Posts Tagged ‘arson kites’

Donald Trump Not Backing Away From Israel

December 9, 2018

In an age when doomsday predictions are as common as thunderstorms, it can be instructive to look back at events and compare the predictions to what actually happened. The decision by President Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is an example that offers major lessons.

Long before Trump made the announcement on Dec. 6, 2017, and pledged to move our embassy to Jerusalem, there were endless warnings that the change would cause global unrest. Opponents in America, Europe and the Arab world, including current and former government officials, vehemently insisted the peace process between Israel and Palestinians would be destroyed. Some even warned that America would be sucked into ­another Mideast war.

Ho-hum. It’s a year later and the sky still refuses to fall. Nor is the Mideast burning.

In fact, little or nothing has changed between the parties as a result of the announcement and the subsequent embassy move from Tel Aviv. There was no peace process at the time because the Palestinians had refused even to negotiate, and that remains the case.

By Michael Goodwin

Also, Israel already was moving beyond the Palestinian issue and, because of threats from Iran and ­Islamic State, had established working security alliances with several Arab states, including Saudi Arabia. Those arrangements are intact and expanding, as are its relationships with China and others outside the region.

Among the lessons that hindsight affords is that conventional wisdom was simply wrong. It turns out that those supposedly in the know actually knew nothing.

A corollary is that the so-called Arab street turned out to be a ­fictional force, with the promised outpouring of mass support in Arab countries never materializing. ­Although there was grumbling and sporadic rock-throwing and tire-burning, Armageddon stayed off stage.

Another lesson is that strength creates its own advantages. Presidents who blink in a crisis, as ­Barack Obama did by failing to ­enforce his red line in Syria, invite more trouble because opponents believe they will wilt. In ­office for nearly a year, Trump had demonstrated that riots don’t move him, so riots didn’t happen.

A Palestinian waves a flag during a demonstration on the beach near the maritime border with Israel, in the northern Gaza Strip, on October 22, 2018. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

A Palestinian waves a flag during a demonstration on the beach near the maritime border with Israel, in the northern Gaza Strip, on October 22, 2018. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

I was in Jerusalem the day of his announcement and Israelis were jubilant. Trump was hailed as a hero for the ages because he conformed American policy to what every Israeli knows: Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish state.

That reality was why virtually every presidential candidate for two decades promised to make the embassy move — but only when the time was right. The hesitation, enshrined in a 1995 law that allowed delays, gave a heckler’s veto to ­Arabs and incentivized violence. Trump changed the pattern by deciding the time was right to do the right thing.

This is not to claim that all the chips fell into place and everyone lived happily ever after. Hamas, true to its terrorist nature, used the actual opening of the new embassy in May to organize attempts to crash the Gaza border fence.

Israeli troops responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, along with live fire, and shot and killed a reported 59 Palestinians. Yet despite the usual condemnation at the United Nations that Israel had used disproportionate force, Hamas ­acknowledged that 52 of the dead were militants, many of them armed.

Meanwhile, thousands of Hamas rockets have been fired at Israeli towns and kites loaded with firebombs sent across the border, starting fires that burned thousands of acres of farmland.

Some of the kites carried Nazi swastikas, according to The New York Times, a reminder about Arab hate and proof that further delay on the Jerusalem declaration would not have changed Hamas’ determination to destroy Israel.

For ordinary Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank, the continuing refusal of their leaders to negotiate with Israel and the Trump administration compounds years of missed opportunities. ­

Every passing day is another lost day where Palestinians could have had their own state.

Importantly, Trump’s team acknowledged the Jerusalem move meant he would tilt to Palestinians on other issues, and he pointedly did not rule out the possibility that East Jerusalem could be the capital of their state.

Yet continuing the pattern started in 2000, when Bill Clinton failed to get Yasser Arafat and then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to create a two-state solution at Camp David, the Palestinians never get to yes.

Time and again, they walk away when a reasonable deal could be made.

Finally, an American president called their bluff and showed that even their threats were empty.

