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Latest News in Israel – July 9th

Updates from Israel and the Jewish World

Compiled by Dr Ron Wiseman

IDF shoots down drone after it infiltrates into Israel from Gaza

A drone which infiltrated from the Gaza Strip and was seen over the community of Zikim was intercepted by the Israeli military and taken in for inspection, the army said on Monday.

The drone was identified by Israeli radar systems as crossing over the border in the northern Gaza Strip, flying near the communities of Karmiya and Zikim and tracked by troops until it was downed.

Its pieces were collected by the IDF and transferred for further inspection, and to determine where it came from and what it had been carrying.

Hamas has sent drones into Israel in the past, leading the IDF to scramble jets or fire missiles. The group is said to have been working on upgrading its UAVs for use in both offensive operations and intelligence gathering.

In 2012, during Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza, the IDF said it struck Hamas facilities that were being used to develop drones capable of carrying explosives. Then-GOC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Tal Russo said at the time that the IDF destroyed “advanced weaponry, like the development of a UAV that isn’t used for photography but for attacks deep inside Israel.”

In February 2017, a Hamas drone that was making its way toward Israel from the Gaza Strip fell into the sea after being shot down by an Israeli F-16. The previous year, Hamas’s chief drone expert and engineer, Muhammad Zouari, was assassinated in Tunisia in an operation blamed on the Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence agency.

Last year, a drone armed with explosives launched from the northern part of the Gaza Strip landed in the area of the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council. The drone was recovered whole and was examined by the IDF to determine whether it was launched with the intention of injuring Israeli soldiers and fell before reaching its intended target, or if the individual operating the device lost control.

In the last round of violence between Israel and terrorist groups in the Strip, the IDF said that there were multiple attempts to attack troops stationed along the border using drones.  In one attempt, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed that a drone belonging to its military wing dropped an explosive device in the vicinity of an IDF tank.

In the video, the drone drops an IED above the tank, which was deployed close to the border, after it spots IDF troops approaching it. The device exploded near the tank but did not cause any injuries to nearby troops.

For the past year, thousands of Gazans have been protesting along the security fence on a weekly basis, taking part in “Great Return March” demonstrations, calling for an end to the 12-year-long Israeli blockade of theGaza Strip.

During the violent weekly protests, Gazans have been burning tires and hurling stones, as well as grenades and other explosive devices, towards IDF troops. Gazans have also launched countless aerial incendiary devices into southern Israel, sometimes with explosive devices attached to them. (Jerusalem Post) Anna Ahronheim

IDF discovers more Gaza tunnels leading into Israel

Another cross-border tunnel dug into Israeli territory was discovered in the southern part of the Gaza Strip during construction of the country’s underground barrier, the IDF announced on Monday evening.

“At this time, IDF soldiers are conducting an investigation of the passage,” the IDF said. “More information will be provided shortly.”

It is unclear if the tunnel was newly dug by terror groups in the Strip or if it was an old unused tunnel.

The Eshkol Regional Council said that the tunnel was found by “groundbreaking technological defenses that are used along the Gaza border to protect our communities. The tunnel is not a threat and is being handled by the IDF.”

Israel’s military has been investing extensive efforts in locating cross-border tunnels from Gaza, and has destroyed 16 terror tunnels that infiltrated into Israeli territory in the past two years, including one tunnel that stretched into both Israel and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula near the Kerem Shalom crossing.

The IDF also destroyed an operational naval tunnel that extended into the Mediterranean and would have enabled terrorists who would enter from a Hamas military post in the northern Gaza Strip to exit into the sea unnoticed.

A total of 18 cross-border tunnels have been discovered and destroyed since the end of Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

The IDF has also completed some 30 kilometers of the new underground and maritime barrier to cut off Hamas tunnels while strengthening the fence above ground.

The new above-ground barrier will be 65 kilometers long, stretching along the route of the border from the new sea barrier near Zikim beach in the north to Kerem Shalom crossing in the south. Made from galvanized steel, it will weigh about 20,000 tons and will reach a height of about six meters.

The smart-fence is the above-ground part of Israel’s underground barrier, which has a system of advanced sensors and monitoring devices to detect tunnels.

The project is being carried out by the Defense Ministry’s Engineering and Construction Department and the Border and Sewage Administration.

