Posts Tagged ‘IDF’

Israeli aircraft said to destroy spying device in southern Lebanon

October 15, 2018

Lebanese media reports ‘heavy overflights’ by Israeli drones near the Litani river; no comment from IDF

The border fence between Israel and Lebanon with the southern Lebanese village of Blida in the background, from the Israeli kibbutz of Yiftah, on January 30, 2018. (AFP Photo/Jalaa Marey)

The border fence between Israel and Lebanon with the southern Lebanese village of Blida in the background, from the Israeli kibbutz of Yiftah, on January 30, 2018. (AFP Photo/Jalaa Marey)

Israeli drones struck a spy device in southern Lebanon on Sunday night, according to Lebanese media reports.

The Naharnet news site said the explosion was heard in the southern town of Zrariyeh, near the Litani River, amid “heavy overflights” by Israeli drones.

Lebanese Armed Forces were called to the scene and opened an investigation into the incident, the report said.

Media reports on Sunday also said that Israeli war planes were spotted over the southern cities of Marjayoun and Tyre.

It was unclear whether the alleged spying device was Lebanese or Israeli.

There was no comment from the Israel Defense Forces.

Lebanese officials have claimed to find Israeli listening devices in Lebanon before, including one last year, two in 2015, and two in 2010 that were found hidden in rocks.

Israel withdrew from the so-called South Lebanon Security Belt — a strip of land several kilometers wide along the Lebanese-Israeli border on Lebanon’s side — in a hastily organized operation in May 2000, after maintaining a presence there since the First Lebanon War in 1982.

Last year, the Lebanese army claimed it uncovered two separate Israeli spying networks operating in the country.

In January 2017, security officials said they had apprehended members of an Israeli spy cell made up of a Lebanese citizen, a Palestinian refugee, and two Nepalese women. In May, Lebanese media reported that an Iraqi man was arrested and confessed to providing Israel information about the Lebanese army and government officials.

Dov Lieber contributed to this report.


Iron Dome said to intercept Gaza rocket amid reports of Israeli military activity nearby

October 11, 2018

No immediate reports of injuries, damage as residents of the area say they heard heard explosions, saw signs the air defense system was used

Rocket sirens blared in Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip on Thursday morning, amid reports of Israeli military activity near the border of the coastal enclave.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage caused by a rocket or mortar shell strike.

Image result for Iron Dome air defense system, firing, photos

Iron Dome air defense system

Residents of the town of Netivot, some 10 kilometers (6 miles) from Gaza, reported hearing explosions and seeing the types of trails left behind by the Iron Dome air defense system.

The Israel Defense Forces said it was investigating what triggered the alarm system.

Earlier in the morning, the Israeli military shut down a number of roads adjacent to the Gaza Strip for “security activities,” but it would not elaborate on the nature of its operation.

The sirens sounded at 10:07 a.m. in the Sha’ar Hanegev and Sdot Negev regions of southern Israel, northeast of Gaza.



Gaza Border Violence Divides Israel’s Top Cabinet Members — “The policy Defense Minister Liberman is leading is weak”

October 2, 2018

Defense minister Avigdor Liberman shoots back at Education Minister Naftali Bennett for criticism of army’s response to spiraling protests, says, ‘As far as I’m concerned the man has been deleted’

Bennett said Liberman’s policy was insufficiently aggressive toward the Hamas terror group — “The policy Liberman is leading is weak”

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman visits at the Quneitra Crossing on the Israeli-Syrian border in the Golan Heights, September 27, 2018. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman visits at the Quneitra Crossing on the Israeli-Syrian border in the Golan Heights, September 27, 2018. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman declared Tuesday that he had “deleted” Education Minister Naftali Bennett from his mind after the latter accused him of failing to resolve ongoing violence along the border with the Gaza Strip.

“Bennett doesn’t care — neither about education nor about security. As far as I’m concerned the man has been deleted; starting tomorrow he simply does not exist,” Liberman told Israel Radio.

Bennett, the chairman of the Jewish Home party, had on Sunday slammed Liberman’s policy on Gaza, saying it was insufficiently aggressive toward the Hamas terror group, which rules the Strip.

“Bennett is brazenly lying,” Liberman said. “What softness is he talking about? Just last Friday seven rioters were killed and over 500 injured and not a single Israeli was hurt.”

He made similar comments in interviews Tuesday morning with Army Radio and the Yedioth Ahronoth daily newspaper.

A Palestinian protester throws a stone toward Israeli forces during clashes along the border fence, east of Gaza City on September 28, 2018. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

“The education minister doesn’t say a word about education and so it is clear that he doesn’t care about education or security,” he said. “There is a real dispute here — that will remain with us as we enter the election process — between a bizarre, sleepwalking, messianic right, and a responsible right. The question [is] whether we want a Jewish state or a bi-national state.”

Bennett, in response, told Army Radio that Liberman’s approach to Gaza would only elicit more violence from Hamas.

Bennett urged the IDF to adopt a policy of shooting directly at Gazans who launch incendiary balloons into Israel. Palestinians have sent thousands of such devices into Israeli territory over the past few months, starting fires that have burned thousands of acres of agricultural land and nature reserves, and causing millions of shekels in damage. The IDF has so far occasionally fired rockets close to balloon launcher cells or destroyed their vehicles and other infrastructure.

“The person responsible for security is Defense Minister Liberman,” Bennett said. “For the last half-year I have clearly said that the policy Liberman is leading is weak. The policy toward Gaza is a leftist policy that will ultimately lead to a full-on flareup. The situation will be unbearable.”

Education Naftali Bennett speaks to press prior to the weekly cabinet meeting, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, September 16, 2018. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL/Flash90)

Tens of thousands of Palestinians protested along the Gaza border fence Friday, throwing hand grenades, bombs, rocks, and burning tires in weekend clashes with IDF troops, who responded with tear gas, live fire, and airstrikes.

Seven Palestinians were killed, including a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old, and at least 210 Palestinians were wounded, including an 11-year-old boy, who was in serious condition, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. It said 90 of the wounded were hit by live fire.

The IDF said Saturday that the previous day’s protests were the worst in two months. More than 100 improvised bombs and grenades were hurled at Israeli troops during the riots, according to the army. The army released footage of the violent demonstrations, showing attempts to breach and sabotage the security fence.

The protest followed the breakdown of indirect talks with Israel over a ceasefire and warnings that the terror group Hamas, which rules Gaza, was gearing up for another conflict.

Hamas, which actively calls for Israel’s destruction, has increased the pace of rioting and demonstrations against Israel, and created new units tasked with sustaining tensions along the border fence including during nighttime and early morning hours.

Opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni of the Zionist Union faction said that in the spat between Liberman and Bennett, “both are correct.”

“The government and the messianic right have no solution for security, and the security of southern Israel is deteriorating out of control,” Livni tweeted.


Hamas says Abbas is pushing Israel to launch a new war in Gaza

September 30, 2018

Hamas delegation in Cairo for talks reconciliation deal and a possible long-term truce with Israel, as PA leader vows to impose further sanctions on the Strip

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Israeli Merkava tanks drive near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip as they return from the Hamas-controlled Palestinian coastal enclave on August 5, 2014, after Israel announced that all of its troops had withdrawn from the Gaza Strip. (photo credit: AFP/THOMAS COEX)

Israeli Merkava tanks drive near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip as they return from the Hamas-controlled Palestinian coastal enclave on August 5, 2014, after Israel announced that all of its troops had withdrawn from the Gaza Strip. (photo credit: AFP/THOMAS COEX)

A senior Hamas official on Sunday accused Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas of fomenting violence in the region and pushing Israel toward a new war in the Gaza Strip.

“Abbas wants to control everything in Gaza, war is good for him,” Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior leader in the Gaza Strip, told Arab media. Al-Zahar is in Cairo as part of a large delegation from Gaza taking part in talks to reach a Palestinian reconciliation deal and a possible long-term truce with Israel.

The talks have been deadlocked in recent months and Hamas blames Abbas who has imposed a series of crippling sanctions on the Strip in a bid to force Hamas to give up control. The terror group has ruled Gaza since it ousted Abbas’s rival Fatah faction in 2007.

Al-Zahar charged that the PA, together with several unnamed Arab states, were trying to persuade Israel to launch a wide-scale campaign in Gaza.

File: Chief Fatah negotiator for reconciliation talks Azzam al-Ahmed, left, sits next to Hamas leaders Moussa Abu Marzoug, center, and Mahmoud Al Zahar, right, during a news conference in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, April 27, 2011. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Recent days have seen a fresh upsurge in violence and al-Zahar said the border violence would not subside until they achieved their goals.

“The Marches of Return will not end, no matter how much pressure they put on us,” he said.

Firefighters on Sunday worked to extinguish two blazes in southern Israel sparked by airborne incendiary devices launched from the Gaza Strip and police sappers defused another fire balloon on a highway, as a weekend of violent border clashes was followed by relative quiet.

Since Sunday morning, firefighters have combated two fires caused by incendiary balloons near Israeli towns along the Gaza Strip, a spokesman for the Israeli Fire and Rescue Services said.

Israeli firefighters arrive to a field set on fire by an incendiary balloon launched by Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, Monday, September 3, 2018 near the Gaza border. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

The Hamas delegation, reportedly lead by Hamas deputy leader Salah al-Arouri, arrived in Cairo on Saturday. The Gaza officials were scheduled to meet with Egyptian intelligence officials throughout the day for deliberations.

Meanwhile, a top Hamas official on Saturday warned Abbas against imposing additional “sanctions” on the coastal territory.

Kahlil al-Hayya, a senior member of the Hamas political bureau, told Gaza newspaper Felesteen that the ruling terrorist group would respond with a “free hand” against any additional measures imposed by the rival Ramallah government headed by Abbas.

Image result for Khalil al-Hayya, photos
Kahlil al-Hayya

Hayya did not elaborate what the response from Hamas might entail, but stressed that Abbas needed to take full responsibility for Gaza.

The remarks came in response to Abbas’s speech to the UN General Assembly earlier this week in which he threatened to “give up responsibility” for Gaza if Hamas refused to respond positively to Egyptian efforts to broker a reconciliation deal between the rival Palestinian factions.

Palestinians follow PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s speech at the annual UN General Assembly, on a large screen in the West Bank city of Ramallah, September 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

Abbas has slashed funding to Gaza and cut salaries of PA employees there to pressure Hamas into handing over the territory, making it increasingly difficult for Hamas to govern. Hamas fears Abbas may reduce funding for health care and other services for Gazans.

Further cuts to Gaza’s budget are seen as a move that could worsen the Strip’s already dire humanitarian situation and deepen a rift between the rival groups.

During his speech on Thursday, Abbas indicated he would cut the remaining PA budgets allocated for Gaza if Hamas refused to hand over control of the coastal territory.

“There is an agreement between Hamas and us. We abided by it and our Egyptian brothers know that, but they have not abided by it. Therefore, from now on, we will not bear any responsibility [for Gaza]. I ask you to understand that. We will not bear any responsibility if they insist on rejecting agreements,” he said, referring to an Egyptian-brokered agreement Hamas and Fatah signed last year.

Hamas and Fatah signed an agreement to bring the West Bank and Gaza under the PA’s authority in October 2017, however the rival parties failed to implement deal.

A Palestinian woman walks past a closed health center run by United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) during a strike of all UNRWA institutions in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on September 24, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

US President Donald Trump’s administration has cut more than $500 million in aid to the Palestinians, including ending all support for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, sparking a budget crisis.

Last week, the World Bank warned the Gaza Strip’s economy was in “free fall.” The report said Gaza’s economy shrunk by six percent in the first quarter of 2018 “with indications of further deterioration since then,” it said.

The bank said one in two Gazans now lives below the poverty line and that unemployment is running at 53 percent. More than 70% of young people are jobless, it said.

UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov said this week the failure to implement the Hamas-Fatah unity agreement was a key factor behind the Strip’s worsening humanitarian situation.

The Palestinian delegation traveled to Cairo a day after the Gaza health ministry said seven Gazans, including 2 boys, were killed in clashes with Israeli troops along the border.

The IDF said about 20,000 Palestinians took part in violent protests, spread out among a few locations along the Gaza security fence. In several instances they threw hand grenades and explosive devices at soldiers. In two cases IAF aircraft carried out strikes against grenade throwers, the army said, noting there were no injuries to IDF forces.

Egypt has also been trying to broker a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that would see an end to the ongoing border protests in exchange for loosening the blockade on the coastal territory.

However, those talks have stalled as well and the riots along the border have gone from a weekly event to nightly protests.


Hamas prepares for war as Gaza situation worsens – report

September 29, 2018

Failure of reconciliation with Abbas’s Fatah group and humanitarian crisis fueled by funding cuts to UNRWA believed to be pushing terror group to the brink

File: Masked operatives from the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas terror group, ride vehicles as they commemorate the 30th anniversary of their group, in Gaza City, December 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

File: Masked operatives from the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas terror group, ride vehicles as they commemorate the 30th anniversary of their group, in Gaza City, December 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Hamas is preparing for war, Israel security forces have reportedly said, bolstering its forces significantly over the past few weeks, as the humanitarian crisis in Gaza worsens and reconciliation talks with the Palestinian Authority have broken down.

