Posts Tagged ‘Gaza Strip’

Israel shells Hamas posts in Gaza in response to explosive devices placed in the Gaza strip

March 15, 2018



Israeli tanks shelled Hamas posts in the Gaza Strip on Thursday after Palestinians set off bombs along the border fence, the military said, with no casualties reported.

A security source from Hamas, the Islamist movement which runs the Gaza Strip, said that one round hit an observation post near the border, causing damage but no casualties.

He said that earlier, shortly after sunrise, there were four explosions along the border, which slightly damaged the Israeli frontier barrier.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blasts.

An Israeli military statement said: “A number of explosive devices were detonated on the security fence along the northern Gaza Strip. No injuries were reported.

“Tanks targeted posts belonging to the Hamas terror organisation in response,” it added.

On February 17, four Israeli soldiers were wounded by an improvised explosive device on the border, sparking intense military retaliation.

Israel warplanes attacked 18 “terror targets belonging to Hamas” in Gaza in response to the blast, which severely wounded two of the soldiers, and a subsequent Palestinian rocket attack on southern Israel.

The following day, troops shot dead two Palestinian teenagers near the border, Gaza medical sources said.

The Israeli army said at the time that soldiers fired “warning shots” at a number of Palestinians approaching the border fence “in a suspicious manner” but could not confirm Palestinian casualties.


Israel Finds Additional Explosive Devices at Gaza Border

March 15, 2018

This is the third incident in recent weeks in which the Israeli army encountered explosives at border

Tank at the border of the Gaza Strip, 2018.
Tank at the border of the Gaza Strip, 2018. Eliyahu Hershkowitz

Several explosives devices detonated near the Gaza border Thursday morning, making it the third incident in recent weeks in which the Israeli army encountered explosives at border.

Military forces responded with tank fire on Hamas positions.

According to the IDF, the explosive devices were intended to harm soldiers patrolling the area. No casualties were reported. 

According to several networks in Gaza, Israel struck back at six Hamas positions and fired 14 shells; there are reports of casualties and some wounded.

However, the Health Ministry in Gaza has yet to receive any reports of injuries from the Israeli attack.

On Tuesday, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah survived an assassination attempt in Gaza during a visit to the Strip on Tuesday. The Palestinian Authority initially blamed Hamas for the explosion, which it said targeted Hamdallah’s convoy.

Later Tuesday, however, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh spoke with Hamdallah and the two agreed that Israel and its collaborators are responsible. The Palestinian leaders also agreed that General Tawfiq Abu Naim, head of Gaza’s Interior Ministry, will lead the investigation into the incident.

In February, a device exploded near troops at the fence bordering the southern Gaza Strip. Two soldiers were seriously wounded; one soldier was moderately wounded and another lightly wounded.

According to the IDF, four soldiers went over to examine a Palestinian flag that had been hung on the fence during clashes that took place the day before. There was a hidden bomb beside the flag that exploded.

In response to the bomb incident, the army attacked the Gaza Strip and said that “this is a serious incident that could undermine stability in the region.”

Fighting on All Fronts, Netanyahu Could Leave Israel Exposed

February 23, 2018

Fighting for his political, Netanyahu juggles tensions in north and south ■ Netanyahu’s threats against Iran and Syria could backfire ■ In Gaza, while Israelis philosophize about the gravity of the situation, a crisis is liable to erupt imminently

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shows a map of the Middle East during a panel discussion at the Munich Security Conference on February 18, 2018 in Munich, southern Germany
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shows a map of the Middle East during a panel discussion at the Munich Security Conference on February 18, 2018 in Munich, southern GermanyMARC MUELLER/AFP

Just like in the arena of criminal proceedings, where a critical mass of investigations is threatening the survival of the main suspect, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also facing dangers on the security front. The problem lies not in the fodder of conspiracy theories, namely that Netanyahu will ignite a war in the north of Israel or in Gaza in order to evade the noose of investigations. Netanyahu knows full well that wars tend to become messy and that it’s doubtful that they would grant him more than a temporary reprieve from his legal problems. Moreover, he has shown no appetite for such adventures in the past.

