Posts Tagged ‘Palestinians’

As Violence Flares, U.S. Efforts For Peace Accord Between Israel and the Palestinians Entering “Rethinking” Phase

July 23, 2018

 Five months ago, Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, began quietly shifting his focus from brokering a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians to tackling the dire humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian enclave of Gaza.

Now, with Israel and the Hamas militants who control Gaza in a fresh cycle of violence that analysts fear could escalate into a full-blown war, Mr. Kushner and his partner in Middle East peacemaking, Jason D. Greenblatt, are threatening to pull the plug on Plan B.

Israeli army operatives in the West Bank, Monday, July 23, 2018

Israeli army operatives in the West Bank, Monday, July 23, 2018

Declaring that no foreign investors are willing to pour money into Gaza during what they label a Hamas-driven conflict, Mr. Kushner and Mr. Greenblatt, the president’s special representative for international negotiations, are rethinking their efforts to rebuild Gaza’s economy as a way of opening the door to a broader peace accord.

“Hamas has driven Gaza to a state of desperation,” Mr. Kushner said on Sunday. “Provocations will not be rewarded with aid.”

By Mark Landler
The New York Times

Hamas leaders, he said, needed to demonstrate “a clear intent for a peaceful relationship with their neighbors” in order for aid and investment money to flow.

Mr. Kushner and Mr. Greenblatt foreshadowed their move in an unusual pair of opinion articles, for CNN and The Washington PostDavid M. Friedman, the American ambassador to Israel, added his name to both articles, while Nikki R. Haley, the American ambassador to the United Nations, joined the CNN column as a fourth co-writer.

The Trump officials laid the blame for the violence on the Hamas leaders, whom they condemned as “corrupt and hateful” and accused of attacking Israel relentlessly over the past few months with “rockets, mortars, terror tunnels, kite bombs and other weapons of aggression.” Palestinians say Israel set the tragedy in motion by imposing a blockade on Gaza intended to turn the people against their leaders.

The clashes threatened to erupt into a wider conflict on Friday when Israeli warplanes struck targets across the Gaza Strip after a Palestinian sniper killed an Israeli soldier along a border fence. Both sides are now honoring a cease-fire, and Israel said on Sunday that it would reopen Gaza’s main commercial crossing if the truce holds for another two days.

Still, the talk of a new Gaza war is another setback for Mr. Kushner and Mr. Greenblatt, two diplomatic newcomers whom Mr. Trump charged with negotiating what he has called the “deal of the century.” After nearly 18 months of work, and more than a dozen trips to the Middle East, the timing for the rollout of their peace plan remains uncertain.

Read the rest:

NYT:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/22/us/politics/kushner-israel-palestinians-gaza.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

See also:

Palestinian Teen Reportedly Killed by Israeli Forces Near Bethlehem

Another Palestinian died in Gaza of wounds sustained during recent confrontations with the Israeli army

https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/palestinians/.premium-palestinian-teen-reportedly-killed-by-israeli-forces-near-bethlehem-1.6295714

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Ocasio-Cortez Predicts “The End of Capitalism”

July 22, 2018

Democratic congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez caused controversy in a recent interview when she said America wasn’t founded on capitalism and called Israel an “occupation” force over the Palestinian territories.

Image result for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, photos

Ocasio-Cortez stunned the political world with her upset primary victory last month over Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), the head of the House Democratic Caucus and a rising star within the party.

The political newcomer — appearing on PBS’s “Firing Line” on Friday — was simply asked, “What is your position on Israel?”

Ocasio-Cortez responded in non-controversial fashion, calling for a two-state solution and Israel’s absolute right to exist.

When pressed to elaborate, Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic socialist, said: “I also think that what people are starting to see, at least, in the occupation of Palestine is just an increasing crisis of humanitarian condition.”

Interviewer Margaret Hoover immediately sought clarification on Ocasio-Cortez’s use of the hot-button word “occupation.”

“Oh I think — what I meant is like the settlements that are increasing in some of these areas and places where Palestinians are experiencing difficulty in access to their housing and homes,” said Ocasio-Cortez.

She chuckled and tried to laugh off her blunder.

“I am not the expert on geopolitics on this issue,” she said. “I just look at things through a human rights lens and I may not use the right words … Middle Eastern politics is not exactly at my kitchen table every night.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center blasted her in a tweet, saying she “knows zero about 3,500 yr relationship of Jewish people to Land of Israel.”