The 200-meter sea barrier, which has been completed, is made up of three layers, including one below the sea level that is lined with seismic detectors and other tools, a layer of armored stone, and a third layer in the form of a mound. In addition to the three layers, a six-meter (20-foot) smart fence surrounds the breakwater to provide a final security measure.

The decision to build an upgraded naval barrier was decided upon after five Hamas frogmen (naval commandos) tried to infiltrate Kibbutz Zikim during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 armed with automatic weapons, fragmentation grenades and several types of explosives devices. They were engaged and killed by the IDF in a combined attack from the sea, ground and air. (Jerusalem Post)

PA liable for Second Intifada terror attacks, up to 1B. NIS in damages

The Palestinian Authority is liable for civil damages for a series of terror attacks carried out mostly during the Second Intifada, the Jerusalem District Court has ruled.

With liability decided against the PA, the court case moves to the next stage where the plaintiffs will need to prove their damages, which could add up to as much as NIS 1 billion. Shurat Hadin has been pursuing a judgment for years on behalf of eight victims’ families and relating to 17 complaints.

The 17 complaints mostly come from the 2000-2002 period of the Second Intifada, including the infamous Ramallah lynch in 2000. One claim also dated back to 1996 when there was an attack at Joseph’s Tomb.

Some of the attacks involve Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but Judge Moshe Drori still held the PA liable based on official PA statements taking credit for all of the terror attacks during the Second Intifada. Drori added that the PA had also sometimes provided logistical or material support to other groups in carrying out the terror attacks.

More broadly, the court held the PA liable not only on the basis of such logistical and material direct support to terrorists, but also on the basis of continued financial support of terrorist prisoners and their families. Going even beyond financial support, the court noted that the PA regularly dedicates street names and other landmarks to terrorists.

Despite these rulings, the court denied arguments against the PA that said it had direct responsibility for certain specific attacks due to general statements of incitement.

Though the ruling was handed down on Sunday, the court spokesperson’s office announced the decision for the first time on Monday.

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The issue of the PA making “martyrs” payments to terrorists has led to significant public and legal fighting between Israel and the US on one hand, and the PA on the other. Israel and the US have portrayed the payments as support for terror, and both countries recently passed laws to penalize the PA monetarily for continuing the payments.

In response, the PA has been rejecting US and Israeli financial support. Some in the Israeli defense establishment believe that the PA itself could collapse in the near future due to a lack of funds.

Groups in favor of penalizing the PA say that it is grandstanding, and that it is always able to find funds for wealthy top officials and high-end portions of the West Bank that the PA controls.

Commenting on Monday’s decision, Shurat Hadin President Nitsana Darshan-Leitner said that the court’s “historic” decision showed that PA leader Yasser Arafat had tried to use war and murder, via the Second Intifada, to obtain concessions from Israel that he had not succeeded in getting through the Oslo negotiations.

With the dramatic decision handed down, the standard question arises on whether there will be any way to collect on any future potential judgment.

In January, the same court placed a temporary lien on a plot of land in Jerusalem owned by Arafat, after Shurat Hadin sought the land as collateral for the claims against the PA. The land in question is mainly situated on the Mount of Olives Cemetery, overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem.

Darshan-Leitner had told the court that if they won the lawsuit, it would be difficult to collect the compensation from the Arafat estate, and as a result, she requested a lien on the property.

“Yasser Arafat was the grandfather of modern terrorism, responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women and children,” said Darshan-Leitner at the time. “This move is one step closer toward justice for the victims and their families. We will not allow a situation in which the Arafat estate can own land in the heart of Jerusalem, while avoiding paying damages to his victims.”

Drori himself issued Monday’s decision as one of his last upon his retirement, meaning that evidence regarding damages will be held by a different Jerusalem District Court judge.  (Jerusalem Post) Anna Ahronheim

Biblical city from time of King David discovered

Researchers from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority and Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, believe they have discovered the Philistine town near Kiryat Gat, immortalized in the Biblical narrative.

Ziklag is mentioned multiple times in the Bible in relation to David (in 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel). According to the Biblical narrative, Achish, King of Gat, allowed David to find refuge in Ziklag while fleeing King Saul and from there David also departed to be anointed King in Hebron. According to scripture, Ziklag was also the scene of a dramatic event, in which the Amalekites, desert nomads, raided and burned the town taking women and children captive.

