Posts Tagged ‘Gaza’

US said seeking to raise $500 million for Gaza from Gulf states

June 18, 2018

Funding would reportedly go toward industrial area in Egypt’s Sinai from where electricity, desalinated water would be pumped to Strip

Times of Israel
June 18, 2018
A woman sits with her children in their shack home near the beach in Gaza City on June 4, 2018. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP)

A woman sits with her children in their shack home near the beach in Gaza City on June 4, 2018. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP)

The United States is reportedly seeking to raise over $500 million from Gulf states to fund energy and economic development projects aimed at improving the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, as a prelude to revealing President Donald Trump’s plan for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The funds would be used to develop an industrial area in the northern Sinai region, which abuts Gaza, including a power station and factories to serve the residents of the Palestinian enclave, the Haaretz daily reported Monday.

White House special adviser Jared Kushner and US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, who are due in the region for talks this week, are expected to pitch the ideas to leaders in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and Israel, the report said.

Washington hopes that improving the situation in Gaza, where electricity and drinking water supplies are meager, will help calm the security situation, which has seen several weeks of violent clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians in the Strip.

Jared Kushner, son-in-law and senior adviser to US President Donald Trump, speaks at the inauguration ceremony of the US Embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

In addition, the US hopes that plans to boost the quality of life in Gaza will create a positive atmosphere ahead of Trump presenting his peace plan, an event for which no date has yet been set, the report said.

Sources told Haartez that a large part of the proposals for Gaza revolve around basing service infrastructure in northern Sinai, including, in addition to a power plant, a seaport, factories to manufacture building supplies, a water desalination plant and a project to construct a solar energy site near the Sinai city of el-Arish.

The projects would be expected to create jobs for Gazans and also improve the security situation in northern Sinai, making it appealing to the Egyptians, who for years have been battling to suppress an Islamist terror campaign in the peninsula.

The report said there are two approaches being looked at — projects that can be quickly implemented and those that will take years to complete. Currently, the White House is reportedly focusing on funding for the more immediate projects with the aim of improving the situation in Gaza “and to also achieve some progress on the ground before the peace plan presentation.”

Yoav Mordechai, who until recently served as the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, presented similar ideas in March at an international summit on Gaza, hosted at the White House, the report said.

Deteriorating living conditions in the Strip have been cited by security officials as a major factor fueling the violent clashes on Israel’s border, as well as a debilitating sense of desperation.

According to the report, solving Gaza’s energy crisis is the top priority.

Trump’s son-in-law Kushner and Greenblatt are looking to secure financing –amounting to over $500 million — from Gulf states, and ensure cooperation from Israel and Egypt, the two countries that border the Palestinian enclave, which since 2007 has been under the control of the Hamas terror group, the report said.

US President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt,arrives at a news conference about a water-sharing agreement between Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, in Jerusalem, July 13, 2017. (AFP/POOL/RONEN ZVULUN)

Israel and Egypt both enforce a blockade of Gaza, which Israel says is necessary to prevent Hamas from smuggling weapons into Strip. Currently, goods arrive at Israeli ports, where they are screened and then brought to Gaza on hundreds of trucks a day.

The White House declined to comment on the plans, telling Haaretz only that “we don’t want to discuss specific details before talks are held on the matter.”

Although Kushner and Greenblatt are set to meet with regional leaders to iron out details of the Trump peace plan, they are not scheduled to hold talks with the Palestinians, who have refused to meet with US officials ever since Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December and then moved the US embassy to the city last month.

Gaza’s woes have been exacerbated by an ongoing dispute between Hamas and the rival Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, which has cut the salaries it pays to workers in Gaza and imposed various sanctions, including cutting payments for electricity supplies to the enclave.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.


Israeli aircraft strike Hamas targets in Gaza Strip

June 18, 2018

Israeli jets struck nine targets belonging to the Islamist Hamas group in the northern Gaza Strip early on Monday in response to incendiary kites and balloons Palestinians sent from the territory that have damaged Israeli property, the military said.

Sirens also sounded in Israeli areas near the Gaza Strip at daybreak and the army said three rockets had been launched towards Israeli territory but one fell short in the Gaza Strip. No casualties were reported from the rockets or air strikes.

