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Latest News in Israel – 8th July

Updates from Israel and the Jewish World

Compiled by Dr Ron Wiseman

5 IDF soldiers injured in car-ramming attack, Arab suspect arrested

An Arab terrorist on Saturday night rammed his car into a group of soldiers operating near the Arab town of Hizmeh north of Jerusalem, injuring five. The terrorist was captured several hours later.

The IDF soldiers were in the area during an operational mission when they were hit by a vehicle driven by an Arab. The terrorist fled the scene. Two of the wounded soldiers sustained moderate injuries while the rest were lightly injured.

The victims were evacuated to hospitals in Jerusalem, including Shaare Zedek, which stated Sunday morning that one of the victims, who sustained injuries to his lower body, would undergo surgery later in the day.

A female soldier in her early 20s sustained moderate injuries and is still hospitalized.

Israeli forces launched a quick investigation into the attack and arrested the terrorist and his father early Sunday morning.

“An initial investigation of the incident revealed that it was a terrorist attack, during which the terrorist identified the soldiers who were at a roadside point during an operational mission and ran them over,” the IDF stated.

Hizmeh has been the site of previous attacks.

Earlier Saturday night, an Arab terrorist attempted to run over a police officer who pulled over a vehicle for a security check at the Tzofim roundabout in Samaria.

Troops responded at the scene by firing at the vehicle, which drove away. No injuries were reported in the incident. Police and IDF units launched a manhunt for the terrorist. (WIN)

Israel launched targeted strikes in Egypt’s Sinai on Gaza-bound arms shipments

In recent months, Israel has bombed several trucks in the Egyptian Sinai carrying weapons and missiles bound for militant groups in the Gaza Strip, sources told i24NEWS.

Palestinian sources said that from November last year until the end of May, the Israeli Air Force has targeted three trucks, including one carrying a shipment of Iranian missiles bound for the Islamic Jihad discovered in March.

The trucks carrying missiles, weapons, and high explosive materials were on their way to Gaza after being transferred through arms dealers in Libya where they had been sold to Hamas and other militant groups by Palestinian intermediaries in various countries.

Israel is reportedly leading a large intelligence operation in Sinai to prevent the arrival of weapons and money to Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in Gaza through smuggling tunnels.

In recent years, Israel has bombed more than 13 tunnels dug by Hamas and Islamic Jihad to bring money, weapons, rockets, and materials to develop rockets and other explosives into the blockaded enclave.

Residents in Rafah, located in the southern Gaza Strip on the border with Sinai, say they have witnessed several times incidents of Israeli planes attacking targets inside Sinai without knowing what is being targeted, the Palestinian sources said.

It is unclear if the activity targeting Gaza militants’ weapons arsenal is connected with Israel’s ongoing cooperation with Egyptian security forces to fight Islamist terrorism in the restive Sinai region.   (i24 News) Staff

Netanyahu likens Iran’s enrichment breach to Nazis’ 1936 occupation of Rhineland

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday likened Iran’s “dangerous” flouting of the nuclear deal to the Nazis occupation of the Rhineland in 1936, in a call for European countries to sanction the Islamic Republic over its ramped-up uranium enrichment.

Iran said Sunday it was set to breach the uranium enrichment cap set by the 2015 nuclear accord within hours as it seeks to press signatories into keeping their side of the bargain.

The Islamic Republic also threatened to abandon more commitments unless a solution is found with parties to the agreement.

The move to start enriching uranium above the agreed maximum purification level of 3.67 percent comes despite opposition from the European Union and the United States, which has quit the deal.

“This is a very dangerous step and I am urging my friends, the leaders of France, Britain, Germany: You signed this deal, and you said the moment this step would be taken, there would be harsh sanctions… Where are you?” said Netanyahu at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.

Accusing Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons, the prime minister compared the stepped-up enrichment to the Nazis’ first act of military aggression.

“I discussed this morning…  how World War II began in Europe. It began when Nazi Germany took one small step, reentering the Rhineland. It was a small step, no one said anything and no one did anything. The next step was the Anschluss… and the step after that was the entry into Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. The rest is known,” Netanyahu said.

