Posts Tagged ‘Gaza’

Israeli planes raid Hamas in Gaza after explosion

March 18, 2018

Israeli F-15 I fighter jets. (Jack Guez/AFP)
JERUSALEM: Israeli military aircraft carried out a raid against a Hamas target in the Gaza Strip overnight after an explosive device detonated near the border with Israel, the military said Sunday.
“The Hamas terror organization is held accountable for all occurrences in and from the Gaza Strip,” the Israel Defense Forces said.
Hamas is the main Palestinian Islamist movement controlling the Gaza Strip.
“The IDF will continue to operate for the safety of Israeli civilians, by all means at its disposal,” the Israeli military said, without giving further details.
According to Palestinian sources, the raid did not cause any casualties.
An explosive device went off late Saturday in the northern Gaza Strip near Israel’s border fence, the army said in an earlier statement, with no casualties reported.
Israel had already retaliated, with tanks targeting a Hamas observation post.
According to Palestinian sources, the retaliatory fire slightly injured one person.
Two explosive devices were detonated Thursday along the border, which had already provoked Israeli attacks on Hamas positions.
No group has claimed responsibility for the blasts, but Israel held Hamas responsible as the de facto power in the Palestinian enclave.
Israel, Hamas and its allies are observing a cease-fire since the 2014 war, the third in the enclave in six years.
The truce is regularly shaken, particularly by fire from the enclave into Israel, which systematically retaliates by targeting Hamas positions, even if the attacks are carried out by other groups.
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.

Israel Jets Strike Hamas Target in Retaliation for Gaza Border Explosions

March 18, 2018


Reports in Gaza say the Israel Air Force struck targets in the Strip’s center and south

FILE PHOTO: Smoke rises over the Gaza Strip following an airstrike in November, 2017.
FILE PHOTO: Smoke rises over the Gaza Strip following an airstrike in November, 2017.Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The Israel Defense Forces said it struck a target belonging to Hamas in the Gaza Strip early Sunday morning in retaliation for an explosion on Israel’s border with the Strip the day before.

Reports in Gaza said the Israel Air Force struck targets in the enclave’s center and south.

In a statement, the IDF’s spokesman said the military “will continue to act with all means at its disposal in order to ensure the security of the citizens of Israel.” The statement added that the IDF holds Hamas responsible for everything that happens in the Gaza Strip.

The explosive device that detonated Saturday caused no casualties or damage, according to the IDF. Shortly after the blast, the military said it retaliated with tank fire, destroying a Hamas outpost.

Media outlets based in Gaza said Israeli forces fired three shells at a Hamas post east of Gaza City. One man was lightly wounded and taken to Al-Shifa Hospital, the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza stated.

The blast was the fourth incident in the last four weeks in which explosive devices targeting Israeli forces were detonated near the border fence between Gaza and Israel.

On Thursday, two roadside bombs were detonated against Israeli soldiers patrolling near the Gaza border. When the soldiers arrived at the border in patrol vehicles, two explosive devices went off. They had been placed 100 meters into Gaza. The army said it suspects that a rocket-propelled grenade was also fired at the soldiers.

Following Thursday’s incident, the IDF responded with tank fire and carried out an airstrike targeting five Hamas observation posts.

The most serious incident took place in February, when a device exploded near Israeli troops at the fence bordering the southern Gaza Strip. Two Israeli soldiers were seriously wounded, one sustained moderate wounds and another was lightly wounded. In response to the incident, the army attacked the Gaza Strip.

Last week, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah survived an assassination attempt during a visit to the Strip. 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 blamed “Israel and its collaborators” for the attempt. The Palestinian leaders agreed that General Tawfiq Abu Naim, head of Gaza’s Interior Ministry, will lead the investigation into the incident.

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.”


Palestinian PM safe in Gaza after explosion near convoy

March 13, 2018


GAZA (Reuters) – Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah survived an assassination attempt in Gaza on Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority said after an explosion near his convoy.