Cabinet ministers, including Netanyahu’s political rivals, praise the high level of concentration the prime minister has demonstrated in recent discussions of security and diplomatic issues. But one may ask what the incessant deluge of bad news in the criminal arena will do to his attention and to the time he has left to devote to important issues. At the same time, it seems that Netanyahu will find it difficult to take steps he deems essential since these will be overshadowed by doubts, even if his considerations are germane to the issues at hand.

The risk of an outbreak of hostilities has grown in recent weeks on the northern front – opposite Iran, Syria and to some extent Hezbollah – as well as on the Gaza border. Since February 10, which saw the downing of an Iranian drone and an Israeli F-16, there have been no further incidents in the north, but one should not underestimate the risk levels reached on that Saturday morning.

For a long time Israel has managed to foil Iranian plans to arm Hezbollah with more accurate weapons systems. In his speech earlier this week at the Munich Security Conference Netanyahu revealed for the first time that Iran’s intent is to upgrade Hezbollah rockets so they have the capability of hitting within a 10-meter radius around a target. Israel’s successes have angered its rivals – and presumably Moscow. A Western observer who has had ties with the Assad regime for many years estimated this week that the massive anti-aircraft barrage fired by Syria, which led to the downing of the F-16, was carried out with the knowledge of Russian advisers working alongside the Syrian army’s anti-aircraft network.

This week Israel’s leaders repeated their threats, saying they would hit Shi’ite militias and, if needed, Syrian and Iranian targets, if these militias and the Iranians continue to entrench themselves in Syria. The New York Times published a story and a detailed map showing the large number of Syrian bases which have an Iranian presence. The Assad regime dismisses these claims, saying that the number of militia fighters has declined lately and that in any case, they are concentrated in the center and north of the country in order to participate in important battles against rebels, in comparison to which the Golan Heights is considered only a secondary front.


Iranian presence in Syria

The frequent warnings emanating from Jerusalem are reminiscent of Netanyahu’s 2009-2013 government. Closely backed by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Netanyahu kept issuing military threats against Iran, despite sweeping opposition by the heads of all of Israel’s security branches. One could argue that Israel’s preparations for attacking Iran drove the Obama administration to impose stringent international sanctions on the Islamic Republic (although Netanyahu, for his own reasons, never took credit for this). These, in turn, led to partial Iranian concessions and the signing of the Vienna nuclear accord, which ostensibly postponed the Iranian nuclear threat by ten years.

During a heated dispute at the time, Mossad head Meir Dagan argued against Netanyahu and Barak’s attempts to instruct the defense establishment to prepare for an attack within a specified period. One argument Dagan used was that even if an attack never took place, the preparations would immediately be recognized in the international arena, alerting the Iranians. Under such circumstances, claimed Dagan, unnecessary sensitivities could lead to an explosion, like a self-fulfilling prophecy. These circumstances may repeat themselves again with regard to Iran’s entrenchment in Syria.

At the present, the person falling in line with Netanyahu is Avigdor Lieberman. The defense minister is using the Iranian threat as the basis of his argument in the dispute with the Israel Defense Forcesover the need to change the multi-year Gideon Plan, which increased the defense budget and is so beloved by IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot.

.Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, left, with Israel Defense Forces deputy chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, during a tour of the Israel-Gaza border, Feb. 20, 2018.

Defense Minister Lieberman, left, with IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Kochavi, touring the Gaza border Tuesday. Hamas sends “the most unfortunate people” to take part in clashes, said Lieberman.Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry

Eisenkot created the plan on what he saw as a window of opportunity had opened after the Iran deal and the deferment of the nuclear threat. However, Lieberman claims that the new threat that has developed with Iran’s presence in Syria is one reason for changing the plan.

In the meantime, Netanyahu and Lieberman’s promises to change the plan and increase the defense budget, which the army is not keen on, are stuck in a committee headed by the head of the National Security Council, Meir Ben-Shabbat. Discussions in this committee have stalled and the defense establishment has not yet presented the financial needs that derive from this new threat, nor the required response to it.

Across the fence

Unusually high tension is expected on Friday along the border with the Gaza Strip. Last Saturday, four Israeli soldiers were wounded by a bomb hidden in a flag draped over the border fence. Those who placed the explosives, apparently members of a Salafi organization, exploited the lack of caution with which the soldiers approached the area.