That assessment is not new, IDF sources told the Haaretz daily Friday, having warned repeatedly that the situation is more likely to escalate than to calm down. However, recently the army noted that the terror group appears to actively be readying itself for a limited conflict with Israel. It is only a question of when Hamas will decide to go to war, the paper said.

Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and actively calls for Israel’s destruction, has increased the pace of rioting and demonstrations along the border with Israel, and created new units tasked with sustaining the friction along the border fence including during nighttime and early morning hours.

The Times of Israel reported on Thursday that almost every evening, thousands of Gazans now gather for violent demonstrations, at the Erez crossing and elsewhere, as part of Hamas’s attempts to signal to Israel that it wants an economic solution to the Gaza Strip.

The Egyptian efforts to reconcile Hamas and Fatah have not borne fruit at this stage, and the possibility of a long-term ceasefire with Israel has apparently fallen off the agenda, Thursday’s analysis by ToI’s Avi Issacaharoff said. The economic situation has once again reached an unprecedented low, stoking fury among Gazans that is being directed against Israel, the PA, Hamas, and even Egypt.

Hamas recently conducted safety drills to protect civilians in the event of war, and continues its military drills — two further signs that it is preparing for war, Haaretz reported.

Israeli officials believe there are two main causes pushing Hamas toward military escalation, the newspaper report said: The failed reconciliation talks with PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, which controls the West Bank and has maintained a chokehold on Gaza’s finances in a bid to pressure Hamas to cede control of the territory, and the ongoing humanitarian crisis of the enclave under the Israeli-Egyptian blockade, made worse in recent months by the US slashing its aid to the PA and its funding for UNRWA, the UN body responsible for the welfare of Palestinian refugees, which funds schools and major relief projects in the Strip. Israel maintains the blockade to prevent Hamas importing weaponry.

Palestinian protesters gather during a demonstration along the Israeli border fence east of Gaza City on September 21, 2018 as smoke plumes billow from burning tires in the background. (AFP/Said Khatib)

IDF officials believe Abbas is now actively pushing Hamas to go to war against Israel, according to Friday’s Haaretz report. Reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas broke down in recent weeks over Abbas’s insistence that the terror group hand over all its weapons to the PA’s security forces. It has also demanded that Hamas return all public lands taken in Gaza, that Fatah members be returned to their governmental roles in the coastal enclave, and the end of Hamas’s religious legal regime. This list of demands seems hand-picked to ensure Hamas continues to refuse them, thus stymieing any progress toward reconciliation.

Abbas, in his speech to the UN General Assembly on Thursday, directed some of his toughest comments at Hamas, including an explicit threat to “remove all responsibility” from Gaza if Hamas does not agree to reach a deal with the PA.

Israeli officials also believe Hamas views war as a solution to Gaza’s humanitarian crisis, which is putting growing pressure on the group from the disgruntled residents of Gaza, the Haaretz report said. The crisis, driven by sky-high unemployment as well as severe shortages of fuel and potable water over many hours each day, is set to worsen as UNRWA struggles to find donors to replace the US. About half of the population relies on food provided by UNRWA. Some 300,000 students study in UNRWA-funded schools, which employ some 18,000 teachers and staff, making the organization one of Gaza’s major employers. By October there will be no budget left for much of this activity, Haaretz said.

Without funding for UNRWA, Israeli officials said according to the paper, war is all but inevitable.

The population of Gaza is beginning to lose faith in Hamas, and Israeli security sources say that if free elections were held today in the Strip the terror group would lose its power, according to the report. Therefore Hamas is attempting to redirect public anger at Fatah and Israel.

A Palestinian official in the Strip told The Times of Israel this week that for the residents of the coastal enclave, a war between Israel and Hamas “is not a question of if, but when.”


Scarred by Previous Wars, Israeli Army’s Ground Forces Struggle to Keep Up

September 1, 2018

The army vowed to address the limitations exposed in Lebanon and Gaza, but is it ready for a ground maneuver deep in enemy territory? ■ Why Nasrallah, an avid Haaretz reader, is worried

A paratrooper brigade training, last year.
A paratrooper brigade training, last year. Eliyahu Hershkowitz

On Thursday, June 12, 2014, the members of the IDF General Staff gathered for an evening of “team-building” in the Kirya headquarters in Tel Aviv. The General Staff forum, headed by then-Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, heard to a lecture by Prof. Yoram Yovell titled “Between Body and Soul.”

Later that night, after the generals had all gone home, the IDF received the first report, still vague, about an incident in the West Bank. The picture became clear only the next morning. Three youths, yeshiva students in Gush Etzion, were hitchhiking and were picked up by a car driven by Palestinians masquerading as Israelis. The youths, whose bodies were found weeks later west of Hebron, were murdered by the kidnappers, members of a Hamas cell from Hebron.

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The IDF ended the summer of 2014 with scars to both its flesh and spirit, says one of the participants at the General Staff get-together that evening. “From the minute dozens of those released in the Gilad Shalit deal in the West Bank were rearrested, we were already on the slippery slope.” The worsening tensions with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, mostly concerning the tunnel the group dug near the Kerem Shalom border crossing, led to the blow-up – Operation Protective Edge – which began in the second week of July and ended this week, four years ago.

Protective Edge exposed the limitations of the army’s capabilities on the ground. This was the last link, for now, in the not very illustrious chain that began with the Second Lebanon War in 2006, if not earlier. After the failure and disappointment in Lebanon, the IDF announced widespread steps to fix the problems. The units returned to training much more seriously and reservists received new equipment.

But the change wasn’t deep enough after the war in Lebanon: The ground forces remained way down at the bottom of the list of the IDF’s priorities, while the political leadership remained doubtful about its ability to conduct maneuvers on the ground deep inside enemy lines during a war.

This was quite clear during the three operations the IDF has conducted since then in the Gaza Strip. During Operation Cast Lead at the turn of 2009, only a symbolic ground action was carried out, whose main goal was to prove to the enemy (and the Israeli public) that the army had rehabilitated itself from the trauma of the Second Lebanon War. In the next operation, Pillar of Defense in 2012, large numbers of reserve forces were called up but Israel tried to achieve a cease-fire after only a week of aerial attacks. And in Protective Edge, the IDF’s mission was limited to dealing with the attack tunnels, at a distance of no more than 1.5 kilometers inside the Gaza Strip.