The excavation, which began in 2015 at the site of Khirbet a-Ra‘i in the Judaean foothills – between Kiryat Gat and Lachish, has proceeded in cooperation with Prof. Yosef Garfinkel, Head of the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Saar Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Dr. Kyle Keimer and Dr. Gil Davis of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. The excavation was funded by Joey Silver of Jerusalem, Aron Levy of New Jersey, and the Roth Family and Isaac Wakil both of Sydney. The excavation has been ongoing for seven seasons with large areas being exposed – approximately 1,000 sq.m., leading to this new identification for Ziklag.

The name Ziklag is unusual in the lexicon of names in the Land of Israel, since it is not local Canaanite-Semitic. It is a Philistine name, given to the town by an alien population of immigrants from the Aegean.

Twelve different suggestions to identify Ziklag have been put forward, such as Tel Halif near Kibbutz Lahav, Tel Sera in the Western Negev, Tel Sheva, and others. However, according to the researchers, none of these sites produced continuous settlement which included both a Philistine settlement and a settlement from the era of King David. At Khirbet a-Ra‘i, however, features from both these populations have been found.

Evidence of a settlement from the Philistine era has been found there, from the 12-11th centuries BC. Spacious, massive stone structures have been uncovered containing finds typical of the Philistine civilization.

Additional finds are foundation deposits, including bowls and an oil lamp – offerings laid beneath the floors of the buildings out of a belief that these would bring good fortune in the construction. Stone and metal tools were also found. Similar finds from this era were discovered in the past in excavations in Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron and Gath–the cities of the Lords of the Philistines.

Above the remains of the Philistine settlement was a rural settlement from the time of King David, from the early 10th century BC. This settlement came to an end in an intense fire that destroyed the buildings. Nearly one hundred complete pottery vessels were found in the various rooms.

These vessels are identical to those found in the contemporary fortified Judaean city of Khirbet Qeiyafa—identified as biblical Sha‘arayim—in the Judaean foothills. Carbon 14 tests date the site at Khirbet a-Ra‘i to the time of King David.

The great range of complete vessels is testimony to the interesting everyday life during the reign of King David. Large quantities of storage jars were found during the excavation- medium and large-which were used for storing oil and wine. Jugs and bowls were also found decorated in the style known as “red slipped and hand burnished,” typical to the period of King David.

Following a regional archaeological study in the Judaean foothills managed by Professors Garfinkel and Ganor, a picture of the region’s settlement in the early Monarchic era is emerging: the two sites – Ziklag and Sha‘arayim-are situated on the western frontier of the kingdom.

They are both perched atop prominent hills, overlooking main routes passing between the Land of the Philistines and Judea: Khirbet Qeiyafa in the Elah Valley sits opposite Philistine Gath, and Khirbet a-Ra‘i, sits opposite Ashkelon. This geographic description is echoed in King David’s Lament, in which he mourns the death of King Saul and Jonathan in their battle against the Philistines: “Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon.” (Arutz Sheva)

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The delicate dance of mutual deterrence

Five years removed from Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, the current assessment in Israel is that Hamas is restrained and deterred from engaging in a broad military conflict. Regardless, the next round of fighting is almost inevitable and won’t resemble its predecessors.

by  Yoav Limor                 Israel Hayom


Five years removed from Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, the current assessment in Israel is that Hamas is restrained and deterred from engaging in a broad military conflict.

This assessment has been reinforced in recent weeks. Although Hamas has orchestrated the cross-border arson campaign and violent border protests, it has also sought to temper tensions out of concern that the situation could spiral out of control. The (temporary) understandings mediated by Egypt and the UN’s special envoy to the region are indeed bearing the desired fruit: The past week was among the quietest in months along the Gaza frontier, with nearly zero incendiary balloons and just one relatively calm border demonstration (6,900 participants and only a handful of explosive devices) on Friday.

This quiet is an illusion – if money and goods aren’t allowed to enter Gaza, things will quickly revert to fire and violence – but it does indicate that Gaza is strongly deterred. Were Hamas not deterred, it would have launched another military campaign a long time ago to extricate itself from Gaza’s civic and economic distress, and the terrorist organization’s failure to rehabilitate the coastal enclave since Operation Protective Edge ended in the late summer of 2014. It could have sparked another war, for example, via an underground tunnel, which would have also given it a much desired public relations coup.