Palestinian protesters are seen as Israeli soldiers take cover behind a sand hill during clashes near the border between Israel and Central Gaza Strip October 15, 2015.

Palestinian protesters are seen as Israeli soldiers take cover behind a sand hill during clashes near the border between Israel and Central Gaza Strip October 15, 2015. \ REUTERS

The army concluded that the flag and the bomb were set up a day earlier, under cover of the protest demonstration which Hamas organizes near the fence every Friday. Consequently, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, issued a warning that the army would take “extremely harsh measures against rioters” if they get anywhere near the fence this Friday.

One of the Palestinian demonstrators wounded by Israeli fire near the border fence last Friday died of his wounds on Wednesday. This Friday, the army will presumably come equipped with crowd control gear as well, but any sizable clash is liable to lead to additional casualties on the Palestinian side.

Meanwhile, for more than a week now, talks between various Palestinian parties have been taking place in Cairo with Egyptian mediation, in an effort to once again extricate the Palestinian reconciliation wagon from the mud in which it is mired. So far, no progress in the talks has been reported, but the effort Egyptian intelligence is investing in them is evident.

This may explain Lieberman’s continued hard line against Hamas in Gaza, on the assumption that the organization is close to breaking and will be forced to accept Egyptian dictates. It also explains his refusal to adopt the warnings of the relevant defense agencies – the IDF, COGAT, the Shin Bet security service – about the danger of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Lieberman is even demanding that Hamas return the Israeli civilians and the bodies of the slain soldiers held in Gaza as a condition for any real progress.

The Israeli defense officials who have been warning about the distress in the Strip expect international intervention to save the Gazans. Mordechai recently wrote that the enclave needs something like a Marshall Plan. But for now, the defense establishment doesn’t seem to have any organized plan of its own for rescuing Gaza from its woes. While Israelis are philosophizing about the gravity of the situation and talking about long-term solutions based on hypothetical international aid, a crisis is liable to erupt imminently and it will require swift intervention.

Israel is acting as if it has all the time in the world. But if and when an epidemic breaks out in Gaza, the problem is liable to become incomparably more urgent.

Israel: Could Netanyahu Survive Corruption Scandal? — “Dead man walking” — Three possible outcomes….

February 22, 2018


Despite the media describing him as a lame duck, the Israeli PM still has several options as he deals with the avalanche of corruption allegations against him

.Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the opening of an ER in Barzilai Medical Center, Ashkelon.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the opening of an ER in Barzilai Medical Center, Ashkelon.\ Ilan Assayag

At first, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looked as if he might ride out the corruption storm raging around him (at least temporarily). After the police recommendations last Tuesday that he be indicted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in two of the corruption cases involving him, he initially stood strong, issuing a defiant statement.

Politically, he maintained strong support within his Likud party, with no one daring to even speculate on who might take over in a post-Netanyahu world. Similarly, his key governing coalition partners said they would adopt a wait-and-see approach, committing to stand by him at least until the attorney general made his final decision on whether the prime minister would face criminal charges.

But the cards were reshuffled Tuesday with two bombshells: the first, that a confidant (aka henchman) of Netanyahu’s was suspected of offering the job of attorney general to a former judge, in exchange for her killing a case against the premier’s wife, Sara Netanyahu.

But potentially more significant was the news that Shlomo Filber, the former director general of the Communications Ministry, had turned state’s evidence and would share what is presumed to be highly damaging testimony regarding Netanyahu’s role in what is known as Case 4000. This case involves the Israeli telecom giant Bezeq, whose controlling shareholder is Netanyahu’s friend Shaul Elovitch.

If Filber testifies that Netanyahu directed him to make decisions benefiting Bezeq, and acknowledges that the positive news coverage of the Netanyahu family on a Bezeq-owned news site was a quid pro quo – many pundits are saying the bribery case against Netanyahu appears to be open-and-shut.

What happens to Netanyahu now? 3 possible scenarios
Ofer Vaknin
Netanyahu has been declared, depending on the preferred metaphor of any given TV talking head, a “dead man walking” or a “lame duck” – officially running the country, but drained of any real authority.