Four years since the end of the last military operation, the doubts remain. What is the real state of the ground forces units? Is there a chance to close the gap between their effectiveness and that of the Air Force, intelligence branch and the technological units? And do the repeated public statements made by the army’s top brass about the necessity of ground maneuvers deep inside enemy territory during wartime have any value?

This debate has become much more important and loaded recently, given the coincidental timing of a number of unrelated events: IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot’s term is ending in a few months and the race is on to choose his successor; the harsh criticism leveled by the outgoing IDF ombudsman on the ground forces’ lack of readiness for war; and the ambitious and resource-filled plan “IDF 2030,” whose main principles were presented this month by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Are Netanyahu and Eisenkot on same wavelength?

When Eisenkot entered the chief of staff’s office back in February 2015, he found the ground forces in rather bad shape. As someone who had been the deputy chief of staff under Gantz during Protective Edge, it seems he was not surprised. The criticism that only a few individuals in the General Staff dared to express at the end of the fighting in Gaza became almost a consensus a few months later:

Reuven Rivlin, Benjamin Netanyahu, Avigdor Lieberman and Lieutenant-General Gadi Eizenkot attend a graduation ceremony of new Israeli army officers at a base near Mitzpe Ramon, Israel, June 20, 2018.
Reuven Rivlin, Benjamin Netanyahu, Avigdor Lieberman and Lieutenant-General Gadi Eizenkot attend a graduation ceremony of new Israeli army officers at a base near Mitzpe Ramon, Israel, June 20, 2018. Amir Cohen/Reuters

During Protective Edge, the IDF failed in suppressing the rocket and mortar fire from the Gaza Strip; the Air Force did not have enough precise intelligence about Hamas targets; the level of preparedness of the various units to carry out their missions, and first and foremost dealing with the tunnels, whose importance increased during the fighting, was too low; and the use of the forces on the ground during the fighting suffered from a lack of creativity.

In a document distributed throughout the military a month after his appointment, in preparation for the composing of the multi-year Gideon plan for the IDF, the new chief of staff wrote: “A deep change is needed in the IDF to carry out its missions.” Eisenkot asserted that the problems in the IDF did not end with questions about the leadership and values, but reflected a much deeper professional crisis within the ground forces. He found an army that had gotten fat in the all the wrong places in the decade after the Second Lebanon War. A large army that was not focused on its principle missions and had not undergone the necessary structural changes.

Gideon included a number of unprecedented changes. Eisenkot’s multi-year plan was not just a long shopping list of inflated requirements. It identified central discrepancies and tried to deal with them, with Eisenkot personally overseeing from up close the pace of implementation of his instructions.

The plan’s focus for the ground forces was on missions needed for a decisive victory on the ground. The updated version of the document on the IDF’s strategy, which was released in April this year, stated: “The operation of the forces will combine the physical and softer capabilities in all dimensions of the war, including: Rapid and lethal maneuvering to the objectives viewed by the enemy as valuable, multi-dimensional fire … and actions in the dimension of information, such as cyber [warfare] and awareness.”

The document differentiates between two approaches to operating the forces: The decisive victory approach and the approach of prevention and influence. As for decisive victory, the document states that during fighting according to this approach: “The military force will be used for attack whose goal is to move the war into the enemy’s territory as quickly as possible.” The IDF will prepare for attack in one or more regions, based on an “immediate and simultaneous integrated strike” that will include a “maneuvering endeavor with crushing capability – survivable, quick, lethal and flexible” alongside “wide-scale precise fire based on high-quality intelligence.”

Eisenkot’s unusual decision to release the document to the public, the first of its kind ever published, reflected an attempt to hold a public dialogue with the government and security cabinet. According to MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid), the chairman of the Knesset Subcommittee on Security Preparedness and Maintenance, Eisenkot is “basically telling them: In 2006 and in 2014, the political and military leadership were completely paralyzed as a result of the fears of the expected casualties in a ground maneuver. The result was that the operation lasted until in the end it was decided on a limited maneuver, which was conducted in an incorrect manner and achieved nothing. Eisenkot’s public message is: I am preparing the ground forces for a quick and lethal maneuver and you will have to decide whether to use it within a short time after war breaks out.”

But the report produced by Shelah’s subcommittee, which was released in September 2017, hinted at disparities between Eisenkot’s vision and its full implementation. The report states that Eisenkot has laid down the correct directions but equipping and building the forces is proceeding at too slow a pace. It seems the subcommittee was referring in part to the scope of the procurement plans for active defense, such as the Trophy armored protection system for tanks and armored personnel carriers, and the large gap between the regular army’s capabilities and that of some of the reserve brigades.

This criticism is all the more acute in light of the debate over future defense budgets. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman presented a request last year for a budgetary supplement of about 13 billion shekels ($3.6 billion), based on changes in the challenges facing the IDF – including the Iranian presence in Syria and the improved accuracy of the missiles in Hezbollah’s hands – along with the Defense Ministry’s new interpretations of previous agreements reached with the Finance Ministry.

Netanyahu, in a meeting of the security cabinet held two weeks ago, went even further. The strategic threats require setting the defense budget as a fixed percentage of the GDP, he said. Considering the optimistic economic growth rates he forecasts, about 3 percent a year, Netanyahu wants to add tens of billions of shekels to the defense budget over the next decade. He listed a number of main areas where he thinks money is needed, including precision weaponry, missile and rocket interception systems, both defensive and offensive cyber-warfare tools, completing the construction of the country’s border fences and improving protection for the home front. None of the areas presented by Netanyahu as candidates for increased spending as part of the strategic plan directly concern the ground forces, and large sums were included for implementing these capabilities in the multi-year Gideon plan.

Shelah says that Netanyahu “views the IDF as a boxer in a 15-round fight: Heavy, strong and well protected. This does not correspond with the principle of shortening the period of the fighting, which appears in the IDF’s strategy document. [Netanyahu] did not present a security doctrine, only a shopping list that does not come together in real capabilities. The large amount of money that will be spent on it will prevent the closing of the gaps remaining in the ground forces’ capabilities, and will turn what has already been invested into a white elephant. This is how we may well find ourselves without the ability for decisive victory, not in one way and not in any other way.”

The Gideon plan was designed for a specific direction and even though it was never fully implemented, it aspired to rehabilitate the ground forces. In his recent statements, it seems Netanyahu has made a U-turn: A battle of fire from far away, a great deal more than just maneuvering on the ground. Netanyahu’s ideas are not synchronized with what the General Staff has presented, not in the goals of the war and not in the view of how the military is used: stand-off attacks from a distance as opposed to contact up close.

“Lacking a decision, our view on the question of what we want to achieve in the war and how to do so, we may well invest many billions without them becoming a critical mass that will create a concrete achievement. Netanyahu is talking about tens of billions [of shekels] but every shekel we spend now without deciding first what we want, will be wasted,” warns Shelah.