 Image result for Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, photos

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah 

Minutes after the blast, Hamdallah, appearing unhurt, delivered a speech at the inauguration of a waste treatment plant in the Gaza Strip, live TV footage showed. He said in the address that three cars were damaged.

The Authority said it held the enclave’s dominant Hamas group responsible for the attack, stopping short of directly accusing the group of carrying out the assault, but suggesting it had failed to provide adequate security.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah arrives in the northern Gaza Strip on Oct. 3, 2017. A convoy carrying Hamdalah was hit by an explosion on March 13, 2018, but the prime minister was reportedly unharmed.
Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah arrives in the northern Gaza Strip on Oct. 3, 2017. A convoy carrying Hamdalah was hit by an explosion on March 13, 2018, but the prime minister was reportedly unharmed.  Mohammed Salem—Reuters

Gaza’s Hamas-run interior ministry said the explosion hit as the prime minister’s convoy passed near the northern town of Beit Hanoun. No one was injured and security services had begun an investigation, ministry spokesman Eyad Al-Bozom said.

The prime minister is based in the occupied West Bank and traveled overland, via Israel, to the Gaza Strip. Police said the explosion came shortly after Hamdallah’s convoy passed by, and one witness said it appeared two cars at the end of motorcade sustained damage.

“The Palestinian Presidency holds Hamas responsible for the cowardly targeting of the Prime Minister’s convoy in Gaza,” the official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported.

Hamas and Abbas’s Palestinian Authority are still divided over how to implement an Egyptian-brokered reconciliation deal. Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007.

“The attack against the government of consensus is an attack against the unity of the Palestinian people,” said Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The explosion occurred near the spot where a U.S. diplomatic convoy was blown up by a remote-controlled bomb in 2003 shortly after it entered the Gaza Strip. Three American security specialists were killed and a U.S. diplomat was injured in that blast.

Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Andrew Heavens


Palestinian attendance unclear at White House Gaza conference — Palestinians officials conducting a de facto boycott of US officials

March 13, 2018


The White House will hold a conference on the humanitarian situation in Gaza on Tuesday, but it is unclear whether any Palestinian officials will attend
The White House will hold a conference on the humanitarian situation in Gaza on Tuesday, but it is unclear whether any Palestinian officials will attend (AFP Photo/Mandel NGAN)

Washington (AFP) – The White House will hold a conference on the humanitarian situation in Gaza on Tuesday, but it is unclear whether any Palestinian officials will attend.

President Donald Trump’s “administration believes that deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Gaza require immediate attention,” US special envoy Jason Greenblatt said in a statement announcing the conference.

The meeting is expected to include top White House aide Jared Kushner, National Security Council staff and “many of the relevant parties,” according to Greenblatt.

It is unclear whether Palestinians officials will break their de facto boycott of US officials to attend.

The Palestinians were enraged by President Donald Trump’s decision to break with long-standing US policy by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“We are pleased with the committed list of attendees, which includes many of the relevant parties and anticipate a robust dialogue,” said Greenblatt.

“The challenge will be determining which ideas can be realistically implemented in light of the fact that the Palestinians of Gaza continue to suffer under the authoritarian rule of Hamas.”

A decade-long Israeli blockade and a dispute between Gaza’s Islamist rulers and the West Bank-based Palestinian Authorities have brought the coastal territory’s economy to its knees.

Israel has maintained a blockade of Gaza since 2007, which it says is necessary to isolate Hamas. The two sides have fought three wars since 2008.

Rights groups and UN officials say the blockade amounts to collective punishment and strangles the economy in the enclave, where unemployment is around 40 percent.


Can Trump achieve what others couldn’t?

March 6, 2018


Every US president to set foot in the White House in recent years tried to propose — or did propose — a plan for peace between the Arab states and Israel, except for Barack Obama, who was preoccupied with the matters of other regions.

In US President Donald Trump’s kitchen, we can smell an almost impossible mission being prepared: A new peace project. President Trump has put the closest person to him, his senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, in charge of it. He has also appointed a special envoy for this purpose, Jason Greenblatt, who has started endless journeys to pave the way for the new project.