Turning to Europe, he appealed to his allies to respond with economic penalties.

“I’m asking you — not to provoke, but out of joint knowledge of history and what happens when aggressive totalitarian regimes can cross the threshold toward things that are very dangerous to us all — take the steps that you promised. Enact the sanctions.

“We’re doing our part. We are always fighting Iranian aggression, we aren’t allowing it to entrench [militarily] in Syria. We are acting, trying to nip it in the bud,” added Netanyahu, urging EU countries to do their part.

Netanyahu’s comments came as French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said Paris would not seek to trigger the nuclear deal’s so-called dispute resolution mechanism, which sets off a series of negotiations that could end with reimposed UN sanctions on Iran within 65 days.

“It’s not an option at this moment,” a source in Macron’s office told Reuters.

Macron said Saturday he is trying to find a way by July 15 to resume dialogue between Iran and Western partners. Macron’s office said in a statement that the French leader spoke for more than an hour Saturday with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani amid a standoff between Tehran and the US.

Macron expressed “strong concern about new weakening” of the 2015 accord aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. He said they would “explore between now and July 15 conditions for resumed dialogue among all parties.” The statement didn’t elaborate.

The 2015 deal was reached between Iran and six world powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, the United States and Russia — and saw Tehran agree to drastically scale down its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Washington began reimposing sanctions in August 2018 and has targeted crucial sectors including oil exports and the banking system, fueling a deep recession.

It is not yet clear how far the Islamic Republic will boost enrichment.

But a top adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei hinted on Friday it could reach five percent.

Spokesperson Behrooz Kamalvandi said Sunday that Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization was fully ready to enrich uranium “at any amount and at any level” if ordered to do so.

The 3.67 percent enrichment limit set in the agreement is sufficient for power generation but far below the more than 90 percent level required for a nuclear warhead.  (the Times of Israel) Staff agencies

5,000 Palestinians riot on Israel-Gaza border, 3 infiltrators detained

Approximately 5,000 Palestinians rioted at three locations on the Israel-Gaza Strip border on Friday, hurling rocks, firebombs and explosive devices at IDF troops.

According to health officials in Hamas-ruled Gaza, around 40 Palestinians were hurt in Friday’s unrest.

No Israeli casualties were reported.

Friday violence on the border has been a near-weekly occurrence since the Hamas-orchestrated “Great March of Return” demonstrations began in March 2018.

Earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a Security Cabinet meeting at an IDF base near the Gaza border.

“Our policy is clear: We want to restore the calm, but at the same time we are also prepared for a wide-ranging military campaign, if it proves necessary,” he said. “These are my instructions to the IDF.” (the Algemeiner) Staff

Elderly woman injured during Gaza rocket strike dies from her wounds

An 89 year-old woman who was seriously wounded while running to a bomb shelter during the last round of violence between Israel and Hamas passed away on Sunday.

The death Rivka Jamil, a resident of Ashkelon, comes two months after she was admitted to Barzilai Medical Center in serious condition and with bruising to her back.

“During her hospitalization at Barzilai Medical Center, other problems relating to her health arose which, as a result of her condition gradually deteriorated,” read a statement by the hospital’s spokesperson.

Jamil’s son Reuven was quoted by the Mako news service as saying that she died from a “hostile act,” and that she lost her husband during the Yom Kippur War.

Her death puts the civilian death toll at five Israelis who lost their lives in the last round of fighting, which saw Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) launch close to 700 rockets towards Israel in the span of less than 48 hours.

While the large majority landed in open territory and caused no injuries, 240 were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system and another 21 hit civilian homes.

The rocket barrages in early May claimed the lives of three Israeli civilians: Moshe Agadi, the first Israeli civilian to be killed since 2014 after he was struck by shrapnel to his stomach and chest; Ziad Alhamamda, who was killed after he was critically injured in his chest by shrapnel from a direct strike on a factory in Ashkelon; and Pinchas Menachem Prezuazman, who was killed after he suffered severe shrapnel injuries to his chest while running to a shelter in Ashdod.       (Jerusalem Post) Anna Ahronheim

Hamas struggles to hold onto power five years after Gaza War

Hamas leaders appear to be well aware that under the current circumstances it’s almost impossible to reach any deal with Abbas and Fatah.

by Khaled Abu Toameh    The Jerusalem Post

https://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Five-years-after-Gaza-war-Defiant-Hamas-struggles-to-hold-on-to-power-594878

Five years after Operation Protective Edge, Hamas remains as defiant as ever, and there are no signs that its rule over the Gaza Strip is facing any real challenges.