Israeli soldiers prepare for combat in the Gaza Strip at an army deployment along the border between Israel and the Hamas-controlled Palestinian territory on July 29, 2014.
Israeli soldiers prepare for combat in the Gaza Strip at an army deployment along the border between Israel and the Hamas-controlled Palestinian territory on July 29, 2014.Jack Guez/AFP Photo

Hezbollah chief claims terror group stronger than Israeli military, ready for war

August 15, 2018

In speech marking 12 years since Second Lebanon War, Hassan Nasrallah also says Iran sanctions won’t affect support for his organization

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah delivers a broadcast speech through a giant screen, during a rally marking the 12th anniversary of the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war, in Beirut, Lebanon, on August 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah delivers a broadcast speech through a giant screen, during a rally marking the 12th anniversary of the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war, in Beirut, Lebanon, on August 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

BEIRUT — The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement said Tuesday that US sanctions against Iran and his Iran-backed group will not have major effects on them and will not lead to regime change in Tehran.

In a televised address marking the 12th anniversary of the end of the 34-day Second Lebanon War with Israel in 2006, Hassan Nasrallah also boasted that his forces were stronger than the Israeli army and prepared for a fresh war with Israel.

Nasrallah claimed that the Trump administration was “mistaken” in thinking sanctions would lead to riots in Iran that would topple the regime, or even force Iran to reduce support for activity abroad.

Last week the US began restoring sanctions that had been lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which President Donald Trump withdrew from in May. The administration says the renewed sanctions are meant to pressure Tehran to halt its support for international terrorism, its military activity in the Middle East and its ballistic missile programs.

“Iran has been facing sanctions since the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979,” Nasrallah said. “He (Trump) is strengthening the sanctions but they have been there since 1979 and Iran stayed and will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the victory of its revolution.”

The Hezbollah leader spoke to thousands of supporters gathered at a rally south of Beirut, where they watched his speech on giant screens as it was broadcast from a secret location.

Iran has been backing Hezbollah financially and militarily since the terror group was established after Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon.

Iranian protesters in central Tehran on June 25, 2018. (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)

A number of protests have broken out against the Iranian regime for the country’s precarious economic situation, with demonstrators calling for an end to military adventurism and financial support for terror groups abroad.

According to the US, Iran sends Hezbollah an estimated $700 million a year.

Speaking about the restoration of the sanctions by Washington, Nasrallah said: “I can tell you and I have accurate information they are building dreams, strategies and projects that Iran will head toward chaos and the regime will fall. This is illusion, this is imagination and has nothing to do with reality.”

He added that Hezbollah is not scared of a possible war with Israel.

“No one should threaten us with war and no one should scare us by war,” he said, adding: “We are not scared or worried about war and we are ready for it and we will be victorious.”

A picture taken on July 26, 2017 during a tour guided by the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah movement shows members of the group manning an anti-aircraft gun mounted on a pick-up truck in a mountainous area around the Lebanese town of Arsal along the border with Syria. (AFP PHOTO / ANWAR AMRO)

“Hezbollah might not be the strongest army in the Middle East but it is certainly stronger than the Israeli army,” Nasrallah said, according to Lebanese news outlet Naharnet. “Because we have more faith in our cause and greater willingness to sacrifice.”

“The resistance in Lebanon — with its arms, personnel, expertise and capabilities — is stronger than ever,” Nasrallah said.

Most analysts believe Hezbollah has been significantly weakened by years of fighting in Syria to bolster President Bashar Assad. However, Israeli officials say the terror group still has a massive missile arsenal that can threaten much of the country, and that a war will be incredibly damaging to both sides of the Lebanese border.

Nasrallah said Israel would fail to force Hezbollah away from the Syrian Golan border, where Jerusalem fears it and other Iranian proxy groups will set up bases to use for attacks against the Jewish state, and has pushed for Russia to enforce a buffer zone.

“The Israeli enemy, which has been defeated in Syria, is insolently seeking to impose its conditions in Syria, but this will not happen,” he said.


Israel’s Military Prepares to Fight Hezbollah

August 13, 2018

Recognizing unique threats posed by terror groups, Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) drills for reorganization that would dissolve established units into unified fighting force; anti-drone laser also tested

August 13, 2018
Israeli troops take part in an exercise on the Golan Heights in August 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli troops take part in an exercise on the Golan Heights in August 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

The military has field-tested a new fighting method combining infantry, tanks and combat engineering into one unified force, as part of a major military reform meant to streamline the Israel Defense Forces, the army said Sunday.

The method was tested during a drill simulating war in the north against the Hezbollah terrorist group, during which the military also tried out new technologies, including an anti-mortar laser and more accurate artillery.

The restructured unit type was dubbed Tzakach Gideon, a Hebrew acronym that stands for Gideon brigade combat team, named after the Israel Defense Force’s multi-year Gideon Plan, a streamlining effort that the army began rolling out in 2016.

The details of this new organizational style were revealed earlier this year, and it saw its first trial during an exercise on the Golan Heights last week.

The drill saw infantry soldiers from the Golani Brigade, tanks from the 7th Armored Brigade and combat engineering troops from the 603rd Battalion working together, under one unified command. Currently, those different types of units can cooperate with one another, but with a far greater degree of independence.

The proposed change is designed to make the military’s ground forces more efficient and better suited to the types of fighting they are liable to encounter, specifically battles against terrorist groups, as opposed to national armies, officers involved in the project told reporters in February.

Chief among those terrorist groups is Hezbollah, a powerful Iran-backed proxy based in Lebanon that has been fighting in Syria in support of dictator Bashar Assad.

Israel considers the Shiite group to be its primary military threat in the region, and the IDF treats its readiness to face Hezbollah as the metric by which it determines how prepared it is for war.

Israeli tanks take part in an exercise on the Golan Heights in August 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

In addition to the new unit structure, last week’s exercise also tested a number of recently developed technologies, some of which are not yet fully operational.

According to the military, this included: a high-powered laser capable of shooting down incoming mortar shells or drones, known as Gideon’s Shield, or Magen Gidon; a “smart” trigger, which only allows a weapon to be fired when it is locked on its target; an improved night vision system; a powerful radar detection system; communication equipment that gives commander access to up-to-date intelligence; and a number of drones and autonomous vehicles.


Soldiers also tested a new model of precision-guided artillery shells, which are far more accurate than the varieties currently in the IDF’s arsenals.

“There is a tremendous improvement in our capabilities. If we don’t invest in technology, the battlefield will remain a kingdom of uncertainty,” IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot said during a visit to the exercise.