She also got blasted from the left by fellow socialists who thought she was too chummy with Israel.

The leftist Jacobin magazine said the interview was “not good” given her offering “liberal platitudes about a two-state solution.”

She also claimed the United States didn’t have capitalist roots.Earlier in the show, Ocasio-Cortez was asked about the modern economy, and she predicted that capitalism would come to an end someday.

“Capitalism has not always existed in the world and it will not always exist in the world,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “When this country started … we did not operate on a capitalist economy.”

A rep for Ocasio-Cortez could not be immediately reached for comment Monday night.

Ocasio-Cortez, 28, stunned longtime Congressman Joe Crowley for the Democratic nomination in the Bronx/Queens district.

She’s considered a virtual shoo-in to win in the overwhelmingly Democratic district.

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This from July 17, 2018
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https://nypost.com/2018/07/17/ocasio-cortez-ignites-controversy-with-comments-on-israeli-occupation/
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What Does Your Party Want?

NYT:https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/05/opinion/what-does-my-party-want.html

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From:

Progressive Fundamentals: The Dignity of Work

The cascading loss of jobs and the increasing anxiety among those who still have a job is a fundamental threat to basic human dignity. Work itself is fundamental to how human beings realize their destiny in this world. To be deprived of work, to be unable to provide for one’s family and oneself, is to become not only economically vulnerable, but also humanly stunted. Even the threat of job loss is enough to erode a sense of personal dignity and self-worth. Work, whether a paid job or unpaid work in the home, as a caregiver, or in a volunteer capacity is fundamental to human nature and its expression.

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/religion/news/2009/02/24/5614/progressive-fundamentals-the-dignity-of-work/

***

The Heritage Foundation said in a press release recently:

“The Republican Party under Donald Trump is the party of human dignity through work.”

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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

https://www.timesofisrael.com/egypt-said-to-warn-hamas-that-response-to-israeli-strikes-would-spark-war/

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War fears mount despite cease-fire between Gaza and Israel

July 22, 2018

After seven chaotic and violent hours, quiet returned to the Gaza Strip Friday night. Yet on Saturday, civilians in the Palestinian enclave and Israel remained fearful of the potential for a new war.

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A fireball exploding in Gaza City during an Israeli bombardment on July 20A fireball exploding in Gaza City during an Israeli bombardment on July 20

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The fatal shooting by a Palestinian sniper of an Israeli soldier during protests along the border on Friday sparked a widespread wave of Israeli bombing, with three fighters from Hamas killed and dozens of targets struck.

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Israeli firefighters and soldiers attempt to extinguish a fire next to a cow shed, caused by a incendiary balloon launched by Palestinians from the Gaza Strip on July 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

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After intensive indirect mediation by the UN and Egypt, a truce came into force at midnight, yet both populations remained on high alert of another all-out conflict between Israel and Hamas.

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“War is coming. I know that the (Israeli) occupation is carrying out raids to pave the way with their home base,” Somaya Rabaya, 21, from Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza, said.

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While the cease-fire deal included an end to rockets and mortars, it didn’t include a commitment by Hamas to stop what Israeli media have dubbed “terror kites,” a senior Hamas source said.

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In a brief statement on Saturday, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the movement accepted the cease-fire brokered by Egyptian and UN officials and that calm had been restored. Later, the Israeli military announced a return to civilian routine along the volatile border.

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Image may contain: 1 person, standing, outdoor and closeup

FawziBarhoum

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “gravely concerned” about the escalation and called on both sides to step back from the prospect of another devastating conflict. “Any further escalation will endanger the lives of Palestinians and Israelis alike, deepen the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza and undermine current efforts to improve livelihoods,” he said.

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On Saturday morning in Gaza, 17-year-old Wissam was with a number of other youths fitting kites with small bottles full of diesel, while sheltering behind a sandbank for fear of Israeli strikes. “This morning, they bombed a Hamas observation post near here. I was afraid they would hit us with a missile,” he said.