When it comes to ruling over the Gaza Strip, Hamas has but one objective: holding on to its power. While Hamas leaders have little to worry regarding their control, the conditions of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have only worsened since the 2014 war.

Ironically, Israel is imperative in helping Hamas hold on to power, and that’s why the cash-strapped Hamas is now focusing its efforts on maintaining truce understandings reached with Israel under the auspices of Egypt, the United Nations, and other parties, including Qatar.

Thousands of families are still waiting on Hamas to fulfill its promise in rebuilding their homes that were destroyed during the seven-week Israeli military operation. The families, which have been left no choice but to rent apartments, complain that Hamas has also failed to cover their rental expenses or compensate them for their losses because of the financial crisis it is fac-ing.

“We’ve received many promises, but haven’t seen anything,” said Ibrahim Mashharawi, a father of eight from Gaza City, whose house was severely damaged during the fighting. “Hamas says it can’t help us because it doesn’t have enough money. We received small amounts of money from some international organizations, but this hasn’t solved the crisis for thousands of displaced families.”

Hamas leaders continue to hold that the Israeli blockade, international and Palestinian Authority sanctions, as well as the failure of Arab and Islamic countries to fulfill their promises is responsible for the plight of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. “How can we help the people when we are living under siege?” asked an official from the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry.

“The people are suffering largely because of the Israeli blockade and the sanctions imposed on the Gaza Strip by [PA President] Mahmoud Abbas.”

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In the past two years, the PA has cut salaries of thousands of employees and impoverished families in the Gaza Strip, further aggravating the economic crisis there. The PA measures are seen by Palestinians as an attempt by Abbas to undermine Hamas.

The Hamas-controlled Health Ministry says that 2,322 Palestinians were killed during the 2104 war, including 578 children age one month to 16 years, 489 women age 20 to 40, and 102 Palestinians age 50 to 80. It’s not clear, however, how many of the victims were members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other Palestinian groups.

For Hamas, the fact that the war did not end its rule over the Gaza Strip was sufficient to celebrate “victory.” Hamas leaders are convinced that Israel is not interested in removing their movement from power or launching a large-scale military offen-sive in the Gaza Strip.

“Hamas closely follows the debate inside Israel regarding the Gaza Strip,” said a veteran Gaza-based journalist with close links to the Hamas leadership. “The leaders of Hamas have concluded that the Israeli public does not support a reoccupation of the Gaza Strip. They [Hamas leaders] understand that Israel’s policy is to weaken Hamas, while making sure it remains in power for fear of total anarchy in the Gaza Strip. They also believe that Israel prefers reaching a long-term ceasefire with Hamas than going to war.”

The journalist and other Palestinian political analysts said Hamas fears a “popular revolt” against its regime more than war with Israel. They agreed, nonetheless, that so far it seems that the prospects of a major anti-Hamas revolt are slim. In March, Hamas used ruthless force to suppress widespread protests against economic hardship in various parts of the Gaza Strip. The protests, described as the worst since Hamas’s violent takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007, were launched by several youth movements and political activists under the banner “We Want to Live!”

An ongoing crackdown by Hamas on its political opponents, particularly Fatah, has also served to tighten the movement’s grip on the Gaza Strip. According to Fatah officials, hundreds of their members in the Gaza Strip have been arrested and harassed by Hamas security forces in the past few years.

Hamas maintains that its military capabilities have not been affected by the 2014 war, claiming that it’s prepared for another military confrontation with Israel.

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, however, disagree. They say that Hamas’s military capabilities have suffered a major blow since the war, particularly after the destruction of dozens of terror tunnels by the IDF.