Without enough clues, we can’t judge whether or not he will succeed. We all know that no one succeeded before, to the point where achieving comprehensive peace compares to the mythical rise of the phoenix.
Nevertheless, we remain open to optimism. Who knows? It could happen, just like winning the lottery — a very remote yet possible chance.

The requirements for success are available today. The regional climate, in particular, is better prepared than it was during the days of Camp David in the 1970s, the Madrid Peace Conference in the early 1990s, and the infamous Oslo Accords. It is also certainly better than the climate during which the peace talks in Taba, Wye River, Wadi Araba and others took place.

Everyone is waiting to learn the details of US president’s project and see whether or not he can succeed where his predecessors have failed.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Why do we believe today’s political climate is suitable for a major peace project?

A wide range of changes have taken place in the Arab region. The people who were most hostile toward the previous peace projects and were keen to sabotage them are now out of the game. These include Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar Assad, and Palestinian left-wing parties. Moreover, the Muslim Brotherhood has been excluded from political power in Egypt and weakened in Sudan, while Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s rule in Iran stands on shaky ground, plus the Tehran regime is involved in Syria and Iraq, and is bound by the nuclear accord and conditional sanctions waivers.

I will not consider the defeat of terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda and Daesh because they were not part of the equation in the first place and did not seek to sabotage previous peace projects.

However, the absence of forces opposed to peace does not mean today’s Arab world is eager for reconciliation. Arabs are simply not thinking of reconciliation or discussing it, instead they are preoccupied with grave issues: Three major wars in Syria, Libya and Yemen, in addition to tensions and extensive security confrontations in areas surrounding the three wars.

Even this climate that is non-hostile — or indifferent — to peace in Palestine is not enough without a fair peace project. Is there anyone preparing a real peace plan? A plan that is close to Bill Clinton’s, which won the approval of many, including skeptics, but was not applied due to the reluctance of the Palestinian leadership at the time and Israel’s later refusal to have it proposed again.

This will be a difficult task for Kushner; a young, ambitious man who is close to Trump and has unique relations with Jewish powers in Israel and with a number of Arab leaders.

Even though the Palestinian cause is no longer a pressing issue, despite the ongoing pain and suffering of Palestinians, Kushner was the one to put it on Trump’s list of interests while the world is distracted by Syria, Iran, Libya and Daesh.

Everyone is waiting to learn the details of Trump’s peace project and I am part of the long queue that doubts the possibility of its success. For half a century, the world’s leaders have failed to achieve peace between Arabs and Israel, and it won’t be an easy task now that Trump has agreed to relocate the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem at no charge.

Nevertheless, we will wait, listen and judge the project at the right time.

— Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya news channel, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Twitter: @aalrashed.


Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu both have big, big problems

March 6, 2018


Updated 8:43 PM ET, Mon March 5, 2018

Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu sit with Donald and Melania Trump in the White House, March 5, 2018.

Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu sit with Donald and Melania Trump in the White House, March 5, 2018.MANDEL NGAN/AFP

(CNN) — President Donald Trump has had no bigger international backer than Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Trump’s policies, particularly where it comes to moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing that city as Israel’s capital — and also where it comes to drawing a hard line on Iran’s nuclear program — are in alignment with Netanyahu’s.