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Teargas canisters fired by Israeli troops fall over Palestinians during a protest at the Gaza Strip's border with Israel, Friday, July 13, 2018 (Wissam Nassar/Flash90)

Teargas canisters fired by Israeli troops fall over Palestinians during a protest at the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, Friday, July 13, 2018 (Wissam Nassar/Flash90)

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Israel says it has no interest is engaging in another war with Hamas, but says it will no longer tolerate the Gaza militant campaign of flying the incendiary devices into Israel.

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On Friday, Israel unleashed an offensive it says destroyed more than 60 Hamas targets, including three battalion headquarters.

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“The attack delivered a severe blow to the Hamas’ training array, command and control abilities, weaponry, aerial defense and logistic capabilities along with additional military infrastructure,” the Israeli military said in a statement, adding that the strikes “will intensify as necessary.”

Arab News, with AP and AFP

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1343141/middle-east

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Saudi Arabia slams ‘racial discrimination’ of Israeli law — “Israel is trying to obliterate the Palestinians”

July 21, 2018

 

Saudi Arabia has slammed a controversial Israeli law as “perpetuating racial discrimination” against Palestinians by defining the country as the nation state of the Jewish people, state media reported.

The law adopted by Israel’s parliament on Thursday also defines the establishment of Jewish communities as being in the national interest and downgrades Arabic from an official language to one with special status.

Citing a Saudi foreign ministry source, the official Saudi Press Agency said late Friday the kingdom “rejects and disapproves” of the new legislation which it argued contradicts international law.

The source called on the international community to “confront such a law and or other Israeli attempts, aimed at perpetuating racial discrimination against the Palestinian people”, SPA reported.

Saudi Arabia said the adoption of the law would also be a barrier to ending the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Image result for King Salman, crown prince, MBS, photos

Earlier this year King Salman reaffirmed Saudi Arabia’s “steadfast” support for the Palestinian cause, after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman signalled a shift in the country’s approach.

Prince Mohammed in April said in a magazine interview that Israelis as well as Palestinians “have the right to have their own land”.

Arab citizens account for some 17.5 percent of Israel’s more than eight million population and have long complained of discrimination.

The Israeli legislation was also condemned by the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, comprised of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Teargas canisters fired by Israeli troops fall over Palestinians during a protest at the Gaza Strip's border with Israel, Friday, July 13, 2018 (Wissam Nassar/Flash90)

Teargas canisters fired by Israeli troops fall over Palestinians during a protest at the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, Friday, July 13, 2018 (Wissam Nassar/Flash90)

Adoption of the law “reflected the regime of racism and discrimination against the Palestinian people,” GCC secretary general Abdullatif al-Zayani was quoted by SPA as saying.

Zayani accused Israel of trying to obliterate the Palestinians’ “national identity and depriving them of their legitimate civil and human rights on their occupied homeland”.

AFP

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Hamas announces ceasefire after killing of Israeli soldier near Gaza sparks strikes — Israel says “The gloves are coming off.”

July 21, 2018

Soldier wounded by sniper fire on Friday dies of his wounds; IDF says three Hamas battalion headquarters destroyed in reprisal raids; 3 projectiles fired at Israel, 2 intercepted

A picture taken on July 20, 2018 shows explosions from Israeli bombardment in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip.
Israeli aircraft and tanks hit targets across the Gaza Strip on July 20 after shots were fired at troops on the border and a soldier was killed, the army said, with Hamas reporting several members of its military wing killed in the latest flare-up in months of tensions.( AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

A picture taken on July 20, 2018 shows explosions from Israeli bombardment in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. Israeli aircraft and tanks hit targets across the Gaza Strip on July 20 after shots were fired at troops on the border and a soldier was killed, the army said, with Hamas reporting several members of its military wing killed in the latest flare-up in months of tensions.( AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

Hamas announced a ceasefire with Israel in the early hours of Saturday morning, after Palestinian snipers shot and killed an IDF soldier on the Gaza border earlier on Friday, sparking the night’s widespread Israeli strikes on Hamas targets across Gaza.

“With Egyptian and UN efforts, [an agreement] was reached to return to the previous situation of ceasefire between the occupation and Palestinian factions,” tweeted Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum.

Israel had no official comment on the ceasefire announcement.

The IDF announced the death of the soldier late Friday night, revealing details on the deadly incident hours after it happened.

“Today, an IDF combat soldier was killed during operational activity near the southern Gaza Strip. During the incident, a terrorist squad shot at IDF troops and the IDF soldier was severely injured. He later succumbed to his wounds,” the army said.