“From a military point of view, Hamas is much weaker than it was in 2014,” said Gaza-based political analyst and human rights worker Abdel Rahman Nasser. “From a political point of view, Hamas remains strong despite its increased isolation and the sanctions imposed on the Gaza Strip by the Palestinian Authority. Today, it appears that Hamas is still in full control of the situation.”

The Egyptians, meanwhile, seem to have given up on their efforts to end the dispute between Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah. Re-ports in the Palestinian media last week suggested that Cairo was considering resuming its mediation efforts to end the Hamas-Fatah rivalry and achieve Palestinian “national unity.” The reports, however, were quickly denied by the Egyptians.

Hamas leaders also appear to be well aware that under the current circumstances, it is almost impossible to reach any deal with Abbas and Fatah. They are convinced that striking a truce deal with Israel has become more realistic than ending the dispute between Hamas and Fatah.

In addition, Hamas is aware that a deal with Israel would serve as an insurance policy toward its continued rule over the Gaza Strip. That’s why Hamas leaders seem to be keener on reaching truce understandings with Israel than striking a deal with Abbas, whom they believe is more interested in removing their movement from power than achieving “na-tional unity.”

IDF’s Home Front Command creates most precise alert yet

Instead of 255 alert areas, Israel has now been divided into 1,700 areas—meaning that the disruption caused by projectile alerts will be more localized, preventing fear, angst and an unnecessary run to a bomb shelter.

by Yaacov Lappin                   JNS

https://www.jns.org/idfs-home-front-command-creates-most-precise-alert-yet/

In recent weeks, the Israel Defense Force’s Home Front Command has become a lot more precise when it comes to alerting civilians to rocket and missile attacks.

Instead of 255 alert areas, Israel has now been divided into 1,700 areas, meaning that the disruption caused by projectile alerts will be more localized than ever before.

“We are providing alerts only to those who are under substantial threat. We’re alerting civilians in a more focused manner, selecting the threatened area only for alerts,”  Lt. Col. Shlomi Maman, head of the Alert Branch in the Home Front Command, told JNS.

The Home Front Command is responsible for alerting civilians to a range of threats, the most common of which is enemy projectile fire, but which also include natural disasters and hazardous chemical spills. It employs sirens, phone apps, television and radio to get its message across in time and save lives.

The breakthrough came when the Home Front Command moved from an analogue system to an IP-based digital system, giving every siren its own IP address and separate activation channel.

“If we distribute an alert to a very wide area, we create a number of problems. We’d lose public confidence. If every time a rocket is fired at Sderot I’d alert the whole of the Negev, or the entire Gaza border region, people would eventually lose confidence in the system,” stated Maman. “They’d give up and stop listening to the alerts. They’d conclude that it’s not relevant to them, and they’d start to become complacent.”

By being more accurate, the new targeted alerts not only ensure more willingness by civilians to heed the message and take cover, they also allow for many areas of the country not under threat to pursue routine activities, even during national emergencies.

Under the Home Front Command’s regulations, civilians must remain in secure zones for 10 minutes after an alert, due to the threat of shrapnel that can fall long after an initial rocket impact. This is particularly true in cases of interceptions of incoming projectiles by the Iron Dome air-defense system.

If large parts of the country, including hospitals, military industries and military bases, have to shut down for 10 minutes again and again, the net result would cause significant harm to the state’s ability to function and to national resilience, explained Maman.

Under such a scenario, “the country would have to spend most of the time that combat takes place in a protected area. The opposite scenario would be civilians who, during emergencies, continue to pursue routine activities as much as possible—business, education. They have a ‘contract’ with the state—when they are in danger, we will alert them,” he said.

‘We only activate the relevant areas’

The expansion of alert areas to 1,700 marks a milestone from 1991, when the whole of Israel formed a single alert area. Sirens nationwide went off every time Iraq fired Scud missiles at Israel. Iraq fired 39 missiles at Israel during the 1991 Gulf War.

The Home Front Command soon concluded that it needed to divide the country into more specific alert areas. One area turned into 10, and then, by 2006, 25. When the Second Lebanon War broke out that year, “every rocket flying from Lebanon flying to the Galilee resulted in an alert to the whole of the Galilee. Looking back, this reality was incomprehensible. Hence, we continued to divide new areas until we got to 255 in 2015,” recalled Maman.