Taking & delivering punches

Scoring the punches that prosecutors throw at President Trump is a bit like scoring a heavyweight boxing match. Body blows might add up over the course of the fight, but anything that isn’t a knockout isn’t decisive.

So it was with the three sentencing memos released late Friday, two from special counsel Robert Mueller and one from Manhattan federal prosecutors.

The clearest hit on Trump came from the Manhattan feds’ memo asking for substantial prison time for Michael Cohen. Reprising statements Cohen made when he pleaded guilty, prosecutors said that, among other crimes, the former Trump fixer broke campaign- finance laws by paying hush money to Stormy Daniels and another woman, and that he acted at Trump’s direction.

The intended point is that Trump committed a felony, though how that plays out is a mystery. An indictment is theoretically possible because the deed happened before the president took office, though that effort would cause a bloody battle of its own.

The main event, of course, is Mueller and his memos on Cohen and Paul Manafort, which continue his maddening pattern of teasing about big developments without delivering. So there is more talk of Russia, Russia, Russia, but lots of redacted material and no evidence linking Trump to any “collusion,” however the word is defined.

The day, then, leaves the president battered but still standing. He’s also punching back hard, aiming to weaken Mueller and his team.

One appeal of actual boxing is a limit on the number of rounds. Unfortunately, Mueller vs. Trump looks as if it will continue long past the point of America’s endurance.

Lefty AOC takes Trump Jr.’s bait

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an incoming member of Congress from Queens, foolishly responded to a tweet about socialism from Donald Trump Jr. by pulling rank. She charged that he was trying to distract from his father’s troubles, then added, “it’s definitely a ‘very, very large brain’ idea to troll a member of a body that will have subpoena power in a month.”

In her case, power doesn’t just corrupt, it corrupts instantly.

It’s ‘suppression’ in Fantasyland

Reader Harold Theurer spots an outrage that has escaped social- justice warriors. He writes: “It’s come to my attention that Disney requires photo ID in order to enter its facilities.

“Because asking voters for photo ID is considered Voter Suppression, does Disney’s rule amount to Joy Seeker Suppression?

“How interesting that walking down Main Street USA requires more scrutiny than casting a ballot.”

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UN rights chief slams Israel over Gaza border deaths and nation-state bill — Reinforces belief that UN is biased against Israel since Hamas not mentioned

July 24, 2018

Hamas not criticized by Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who also cites ‘serious concerns’ Israeli investigations do not comply with international standards

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ZeidRa’ad Al Hussein

The UN human rights chief sharply criticized Israel on Monday, calling recent killings by its soldiers during Palestinian demonstrations along the Gaza border fence “shocking.”

Recent months have seen an uptick in violence on Israel’s border with Gaza and violent clashes at weekly protests. Friday saw the killing of an IDF soldier by terrorists, massive airstrikes in Gaza and the firing of hundreds of rockets and mortars into Israel.

In addition, Palestinians in Gaza have launched many hundreds of kites, balloons and inflated latex condoms bearing flammable materials, and occasionally explosives, into Israeli territory, sparking near-daily fires that have burned thousands of acres of farmland, parks and forests.

However, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said it was vital to address the root causes of the Gaza demonstrations. Zeid placed no responsibility on the Hamas terror group, which rules the Gaza Strip and openly calls for the destruction of Israel.

In a video address to the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, he said that the situation in Gaza has escalated dramatically in recent months with “the potential to generate threats to peace across a far broader region.”

Zeid, who heads the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said it is essential for all parties to cooperate with the independent, international commission of inquiry into the recent deadly events in Gaza that his office is helping to establish. It was authorized by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council on May 18 “to advance accountability” for the killings and violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, he said.

He claimed that there are “serious concerns” that Israeli accountability mechanisms don’t comply with international standards of “independence, impartiality, and effectiveness.”

“Very few investigations ever occur,” he said. “In the rare cases where an investigation has led to an indictment, the sentence has been extremely lenient in light of the gravity of the crime committed.”

