ongoing US congressional committee investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections.

Such parliamentary committees in Israel mostly serve as a way to shed light on a pressing public issue and tend not to have much bite.

The NGO law was opposed by the US, and condemned by various European countries. (the Times of Israel)

Massive section of Western Wall and Roman theater uncovered after 1,700 years

Archaeologist are one step closer to solving the riddle of what took place in Jerusalem following the destruction of the city by Romans in 70 CE. While excavating a massive eight-meter deep section of Jerusalem’s Western Wall, unseen for 1,700 years, Israel Antiquity Authority archaeologists unexpectedly discovered a small Roman theater located under Wilson’s Arch.

At a subterranean press conference Monday in the Western Wall tunnel complex, archaeologists Dr. Joe Uziel, Tehillah Lieberman and Dr. Avi Solomon contextualized the discovery of the theater structure as a never-before-seen window into daily public life in the newly Roman-conquered city.

In the 1860s, British surveyor and archaeologist Charles William Wilson was the first to seek such a theater in the vicinity of the Western Wall. The small 200- to 300-seat theater, whose existence is noted by Josephus Flavius and other ancient sources but which has eluded Jerusalem excavations for some 150 years, is the first example of a Roman public building, archaeologists said.

In 70 CE, the Second Temple was razed along with most of the Jewish settlement of Jerusalem. In its place, the Roman colony Aelia Capitolina was established and named after the Roman god Jupiter and the emperor Hadrian, who began reconstructing the city in 130 CE. Following the bloody Bar Kochba Revolt of circa 132–136 CE, Jews were banned from the capital aside from on Tisha B’Av, a day of mourning commemorating the destruction of the Temple.

The archaeologists dated the layers of their excavations via pottery typification and coin dating, as well as new high-tech carbon-14 techniques. The final results of the C14 tests will only be known in another few months, but, said Uziel, the theater “dates pretty solidly to the late Roman period.”

The team expects to continue excavations at the site for another six months. Uziel said while he cannot know what still lies beneath, he expects to reach First Temple-period remains.

Bread and circus in razed Jerusalem

Jerusalem Theatre

Built in a classical Roman style, the theater is located under Wilson’s Arch, which serves as its roof. The arch is the only visible, extant structure remaining from the Temple Mount compound. During the Second Temple period, the arch was used as a walkway-bridge for worshipers entering the compound. The space under the Wilson’s Arch pedestrian bridge was used for a road, shops, and water drainage, said archaeologists.

Today, eight meters above the theater, this area adjacent to the Western Wall plaza is used for prayer, which could be clearly heard during the press event.

The area under the arch was damaged in a massive earthquake circa 360 CE. Jerusalem residents, concerned the arch would collapse, deliberately covered the spacious area with dirt and debris — also covering all remnants of the theater for some 1,650 years. The latest date on an excavated coin is 380 CE, said archaeologist Solomon.

The discovery of this new theater-structure points to a conquered Roman city in flux: the road’s paving stones were used for benches, and the drainage duct, which archaeologists believe connects with the nearby City of David drainage tunnel, was lowered to make way for the stadium seating.

Hints of continued use of Temple Mount

The theater and other finds from previous excavations give “a hint” into the importance of the Temple Mount following the fall of the Second Temple, said Solomon. Solomon, who 15 years ago in adjacent excavations discovered a Roman public latrine, said that many cities conquered or established by the Romans throughout North Africa and Europe display four elements: a latrine, a public bath, a theater, and a temple. While there is as yet no concrete evidence of a Roman temple on the Temple Mount, through finds discovered at the Temple Mount Sifting Project including Roman legion jewelry and dice, there is mounting evidence of Roman-era habitation of the site.

“What happened on the Temple Mount between the destruction of the Second Temple and the Muslim period is one of the riddles we have yet to solve,” said co-excavator Uziel. He said that while some suggest there was a Temple of Jupiter there, there is no evidence because there have been no scientific excavations on the Temple Mount.

“But we do know that the arch still stood and functioned as a bridge,” said Uziel, which leads one to believe there was “something to go to,” he said.

The archaeologists discovered the theater as they were searching for the known Second Temple road. Standing amid the rubble and stadium seating of the theater structure, archaeologist Lieberman said they started to find flat stones and thought they’d reached the road. But then the stones began to appear to curve. Realizing this was no road, she joked, “What is this, a traffic circle?”