In recent weeks, Palestinians have sent kites dangling coal embers or burning rags across the Gaza border to set fire to arid farmland and forests, others have carried small explosive devices in a new tactic that has caused extensive damage.

The Israeli military has fired warning shots from the air and destroyed property belonging to the kite launchers but has refrained from targeting them. Some Israeli ministers have called for those launchers to be targeted directly.

Palestinians prepare kites before trying to fly them with incendiaries over the border fence with Israel, in

Israel has drafted in civilian drone enthusiasts as army reservists, instructing them to fly their remote-controlled aircraft into the kites, an Israeli general said, but an effective means to stop the kites has yet to be found.

“These are terrorist acts that endanger Israeli residents living in southern Israel and damage extensive areas in Israeli territory,” the military statement said of the kites and balloons.

At least 125 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops during mass demonstrations along the Gaza border since March 30 and the men sending the kites over the fence believe they have found an effective new weapon.

© AFP | An explosion is seen in Gaza City after an airstrike by Israeli forces

Israel’s deadly tactics in confronting the weekly Friday protests have drawn international condemnation.

Palestinians say they are a popular outpouring of rage against Israel by people demanding the right to return to homes their families fled or were driven from on Israel’s founding 70 years ago.

Israel says the demonstrations are organized by the Islamist group Hamas that controls the Gaza Strip and denies Israel’s right to exist. Israel says Hamas has intentionally provoked the violence, a charge Hamas denies.

Around two million people live in Gaza, most of them the stateless descendants of refugees from what is now Israel. The territory has been controlled by Hamas for more than a decade, during which it has fought three wars against Israel.

Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade of the strip, citing security reasons, which has caused an economic crisis and collapse in living standards there over the past decade.

Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, Writing by Ori Lewis, Editing by Darren Schuettler



Israel strikes launchers of burning kites from Gaza Strip

June 17, 2018

It marked an escalation in Israel’s response to a phenomenon that has wreaked havoc on agriculture in southern Israel

Palestinians prepare kites before trying to fly them with incendiaries over the border fence with Israel, in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza Strip on May 4, 2018 (Said Khatib/AFP)

The Israeli military says its aircraft have struck a vehicle belonging to someone who sends burning kites into Israel from Gaza.

No one was wounded in Sunday’s strike but it marked an escalation in Israel’s response to a phenomenon that has wreaked havoc on agriculture in southern Israel in recent weeks. Fields were once again set ablaze on a hot, windy, dry Saturday.

Gazans began flying kites with burning rags attached to them during mass protests against the crippling Israeli and Egyptian blockade of the territory. Israeli troops have fired on the protesters, killing more than 100 since the weekly demonstrations began in March.

The Islamic militant group Hamas, which rules Gaza, has led the protests. Israel says it holds Hamas responsible for the fires.


Israeli Airstrike Hits Firebomb Launch Leaders

June 17, 2018

Hamas-linked news site reports nobody in vehicle at time of Israeli attack, likely latest warning day after over 20 blazes destroy fields across border in Israel

Times of Israel

Gazans load balloons with flammable material to be flown toward Israel, at the Israel-Gaza border in al-Bureij, central Gaza Strip on June 14, 2018. (AFP/ MAHMUD HAMS)

Gazans load balloons with flammable material to be flown toward Israel, at the Israel-Gaza border in al-Bureij, central Gaza Strip on June 14, 2018. (AFP/ MAHMUD HAMS)

The Israeli military said Sunday its aircraft had targeted a leading Gazan figure launching incendiary balloons and kites into Israel.

The strike appeared to be the latest instance of the army attempting to warn off Gazans launching balloons and kites at Israel, which have led to daily blazes in fields in southern Israel and raised fears of balloon-borne IED attacks.

“Our forces attacked in an airstrike the vehicle of on the leaders of a burning and explosive kite and balloon cells. The attack was carried out in response to the ongoing launching of burning and explosive kites and balloons into Israel,” the army said in a short statement.

The army did not name the person targeted or say if they were hit in the airstrike.