The atmosphere is reminiscent of the United States during the Watergate era (1973-74), with every day bringing new revelations. So what are the possibilities facing the prime minister moving forward?

Netanyahu government falls: New elections are held

The most dramatic scenario would occur if one or more of Netanyahu’s coalition partners – possibly one of the parties headed by a leader who aspires to replace him in the Prime Minister’s Office – decides to quit the government.

If none of the parties currently in the opposition steps up to replace them and save the coalition – and that seems highly unlikely given the current circumstances – the government would officially dissolve. New elections would be called as soon as possible, presumably in the spring or early summer.

Several political parties are already scrambling in preparation for this eventuality. Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay – whose party is currently the second largest in the Knesset – sent a letter to party members on Tuesday, declaring that “the Netanyahu era is over. We must prepare for an election soon.”

Netanyahu steps down but Likud-led government remains

If Netanyahu’s grip on Likud slips far enough, and coalition parties are sufficiently reluctant to give up their positions of power, a deal could be struck between these parties and Likud – with or without Netanyahu’s participation. In such a scenario, Netanyahu would step down from the Likud leadership but the Likud-led coalition would remain in place, with the same parties heading the same ministries and a new prime minister chosen from within Likud.

The move could be framed as either permanent or temporary – an idea to which Netanyahu might be more amenable. Interestingly, while this solution has not been publicly discussed by any members of the coalition, it has been floated by prominent opposition leaders. Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid (who provided key testimony in one of the cases against Netanyahu) has proposed that Netanyahu take a “leave of absence” and “step aside” until the situation is resolved, even if there are no plans for new elections.

Netanyahu hangs on

Some of the party leaders in Netanyahu’s coalition have ridden out their own corruption scandals – ministers like Avigdor Lieberman and Arye Dery. This could make them sympathetic enough to maintain a “wait and see” approach, even in the face of the ever-widening and worsening list of suspicions and accusations against Netanyahu.

They are also very comfortable with their jobs heading powerful ministries, and it’s far from certain whether a new Knesset election would grant them the level of support needed to keep them there. For example, in the most recent poll about how the public would vote if an election were held tomorrow, Dery’s Shas party would not even garner enough votes to gain Knesset representation.

Another volatile factor that might keep the current government in place is the fragile security situation.

Any major military conflict – on the northern front with Lebanon and Syria, or in the Gaza Strip with Hamas – could push elected officials and the general public to “circle the national wagons,” and put political divisions aside in order to project a stronger and more stable image to Israel’s enemies.

Within Likud itself, Netanyahu has worked hard for years to make sure he has no natural successor. There is no figure within the party perceived as being able to fill his shoes.

More importantly, he has a powerful base of party loyalists who believe he is such a strong and effective figure that they are prepared to overlook any alleged personal foibles – be they cigars and champagne, or favors to wealthy media barons in exchange for positive coverage for his family.

Much like the acquiescence of the Republican Party to Donald Trump, potential aspirants to the Likud leadership are afraid that a direct attack on Netanyahu will alienate that loyal base and harm their own political futures. For that reason, they would prefer to see prosecutors and judges bring Netanyahu down than do it themselves.

As long as that fear persists, Netanyahu has a chance of holding onto power by his fingernails – as the nation watches and waits for his fate to be decided by the judiciary.

Palestinians Killed By Israelis in Gaza flare-up after soldiers were wounded by an explosive device

February 18, 2018



Israeli soldiers and border police stand guard as Israeli hydraulic shovels demolish a Palestinian building near road 35, north of the occupied West Bank city of Hebron in the so-called “Area C” on February 14, 2018. (Hazem Bader/AFP)

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories: Two Palestinians were killed by Israeli army fire in Gaza in a flare-up after soldiers were wounded by an explosive device along the Palestinian enclave’s border, Gaza medical sources said Sunday.

The fatalities were identified by the Gaza health ministry as Salam Sabah and Abdullah Abu Sheikha, both 17, who were killed during a strike east of Rafah in southern Gaza.

According to Palestinian eye witnesses, the two were killed by shots near the border.

The Israeli army said that its forces had fired “warning shots” at a number of Palestinians approaching the border fence “in a suspicious manner.”