But there was a pall over their meeting Monday, since both men are beset by staffing issues, criminal issues, familial scandal and a skeptical press.
To help us break down the similarities — and differences — between Trump’s problems and Netanyahu’s problems, we have CNN’s Jerusalem correspondent Oren Liebermann, who has written extensively about the Israeli Prime Minister.
Here’s a transcript of our exchange, edited slightly for flow.
ZW: Oren, you published a story today with the headline “Third Netanyahu confidant turns states’ witness in graft probes.” That doesn’t sound good for him. In Trump’s case there is a special counsel working with former confidants of the US President. What’s similar about Netanyahu’s legal problems and what’s different?
OL: The biggest difference is in the substance of the investigations. They are fundamentally different types of proceedings. Mueller’s special investigation began with Russian election meddling and has proceeded along those lines; the police investigations against Netanyahu and his inner circle began as graft probes.
The end result may also be different, though that’s unclear at this time. If convicted, Netanyahu will face a likely prison sentence, since these are criminal investigations. What happens if Mueller finds collusion between the Trump administration and Russia? What about obstruction of justice? Or perjury? We don’t know the answer to those questions yet.
But from those initial differences, there are many similarities.
Both leaders’ legal problems now involve members of their family and their inner circle. Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, is now a possible suspect in one of the corruption investigations facing the Israeli leader, just as Jared Kushner has become involved in the Russia investigation. Members of each leader’s inner circle have also become a part of the investigations — Trump’s confidants have been questioned by Mueller; Netanyahu’s confidants have been named as suspects in the probes and have even turned state’s witness.

Netanyahu: How he rose to the top

Netanyahu: How he rose to the top 01:33
Both leaders have responded to the probes in much the same way — blaming the opposition, blasting the media, slamming leaks and repeatedly proclaiming innocence. Even their language has matched up — both have decried the investigations as media-fueled “witch hunts.”
There is also one other difference worth pointing out. Trump is in office until after the 2020 election. The political reality for Netanyahu is quite different. If his coalition partners turn on him, he could be out very quickly.
ZW: A problem for Trump has been that his son-in-law apparently features in the Russia probe. And before the election, his son met with Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. Netanyahu’s family has also been drawn into scandal. Are the circumstances similar and are they involved in the Israeli government?
OL: Netanyahu’s family isn’t involved in politics the way Trump’s family is involved. Though Netanyahu’s wife is often by his side, she doesn’t openly figure into the day-to-day operations of the Israeli government the way Trump’s family does for the American government. Trump’s daughter and his son-in-law have prominent, public roles in either the administration or the daily life of the President; Netanyahu’s wife and children do not. Sure, Netanyahu’s family makes headlines, but not nearly as often as Trump’s family.
That being said, just as Trump’s family has become a focus of the Mueller investigation, Netanyahu’s family has become embroiled in the graft probes.
Sara Netanyahu is a possible suspect in one investigation, while her name features prominently in another.
ZW: Netanyahu has long weighed in on US politics, particularly where it comes to Iran. He was a supporter of Mitt Romney in 2012 and, perhaps even more so, of Trump’s in 2016. How important is his relationship with Trump to Netanyahu in Israel?
OL: Incredibly important, and that’s probably still an understatement.