The Palestinian Shehab news agency, linked to Gaza’s Hamas rulers, reported that the airstrike had hit an empty vehicle outside a mosque in Shejiaya, a suburb of Gaza City, early Sunday morning.

There were no initial reports of injuries.

The strike came hours after an Israeli aircraft fired at a group of Palestinians launching incendiary kites and balloons into Israel on Saturday, wounding three people according to Palestinian media.

Palestinian protesters hold balloons before loading them with flammable material to be flown towards Israel, at the Israel-Gaza border in the central Gaza Strip on June 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

Balloons and kites caused fires in at least 20 locations in Israel across the Gaza border on Saturday, destroying hundreds of acres of fields and nature reserves.

In recent days Israeli aircraft have fired several warning shots at groups launching the flaming kites and balloons, apparently a new tactic that the military was looking to adopt in order to counter this threat, which has burned thousands of acres of farmland, forests and nature reserves in the regions around the Gaza Strip, according to Israeli officials.

The strike early Sunday was likely meant as a warning to the figure that Israel knows where they are and may begin carrying out assassinations from the air, including against figures not actively preparing balloons or kites for launching.

The army has signaled in recent days that it may be looking into moving beyond warning shots amid mounting political pressure to stanch the daily attacks from the air.


Palestinian Authority Bans Public Protests

June 14, 2018
Palesrinian groups Hamas and Fatah in disagreement

Ramallah cracks down on demonstrations opposing Fatah’s punitive measures against the coastal enclave’s Hamas rulers

Palestinians rally in the West Bank city of Ramallah calling for the PA to support Gazans on June 12, 2018. (Screen capture: Twitter)

Palestinians rally in the West Bank city of Ramallah calling for the PA to support Gazans on June 12, 2018. (Screen capture: Twitter)

The Palestinian Authority has temporarily banned public protests, it announced Wednesday, ahead of a planned demonstration in the West Bank opposing punitive measures against Hamas-run Gaza.

Late Sunday hundreds took to the streets of Ramallah, the West Bank city that houses the Palestinian government, calling for PA President Mahmoud Abbas to end measures against Gaza that critics say harm the two million residents.

Organizers estimated 2,000 people attended, a rare show of opposition to the government in the city.

A statement on the official news agency Wafa said Wednesday that no permits for protests would be given out during the coming days — citing the Muslim Eid al-Fitr festival, which is expected to begin Friday.

Nasser Atta@nasseratta5

major protest against the authority sanction on , one protester sign read “ Razan al Najjar asking us to take care of her family “

Nasser Atta@nasseratta5

If the protest by Palestinian youth in Ramallah and the West Bank continue against the sanctions and blocked system imposed on Gaza by Israel and the PA , we will see the collapse of this system soon.

“In order to facilitate citizens’ normal life in this period, it is prohibited to grant permits to organize marches or to establish gatherings that would disrupt the movement of citizens and disturb them,” it said.

Despite the ban, organizers vowed to go ahead with fresh anti-government protests on Wednesday night.

“The (Israeli) occupation is the main culprit responsible for the blockade on Gaza, but President Abbas is making things worse by also imposing collective punishment on families there,” campaign activist Fadi Quran said, vowing to take to the streets.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Palestine Video@PalestineVideo

Abbas sends his forces to Al-Manara roundabout in Ramallah in attempt to stop the protest against Abbas & PA sanctions on blockaded Gaza

Gaza, which is only reachable from the West Bank via Israeli territory, is run by the Hamas terror group, which seized it from the Abbas-led PA in a bloody coup in 2007.

The PA has introduced a series of measures against Gaza in the past year, including dramatically reducing payments to Israel for the electricity it supplies Gaza in a bid to pressure Hamas to loosen its grip on the territory.

Abbas’s Fatah movement has also not paid full salaries to tens of thousands of its civil servants in the Strip for months.

Critics say such moves exacerbate the split between the two parts of the Palestinian territories.

Israel has maintained a blockade on Gaza for over a decade, which it says is necessary to prevent Hamas, which is regarded as a terror group by Israel and much of the West and is sworn to Israel’s destruction, from smuggling in weapons and material used for digging tunnels into Israel. Egypt also maintains the blockade.

The United Nations has said the Strip will be unlivable by 2020.

Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation agreement last October, but it has since collapsed.


120 countries at UN condemn Israel over Gaza violence

June 14, 2018
‘For some, attacking Israel is their favorite political sport. That’s why we are here today,’ Nikki Haley said

The UN General Assembly on Wednesday adopted by a strong majority of 120 countries an Arab-backed resolution condemning Israel for Palestinian deaths in Gaza and rejected a US bid to blame Hamas for the violence.

The resolution deplores Israel’s use of “excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force” against Palestinian civilians and calls for protection measures for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

At least 129 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire during protests near the border with Gaza that began at the end of March. No Israelis have died.

The resolution put forward by Algeria and Turkey on behalf of Arab and Muslim countries won 120 votes in the 193-member assembly, with 8 votes against and 45 abstentions.

An amendment presented by the United States condemning Hamas for “inciting violence” along the border with Gaza failed to garner the two-third majority needed for adoption.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley dismissed the resolution as “one-sided” and accused Arab countries of trying to score political points at home by seeking to condemn Israel at the United Nations.

“For some, attacking Israel is their favorite political sport.  That’s why we are here today,” Haley told the assembly.

“I wish everyone supporting this one-sided resolution would put as much energy into encouraging President Abbas to the negotiating table,” she said.

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Four Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire on the Gaza border on Friday, as weeks of deadly clashes with protesters continued
Mohammed ABED (AFP)

France was among 12 EU countries that backed the resolution, but Britain abstained along with Italy, Poland and 13 other EU member-states. Russia and China voted in favor.

Australia, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, the Solomon Islands and Togo joined the United States and Israel in voting against the resolution.

Taking the podium, Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon assailed the measure as an “attempt to take away our basic right to self-defense.”

He warned ambassadors that by supporting the resolution “you are empowering Hamas.”

“The hypocrisy of the General Assembly knows no bounds as anti-Israel elements deceitfully blocked the condemnation of Hamas, a murderous terrorist organization. This was a badge of shame for the UN,” said Danon.

“Thanks to the combined efforts with our American friends and our allies from around the world, we proved today that the automatic majority against Israel in the UN is not destiny and can be changed.”

Arab countries backing the measure turned to the General Assembly after the United States used its veto in the Security Council to block the resolution on June 1.

Unlike the Security Council, resolutions adopted by the assembly are non-binding and there is no veto.

Drew Angerer (GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File)Danny Danon leads Israel’s mission to the United Nations

UN chief to propose protection

The resolution tasks UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres with the drafting of proposals for an “international protection mechanism” for the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

These could range from setting up an observer mission to a full-blown peacekeeping force, but action on any option would require backing from the Security Council, where the United States has veto power.

Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour dismissed the US amendments blaming Hamas as “games and gimmicks” and urged ambassadors not to be “fooled” by the US proposal.

“We are asking for a simple thing,” Mansour told the assembly. “We want our civilian population to be protected.”

Turkey’s Ambassador Feridun Hadi Sinirlioglu defended the resolution, saying it was “about taking sides with international law” and showing the Palestinians that the world “does care about their suffering.”

HECTOR RETAMAL (AFP/File)Palestine’s Ambassador to the United Nations Riyad H. Mansour attends a UN Security Council on May 15, 2018, at UN Headquarters in New York

The US amendment condemning Hamas received 62 votes in favor, with 58 against and 42 abstentions. The United States sought to challenge the ruling requiring a two-thirds majority but that was defeated in a separate vote.

“We had more countries on the right side than the wrong side,” Haley said in a statement.

The General Assembly last held a similarly contentious vote on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in December, when it rejected President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy there.

Haley had warned at the time that Washington was “taking names” of countries that supported the resolution. That vote was 128 to 9, with 35 abstentions.

Backed by Arab countries, the Palestinians had lobbied to win as many votes as those cast in support of the Jerusalem resolution.