Their death comes after Israel launched a series of air strikes targeting 18 “terror targets belonging to Hamas” in Gaza, after the explosive device wounded soldiers and a projectile from Gaza hit in an Israeli border town.



Explosion in Gaza Wounds Four Israeli Soldiers —

February 17, 2018


JERUSALEM (Reuters) – An explosive device wounded four Israeli soldiers, two severely, near the border fence with the Gaza Strip on Saturday, the Israeli military said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which occurred along the southern frontier of the Hamas-controlled Palestinian territory.

In response, an Israeli tank struck an observation post in Gaza, causing no injuries.

Israeli media said it was the highest number of Israelis wounded in a single attack since the 2014 Gaza war.

Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Edmund Blair



Israeli army shells Rafah in Gaza after a bomb explosion injured its soldiers


File Photo for an Israeli soldier standing near a tank near the border with the Gaza Strip
JERUSALEM: The Israeli military says one of its tanks has struck an observation post in the southern Gaza Strip in response to the detonation of an explosive device along its border.
Palestinian officials say Saturday’s target belonged to the ‘Islamic Jihad’ militant group and there were no casualties.
The Israeli response came as Palestinian sources confirmed that 3 Israeli soldiers were injured as their vehicle was struck by an explosive device while travelling close to the border with Rafah in the Gaza Strip.
The exchange is typical of the post 2014 war reality established along the volatile frontier in which Israel carries out limited retaliations to any militant provocations in Gaza. The border area has generally been quiet since the war, but has seen an increase in violence since President Donald Trump’s announcement in December recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Israel holds Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza, responsible for all attacks emanating from the territory, regardless of who carries them out.

Hamas ‘Prepares for Imminent War’ With Israel — Gaza Battle “Within Days” — Hamas has declared a state of high alert

February 4, 2018

Hamas sees ’95 percent’ chance of confrontation with Israel, Al Hayat reports, but sources say Hamas is attempting to ratchet up debate about the humanitarian crisis in the Strip

.A Palestinian demonstrator prepares to hurl a burning tire at Israeli troops during clashes near the border with Israel in the southern Gaza Strip February 2, 2018.
A Palestinian demonstrator prepares to hurl a burning tire at Israeli troops during clashes near the border with Israel in the southern Gaza Strip February 2, 2018.\ IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/ REUTERS

The Gaza strip is preparing for confrontation with Israel within the next few days, the London-based Arabic daily Al Hayat reported on Sunday. According to the report, Palestinian factions, Hamas being chief among them, assess the chances of war with Israel “at 95 percent” and assume it could erupt within hours or days.

Sources that have met with Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’ political leader in Gaza, say that Palestinian factions believe that Israel will use a training exercise planned on the southern front to open a military operation against Hamas. The report further said that the military wing of Hamas has declared a state of high alert, evacuating sites and headquarters and even deploying road blocks accross the Strip.

Political and human rights activists in Gaza told Haaretz that the atmosphere in the Strip is very grim in light of the humanitarian crisis, some of which involves the non-implementation of the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority and mutual recriminations between the PA and Hamas over the freeze in talks.

Still, it seems the report of an impending military clash within days is exaggerated, and is part of an attempt by Hamas to ratchet up international discussion over the severe humanitarian situation in the Strip and the lack of progress toward reconciliation. It is widely believed that Israel will not initiate war with Hamas without real escalation in the south, such as a surge in rocket fire at southern communities.

In terms of the wider region, Egypt is not interested in an escalation, considering its continued operations against ISIS in Sinai and its upcoming presidential elections next week.

Political and human rights activists that spoke with Haaretz say that Hamas launching a campaign against Israel remains unlikely at this point.

A senior delegation of Fatah officials is set to visit the Gaza Strip this week, including members of the movement’s Central Committee. They are to hold meetings with the leadership of Hamas and the other factions. The PA says Hamas has not yet given up control over security or tax collection, while Hamas accuses the PA of shirking its responsibility toward the Gaza Strip. Hamas says that while Hamas has given up administration to the Mahmoud Abbas government, Abbas has not yet instructed that sanctions it imposed about a year ago be lifted.