Realizing they’d discovered the theater, Lieberman said the archaeologists’ entire understanding of the whole Roman city changed.

“Now we saw there was leisure, entertainment under Wilson’s Arch,” said Lieberman, an “unbelievable” discovery.

Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Tehila Lieberman at the theater structure in Jerusalem’s Western Wall tunnels. (Yaniv Berman, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority)

She said at this point it is unclear whether the structure served as an odeon (a small acoustic roofed theater) or a bouleuterion (a city council), or even perhaps both. The stadium seating leans against that Western Wall and Lieberman noted that the backs of the audience would face the Temple Mount, perhaps hinting at the unimportance of the site to the Roman audience.

The archaeologists’ findings, including a more in-depth look at their high-tech dating system, will be presented to the public for the first time at the conference “New Studies in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and its Region,” to be held this week in Jerusalem at the Hebrew University.   (the Times of Israel)

Watch the video about this new and exciting archaeological discovery:

Fatah-Hamas unity: Rub your eyes in disbelief

Thursday’s reconciliation deal is full of holes, and leaves key questions unanswered. But it’s a deal that Egypt wanted, and Cairo proved capable of bending the sides to its will

by Avi Issacharoff     The Times of Israel


Rub your eyes in disbelief (part 1):

Yahya Sinwar, the Gaza leader of Hamas (essentially the terror group’s defense minister), stands next to the Palestinian Authority’s intelligence chief, Majid Faraj, a close associate of Mahmoud Abbas and Sinwar’s sworn enemy, and the two of them celebrate together, while Hamas and Fatah officials nearby sign their Palestinian reconciliation accord at the Egyptian intelligence headquarters in Cairo on Thursday.

The signers themselves are Azzam al-Ahmad, the Fatah representative, who has signed several such agreements in the past, and the deputy Hamas political chief, Saleh al-Arouri, who has spent the past few years attempting to orchestrate more and more terrorist attacks on Israel from the West Bank, notably including the kidnapping and killing of the three Israel teens in June 2014 ­ the act that torpedoed the previous Fatah-Hamas reconciliation deal and triggered that summer’s Hamas-Israel war.

Faraj, who stands immediately behind Arouri during the signing ceremony, has been responsible in recent years for thwarting dozens of the terror attacks Arouri was seeking to carry out.

As these individual histories underline, Thursday’s deal may have been formalized by the representatives of movements and parties and factions, but it’s future will depend to a large part on negotiating some very personal obstacles.

If “chemistry” has indeed been achieved between such bitter enemies as Sinwar, the Gaza strongman, and Faraj, Abbas’s right-hand man and one of the West Bank’s key strongmen, then that will play a critical role in tackling the problems that will inevitably spring up.

One example: Will Hamas and Arouri now stop their West Bank terrorist activities? Nothing was said about that during Thursday’s festive ceremony. Yet it is central to any genuine reconciliation.

Did Faraj and Fatah demand a halt to West Bank terrorism? And if so, did Hamas agree?

And what if they did, but Arouri or one of his people plots a terror attack nonetheless, and the Palestinian Authority gets wind of it? Would the PA try to thwart it, as it has thwarted hundreds of such attacks in the past decade? Will it transfer concrete intel on such plans to Israel, as it has done so often to date? And how would any of that impact the Palestinian reconciliation process?

Rub your eyes in disbelief (part 2):

Israeli diplomatic sources on Thursday afternoon published a rather laconic response to the unity agreement. The bottom line: Israel will watch how this plays out on the ground, and act accordingly.

If one compares that initial Israeli response to Israel’s reaction to the previous unity deal, in April 2014, the difference is dramatic indeed. Three and a half years ago, the Israeli leadership castigated Abbas for daring to sign a deal with Hamas. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Avigdor Liberman (then the foreign minister, today the defense minister) and even major American Jewish organizations made plain that Abbas was signing a deal with the devil, was evidently no peace partner, and would be treated accordingly.