(Staff with AFP)

UN to vote on resolution bashing Israel, with US pushing for Hamas condemnation

June 13, 2018

The General Assembly on Wednesday will consider a measure lambasting Jewish state for Gaza deaths. Haley seeks amendment denouncing terror group’s violence and incitement

June 13, 2018

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks during a UN Security Council emergency session on Israel-Gaza conflict at United Nations headquarter on May 30, 2018 in New York City. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images/AFP)

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks during a UN Security Council emergency session on Israel-Gaza conflict at United Nations headquarter on May 30, 2018 in New York City. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images/AFP)

WASHINGTON — The United Nations General Assembly is slated to vote on a resolution Wednesday condemning Israel for Palestinian deaths in Gaza, a move fiercely opposed by the United States, which is pushing for Hamas to face condemnation.

The 193 nations that make up the world body will vote on an Arab-backed measure that deplores what it calls Israel’s “excessive use of force” and calls for “protection of the Palestinian civilian population” in Gaza. It resembles a similar resolution Kuwait introduced at the Security Council earlier this month — which the US vetoed.

The text was put forward by Algeria and Turkey on behalf of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley slammed the measure as “fundamentally imbalanced” for its failure to mention Hamas and has proposed an amendment that condemns the Palestinian terror group.

Now that the motion is being brought to the General Assembly, US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, wants to counter that measure with a another that castigates the Islamist organization that rules the Gaza Strip.

“Any resolution focused on the protection of civilians in Gaza must recognize the destabilizing and reckless actions of Hamas, which endanger the lives and livelihoods of innocent civilians,” Haley wrote in a letter sent to her fellow UN envoys on Tuesday.

The voting results of a UN resolution condemning President Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, December 21, 2017. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Haley proposed an amendment condemning Hamas for firing rockets into Israel and inciting violence along the Gaza-Israel border fence, “thereby putting civilians at risk.” The proposal also would condemn the diversion of resources in Gaza to building tunnels to infiltrate Israel and equipment to fire rockets and express “grave concern” at the destruction of the Kerem Shalom crossing point to Israel “by actors in Gaza.”

Haley said the amendment “is not controversial” and simply condemns “behavior we should all recognize as harmful to the Palestinian people.”

The letter said the amendment would be voted on before the resolution.

Diplomats expect the US amendment to fail and the Arab-backed resolution to be adopted, but it remains unclear how many votes it will garner in the face of strong US opposition.

Over the last two months, there have been intense, weekly clashes between Gazan demonstrators and the Israeli military. The protests — billed as the “March of Return” — began organically, but were eventually taken over by Hamas, which encouraged rioters to damage and break the security fence and infiltrate Israel, as well as throw petrol bombs and rocks toward the soldiers. Those conflagrations have resulted in more than 120 Palestinians killed by Israeli fire — the majority being members of terror groups.

The Arab-drafted text claims Israel used “excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force” against Palestinian civilians. Haley, in her letter to colleagues, said it does not pin any blame on Hamas for what transpired.

Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, center, chants slogans as he is surrounded by protesters during his visit to the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, Friday, April 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

“‘Hamas’ is not mentioned even once in the text,” Haley said. “This omission should be unacceptable to all Member States, given that Hamas fired over 100 rockets at Israel last month, provoked violent uprisings, and obstructed the flow of humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people.”

Following another flareup at the border two weeks ago, the Gaza-based Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist groups launched more than 70 rockets and mortar shells at Israel, prompting dozens of retaliatory airstrikes.

Four Israelis were hurt, including a soldier who suffered moderate injuries, and projectiles caused damage to a kindergarten yard an hour before the children arrived, and to a home as a family slept in a fortified room inside.

Those actions, Haley insisted, should not be difficult for the UN to denounce.

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, said he “welcomed” the American amendment. The eagerness of other countries to condemn Israel and their unwillingness to condemn Hamas, he charged, was a manifestation of hypocrisy.

“It is despicable for any country to even consider to vote for a resolution condemning Israel while refusing to support the condemnation of Hamas,” Danon said. “Such behavior is hypocritical at best, and at worst amounts to openly emboldening an internationally recognized terrorist organization responsible for the deaths of countless innocent people.”


Israeli gunfire, tear gas injure hundreds as Gaza protest resumes

June 8, 2018

Israeli troops fired tear gas and live bullets at Palestinians taking part in weekly protests at the Gaza Strip border with Israel on Friday, injuring at least 386 people, medics said.