Palestinian sources told Al-Hayat that Abbas has presented an alternative plan to that of U.S. President Donlad Trump, which calls for a phased recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, with possible exchanges of territory that will allow Israel to annex the large settlements. According to the report, Abbas has conditioned his agreement to phased recognition to agreement on borders, but the White House rejected that proposal and said its plan would be presented for implementation, not negotiation.

This report has not been confirmed by officials in the PA, and talks are continuing with international officials, particularly Russia, to move ahead on a UN Security Council resolution.

Palestinian reconciliation deal dying slow death — with no progress in sight

February 1, 2018

Fatah’s Azzam Al-Ahmad (L) shares a laugh with Hamas leader Izzat Al-Rishq (R) following the signing a reconciliation deal in Cairo. Under the agreement, the Palestinian Authority was to resume full control of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip by December. (File Photo: AFP)
GAZA CITY: The two leading Palestinian factions missed another deadline Thursday to implement a reconciliation deal, potentially burying the landmark accord aimed at ending their decade-long split.
Hamas was to hand over power in the Gaza Strip by December to the Palestinian Authority (PA), led by secular movement Fatah.
But the handover was missed and a February 1 deadline for solving the issue of two rival civil services passed Thursday with no progress in sight.
While small changes have occurred since the deal was signed in October — notably the handing over of Gaza’s borders to the PA — Hamas remains firmly in charge in Gaza.
Hamas and Fatah traded blame for what could turn out to be a gradual abandoning of the accord.
Senior Hassam official Bassem Naim said the Fatah-led PA had backed away from the deal “without clear reasons,” while Fayez Abu Eita, a Fatah official in Gaza, called for Hamas to respect the deal.
Egypt, which brokered the agreement, has elections coming up and the focus of its leaders appears elsewhere.
Egyptian intelligence services chief Khaled Fawzy, the main broker of the deal, was replaced last month.
It was hoped that reconciliation could alleviate humanitarian suffering in Gaza, home to some two million people.
Earlier this week a senior United Nations warned Gaza was on the verge of “full collapse.”
The reconciliation deal was also seen by some as a strategy for the Palestinians to face down an increasingly hostile US administration and right-wing Israeli government.
US President Donald Trump has suspended tens of millions of dollars in aid and threatened to withhold much more.
On Wednesday his administration added Hamas leader Ismail Haniya to a terror blacklist.
Hamas won 2006 parliamentary elections but Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah and much of the international community refused to accept the result, leading to increased strife.
A year later, Hamas violently seized control of Gaza.
Since then two separate civil administrations emerged.
The PA kept on its payroll tens of thousands of employees, who stayed home but still claimed their salaries, while Hamas employed tens of thousands to replace them.
This and the as yet unresolved future of Hamas’s vast armed wing are the two key issues that have derailed previous reconciliation bids.
“They were trying to negotiate the issues over time in order to build a sense of trust, but these issues — the employees and Hamas’s standing army — are the biggest hurdles, and it’s clear they haven’t surpassed them,” said Grant Rumley, who focuses on Palestinian politics at the US think tank the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Since October, Hamas has largely stopped paying its staff, saying it is the responsibility of the PA under the agreement while last year PA staff have had their salaries cut by 30 percent.
Bashir Amer, 30, who works at the Hamas-run education ministry, said he was struggling to care for his family.
“They give us 1,000 shekels ($300, 235 euros) and it is not enough to eat and drink,” he said.
Hugh Lovatt, Israel and Palestine coordinator at the European Council of Foreign Relations think tank, said Egypt’s Fawzy “had really been driving this process.”
“It is unclear whether Egyptian sponsorship of the ongoing reconciliation process — which has been critical — will continue in his absence.”
Meanwhile Hamas, which remains heavily armed, has appointed former military figures to senior roles in the past year, most notably former military leader Yahya Sinwar who became its chief Gaza.
Fears have grown that Hamas — which has fought three wars with Israel since 2008 — could opt for war again, Rumley said.
“My sense is that Sinwar and the rest of the military faction do not want a war now because they’re focused on ameliorating the situation, primarily through reconciliation talks,” he said.
“When those fail and Hamas is backed into a corner, how will its new leadership respond?“