Details of the death were withheld for several hours until the soldier’s family were notified. His name was not immediately published.

Earlier the IDF said Gaza snipers had opened fire on troops, calling it the “most serious incident since the 2014 Gaza war.

In response the Israel Air Force launched a major wave of strikes at Hamas targets across the Gaza Strip on Friday evening.

“At this time our aircraft are carrying out widespread attacks against terror targets belonging to Hamas in the Gaza Strip,” the IDF said, adding that this came after the “serious shooting incident against our forces,” referring to sniper fire at IDF troops during a riot on the border earlier in the day.

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

The army said around 60 targets were hit, including three Hamas brigade headquarters in Zeitoun, Khan Younis and al-Bureij. The army said the headquarters were completely destroyed along with “weapons and ammunition stores, training grounds, observation posts, control centers and the offices of the brigade commander.”

The IDF said it also destroyed factories and machinery for the manufacture of weapons, a drone storage facility, an entry shaft to tunnels and “elements for constructing underground infrastructure.”

There were no reports from Gaza of injuries in the strikes.

“The strikes are continuing,” the IDF said, releasing video of the strikes.

Following the strikes, rocket warning sirens wailed in communities around Gaza. At least two projectiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome system and another fell in an open field, the army said. There were no reports of projectiles falling in Israeli communities or injuries.

The air raids came as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived at the IDF headwaters in Tel Aviv to join Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and the top IDF generals for a security assessment.

The IDF Spokesman Ronen Manelis did not rule out a major ground offensive, but said the IDF was not looking to enter a full-scale conflict. Nonetheless, the fire on the troops at the border was “the most serious incident” since the 2014 conflict, Manelis said, and the IDF’s Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot had spent the years since then ensuring that the army was ready for “whatever response is necessary.”

A picture taken on July 20, 2018 shows smoke plumes rising after an Israeli bombardment in Gaza City.
Israeli aircraft and tanks hit targets throughout the Gaza Strip on July 20 after shots were fired at troops along the border, the army said, with Gaza’s health ministry reporting three Palestinians killed. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

Cabinet minister Tzachi Hanegbi told Hadashot news that Israel was preparing for a massive response on Gaza.

“Last week the air force carried out strikes that were described as the largest since Operation Protective Edge in 2014, we will look back at it after our response now and say it was a joke,” Hanegbi said. “The gloves are coming off.”

“The situation is that Hamas has repeatedly ignored our warnings, both private and public,” Hanegbi said.

Hadashot news analysts said that while Israel’s response would be widespread, it was unlikely to include the entrance of ground forces.

Israelis living close to the Gaza border were told to stay close to bomb shelters, and not to attend synagogues for Friday evening prayers in larger numbers than could be accommodated in protected rooms if Gaza terror groups were to launch rocket attacks.

Reports said that Israeli special forces had been stationed near border communities to prevent possible Hamas attacks through attack tunnels into Israel.

Manelis said that Hamas had spent the past three and a half months carrying out acts of terrorism during mass demonstrations at the border, firing rockets and mortar shells into Israel, and launching arson kites and balloons. Israel had tried to convey to the terror chiefs that it “means business” in demanding that the terrorism stop, but Hamas evidently had not got the message, he told Hadashot TV news.

Manelis noted that the IDF carried out a major drill this week, including simulating a ground incursion to retake control of Gaza, from where Israel withdrew in 2005. Asked whether that was a likely scenario, Manelis said it would be more sensible to wait for the completion of the current military action “over the next few hours.”

He noted that Israel had deployed Iron Dome missile defense batteries in the south and center of the country, and said the IDF was prepared “for all scenarios.”

Times of Israel

https://www.timesofisrael.com/idf-soldier-killed-by-fire-on-gaza-border-sparking-wide-scale-israeli-strikes/

Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.

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Hamas and Israel agree to Gaza ceasefire, says Hamas — Israel’s media says Hamas dragging Israel into war

July 21, 2018

The Islamist rulers of the Gaza Strip have said they reached an agreement with Israel to restore calm. It follows a day of deadly Israeli strikes after a soldier was killed along the border for the first time in years.