Israeli PM and wife questioned in Case 4000

Israeli PM and wife questioned in Case 4000 01:53
Trump gave Netanyahu a series of diplomatic and political victories, from recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel to protecting Israel at the United Nations. Those were enormous scores for the Israeli leader, and he has tried to return the favor by repeatedly praising Trump and hailing the strongest ever ties between Israel and the US.
More importantly, Trump is popular with Netanyahu’s voter base and vice versa. Even if Trump was considered wild and unpredictable at first, he is firmly in the pro-Israel camp now, so it’s in Netanyahu’s interest to play up the strong ties between the two leaders.
It’s also worth remembering that this is the first time Netanyahu has had a Republican president. Up until now, it was either Bill Clinton or Barack Obama — Netanyahu entirely missed George W. Bush’s time in office.
ZW: How likely is it that Netanyahu survives this?
OL: In Israeli politics, it’s never wise to bet against Netanyahu. He knows how to play the game of Israeli politics better than anyone … and it is a brutal game. He’s won four elections, and recent polling shows he would almost certainly win a fifth if elections were held today. He has the support of all of his coalition partners, which means he’s in the driver’s seat.
And yet each successive development in the corruption investigations of the Israeli leader is another blow to Netanyahu. Even if he has refused to back down, it becomes a little more difficult for his coalition partners to support him, and it becomes a political calculation of when to pull support. The closer the attorney general gets to possibly filing charges against Netanyahu, the harder it becomes to support him.
So why haven’t they already pulled their support?
Because Israel’s government is an entirely right-wing government, which means all the parties are pulling from generally the same voter base (with the exception of the ultra-Orthodox parties, who have their own voters). If one of Netanyahu’s coalition partners pulls support for the Prime Minister, they may face a backlash from right-wing voters, upset that they toppled a right-wing government. That’s why everyone is still supporting Netanyahu right now — not because it’s in Netanyahu’s interest, but because it’s in their own.
ZW: If, hypothetically, Netanyahu was forced out and his party lost power, what could it mean both for a Mideast peace process and also for the US and Iran?
OL: Every Israeli party — left and right — would continue lobbying against Iran. Maybe not as vocally, maybe not as openly, but they’re all on the same page when it comes to viewing Iran as a threat, so that doesn’t change.
Trump threatens to cut off aid to Palestinians
Trump threatens to cut off aid to Palestinians 03:02
On the Mideast peace process, it depends on who would step in. Because of the way Israeli politics works, it’s entirely possible that, even if Netanyahu was forced out, his own party would simply find a different leader. In this case, the peace process is probably dead on arrival, since many in Netanyahu’s own party are far more critical of a two-state solution than he is.
If a centrist or left-wing party were able to win an election, then the peace process could still — theoretically, at least — proceed.
But the peace process doesn’t only rely on the Israeli government. Washington would still have to find some way to coax the Palestinians back to the table, as there aren’t many (if any) Israeli politicians they believe will readily make concessions in a peace process. And Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, hasn’t shown a willingness to make his own concessions for peace.

Trump’s Hopes of Being the ‘Neutral Guy’ in the Mideast Seem Long Gone — And So Do Hopes of Middle East Peace

March 6, 2018
President Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel displayed on Monday perhaps the closest relationship between leaders of their countries since Israel declared independence. Credit Tom Brenner/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — In the midst of his campaign, President Trump vowed to bring peace to the Middle East by playing it down the middle between Israel and the Palestinians. “Let me be sort of a neutral guy,” he said. Two years later, any hopes of being the neutral guy are long gone.

In a meeting at the White House on Monday, Mr. Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel put on display perhaps the closest relationship between leaders of their two countries in the seven decades since Israel declared independence. As for the Palestinians, they are no longer on speaking terms with the president, who is busy cutting their aid.

Few if any doubted that Mr. Trump came into office more supportive of Israel than the Palestinians and he trumpeted his pro-Israeli credentials, but any semblance of straddling the line between warring camps has vanished and the notion that he could bring them together appears more distant than ever. Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu lavished praise on each other on Monday, and the president said he might visit Jerusalem in May to preside over the politically potent transfer of the American Embassy to the disputed holy city.

Mr. Trump insisted that he still had “a good chance” of forging peace and expressed optimism that the Palestinians were ready to return to discussions. “The Palestinians, I think, are wanting to come back to the table very badly,” he said, despite evidence to the contrary. Then he acknowledged what would happen if he is wrong. “If they don’t, you don’t have peace.”

The White House has said it is close to finishing a peace plan that it could release soon. But the conditions hardly seem ripe. The two men who met in the Oval Office on Monday are both fighting off investigations. The president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who was leading the effort for him, just lost his top-secret security clearance. And the Palestinians are angry about the embassy.

“I can’t see him actually proposing anything,” Oded Revivi, chief foreign affairs envoy for the Yesha Council, which represents West Bank settlers, said of Mr. Trump. The president seems unlikely to come up with a plan more acceptable than those that have been rejected in the past, Mr. Revivi said, and “he doesn’t want to fail where others have failed.”

The meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu, their fifth since the president’s inauguration 13 months ago, demonstrated just how close the two have become while the Palestinians remain off at a distance. The two celebrated Mr. Trump’s decision in December to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the American Embassy there from Tel Aviv in defiance of much of the rest of the world.