Hamas is refraining from doing so because it knows it is losing assets with every passing day. Since Protective Edge, the IDF has detected and destroyed 17 underground terror tunnels. Most significantly, though, the army has already completed building 40 kilometers (25 miles) of the underground border barrier (out of the 68 kilometers, or 42 miles, planned in total). Meanwhile, 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) of the new surface fence has been built and the underwater sea barrier is already finished. The IDF intends to complete the entire barrier by the end of 2019, which is supposed to completely eliminate the tunnel threat from Gaza.

This deterrence, however, isn’t just a one-way street; it also affects Israel. From the moment violence from Gaza erupted anew in late March 2018, Israel has stringently avoided steps that could lead to a military imbroglio in Gaza. It has restricted itself to immaterial terrorist targets, taken pains to avoid harming civilians, and has repeatedly exhibited a willingness to retaliate in moderation to the bevy of provocations perpetrated by Gaza’s terrorist groups, which in previous periods would have earned a far more severe Israeli response.

This primarily stems from the understanding among the country’s political and military leadership that any broad campaign in Gaza – the cost in lives and money notwithstanding – will end, in the best case scenario, at the current starting point; and in the worst case will end in a much worse situation, where Israel will have to rule (and fund and care for) Gaza and its people; or otherwise risk the humanitarian situation there deteriorating to the point of requiring deep-rooted international intervention.

Israel prefers an arrangement

Israel, therefore, prioritizes an arrangement with Hamas. It’s doubtful one can be reached in the coming months – among other things because of the upcoming election in Israel, which intrinsically hardens positions and reduces the chances for compromise; but also because of the disagreements over core issues – from money and energy sources, to the bodies of IDF soldiers being held by Hamas. Thus the forthcoming period, despite the state of mutual deterrence, will remain tense and require the IDF to maintain a high-level of readiness in case of an escalation.

It’s clear to both sides that the next round of fighting won’t resemble previous ones. Israel doesn’t want a prolonged, frustrating war that culminates in public resentment and anger. It will probably start any campaign by pulverizing the enemy’s assets and personnel. Hamas, too, has shown it has learned the lessons of 2014. The large number of rockets (490) it successfully fired at Israel within a short time frame in May, which claimed the lives of four Israelis, indicates that its plan is also to focus maximum firepower in the hope of attaining maximum diplomatic points in the shortest time possible.

Overt and covert activity

To enter the next round of fighting with the upper hand, Israel has carried out a variety of operations, clandestine and public. The failed intelligence-gathering operation in Khan Yunis last November was just one example of Israel’s covert efforts.

The purpose of these efforts is to stay at least a step ahead of the enemy and help the country’s leaders make the most informed decisions possible, even if those decisions aren’t immediately popular in the eyes of the public.

Why History Still Matters: The 1967 Six Day War

by David Harris   The Times of Israel Blogs


Mention history and it can trigger a roll of the eyes.

Add the Middle East to the equation and folks might start running for the hills, unwilling to get caught up in the seemingly bottomless pit of details and disputes.

But without an understanding of what happened in the past, it’s impossible to grasp where we are today — and where we are has profound relevance for the region and the world.

Fifty-two years ago, the Six-Day War broke out.

While some wars fade into obscurity, this one remains as relevant today as in 1967. Many of its core issues remain unresolved.

Politicians, diplomats, and journalists continue to grapple with the consequences of that war, but rarely consider, or perhaps are even unaware of, context. Yet without context, some critically important things may not make sense.

First, in June 1967, there was no state of Palestine. It didn’t exist and never had. Its creation, proposed by the UN in 1947, was rejected by the Arab world because it also meant the establishment of a Jewish state alongside.

Second, the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem were in Jordanian hands. Violating solemn agreements, Jordan denied Jews access to their holiest places in eastern Jerusalem. To make matters still worse, they desecrated and destroyed many of those sites.

Meanwhile, the Gaza Strip was under Egyptian control, with harsh military rule imposed on local residents.

And the Golan Heights, which were regularly used to shell Israeli communities far below, belonged to Syria.

Third, the Arab world could have created a Palestinian state in the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip any day of the week. They didn’t. There wasn’t even discussion about it. And Arab leaders, who today profess such attachment to eastern Jerusalem, rarely, if ever, visited. It was viewed as an Arab backwater.