The army said it was taking action to disperse some 10,000 Palestinians, some of whom threw rocks at the troops and burned tires, and prevent any breach of the fortified frontier fence.

Image result for Gaza protests, june 8, 2018, photos
Tear gas canisters are fired by Israeli troops at Palestinian demonstrators during a protest marking al-Quds Day, (Jerusalem Day), at the Israel-Gaza border east of Gaza City June 8, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Israeli forces have killed at last 120 Palestinians in protests along the border since a campaign was launched on March 30 to demand the right to return to ancestral lands lost to Israel in the 1948 war of its creation, hospital officials say.

Israel says the dead included gunmen who used civilians as cover for gun and grenade attacks or infiltration attempts.

Organizers linked Friday’s protests to annual “Jerusalem Day” events in Iran, which like Gaza’s dominant Hamas Islamists preaches Israel’s destruction and was incensed by the U.S. recognition in December of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

“There is no such state called Israel that could have a capital called Jerusalem,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said, adding that the protests, which also demand an end to a grinding Israeli and Egyptian blockade on Gaza, would continue.

Emmanuel Nahshon, spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, described Gaza protesters on Twitter as “hateful morons” and “Hamas Jugend”, the latter a play on “Hitler Youth” in German.

There have been no Israeli casualties from the more than two months of confrontations along the Gaza border. But Israel says it has lost swathes of farmland and forests on its side of the border to blazes set by coal- or fuel-laden Palestinian kites.

Image result for Gaza protests, june 8, 2018, photos
A Palestinian demonstrator uses a sling to hurl stones at Israeli troops during a protest marking al-Quds Day, (Jerusalem Day), at the Israel-Gaza border, east of Gaza City June 8, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Among those wounded on Friday was an Agence France Press photographer and a 23-year-old man who was on life support after a tear gas canister penetrated his face, medical officials said.

“We are not asking for the moon,” said Amer Abu Khalaf, a 20-year-old business administration student who took part in the protest, saying it aimed to “break the siege and have the world recognize our right to return”.

Israel has long refused to admit Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war or their millions of descendents, saying that would spell demographic suicide and that they should stay in a future Palestinian state. Statehood talks have been frozen since 2014.

Hamas seized Gaza from Western-backed Palestinian authorities in 2007 and has fought three wars with Israel there. Two million Palestinians have sunk into poverty as Israel and Egypt, citing security needs, clamped down on Gaza’s borders.

The death toll from Israel’s lethal measures against the Gaza protests have drawn international censure, though the United States has placed the blame on Hamas.

Reporting by Nidal Almughrabi; Editing by Angus MacSwan, William Maclean


What Does Israel’s Netanyahu Hope To Achieve in Europe?

June 6, 2018

Netanyahu wants to convince the Europeans not to walk out of the deal, but rather to accept the new reality: that the US has withdrawn, and that as a result, the playing field has shifted.

 JUNE 6, 2018 08:46

Jerusalem Post
Analysis: What does Netanyahu hope to achieve on his European trip?

Benjamin Netanyahu at a weekly cabinet meeting, June 3, 2018. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

The tone of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s current trip to Europe was set on Monday at a news conference in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“We have a difference of opinion as to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [Iranian nuclear deal] and its effectiveness,” Merkel said. “Germany did not cancel this agreement, and together with other European partners, we stand by it.”

PM Netanyahu says Iran is also a danger to Germany at a press ocnfernece wirth PM Angela Merkel, June 4, 2018 (GPO)

Those other European partners – France and Britain, who along with Germany were also partners to the deal – were the next stops on Netanyahu’s four-day trip. He heard the same thing from French President Emmanuel Macron, who said in his news conference with Netanyahu on Tuesday that the JCPOA was an “important milestone.” Netanyahu will surely hear a similar sentiment when he meets British Prime Minister Theresa May in London on Wednesday.

Merkel and Macron’s reaffirmation of the JCPOA as the way to stop Iran from going nuclear came after their experts had seen the material Israel spirited out of Iran from its “nuclear archives”; after Netanyahu presented them with an intelligence dossier about Iran’s intentions; and after Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei tweeted on Sunday that Israel was a “malignant cancerous tumor” that needed to be “removed and eradicated.”