Thursday’s first Israeli response, by contrast, was cautious and measured. Someone on the Israeli side apparently decided that this time, the move should not be categorically rejected, and that maybe, just maybe, Palestinian reconciliation could prove useful to Israel and might even stave off the threat of further conflict. (On the other hand, it might be that the initial reaction, issued during the festival of Shemini Atzeret, will yet be followed by a harsher Israeli response.)

The US Administration has also been cautious in the run-up to Thursday’s announced deal, and even intimated a certain support for internal Palestinian reconciliation.

It may be that there was some advance coordination between Cairo, Jerusalem and Washington, in which case it would have been Egypt that encouraged Israel to give the move a bit of a chance. Understandably so.

If indeed, Thursday’s agreement actually goes into effect, and responsibility for the Gaza border crossings is transferred to the PA, the Gaza economic situation would likely improve dramatically. For a start, there’ll no longer be a blockade on the Egyptian border. Gazans will be free to come and go. There’ll also be a huge jump in the supply of electricity to the Strip. Water supplies will improve too. Jobs are likely to be created.

All of these shifts would reduce the likelihood of Gaza-Israel conflict.

But the key problem ­ in the past and today ­ is the Hamas military wing. There was no reference to the fate of this terrorist mini-army in the agreement and the ceremonies on Thursday.

Terrorists from the military wing of the Hamas terror group take part in a parade against Israel in Gaza City on July 25, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

It would appear, as far as is known right now, that Abbas capitulated gloriously and accepted civilian responsibility for the Strip, even though Hamas will continue to control it militarily. That would mean the digging of tunnels toward and under the border with Israel will continue. And so, too, Hamas’s relentless rearming and its rocket and missile development.

Indeed, Hamas would henceforth be able to focus more exclusively on its military arsenal, boosting its capabilities, while Abbas and the PA take care of the ongoing, financially costly needs of the Gaza citizenry.

Another problem that was not addressed in Cairo on Thursday: What is to become of the more than 40,000 Hamas government workers, hired when the terror group forced Fatah out of the Strip a decade ago? Did the PA agree to now pay their salaries? Officials on both sides said this issue would be resolved. We shall see.

Meanwhile, Abbas said that 3,000 PA police officers would deploy in the Strip. But what, then, of the 19,000 Hamas security personnel, including military police, emergency services staff and others?

Rub your eyes in disbelief (part 3):

When the signing ceremony began, Egypt’s Minister of Intelligence, Khaled Fawzy, indicated to officials from Fatah and Hamas to come stand in a line alongside him. They all quickly did as they were told by their host.

If there is an answer to the question of why this agreement might just be different to all previous (failed) agreements, then therein may lie the key. Egypt, under President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, has placed its prestige on the line with this hole-filled agreement. Egypt ­ which until recently considered Hamas an enemy of the people, an ally of the Muslim Brotherhood ­ has now embraced Hamas and overseen the formulation of an agreement that will ensure Hamas survives in the Strip, and with its military wing intact.

The Egyptians wanted a reconciliation deal, however symbolic, even if it leaves key problems unsolved. And they got it.

Egypt’s interests are clear. First, it wants to signal to all Arab and Muslim nations that it is the Arab heavyweight, when it comes to the Palestinians, and more generally. That it is the most important Arab state in the region.

Second, it wants to ensure quiet for itself and for Israel where Gaza is concerned, and this agreement, it believes, will hobble Hamas, and prevent it from embarking on dangerous military escapades. Is this an incorrectly calculated gamble? Time will tell.

Fatah and Hamas, for their part, recognized that were they to torpedo the negotiations, they would find themselves directly at odds with Cairo. Hamas, seeking its survival in Gaza, certainly had no desire to do that. Fatah, or more accurately Abbas, has known ups and plenty of downs in ties with Egypt, and the unsubtle messages from Cairo in recent months evidently made his mind up for him. The word for Egypt was that if he didn’t take over civilian responsibility for the Strip, then there was an alternative player who would: Abbas’s rival Mahmoud Dahlan.

In fact, Egypt’s ostensible wooing of Dahlan in recent months now looks like one of the smarter pieces of tactical play en route to winning over Abbas to Thursday’s agreement. The Egyptians hosted Dahlan’s people in Cairo more than a month ago, to discuss reconciliation with Hamas officials, while Abbas was left kicking his heels in Ramallah. That helped prompt Abbas to send his people to Gaza, and engineered the compromises that led to Thursday’s signing. Dahlan is Abbas’s nemesis, and the very thought of a deal between Dahlan and Hamas had the effect the Egyptians desired, leading Abbas to agree to terms he had rebuffed in the past.