The military’s underlying understanding is that fighting more nimble non-state actors hiding among civilians, as with the Hezbollah terrorist group in southern Lebanon, is fundamentally different than squaring off against formal militaries on a deserted battlefield, and requires the IDF to be more flexible and more precise to avoid civilian casualties.

In addition, new technologies, like drones, require the military to develop techniques and systems to counter these emerging threats.

“We are aware of and monitoring the enemy’s changes, capabilities and developments, and against these things we are taking care to set up capabilties that will always put us two steps ahead of them,” said Col. Roman Gofman, commander of the 7th Armored Division.

“This is the first time that we are seeing a combined brigade fighting team. This is a battle in which tanks, infantry and combat engineering are coming together in a coordinated and synchronized way, where our forces are squaring off against the enemy,” he said.

The new Tzakach Gideon organizational style would have a ground forces brigade made up of at least six battalions, three infantry or armored battalions, one combat engineering battalion, a reconnaissance battalion and an administrative battalion, the IDF said Sunday.

It is expected to take several years before this reorganization is implemented throughout the military, and it will likely face opposition as old units, with decades of history, are dismantled.

“The heritage issue is a headache in and of itself,” a senior IDF Ground Forces officer said earlier this year.

A self-declared leftist wages war on the Palestinian ‘right of return’ — Says it is continuation of war by other means

July 30, 2018

In new book, ex-Labor MK Einat Wilf says the refugee ethos is the biggest obstacle to peace. She blames the international community, the Israeli government and the IDF

Former MK Einat Wilf in Jerusalem, May 29, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Former MK Einat Wilf in Jerusalem, May 29, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Former Labor MK Einat Wilf believes the Palestinians are not ready for peace. They are, in fact, miles away from accepting the idea of dividing the land and are still hoping Israel will soon disappear, she asserts in a new book.

And yet, she insists she’s a leftist.

But the peace camp must sober up, she says, and start realizing that peace will not come as long as the Palestinians cling to their demand to “return” to areas now belonging to Israel.

“If you truly want peace, rather than just feel good about wanting peace — and there are a lot of those — and if you actually understand that at the end of the day they [the Palestinians] are the ones with whom we have to live and share the country, you need to be realistic about where they’re coming from,” she told The Times of Israel during a recent interview in a Jerusalem cafe.

“The War of Return,” which she co-authored with former Haaretz journalist Adi Schwartz, provides an in-depth analysis of the Palestinian refugee problem. It notes that immediately after the 1948 War of Independence, Arab leaders were opposed to the return of those who had left their homes in what had become the State of Israel, as this was considered a tacit recognition of Israeli sovereignty.

But a short while later, Arab leaders changed their strategy and demanded that the “refugees” return to their old homes, Wilf and Schwartz write, citing countless historical documents to prove their point.

The “right of return” was thus formulated clearly “as the continuation of war by other means,” Wilf said.

The War of Independence has never ended, Wilf and Schwartz maintain. Officials at the Palestinian Authority today pay lip service to a two-state solution, but in reality are convinced that masses of “refugees” will soon “return” to their homes in Jaffa and Haifa, ultimately destroying the Jewish state, the book argues.

“The book really comes from the understanding that we were blind — maybe willfully blind — to what they wanted. You can’t make peace with blindness,” Wilf said.

While the issue of refugees is often dismissed as one of the more solvable of the outstanding core issues — Israel could easily admit a “symbolic” number of refugees as a “humanitarian gesture” — Wilf and Schwartz claim that it is actually the hardest nut to crack.

Security arrangements, the status of Jerusalem and the exact delineation of borders are all practical matters to which a solution can be found at the negotiating table. But as long as the Palestinians don’t relinquish the “right of return,” ending the ethos of Palestinians being refugees, peace will remain elusive, they insist.

“This is the core of the conflict,” Wilf said. “Because no other issue reflects more deeply the continued Palestinian, and more broadly Arab, view that Israel is temporary, and that the Jewish presence is not legitimate.”

Palestinians clash with Israeli soldiers in Al-Fawwar refugee camp, south of the West Bank city of Hebron, December 31, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

“The War of Return” was written in Hebrew, but its main target group is foreign diplomats. The international community’s longstanding position on the refugee question — including the support for UNRWA, the UN’s agency for refugees from Palestine — is among the main reasons the Palestinians continue to foster the ethos of return, according to Wilf.

UNRWA, the book contends, perpetuates the notion that the people who left their homes in 1948 and their descendants are refugees, implying that they will “come back” one day.

Palestinians “refugees” are the only ones whose status is handed down to future generations. In 1950, when the agency started, it recognized 750,000 “Palestine refugees,” a number that has grown to over five million.

In this 1948 photo from the UNRWA archive, Palestinian refugees stand outside their tent in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip. (AP/UNRWA Photo Archives)

Until 1998, the Palestinians, backed by the Arab world and the Soviet bloc, were very clear about their intentions: they demanded that all refugees return to what is now Israel and vowed to liberate all of Palestine, Wilf said.

After the fall of the Iron Curtain and their subsequent need for support from the US, the Palestinians changed their rhetoric and made what they call a painful compromise in forgoing the majority of historical Palestine, now merely demanding a state on the territory Israel captured in 1967.

“But what we show in the book is that never ever have they given up the ‘right of return’,” Wilf said. “When you want to have a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, but the ‘right of return’ is holy and non-negotiable, then the only two states you are rooting for are an Arab state in the West Bank and Gaza, and an Arab state to replace Israel.”

Ironically, many people think Israel has destroyed the two-state solution by continuing to build settlements in the West Bank.

“What we’re showing is that the Palestinians have actually never, not for a single moment, accepted the two-state solution. There was never a moment where they said: We’re done, we understand that the other state will never be Arab or Palestinian and that it will belong to the Jewish people.”

Some in the peace camp may agree that the “right of return” is incompatible with the idea of Israel as a Jewish state, but argue that Palestinians are clinging to it merely as a bargaining chip for negotiations, fully aware that no Israeli leader will ever agree to let masses of refugees flood the country.

Einat Wilf during a session of the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem in 2010. (Photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash90)

Einat Wilf addressing the Knesset plenary in 2010. (Abir Sultan/Flash90)

But Wilf, who served in the Knesset between 2010 and 2013, first with Labor and later with Ehud Barak’s breakaway Independence faction, does not buy this argument.

Coddled by a world that vehemently opposes Israeli settlement expansion but never criticizes the demand for return, the Palestinians really believe that hundreds of thousand of “refugees” will soon flood Israeli cities.