A Palestinian protester hurls stones at Israeli troops after burning tires near the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, during a protest east of Khan Younis, in the Gaza Strip June 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Since the organized protests and clashes began along the Gaza border on March 30, more than 130 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire. Dozens of the fatalities were members of terror groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have said. More than 4,000 were wounded.

Israel says its troops are defending the border and accuses Hamas of trying to carry out terror attacks under the cover of the protests.

The Israeli military says it has insisted its soldiers adhere to the rules of engagement to defend Israeli civilians and security infrastructure from attacks cloaked by the protests.

In addition to “grossly inadequate living conditions” caused by Israel’s blockade for the residents of Gaza, most of whom are descendants of refugees, restrictive measures have also been imposed by Egypt that have “exacerbated these conditions,” Zeid said.

Israel says it maintains the blockade to prevent Gaza’s Hamas rulers from importing weaponry.

Zeid added that the situation in Gaza may be “severely aggravated” in the coming months by the financial crisis facing the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA, as a result of dramatic cuts to its budget by the Trump administration in the US.

Illustrative: Palestinian children do their homework by candlelight during a power outage in Gaza City on September 11, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

Zeid also criticized last week’s approval by Israel’s parliament of a bill defining the country as the nation-state of the Jewish people. He said that it “anchors inherent discrimination against non-Jewish communities,” most notably the Arab citizens of Israel and residents of East Jerusalem, and warned that it “could also further inflame tensions.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the bill’s passage a “historic moment in the history of Zionism and the history of the State of Israel,” saying: “Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people, which honors the individual rights of all its citizens.”

 Palestinian protesters gather in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip.
Negotiating tool? Palestinian “protester” on the Gaza side of Israel’s border fence.

Zeid also criticized Israel’s approval, planning and construction of settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as the capital of their future state.

Furthermore, he called Israel’s detention of hundreds of Palestinian children, some without charge under a system of “administrative detention,” a “fundamental human rights violation.”

“It should be absolutely clear that international law requires detention only be used for children as a last resort,” he said.

And whether for children or adults, Zeid said, detention without trial “contravenes Israel’s obligations under international law.”

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© Bashar Taleb, AFP | A picture taken on July 14, 2018, shows Palestinian rockets being fired from Gaza City towards Israel.

“An estimated 440 Palestinians are being held in ‘administrative detention,’ according to the latest figures,” he said. “Israel should immediately charge, or release, all of them.”

In an op-ed published Sunday, four senior Trump administration officials lauded “the beginning of a paradigm shift” in the United Nations General Assembly, citing voting patterns on a June resolution on violence in the Gaza Strip.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, senior adviser to US President Donald Trump Jared Kushner, US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, and US Ambassador to Israel David Freidman said the organization, which in the past has been “relentlessly and blindly anti-Israel,” had shown promise by considering Hamas’s role in the conflict.


Israel tightens Gaza blockade as arson kites raise fears of war

July 17, 2018

Israel tightened its blockade of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, partly over kites carrying firebombs to set alight Israeli farmland, as concerns mounted over whether the rudimentary devices could spark another war.

Days after the heaviest exchange of fire between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since a 2014 conflict, Israel said it was blocking until Sunday fuel deliveries to Gaza through its only goods crossing with the enclave.

The fishing zone enforced by Israel off the Gaza Strip was also reduced from six nautical miles to three.

The goods crossing, known as Kerem Shalom, will remain open for food and medicine on a case-by-case basis.

© AFP | Palestinian protestors in Gaza prepare an incendiary kite before trying to fly it over the border fence with Israel on April 20, 2018

It had already been closed to most deliveries since July 9, partly in response to the firebombs.

The move followed months of tension that has raised the possibility of a fourth war between Israel and Gaza militants since 2008.

Beyond the kites and last weekend’s exchange of fire, mass protests and clashes along the Gaza border since March 30 have seen dozens of Palestinians shot dead by Israeli soldiers.

Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip, was further backed into a corner by the Israeli closure, with humanitarian conditions in the enclave of two million people already badly deteriorating.

– ‘Playing with fire’ –

Gaza’s only other border crossing, with Egypt, was also closed on Tuesday, an AFP journalist reported, but there was no official statement explaining why.

That prompted speculation that Egypt, which has mediated between Israel and Hamas, had closed it to add to pressure on the Islamists to clamp down on the arson kites.

The crossing, known as Rafah, has been largely closed in recent years, though Egypt had kept it mostly open since mid-May.

Israel has in recent days pledged a firmer response to the hundreds of arson kites and balloons that Palestinians have flown over the border fence since April.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, under political pressure over the issue, has ordered the military to stop the firebombs — raising the question of how that can be achieved.

The issue reportedly led to a debate between Israel’s military chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot and far-right Education Minister Naftali Bennett during a security cabinet meeting on Sunday.

Israeli media reports cited Bennett, a Netanyahu rival with ambitions to be prime minister, urging the military to open fire on anyone launching the kites.

Eisenkot was quoted as telling him there was a risk of firing at children, and that even in the case of adults, such an approach ran against his “operational and moral position”.

Hamas has slammed Israel’s closure of the goods crossing as a “crime against humanity” and accused Israel of exaggerating the threat from arson kites.

Palestinians in Gaza see the devices as legitimate resistance against Israel’s more than decade-long blockade.

“The Israeli occupation would be playing with fire if its warplanes targeted kite flyers,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement.

– Can Hamas stop them? –

Israel’s fire service says around 750 fires have burned some 2,600 hectares (6,400 acres), estimating the damage at millions of shekels (hundreds of thousands of dollars or euros).

The firebombs have mostly been transported by kites and balloons, but Israel’s nature authority said a falcon was found on Monday with flammable material tied to its legs.

Israel’s military signalled how it may try to stop the firebombs Monday when an aircraft struck two Hamas posts it said were near people launching them.

From Israel’s perspective, Hamas can halt the kite launches if it chooses.

“Nothing happens in Gaza without the consent of Hamas,” said Gabi Siboni of Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies think tank.

Asked if the arson kites could lead to a military escalation, he said: “of course”.

Jamal al-Fadi, a political science professor in Gaza, agreed that Hamas could stop the firebombs, but said it wants to use them to pressure Israel to ease its blockade.

The Islamist movement is however limited in how it can respond militarily, he said.

“It does not have an interest in a (military) confrontation because the people don’t want a war,” Fadi said.

On Saturday, Israel carried out air strikes partially in response to the fires, but also over the border protests and clashes.

It accuses Hamas of seeking to use the protests as cover for attacks. Palestinians and rights groups say protesters are being shot by Israeli snipers while posing no real threat.

Israel hit dozens of sites it said belonged to militants in the Gaza Strip in Saturday’s strikes, killing two Palestinian teenagers.

The same day, around 200 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel from Gaza and four Israelis were wounded when a rocket hit a house in the nearby Israeli city of Sderot.



Egypt Tells Hamas in Gaza To Stop Sending Burning Kites, Balloons Into Israel

July 17, 2018
After Israel announces closure of Kerem Shalom crossing, Ynet learns Cairo ramps up the pressure on Hamas terror group, warning it to completely stop or significantly reduce number of incendiary balloons and kites launched into Israel that have sabotaged an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire.

Egypt has warned Hamas to significantly reduce or completely end within a few days the launching of incendiary balloons and kites into Israeli territory from Gaza, Ynet learned on Tuesday morning, giving the terror group an extended deadline to restore calm to the border.


The ultimatum came after Israel announced on Monday evening that it would be closing the commercial Kerem Shalom crossing to gas and fuel supplies after a ceasefire agreement was violated earlier in the afternoon when a rocket was fired into southern Israel.