    
A fireball exploding in Gaza City during an Israeli bombardment on July 20A fireball exploding in Gaza City during an Israeli bombardment on July 20

The ceasefire agreement was reached early Saturday, a spokesman for Hamas said.

“With Egyptian and United Nations efforts it has been agreed to return to the era of calm between (Israel) and Palestinian factions,” Fawzi Barhoum told the Reuters news agency.

Israeli officials did not immediately comment on the Hamas announcement, the second such agreement in a week. There was no military activity reported in Gaza in the early hours of Saturday.

IDF soldiers take part in an exercise simulating warfare in the Gaza Strip in July 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

IDF soldiers take part in an exercise simulating warfare in the Gaza Strip in July 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

Ceasefire follows day of violence

Israeli forces conducted dozens of airstrikes across the Gaza strip on Friday. Four people were killed — Hamas’ military wing said three of its fighters were among the dead. About 120 Palestinians were reported wounded. Israel said rockets had been fired back into its territory.

Read more: Amid Israel-Hamas violence, Gazans fearful of full-scale war

Teargas canisters fired by Israeli troops fall over Palestinians during a protest at the Gaza Strip's border with Israel, Friday, July 13, 2018 (Wissam Nassar/Flash90)

Teargas canisters fired by Israeli troops fall over Palestinians during a protest at the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, Friday, July 13, 2018 (Wissam Nassar/Flash90)

The strikes came after an Israeli soldier was shot dead by Palestinian fire along the Gaza border, the first to be killed there in active duty since the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, according to an Israeli army spokesman.

Friday’s violence prompted the United Nations envoy for the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, to issue an urgent appeal for calm.

“Everyone in Gaza needs to step back from the brink. Not next week. Not tomorrow. Right now!” he wrote on Twitter, adding “Those who want to provoke Palestinians and Israelis into another war must not succeed.”

Nickolay E. MLADENOV@nmladenov

🔴 Everyone in needs to step back from the brink. Not next week. Not tomorrow. Right NOW! Those who want to provoke and into another war must not succeed.

Months of clashes

Israel has been toughening its response to incendiary kites and balloons launched from Gaza over recent weeks.

Read more: Israel shuts cargo crossing into Gaza amid rising hostilities

At least 149 Palestinians have been killed since protests against the Israeli blockade of Gaza and the strip’s dire humanitarian situation broke out at the end of March. Most of them were shot during demonstrations or clashes along the border.

Hamas and Israel have fought three wars since 2008.

https://www.dw.com/en/hamas-and-israel-agree-to-gaza-ceasefire-says-hamas/a-44770164

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Hamas leaders dragging Israel toward ‘large and painful’ Gaza war

July 20, 2018

In Sderot, defense minister blames Strip’s terrorist rulers for current ‘unreasonable’ situation, says Egypt and UN working to negotiate a return to calm

IDF soldiers take part in an exercise simulating warfare in the Gaza Strip in July 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

IDF soldiers take part in an exercise simulating warfare in the Gaza Strip in July 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Friday indicated that Israel was prepared to go to war if the stream of incendiary kites and balloons and other forms of violence from the Gaza Strip did not cease.

“We see in the newspapers that you don’t go to war over kites and fires. However, any reasonable person who sees a natural grove burned or thousands of dunams of agricultural fields scorched understands that this situation is unreasonable,” Liberman said at a press conference in the town of Sderot, just outside the Palestinian coastal enclave.

The defense minister blamed the heads of the Hamas terror group, which rules Gaza, for the recent weeks of violence and the looming threat of war.

“We are trying to be considerate and responsible, but the heads of Hamas are forcibly leading us to a situation of not having a choice, to a situation in which we will need to carry out a large and painful military operation — not something that’s just for show, but a large and painful military operation,” he said.

Yahya Sinwar, leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, speaks during a protest east of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip on April 6, 2018. (AFP/Said Khatib)

“I think that the only people responsible for this are the heads of Hamas, but unfortunately all the residents of Gaza will be forced to pay the price,” Liberman added.

The defense minister said Israel was prepared to “carry out an operation that is of a much wider scope and much more painful than Operation Protective Edge” — the Israeli name for the 2014 Gaza war.

Liberman said a source of the renewed violence and tensions was the loss of Israel’s deterrence over Hamas, which it needed to restore.