Rub your eyes in disbelief (part 4):

A great deal can still go wrong between now and December, when Abbas is supposed to take civilian control of Gaza, and after that date, too. There will doubtless be fresh surprises and obstacles on the way to actual Palestinian unification.

And yet who would have believed that Hamas would act in the way that it has? Yahya Sinwar, the Gaza Hamas chief, was until recently not only a bitter enemy of the PA, and of Israel, but even of the relative moderates within his own Hamas. But Sinwar became one of the key facilitators of the unity deal, leading Hamas to the dramatic, historic relinquishing of its civilian control of the Strip. That amounted to an admission of Hamas’s failure to run Gaza effectively.

So, too, Saleh al-Arouri, who has been living under Hezbollah and Iranian protection in Beirut, now bows his head to the Egyptians and gives them the achievement they sought.

And what of Ismail Haniyeh, the new Hamas political chief? Haniyeh has for years led a more compromising line on Palestinian reconciliation. He was ready in the past to give up civilian control of the Strip. But the most extreme factions in Hamas, notably including the military wing, always prevented this. Now, his approach has prevailed.

Like Abbas, Hamas has apparently agreed to terms it would not previously have accepted.

Will any of this work? Will Palestinian unity actually come to pass? We will have to wait and see. But Thursday’s events demonstrated that even extremely unlikely scenarios do sometimes come to pass.

What is Really Uniting the Palestinians?

by Bassam Tawil                  The Gatestone Institute


Saleh Arouri and Hamas view the “reconciliation” agreement as Fatah moving closer to Hamas and not the other way around….The “reconciliation” agreement requires from Hamas only to dissolve its shadow government in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas is not being asked to recognize Israel’s right to exist, or renounce terrorism or lay down its arms. Hamas is not being asked to change its anti-Semitic charter, which openly calls for the elimination not only of Israel but of Jews: “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.” (related by al-Bukhari and Moslem). (Hamas Charter, Article 7)

The “reconciliation” agreement is clearly a Fatah submission to Hamas and not vice versa. In his accord with Hamas, Abbas has signed onto Hamas’s version of violent “resistance” against Israel and Jews. This is the real meaning of this Abbas-Hamas deal.

Buoyed by the “reconciliation” agreement reached with President Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority (PA), Hamas has announced that it seeks to unite all Palestinians in the fight against the “Zionist enterprise.” In other words, Hamas views the agreement as a vehicle for rallying Palestinians behind it toward achieving its longtime goal of destroying Israel.

When Hamas talks about the “Zionist enterprise,” it is referring to the establishment of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. Hamas is not only opposed to the existence of Israel on what it and most Muslims perceive as “Muslim-owned” land; it reiterates, at every opportunity, its desire to annihilate Israel.

Those who think that the new “reconciliation” accord will have a moderating effect of Hamas are both blind and deaf to what Hamas itself has been stating both before and after the agreement. One has to give Hamas credit for being clear, honest and consistent about its goal of destroying Israel.

Hours after the latest agreement was signed in Cairo, Saleh Arouri, the newly elected deputy chairman of Hamas’s “political bureau,” stated that his movement’s next step was to work toward uniting all Palestinians against the “Zionist enterprise.”

According to Arouri — an arch-terrorist wanted by Israel for his role in funding and orchestrating terrorism — pursuing the fight against Israel should be the number one priority of all Palestinians, especially in light of the “reconciliation” deal with Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. The well-being of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip is the very farthest thing from the minds of Hamas and its new partner, the PA.

Arouri, who shuttles between a number of Arab and Islamic countries, does not live in the Gaza Strip. As such, he is not faced with the power outages, lack of medical supplies, and ill-equipped hospitals dealt with on a daily basis by most Palestinians there. Why should he care about the plight of his people when he can afford to stay in five-star hotels in Lebanon, Egypt and other countries?