Netanyahu, who has had his share of meetings with world leaders, was obviously not surprised by this. No one really thinks he went to Europe actually believing that he was going to change the minds of Merkel, Macron and May.

Yet make the trip he did, and he billed it beforehand as a trip very important for Israel’s security.

But if he knew that he was not going to change minds, why go? Why have these discussions? What does he hope to accomplish?

© AFP | German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu address a press conference after a meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin on June 4, 2018

First of all, because the discussions about Iran are not only about the nuclear issue. There is also the issue of Iran’s ballistic missile development, Iran’s meddling in the region and entrenchment in Syria, and its activities in Gaza through Hamas and especially Islamic Jihad.

Before boarding the plane on Monday, Netanyahu said he would talk about two things with the leaders: Iran and Iran. And he meant it. Merkel and Macron also brought up Gaza, and May is expected to do the same. But even when it comes to Gaza, Netanyahu uses it as further proof of Iran’s destabilizing influence throughout the region.

Netanyahu went to Europe to address all of Iran’s activities, in the hope that if Germany, France and Britain are not on board regarding withdrawing from the JCPOA, at least they can cooperate with Israel on the other troubling issues Iran is involved in: ballistic missile development, regional aggression, and destabilizing Gaza.

Regarding the Iran deal, Netanyahu wants to convince the Europeans not to walk out of the deal, but rather to accept the new reality: that the US has withdrawn, and that as a result, the playing field has fundamentally shifted.

He hinted as much in his news conference with Merkel.

“I have not changed my view of the JCPOA, but I think that right now that is becoming a secondary question, because the US has left the deal,” he said. “I think the real question we have to confront is what do we do about Iran’s aggression – what do we do about Iran’s remaining goal and pursuit of nuclear weapons.”

He was even more direct during his news conference with Macron.

“I did not ask President Macron to leave the deal,” he said of the JCPOA. “I think that economic realities are going to decide this matter, so that is not what we focused on. What I focused on is to stop Iranian aggression in the region, and specifically Israel’s goal, which I think should be shared by all those who seek peace and prosperity in the Middle East: a reconstructed Syria. And a precursor to that is that Iran leaves Syria, all of Syria.”

Netanyahu’s goal in these meetings was not to change minds, but rather to convey his opinion that it is not productive to get into a frontal conflict with US President Donald Trump over the issue, and to recognize that even if the European countries do not formally withdraw from the Iranian nuclear agreement, the very fact that the US has withdrawn has already led numerous companies to decide that they do not want to risk secondary US sanctions, and are therefore pulling out of Iran.

Netanyahu’s argument is that the Europeans should now use this as leverage with the Iranians to pressure them on the ballistic missile issue, and about their activities is the region.

Netanyahu’s clarion call at the UN last September was “fix or nix” the Iranian deal. His message to the Europeans – a message that came out clearly in the nearly 45-minute news conference Tuesday evening in Paris with Macron – is that the US withdrawal has essentially nixed the deal, and that now the Europeans should help fix the region by halting Iran in Syria and elsewhere in the Mideast.

And that is why Netanyahu went to Europe.


US envoy to reporters: ‘Keep your mouths shut’ on criticizing Israel over Gaza

June 4, 2018

David Friedman says the media should either figure out how anyone could have better dealt with the border protests or stop its negative coverage of the Jewish state

Times of Israel
David Friedman speaking to the media in Jerusalem on June 4, 2018. (Lior Mizrahi)

David Friedman speaking to the media in Jerusalem on June 4, 2018. (Lior Mizrahi)

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman attacked the media on Monday over what he said was a failure to fairly cover deadly protests on the Gaza border over the past months few months, advising reporters to “keep your mouths shut” unless they know better than Israel how to deal the demonstrations.

Friedman allowed that some criticism of Israel may be legitimate, but said journalists should have worked harder to find alternatives to Israel’s use of lethal force, which has left scores of Palestinians dead, before accusing the state of wrongdoing.