Mr. Netanyahu extolled Mr. Trump for the decision, comparing him to three of the most important figures in the history of the Jewish people: King Cyrus of Persia, who 2,500 years ago freed the Jews from exile in Babylon and permitted them to return to Jerusalem; Lord Arthur James Balfour, the British foreign secretary whose declaration in 1917 first paved the way for a Jewish homeland in Palestine; and President Harry S. Truman, who recognized Israel’s existence 11 minutes after it declared independence in 1948.

Just as Israelis remember those historical figures, Mr. Netanyahu said, “we remember how a few weeks ago President Donald J. Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

“Mr. President,” he continued, “this will be remembered by our people through the ages. As you just said, others talked about it. You did it.”

Unlike Mr. Trump, however, Mr. Netanyahu mentioned the goal of peace with the Palestinians only in passing and focused instead on the topic he always makes his top priority when he visits Washington, namely Iran.

He hoped to use the visit to encourage Mr. Trump to tear up President Barack Obama’s agreement with Tehran limiting its nuclear program or renegotiate it to toughen its provisions, particularly with respect to ballistic missiles. He also sought consensus on how to counter Iran’s presence in Syria.

“Iran must be stopped,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “That is our common challenge.”

He voiced deep skepticism about the prospect of a Palestinian state, recalling how Gaza fell under the control of Hamas after Israel withdrew. “You can bring models, theoretical models, say it will be good if we give them a state,” he told the reporters. “Empirically, it doesn’t work with what we see. When we leave land, terror organizations take it up. Immediately.”

Mr. Trump, by contrast, was still more interested in seeking what he has called “the ultimate deal” between Israel and the Palestinians. “We’re working on it very hard,” he said with Mr. Netanyahu at his side in the Oval Office. “Look, it would be a great achievement even from a humanitarian standpoint. What better if we could make peace between Israel and the Palestinians? And I can tell you, we’re working very hard on doing that and I think we have a good chance.”

Palestinian leaders, who also claim Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, have given no public indication that they would return to discussions any time soon. In response to the president’s Jerusalem move, they declared that they no longer saw the United States as a neutral broker with the Israelis. Mr. Trump then withheld $65 million in aid for Palestinian refugees.

But Mr. Kushner went to the United Nations recently to hear Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader, speak in an effort to show respect shortly after the president publicly pressed Israel on settlement construction in the West Bank.

The Monday meeting came at a time when both Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu are under increasing domestic pressure from investigations bearing down on them and their families. Shortly before their get-together, Mr. Trump was lashing out at the investigation into whether his team cooperated with Russia during the 2016 election, while reports from Israel indicated that a former confidant of Mr. Netanyahu’s had made a deal with the police in a corruption investigation of the prime minister.

“They have an awful lot in common and they both may be desperately in need of a friend and someone who understands what they’re going through,” said Mara Rudman, a former deputy special envoy for Middle East peace under Mr. Obama. “And they happen to be showing it for the world to see.”

Mr. Netanyahu later said their mutual woes — they both use the phrase “witch hunt” to describe the inquiries into their activities — never came up during their meeting. Instead, they relished the chance to showcase their partnership during the part of their session when cameras were on.

“The relationship has never been better,” Mr. Trump declared.

“It’s never been stronger,” Mr. Netanyahu agreed.

Mr. Trump has made his decision to move the embassy a selling point among his supporters, lauding it during a recent speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference as one of his major achievements. His administration announced that it would formally open the Jerusalem embassy in May to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence by redesignating an existing consular facility.

The president said on Monday that he may attend. “We’re looking at coming,” Mr. Trump said. “If I can, I will.”

As he has before, Mr. Trump argued that his decision to recognize Jerusalem resolved a tough issue dividing Israel and the Palestinians. “We’ve taken it off the table,” he said. “So this gives us a real opportunity for peace.”

Hardly any veterans of Middle East peacemaking, including some who support moving the embassy, share this view. Mr. Trump’s unilateral declaration does not mean that the Palestinians have given up on Jerusalem; instead, they have dug in. Many former negotiators have envisioned a peace deal in which both sides operate their capitals out of Jerusalem, the Israelis in the west and the Palestinians in the east.