“Push came to shove several times. And again and again, ‘return’ was not something to give up when everything else was acceptable,” she said, referring to previous rounds of Israel-Palestinians peace negotiations.

“They have never agreed to anything. Even if it came very close, they have never agreed to any formulation that will close the door on the possibility of return.”

Does Wilf truly believe the Palestinians stick to the right of return because they see it is their doomsday weapon to destroy Israel? Haven’t the Palestinians realized that Israel will never agree to accept a large number of refugees, certainly not enough to end its character as a Jewish state?

“If the Palestinians truly want a state, they don’t sit on their asses and say: No, we’re going to continue suffering many years of statelessness [rather than] to give up something we already know is not going to happen,” she replied. “This makes zero sense, in any context, if that’s what they really want.”

In the 1940s, the Zionists’ drive for sovereignty led them to accept the UN Partition Plan — which meant the creation of a Jewish state, albeit without Judea and Samaria (the proposed state did not include the West Bank) and without Zion (Jerusalem was meant to be a separate entity).

“But there’s not a single Palestinian leader who says: We want sovereignty and we understand that the price of that sovereignty will be that we will not return,” the lawmaker-turned-author said.

Palestinian children ride bikes near the border with Israel on the outskirts of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, as they take part in a cycling race demanding a ‘Right of Return’ for millions to Israel on March 26, 2018. (AFP/Said Khatib)

Some leftists say the Oslo Agreement proved that the Palestinians were ready to compromise and would now accept a state based on the 1967 lines living in peace with Israel. Not this one.

“I find it incredibly hard to believe that a people who changed course in 1988 [with Yasser Arafat’s “Declaration of Independence“], 30 years afterwards doesn’t have a state,” said Wilf, who has a degree in government and fine arts from Harvard and a PhD in political science from Cambridge University. “Because they had several opportunities. If they had really changed course, why not take it?”

Do the Palestinians really believe they can eradicate Israel?

Israel is considered one of the most powerful nations in the world, economically and militarily. The Palestinians can’t really think that they will eradicate Israel, can they?

“Well, that’s the thing. They actually do,” Wilf said resolutely.

Palestinians view the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and discussions about the legitimacy of Zionism as clear indications of Israel’s imminent demise, she posited.

The Romans, the Ottomans, the British — foreign invaders come and go, she said, describing Palestinian thinking about Israel living on borrowed time. The Crusaders lasted only 88 years in Jerusalem, she added, saying Israel had only 17 years left on the Palestinian clock.

“They genuinely believe that,” she insisted.

If a people is constantly strengthened in the belief that they have a “right to return” that is sacrosanct and cannot be renounced, their leaders will never be able to make the compromises needed for peace, she went on.

It’s a book of people who want to get to peace and who realized that technicalities are not the problem. The problem is that the Palestinians have never been prepared for the idea of partition

A national ethos can be changed, but only if leaders prepare their people for it. Former prime minister Ariel Sharon in 2003 shocked his political base when he uttered the word “occupation.” Two years later, Israel left Gaza.

“It’s not that the words end the process. But they create an environment where actions can take place,” Wilf said.

Peace, she continued, will only come when a Palestinian leader faces his people and tells them: Enough. The Jewish people have a historical right here. It’s not superior to ours, it’s not exclusive. But we’re done denying that they have a historical connection to this land. They will not have everything, and we will not have everything. No, we will not have the homes. We can visit them, but they won’t be ours.

“You never heard that speech,” she lamented.

That speech, if it is ever given, won’t mean that peace negotiations are over, she went on. “But at least then you know the Palestinians have reasonable expectations.”

So far, no Palestinian leader has said or written or anything to indicate that they are ready to relinquish their refugee ethos.

“That’s why I said this is a book written by left-wingers. It’s a book of people who want to get to peace and who realized that technicalities are not the problem. The problem is that the Palestinians have never been prepared — not even for a moment — for the idea of partition.”

And yet, as opposed to Yossi Klein Halevi’s “Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor,” her 300-page book is not addressed at the Palestinians.

Rather, it is geared to the international community, which Wilf accuses of perpetuating the Palestinian narrative of being refugees who have a legitimate demand of “return.” (Wilf and Schwartz are currently looking for a publisher for the English translation of the book, by journalist Eylon A. Levy.)

Journalist Adi Schwartz and former MK Einat Wilf (right) in Jerusalem, May 29, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“The Palestinians will dream of Jaffa. You will never get into their heads and take that away — just as nothing will ever make the Jews stop longing for Judea,” she said.

“But just as the international community makes it clear on a daily basis that the Jews cannot have Judea, it should start saying now that the Palestinians will not have a state ranging from the river to the sea.”

The world, which condemns every single announcement of new housing units in the West Bank, never asks the Palestinians to relinquish their demand for return, Wilf charged. “You literally have no problem telling the Jews that they won’t have it all. Why not tell the Palestinians?”

But doesn’t it go without saying that the Palestinians won’t have everything? After all, no one in the international community (except Iran) today disputes that the Western side of the 1967 line belongs to Israel?

Once again, Wilf disagreed.

“When Western governments fund a UN agency with more than a billion dollars every year, feeding the delusion of return, it doesn’t go without saying.”

In fact, Wilf believes the Palestinians interpret the West’s support for UNRWA as support for the right of return. And they are right to do, she insisted: “When 70 percent of people who live in Gaza believe that they are refugees, and are stamped by the UN as such, you cannot fault them for thinking that their right of return is internationally sanctioned.”

Foreign diplomats believe that UN General Assembly Resolution 194, which in 1948 said that “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date,” unambiguously affirms the Palestinians’ right of return.

It doesn’t, Wilf and Schwartz argue at great length in their book.

If the international community were fair it would treat Israeli settlements and Palestinian demands of return in exactly the same manner, Wilf submitted. “Because both of them reflect the maximalist vision. Both of them reflect the idea that a specific people should be in every single inch.”

But the world only cries foul when Israel builds settlements, at the same time as it actively encourages the Palestinian refugee ethos by supporting UNRWA, she said.

Diplomats would counter such arguments by saying that settlement expansion creates facts on the ground that physically impede the implementation of a two-state solution, while the demand of return is intangible.

Wilf doesn’t buy it.

“I believe that the idea of return is more powerful than any house built in the settlements. Because houses are easily demolished,” she offered.

“Israel builds the houses and then demolishes them. Granted, I think it’s stupid to build them in the first place. But the idea [of return] is almost unmovable. The actions taken because of the idea are dramatic. Because of this idea the Palestinians repeatedly reject compromise.”

It is the lingering refugee ethos that causes Palestinians to consider Gaza a temporary place of residence, one they will leave when they are allowed to “return” to Haifa, Jaffa and Beersheba.