“It would seem to me that in a journalistic environment, where nine out of ten articles that are written about the Gaza conflict are critical of Israel, you’d think that some journalists would take the time and go and meet with experts and try to understand what could have done differently or better before they criticize. And I just haven’t seen it,” Friedman said at an event in Jerusalem organized for foreign media.

Friedman said he had spent a great deal of time speaking to military experts in the US, Israel and other countries about the proper rules of engagement — which he said reporters should have done — and had found that the criticism of Israel was for the most part unfounded.

Palestinians run for cover from tear gas fired by Israeli forces near the border between the Gaza strip and Israel east of Gaza City on May 14, 2018. (AFP/ MAHMUD HAMS)

Hinting that his criticism was mainly geared at The New York Times, Friedman said reporters should “just keep your mouths shut until you figure it out. Because otherwise, all you’re doing is creating impressions that have no basis in fact. They fit a narrative. They fit an opinion. They fit an agenda. But it’s not reporting, because it’s not based on hard, factual analysis.”

Israel has defended its use of tear gas, as well as lethal force, as a means of defending the Gaza border during violent riots which saw tens of thousands of people gather at the fence weekly, starting March 30. The protests peaked on May 14, coinciding with the US moving its embassy to Jerusalem.

Military officials said terrorists used the protests as cover to carry out attacks on troops or try to damage or infiltrate across the border. Most of the over 110 people killed were member of Hamas or other terror groups, according to Israel and Gazan sources.

A Palestinian uses a slingshot during clashes with Israeli forces along the border with the Gaza Strip, east of Gaza City, on May 18, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

Criticism of Israel renewed on Friday after a Gazan medic was shot and killed while apparently trying to help wounded protesters during a border demonstration. The IDF said it was investigating the case.

Friedman said experts had told him tear gas, water cannons and other nonlethal means of crowd dispersal would not have been effective during the weeks of riots, but did not provide more detail.

“If what happens isn’t right, what is right? What do you use instead of bullets?” he asked rhetorically.

The US envoy, who has been criticized for hawkish views closely mirroring those of Israel’s right-wing government, said the last several weeks had seen “lots and lots of criticism of Israel” in the media.

Israeli forces take position near the border between the Gaza strip and Israel east of Gaza City on May 14, 2018. (Thomas COEX/AFP)

“Some of it even may be legitimate. I think the State of Israel itself hasn’t concluded its own internal inquiries into what happened. Maybe there are things they could have done better. I am sure there’s always things you could do better,” he allowed, adding: “Nobody has identified, with all the criticism Israel’s gotten, nobody has identified the less lethal means by which Israel could have defended itself during the last four weeks. Nobody.”

Friedman said Israel had performed as best it could under what he described described as an unprecedented situation.

“Who did this better in some other circumstances? Where is the other case where 40,000 people rush the border under the cover of burning tires, with Molotov cocktails, pistols, kites painted with swastikas, starting fires everywhere — fires that are still burning today?” Friedman said.

“Where did that happen in some other place, where the people rushing the border were committed to killing the citizens on the other side, and somebody did it better? Where is the manual that says, when this happens, you do this, this and this, and you can avoid the loss of human life or bodily injury?”

Without this comparative analysis, “all the reporting is completely superficial,” Friedman said.

‘No democracy without free press’

During his speech, Friedman, a former bankruptcy lawyer, also had some good words for the media, hailing the First Amendment of the US Constitution and saying a free press was vital to a functioning democracy, even if it attacks positions he holds dear.

“We don’t have a democracy without a free press. It’s simply impossible to do that,” he said. “Criticism is fair game. It’s what I would expect and what I appreciate,” he added.

The comment seemed to contrast with some of those made by his boss, US President Donald Trump, who has recommended cracking down on media freedoms and dismissed critical reporting as “fake news.”

Having to grapple with the competing requirements of accuracy and speed was not a valid excuse for sloppy journalism, Friedman said Monday. While everybody is entitled to their own opinion, not everybody is entitled to their own facts, he said.

“And the facts do matter. If you get the facts wrong, there ought to be some recognition and some accountability,” he said.

“And as long as there isn’t, I think people will continue to feel comfortable with getting it first and getting it wrong. Because if you’re getting it first and you’re getting it wrong, and there’s no price to pay, you’ll do it over and over again.”