“We are hoping that we will be able to reach agreement with our brothers in Fatah [Abbas’s ruling faction] and other Palestinian factions on a comprehensive national strategy to confront the Zionist enterprise,” Arouri said in an interview with the Palestinian daily Al-Quds. “It’s not hard for us to find a formula that would bring all factions together. We believe that confronting the Zionist enterprise, with all means, is not only a right, but also the duty of all of us. This does not contravene international law.”

Translation: Arouri, like most Hamas leaders, sees the “reconciliation” accord as an opportunity to advance Hamas’s genocidal agenda against Israel and Jews. He believes that the new partnership with Abbas’s Fatah should incentivize all other Palestinian factions to join forces in the fight against Israel.

More importantly, Arouri and Hamas view the “reconciliation” agreement as Fatah moving closer to Hamas and not the other way around. Here, the Hamas leader is absolutely right. The “reconciliation” agreement requires from Hamas only to dissolve its shadow government in the Gaza Strip. Hamas is not being asked to recognize Israel’s right to exist, or renounce terrorism or lay down its arms. Hamas is not being asked to change its anti-Semitic charter, which openly states:

There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors. (Hamas Charter, Article 13)

The charter also calls for the elimination not only of Israel but of Jews:

The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said:

“The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.” (related by al-Bukhari and Moslem). (Hamas Charter, Article 7)

All that Hamas is being asked to do is to allow Abbas’s Palestinian Authority government to manage civilian affairs in the Gaza Strip. Hamas, for now at least, will continue to maintain “security control” over the Gaza Strip.

Hence, the “reconciliation” agreement is clearly a Fatah submission to Hamas and not vice versa. Abbas and his Fatah faction went crawling to Hamas because they were afraid of a possible alliance between Hamas and ousted Fatah official Mohammed Dahlan. Hamas played the Dahlan card very cleverly by spreading news that it was about to strike a deal with Dahlan to allow him back into the Gaza Strip, where he would serve as a governor with no security power. Dahlan is based in the United Arab Emirates.

Dahlan’s return to the Gaza Strip would have saved Hamas from its isolation and financial crisis, especially in the aftermath of a series of sanctions imposed by Abbas on the Gaza Strip in a bid to undermine Hamas.

Moreover, through its “reconciliation” accord with Abbas, Hamas is hoping to prevent him from resuming peace talks with Israel. As Arouri clearly stated in the interview:

“We in Hamas do not want to engage in any political process with Israel. We don’t want this and this is not our job. Our role is to pursue the resistance until the occupation is removed from our land. This is our position and it hasn’t changed. With the [Israeli] enemy, there should be no political process. Instead, there should only be resistance.”

For those who are not familiar with Arab terminology and culture, “resistance” is a euphemism for terrorism. For Hamas, resistance means rockets, missiles, suicide bombings and other forms of terrorism against Israel and Jews.

As such, Hamas is hoping that the “reconciliation” agreement will even further endear Fatah to terrorism as an alternative to peace talks with Israel. Hamas sees Abbas’s intention to return to the Gaza Strip as a first step toward abandoning any peace process with Israel in favor of an armed struggle.

Not only does Hamas want Abbas to abandon any political process, it is now warning him that as its new partner, he has no authority to do so. Hamas’s message to Abbas is: As of now, we are partners in “peace” and war. No one is entitled to surprise us by signing a political agreement with Israel that suits the views of one faction over the others. These are the precise words of the Hamas leader, Arouri.

Conclusion: The “reconciliation” deal is not meant to advance any peace process or to persuade Hamas to stop terrorism. Nor is it designed to rally Palestinians behind Abbas and Fatah. This is an agreement that paves the way for Abbas and Hamas to become equal partners. Hamas is right: Why should it allow Abbas to sign a peace agreement with Israel once he has agreed to sit with Hamas when it continues to seek the destruction of Israel? As Hamas’s new partner, Abbas should as of now be held responsible for any terror attack that emanates from the Gaza Strip. Partnership entails accepting responsibility for the actions and rhetoric of your partners.

The bluff of Palestinian “reconciliation” is far from being about peace. Instead, it is about pursuing the fight against Israel and the “Zionist enterprise” — namely, Israel and Jews. In his accord with Hamas, Abbas has signed onto Hamas’s version of violent “resistance” against Israel and Jews. This is the real meaning of the Abbas-Hamas deal.

Another great video clip of Jerusalem