Yet that number still meant that too many areas that were not under imminent rocket threat faced disruption, as was the case during the 50-day conflict with Hamas in Gaza in the summer of 2015.

“We see that rocket barrages are getting more intense,” said Maman. “Three weeks ago, we issued 850 alerts within just two days,” he said, referring to the latest escalation with Gazan terrorist factions. “It doesn’t take a security expert to know that if we throw in an additional front—the north—then this threat increases. So we saw that 255 areas were not enough. These areas were still too big.”

“Now we only activate the relevant areas. This is how we upgraded the number of alerts to an almost unlimited number,” he added.

A city like Rishon Letzion, with more than 240,000 inhabitants, has now been divided up into central neighborhoods, meaning that most of the city could continue as normal even if a rocket was heading towards it.

“We could divide cities into even more alert areas. But we did not want too many areas to avoid making the alerts too precise and informing the enemy about their firing,” said Maman.

In addition, the Home Front Command simplified its messaging, giving the alert areas clear names when it sends out messages through media, rather than the older and more confusing system that used numbers.

On June 10, hours after the new system went into effect, Palestinian terrorists fired projectiles at Israeli communities near Gaza in the late hours of the night. The result was that one kibbutz, Nirim, received an alert, while the adjacent Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha slept through the incident “as if nothing happened, even though the community next to them was in danger,” said Maman.

Preparing for earthquake emergencies as well

The Home Front Command is also preparing for other threats, such as earthquakes, in which civilians should do the opposite of what they do in rocket attacks and run outside.

Working with the Geophysical Institute of Israel, the Home Front Command is creating a network of 120 seismic sensors around the Syrian-African Fault Line that runs down the Jordan Valley. “As soon as they detect an earthquake, they can compute where it will cause an impact, and the Home Front Command hopes to distribute alerts accordingly,” said Maman.

The alerts will not be as selective as projectile attacks since an earthquake can influence half a country. The Home Front Command is creating a separate earthquake alert, in which speakers will omit a verbal earthquake announcement, rather than sounding the well-known rising and falling siren.

Depending on where they live, civilians could have between five to 15 seconds to vacate buildings, in a situation in which every second counts. That could still save hundreds or thousands of lives.

Fifteen seconds is a time period that should be familiar to civilians living near the Gaza border, as this is how long they  have to take action when the rocket alert sounds. As Maman stated, “when people are trained, it saves lives.”

Increasingly Belligerent Iran Poses Dilemma for Israel – Israel Kasnett (JNS-Israel Hayom)

At the annual Herzliya Conference, experts discussed the nature of the conflict between Iran and Israel.

Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, supported the U.S. “maximum pressure” campaign. “Do we want to confront a weakened Iran or a stronger Iran?…It’s always good to weaken your enemy, not strengthen them.”

Ariel Levite, former deputy director general of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, said, “There was an illusion that the JCPOA [nuclear deal] would pave the way for positive dynamics with Iran. It has done exactly the opposite.” Levite added, “In the haste to get an agreement in 2015, very serious shortcuts were made, which ultimately produced a very problematic agreement and a very flawed implementation of it thereafter.”

Levite noted that Iran already appears comfortable with acting aggressive and confrontational – and that’s without a nuclear umbrella. Imagine what they would do if they have the nuclear umbrella, he said.

Former Israeli national security adviser Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror was asked whether Israel should prepare for a strike on Iran. He replied, “The clear answer, ‘yes.’ Israel cannot be in a situation in which Iranians will absorb the ability to manufacture nuclear military capability, and Israel cannot stop it….We cannot put our future in the hands of any other state….At the end of the day, if the Iranians cross the red line and we are in a situation in which tomorrow will be too late, we will have to act.”

Sima Shine, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, said, “The international community should deal with [Iran]. I don’t think Israel can take upon itself the solution.” Amidror replied, “What do we do if they don’t? The answer to that question should be very clear….Israel should be in the position to do the job….If all the good people in the world will not do it…we should do it.”