UNRWA chief slams ‘political dimension’ of US aid cut to Palestinians

January 30, 2018


UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl speaks during a news conference at a UN-run school in Gaza City. (Reuters)
GENEVA: The head of the UN agency for Palestinians criticized on Tuesday the “political dimension” of a US decision to dramatically slash funding to the organization, warning this could lead to rising instability.
Pierre Krahenbuhl said the US decision to reduce funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) this year by $300 million “has a political dimension that I think should be avoided.”
He made these comments while issuing an emergency appeal for more than $800 million in funds to provide additional assistance to Palestinian refugees in Syria, Gaza and the West Bank.
The US, which for years has by far been UNRWA’s largest donor, announced this month it will be contributing just $60 million to the organization’s 2018 budget, down from $360 million last year.
“It is very clear the decision by the US was not related to our performance,” Krahenbuhl said, pointing out that he had a “positive” meeting with US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner last November and had been left with the impression Washington would maintain its funding levels.
Krahenbuhl said the cuts were clearly linked to the Palestinian leadership’s decision this month to freeze ties with Trump’s administration after its controversial recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, adding that Washington could no longer be the main mediator in talks with Israel.
The Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
Krahenbuhl stressed the “imperative to preserve and ensure that humanitarian funding is preserved from politicization.”
“The whole point of supporting communities in very difficult conflict environments is that one doesn’t have to agree with anyone’s leadership. One is concerned with the well-being… of communities.”
He underlined that UNRWA provides essential services to some 5.3 million Palestinian refugees across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip, including running 700 schools and 140 health clinics.
“It is not the first time in our long and proud history that we face challenges of this nature, but it is in financial terms the most serious financial crisis ever in the history of this agency,” he said.
Cuts to these and other services for populations often already in dire need and lacking any possibilities to move or to improve their situations could be a recipe for disaster, he warned.
“There is no doubt that if no solution is found to the shortfall… then there will be increased instability,” Krahenbuhl said.
“Cutting and reducing funding to UNRWA is not good for regional stability.”
Following the US move, UNRWA last week launched a global fundraising campaign, titled “Dignity is Priceless,” to help fill the gaps.
And Krahenbuhl said other donor countries were rushing to provide their donations early to ensure services could continue while the organization works to bring in more cash.
Denmark, Finland, Germany Norway, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland had already provided their annual donations in full, while Belgium, Kuwait, Netherlands and Ireland had vowed to do so “very soon,” he said.


Roskets from Hamas-controlled territory again attack israel

January 30, 2018

No immediate reports of injuries or damage on either side of the fence in incident that occurred just after midnight

Times of Israel
January 30, 2018, 12:13 am  

Illustrative: A trail of smoke from a rocket as it was launched from the Gaza Strip toward the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, August 24, 2014. (Edi Israel/Flash90/File)

Illustrative: A trail of smoke from a rocket as it was launched from the Gaza Strip toward the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, August 24, 2014. (Edi Israel/Flash90/File)

Rocket warning sirens went off in Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip just after midnight Monday-Tuesday, with one rocket reportedly landing within the Hamas-controlled territory.

Residents of the Sha’ar Hanegev and Sdot Negev regional councils, where the sirens were heard, reported hearing at least on explosion shortly after midnight.

Palestinian sources said the rocket fell inside the Gaza Strip. It was not immediately clear if a further projectile had been fired into Israel.

There were no immediate reports of injuries of damage on either side of the border fence.

There had been a significant increase in rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza after US President Donald Trump’s December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but January has seen a return to relative calm with the most recent rocket attack before Monday night occurring on the first of the month.

While welcomed in Israel, Trump’s declaration was met with anger by Palestinians, with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas saying the US was no longer an honest broker in peace talks and the Gaza-based terror group Hamas calling for an intifada, or violent uprising. Trump stressed his recognition wasn’t taking a position on the city’s boundaries.

flurry of recent reports have warned that the enclave is on the verge of collapse, its 1.8 million inhabitants plagued by frequent electricity blackouts, undrinkable water and an outdated cellular network.

Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade on Gaza for a decade, since the Strip was taken over by the Hamas terror group in a bloody coup against the Palestinian Authority. Israel has fought three wars with the terror group since 2008, and insists the blockade is necessary to stop Hamas importing weapons and material used to construct terror tunnels and fortifications.