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Israel’s defense minister asks Gazans not to riot along security fence

February 20, 2018

Liberman says Hamas is exploiting desperate Palestinians for terrorist purposes; also calls for diplomatic solution to dispute with Lebanon

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, left, speaks to IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi in a field just outside the Gaza Strip on February 20, 2018. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, left, speaks to IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi in a field just outside the Gaza Strip on February 20, 2018. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Tuesday warned Gazans that their rulers, the Hamas terrorist group, were taking advantage of them and endangering their lives by sending them to take part in demonstrations near the border with Israel. His comments came days after one such riot was used as cover for an improvised explosive device attack.

Echoing statements made by Israel’s military liaison the night before, Liberman said the army had “learned the lessons” from Saturday’s attack and would respond more aggressively in the future, though he declined to elaborate on what specific policies changes the military was adopting.

Liberman made his comments after a press briefing from the Israel Defense Forces’ Southern Command and Gaza Division in a field full of blazing red anemones near Kibbutz Kissufim, a few kilometers from the Palestinian enclave.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks to the press in a field just outside the Gaza Strip on February 20, 2018. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)

Turning his attention to the north, Liberman also spoke to the ongoing disagreement between Israel and Lebanon regarding the rights to potential natural gas reserves in an area of the Mediterranean Sea known as Block 9, which each country claims as its own.

The negotiations between the two countries are ongoing, with the United States acting as a mediator, and Liberman encouraged a diplomatic resolution to the issue.

“But if the Lebanese don’t want a solution, and they want to keep arguing, they will only lose from it,” he said.

During the briefing, the defense minister heard from the IDF deputy chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi; the head of the Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir; and the division commander, Brig. Gen. Yehuda Fox; as well as various senior officers from the Gaza Division, including its chief operations, intelligence and combat engineering officers.

Though Liberman had previously said the direct perpetrators of the IED attack were from the Palestinian Resistance Committees terrorist group, he said on Tuesday that Hamas, which rules the Strip, was also liable as it allowed the attack to take place.

“What’s clear is that Hamas is using the residents of the Gaza Strip as a cover for terrorist activities,” he said. “This is unacceptable. We won’t continue with this game.”

Illustrative. Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli soldiers near the border fence east of Gaza City on December 22, 2017. (AFP/MOHAMMED ABED)

The defense minister accused Hamas’s leaders of sending Gaza residents to take part in violent demonstrations while making sure their own family members never get close to the border. He also noted that the senior figures in the terrorist group enjoy a constant supply of electricity, while most Gaza residents get just a few hours a day.

The defense minister repeated a message he has expressed multiple times, that Hamas was deliberately maintaining poor living conditions in the enclave as a matter of policy.

“Hamas is the one preventing economic development in Gaza, preventing growth,” he said. “You have to understand: poverty and terrorism go hand in hand.”

The defense minister didn’t explicitly blame Iran — which financially supports Hamas and the second-largest terror group in the Strip, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad — for recent unrest in Gaza, but implied that the Islamic Republic is playing a role in it.

Liberman said senior Hamas officials “live in Beirut, with Hezbollah’s blessing, and travel from Beirut to Tehran almost every other week in order to coordinate their activities — and most of the money Hamas is receiving comes from Iran.”

A military helicopter carrying IDF soldiers wounded in an explosion during a patrol along the Gaza border arrives at Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center on February 17, 2018. (Screen capture; Twitter)

Four IDF soldiers were injured on Saturday when the IED, disguised as a flag, detonated as they were removing it from the Gaza security fence near the city of Khan Younis. It had apparently been placed there during a recent violent demonstration.

In response to that attack, and to a rocket fired from Gaza that hit a home in southern Israel late Saturday night, the IDF conducted a large series of strikes against 18 targets in the Strip, including on an tunnel in Gaza City, Liberman said in the Knesset on Monday.

In a separate incident on Saturday night, an IDF tank fired on a group of Palestinians who the army said approached the security fence “in a suspicious manner,” killing two of them and seriously injuring two others.