Before the Israeli announcement, the Egyptians also announced the same evening that they were temporarily closing the Rafah crossing due to a technical malfunction. However, it was not immediately clear whether the Rafah closure was incidental or coordinated with Israel in a bid to pressurize Hamas to cease its terror activities that threaten to escalate the conflict on the border.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (Photo: AFP)

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (Photo: AFP)

Ynet also learned that Hamas reiterated a message it had already conveyed to Cairo this week that it is unable to end the phenomenon.

However, Hamas has insisted to Egyptian intelligence officials, who are mediating between the sides, that its men are indeed working to reduce the number of incendiary balloons.

While such claims are difficult to prove in the current volatile climate, particularly as several fires caused by the flaming kites and balloons broke out throughout Monday, a notable drop has been recorded in the number of launches since the major flare-up that took place between Israel and Hamas over the weekend.

“Hamas cannot stop the launching of the balloons in one go because it will damage its position in the eyes of the Gaza residents and those who support it who will see it as a collapse. Therefore, it has to do it gradually,” once source in Gaza told Ynet.Israel’s announcement that the Kerem Shalom crossing would remain shut only until Sunday also possibly indicates to Hamas that it prefers to give an opportunity to restore calm than to engage in another round of violence.

Meanwhile, Hamas evacuated forces on Monday which were deployed along the entire border of the Gaza Strip, guarding against rocket fire by rogue elements and preventing infiltration into Israel.

Sources in the strip told Ynet that the decision was taken after the IDF attacked two military observation posts on Monday that belonged to the forces, fearing more casualties.

Kerem Shalom crossing (Photo: Reuters)

Kerem Shalom crossing (Photo: Reuters)


A rocket launched from Gaza landed in open space in south Israel on Monday evening, despite a Sunday announcement from Hamas and Islamic Jihad that a ceasefire had been reached with Israel after the region witnessed a wave of violence over the weekend.


Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, who serves as an observer in the Political-Security Cabinet, welcomed the Egyptian ultimatum, but said that Hamas’s response was “unacceptable.”


“Hamas says we’ll burn you, but more slowly. This isn’t acceptable,” he said in an interview with Ynet. “It can be stopped immediately. Everything is coordinated, funded and organized by Hamas and as long as the fire terror continues, so will the blows that were deliver to Hamas.”


Egypt, the minister continued, was making positive efforts in the conflict, “but they appear not to be succeeding in making it clear to Hamas the price of this tactic that we will not accept.”


Minister Hanegbi (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)

Minister Hanegbi (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)


Asked what would happen if the ping-pong violence continued until Sunday when Israel said it would reopen the Kerem Shalom crossing, Hanegbi explained that Hamas had only recently changed its policy towards Israel.


“It’s important to understand things over time. For three-and-a-half years there was unequivocal deterrence. Hamas not only stopped firing but it also acted against rogue cells that fired from time to time,” he said.


“In the last half a year, we have seen a new policy to challenge us again and again. It began with marches and breaching the fence. It ended with 147 dead Palestinians. It seems that they are not bothered by the fact that there are funerals again and again in Gaza.”


Regarding Israel’s decision to close the Kerem Shalom crossing, Hanegbi said that it was a necessary step to make clear to Hamas that there is a price to be paid for its actions.


“The extent to which this will be effective is not clear, but we cannot sit idly by. That’s why what was chosen were measured responses,” he said.

“Hamas has chosen to make two million people miserable who are, in practice, in the biggest prison in the world. The Palestinian public isn’t rising up against Hamas and I agree that the chances of them doing so are slim, but we have a basket of actions and they deserve no perks,” Hanegbi continued.

First published: 07.17.18, 11:54 


Israel tightens security at Gaza border checkpoints amid rising hostilities

July 17, 2018

Israel has closed its only cargo crossing with the Gaza Strip, preventing fuel deliveries to the Palestinian enclave. Authorities say it’s in retaliation for a wave of firebomb-laden kites sent over the border.

A truck at the Kerem Shalom crossing

Israel has blocked all fuel and gas transfers through the Kerem Shalom crossing with the Gaza Strip, Israel’s defense ministry said Tuesday.