Fourth, the 1967 boundary at the time of the war, so much in the news these days, was nothing more than an armistice line dating back to 1949 — familiarly known as the Green Line. That’s after five Arab armies attacked Israel in 1948 with the aim of destroying the embryonic Jewish state. They failed. Armistice lines were drawn, but they weren’t formal borders. They couldn’t be. The Arab world, even in defeat, refused to recognize Israel’s very right to exist.

Fifth, the PLO, which supported the war effort, was established in 1964, three years before the conflict erupted. That’s important because it was created with the goal of obliterating Israel. Remember that in 1964 the only “settlements” were Israel itself.

Sixth, in the weeks leading up to the Six-Day War, Egyptian and Syrian leaders repeatedly declared that war was coming and their objective was to wipe Israel off the map. There was no ambiguity in their blood-curdling announcements. Twenty-two years after the Holocaust, another enemy spoke about the extermination of Jews. The record is well-documented.

The record is equally clear that Israel, in the days leading up to the war, passed word to Jordan, via the UN and United States, urging Amman to stay out of any pending conflict. Jordan’s King Hussein ignored the Israeli plea and tied his fate to Egypt and Syria. His forces were defeated by Israel, and he lost control of the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. He later acknowledged that he had made a terrible error in entering the war.

Seventh, Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser demanded that UN peacekeeping forces in the area, in place for the previous decade to prevent conflict, be removed. Shamefully, without even the courtesy of consulting Israel, the UN complied. That left no buffer between Arab armies being mobilized and deployed and Israeli forces in a country one-fiftieth, or two percent, the size of Egypt — and just nine miles wide at its narrowest point.

Eighth, Egypt blocked Israeli shipping lanes in the Red Sea, Israel’s only maritime access to trading routes with Asia and Africa. This step was understandably regarded as an act of war by Jerusalem. The United States spoke about joining with other countries to break the blockade, but, in the end, regrettably, did not act.

Ninth, France, which had been Israel’s principal arms supplier, announced a ban on the sale of weapons on the eve of the June war. That left Israel in potentially grave danger if a war were to drag on and require the resupply of arms. It was not until the next year that the U.S. stepped into the breach and sold vital weapons systems to Israel.

And finally, after winning the war of self-defense, Israel hoped that its newly-acquired territories, seized from Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, would be the basis for a land-for-peace accord. Feelers were sent out. The formal response came on September 1, 1967, when the Arab Summit Conference famously declared in Khartoum: “No peace, no recognition, no negotiations” with Israel.

More “no’s” were to follow. Underscoring the point, in 2003, the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. was quoted in The New Yorker as saying: “It broke my heart that [PLO Chair] Arafat did not take the offer (of a two-state deal presented by Israel, with American support, in 2001). Since 1948, every time we’ve had something on the table, we say no. Then we say yes. When we say yes, it’s not on the table anymore. Then we have to deal with something less. Isn’t it about time to say yes?”

Today, there are those who wish to rewrite history.

They want the world to believe there was once a Palestinian state. There was not.

They want the world to believe there were fixed borders between that state and Israel. There was only an armistice line between Israel and the Jordanian-controlled West Bank and eastern Jerusalem.

They want the world to believe the 1967 war was a bellicose act by Israel. It was an act of self-defense in the face of blood-curdling threats to vanquish the Jewish state, not to mention the maritime blockade of the Straits of Tiran, the abrupt withdrawal of UN peacekeeping forces, and the redeployment of Egyptian and Syrian troops. All wars have consequences. This one was no exception. But the aggressors have failed to take responsibility for the actions they instigated.

They want the world to believe post-1967 Israeli settlement-building is the key obstacle to peacemaking. The Six-Day War is proof positive that the core issue is, and always has been, whether the Palestinians and larger Arab world accept the Jewish people’s right to a state of their own. If so, all other contentious issues, however difficult, have possible solutions. But, alas, if not, all bets are off.

And they want the world to believe the Arab world had nothing against Jews per se, only Israel, yet trampled with abandon on sites of sacred meaning to the Jewish people.

In other words, when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict, dismissing the past as if it were a minor irritant at best, irrelevant at worst, won’t work.

Can history move forward? Absolutely. Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994 powerfully prove the point. At the same time, though, the lessons of the Six-Day War illustrate just how tough and tortuous the path can be—and are sobering reminders that, yes, history does matter.