“The people dying at the fences [at the Gaza border] demanding return are the consequence of the people who refuse to say that the limit of their political ambition is at the 1967 border,” according to Wilf.

A Palestinian uses a slingshot to throw back a tear gas canister at Israeli forces during clashes along the border east of Gaza City on July 6, 2018. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

“I’m not in favor of building houses [in the settlements]. But Israel has demonstrated that it can uproot the houses. The Palestinians are yet to show that they take one refugee off the roster.”

In her frequent meetings with foreign diplomats, Wilf argues that the refugee issue is “more destructive to peace than the settlements ever were and ever will be,” she said.

“How are we going to get to partition and compromise if the Palestinians seriously think — and they seriously think — that Palestine will be free, from the river to the sea?”

So what should be done?

As a first step, “UNRWA should be dismantled,” Wilf said. The services it provides, mainly in the fields of health care and education, should be transferred to other countries, agencies or providers “that do not tie the provision of the service to the perpetuation of the idea of being a refugee and the illusion of return.”

UNRWA, by virtue of its very mandate, perpetuates the idea that the Palestinians are refugees from Palestine, she said.

“So what we’re saying is: provide the services differently so that the facade is taken away. And then you’re just left with this crazy idea that a middle-class lawyer who was born in Ramallah and lives in Ramallah is a refugee from Palestine. Then you really expose it as the nonsensical notion that it is.”

Palestinian refugees collect aid parcels at a United Nations food distribution center in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on January 21, 2018. (AFP/Said Khatib)

Once the letters “UN” are removed from the refugee ethos, the Palestinians will sooner or later have to realize that the world does not share this view.

“Change takes place when you begin to realize your true power. Right now, they have no sense of their true power because they think that the world is with them,” she said.

UNRWA’s top lobbyist? The Israeli government

Leading Israeli politicians rarely have a good word for UNRWA, but it is no secret that the defense establishment is very much in favor of the agency’s survival, arguing that its services are necessary to prevent a humanitarian disaster that would ultimately end in violence against Israel.

Indeed, Israel is “the number one lobbyist for this organization,” Wilf charged, arguing that both the army and the political leadership are satisfied with the status quo.

One might think that UNRWA and the IDF have a secret treaty to support each other, she joked.

“The military doesn’t care about five years from now. It says, right now UNRWA doesn’t fight me. What it doesn’t understand is that UNRWA is making sure that the Palestinians will have recruits forever to fight Israel,” she said.

“My argument is that militaries don’t understand narratives. Militaries don’t understand that consciousness and words determine action.”

Given her views, foreign diplomats are surprised to hear that Wilf considers herself a leftist, she said.

“I say to them, it’s seriously very simple. East of the Green Line: not us. West of the Green Line: not them.”


Egypt warned Hamas: Israel will go to war ‘in two hours’ if you respond to raids — Egypt threatened to impose sanctions on Hamas

July 22, 2018

TV report says Cairo, when fixing ceasefire late Friday, emphasized to terror group that Israeli strikes were the direct result of IDF soldier’s killing by Gaza sniper

A picture taken on July 20, 2018 shows a fireball exploding in Gaza City during an Israeli airstrike. (AFP / BASHAR TALEB)

A picture taken on July 20, 2018 shows a fireball exploding in Gaza City during an Israeli airstrike. (AFP / BASHAR TALEB)

An unofficial ceasefire reached overnight Friday-Saturday between Israel and Hamas came after Egypt warned the Palestinian terror group that Israel would launch a war “in two hours” if Hamas responded to IDF retaliatory strikes in Gaza following the killing of an IDF soldier by Palestinian sniper fire, Israeli television reported Saturday.

Channel 10 news also reported that Egypt threatened to impose sanctions on Hamas if it does not end the launch of incendiary airborne devices toward Israeli territory.

In return for honoring these conditions, Hamas demanded Israel ease restrictions on the flow of goods into Gaza, the report said. Hamas also called for Egypt to keep open the Rafah border crossing and to press Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to pay the salaries of PA employees in Gaza.

Abbas has been withholding the salaries as part of the split between Abbas’s Fatah party and Hamas, which seized Gaza from Fatah in 2007. A number of reconciliation agreements have failed to bridge the divide between the sides, including an Egyptian-mediated deal reached in October.

The ceasefire announced by Hamas, which Israel has not confirmed, came into effect around midnight Friday as the escalation in violence along the border raised fears of a wider military conflict.

A picture taken on July 20, 2018 shows an Israeli Merkava battle tank patrolling along the border with the Gaza Strip near Kibbutz Nahal Oz in southern Israel. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

The Israel Defense Forces said it struck more than 60 Hamas targets Friday in response to sniper fire from the Strip that killed IDF infantryman Aviv Levi, 21, from Petah Tikva. Staff Sgt. Levi was the first Israeli fatality in fighting along the border since the 2014 war.

A photo released on July 21, 2018, shows Staff Sgt. Aviv Levi of the IDF’s Givati Brigade, who was killed by sniper fire from Gaza on July 20. (Israel Defense Forces)

According to Channel 10, Egypt noted to Hamas that the Israeli strikes were a response to Levi’s killing, and warned that any Hamas response to the strikes would prompt Israel to go to war in two hours.

The Hamas-run health ministry said four Palestinians were killed in Friday’s violence, three of whom were acknowledged as members of the terror group.

While Israel holds Hamas responsible for all violence emanating from Gaza, Hebrew media reported Saturday that defense officials believe the sniper attack that killed Levi was carried out at the initiative of local Hamas operatives and not approved by the terror group’s leadership.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh gestures as he makes a stop on April 9, 2018, at the site of violent “March of Return” protests on the Israel-Gaza border east of Gaza City. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

Channel 10 reported that Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was touring the border at the time of the attack, exposing him to a potential Israeli response.

The ceasefire largely held Saturday, though Israeli tanks twice carried out reprisal strikes at Hamas observation posts.

The army said the first strike was in response to an attempted infiltration of the border fence in northern Gaza, while the second strike came after a flaming balloon launched from the Strip sparked a fire in nearby Kibbutz Nahal Oz.

Firefighters and security teams fight a fire at a cowshed, caused by a kite loaded with an incendiary device from Gaza, at Kibbutz Nahal-Oz on July 21, 2018. (Gili Yaari/FLASH90)

A senior Israeli diplomatic official told Hebrew-language media that Hamas had vowed to halt airborne arson attacks against Israel going forward. But Hamas sources quoted by Israel Radio on Saturday afternoon denied this.

Nonetheless, Saturday saw the fewest launches of arson kites and balloons in weeks.

Times of Israel