The measure will apply until Sunday “in light of the continued terror efforts of Hamas,” but essential food and medicine deliveries will still be able to get through, the Ministry of Defense said.

Israel is seeking to increase pressure on Hamas, the Islamist militant group that rules Gaza, following a series of incendiary balloons and kites that have sparked damaging fires on Israeli farms after being sent over the border.

Read moreGaza war is over, but struggles continue

Israel also said it had tightened its naval blockade to cut the Gaza fishing zone from six nautical miles to three.

Kerem Shalom is the only crossing between Gaza and Israel for the transportation of goods. Its partial closure will likely worsen the plight of the 2 million Palestinians living in the enclave, which is already facing severe fuel, electricity and water shortages.

Last week, Israel closed the crossing to commercial trade, a move Hamas denounced as a “crime against humanity.”

Read moreHamas official on Gaza bloodshed: ‘Not expected to be like this’

Spike in hostilities

The tightened restrictions follow months of clashes and Hamas-staged protests along the Israel-Gaza border.

On Saturday, Israel launched its heaviest bombardment since the 2014 war, striking what it said were militant targets in the Gaza Strip. Dozens of rockets were also fired from Gaza into Israel. Two Palestinian teenagers were killed, while four Israelis were wounded.

Hamas agreed to a ceasefire late Saturday. But Israel says fire-starting kites have continued to drift across the border. Many Palestinians in Gaza view the kites as a legitimate form of resistance against the Israeli blockade, which has been in place for more than a decade.

nm/kms (AP, AFP, dpa)

Israel further tightens Gaza blockade over arson kites

July 17, 2018


Israel further tightened its blockade of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, preventing fuel deliveries through its only goods crossing with the Palestinian enclave after scores of kites carried firebombs across the border to burn Israeli farmland.

The defence ministry announced the move late Monday after saying last week it was closing the crossing to most deliveries, citing the kites and balloons that have for months carried firebombs into Israel from Gaza.

© AFP | Palestinian security forces stand at the Kerem Shalom crossing, the main conduit for goods entering the Gaza Strip, on July 9, 2018

Fuel deliveries will be suspended until Sunday, the ministry said in a statement. The fishing zone enforced by Israel off the Gaza Strip will also be reduced from six nautical miles to three.

The goods crossing, known as Kerem Shalom, will remain open for food and medicine on a case-by-case basis.

“In light of the continued terror efforts of Hamas, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman has decided, after consulting with the chief of (military) staff, to close Kerem Shalom for the passage of fuel and gas until Sunday,” a statement said.

Islamist movement Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip and has fought three wars with Israel since 2008, denounced the move.

It had called the initial closing last week a “crime against humanity”.

Palestinians in Gaza view the balloons and kites as legitimate resistance against Israel’s more than decade-long blockade.

© AFP | Palestinian protestors in the Gaza Strip prepare to fly a kite carrying a firebomb during a demonstration along the border with Israel on June 8, 2018

The closed crossing is the only one between Gaza and Israel for goods transport. A separate crossing, known as Erez, is for people.

Gaza’s only other border crossing is with Egypt. That crossing has been largely closed in recent years, but Egypt has opened it since mid-May.

There were reports in the Israeli media of Egypt moving to close its crossing, but no confirmation.

Israeli authorities say the hundreds of arson kites and balloons sent over the border fence from Gaza have caused major damage to farms in the area.

A spokesman for Israel’s fire service says around 750 fires have burned some 2,600 hectares, estimating the damage at millions of shekels (hundreds of thousands of dollars or euros).

The tightening of the blockade comes after the heaviest exchange of fire between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since a 2014 war on Saturday.

Israel carried out air strikes partially in response to the months of fires started by the kite firebombs, but also over continuing protests and clashes along the Gaza border.

Israel hit dozens of sites it said belonged to militants in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, killing two Palestinian teenagers.

The same day, around 200 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel from the Hamas-run enclave and four Israelis were wounded when a rocket hit a house in the nearby Israeli city of Sderot.