“We are acting responsibly and with restraint, despite the fact that the real problem is the erosion of the deterrence, a shift in the balance, and, of course, the feeling of security, which is no less important than the security itself,” he said.

Liberman’s comments came as the military prepared for another day of violence along the Gaza security fence. Last Friday, riots along the border resulted in an IDF officer being moderately injured in a grenade attack by Gazans and a 15-year-old Palestinian teenager being killed by IDF gunfire.

Aharon Bucharis recalls the moment his Sderot home was hit by a rocket on July 14, 2018 (Screenshot courtesy of Barzilai Hospital Spokesperson)

In response to the attack that wounded the officer, Israeli jets conducted an air raid on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip later that night. Hamas, in turn, launched a number of mortar shells and rockets at southern Israel. In the 24 hours that followed, Hamas and other terrorist groups in the Palestinian enclave fired some 200 projectiles at Israel, injuring four people in Sderot and damaging buildings throughout the area, and the IDF retaliated by hitting dozens of Hamas positions in the Strip, killing two teenagers.

Hamas agreed to an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire on Saturday night, but Israel was not involved in the talks and the agreement did not include a cessation of the airborne arson attacks or riots along the border — key sticking points for Israel, which is demanding an end to all violence and vandalism from the coastal enclave.

“Accepting a reality like this, when last weekend residents of the Gaza periphery were forced to run to bomb shelters and preparing safe rooms is an inseparable aspect of preparing for Shabbat — this is intolerable,” Liberman said Friday.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks to residents in the southern Israeli town of Sderot, near the Gaza border, on July 20, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

According to the defense minister, during the IDF’s airstrikes last Saturday — some of the most extensive since the 2014 Gaza war — the fighter jets dropped “almost 50 tons of ordnance on Hamas key strategic sites.”

Thursday saw another bout between the two sides, albeit a far smaller one, after a member of Hamas’s military wing was killed in an Israeli airstrike against a group of Palestinians launching incendiary balloons into southern Israel. In response, a number of mortar shells and rockets were fired at the Eshkol region, causing no damage or injury, and Hamas vowed revenge.

Liberman said Israel was not in direct contact with Hamas in an effort to negotiate an extensive ceasefire, which would put an end not only to rocket attacks but also the incendiary kites and balloons. However, he said, Jerusalem was indirectly communicating with the group through intermediaries.

“There’s no communications with Hamas. We are in close contact with the relevant bodies: be it Egypt or the United Nations representative,” the defense minister said.

Smoke rises above buildings during an Israeli air strike on Gaza City on July 14, 2018. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

Liberman, as he has many times in the past, called on residents of the Gaza Strip to force Hamas to end its violent ways.

“We can go back to a reasonable, civil reality, with economic incentives in response to a total end to the terror and provocations along the fence,” he said.

Later on Friday, Palestinians were expected to converge on the border fence to ostensibly demonstrate against the Israeli blockade on the Strip, in what is seen as a key test of whether the sides can retreat from a seemingly inevitable march toward war.

There are signs already that the hoped for calm may fail to materialize.

Thursday’s airstrike on Gazans taking part in launching incendiary balloons over the border marked a serious escalation in Israel’s efforts to stop the flying objects, which have wreaked havoc in Israeli communities near the border and upped political pressure for the military to take a harder stance against perpetrators.

Relatives mourn over the body of Abdel Karim Radwan, a Hamas military wing member who was killed in an Israeli air strike on a group launching fire balloons on July 19, 2018. (AFP/Said Khatib)

Until Thursday, the IDF had mostly fired warning shots near those seen preparing the devices — which also include booby-trapped balloons with explosives, according to Israel — staunchly resisting calls from politicians to use lethal force against Gazans launching them.

Earlier in the week, Palestinian reports indicated that Hamas had agreed to halt the kite and balloon launches gradually after coming under Egyptian pressure.

Israeli authorities have maintained they are prepared to invade Gaza and go to war over the issue. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was already in a “military campaign,” as troops nearby drilled for an invasion of Gaza City. The army said the exercise had been planned in advance and was unconnected to recent events.

‘Hamas must change’

The border tensions have threatened to derail the release of a long-awaited US peace plan, which reportedly include mechanisms for dealing with Gaza and the West Bank separately.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2nd from right) meets at his Jerusalem office with the ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer (right); White House adviser Jared Kushner (center); US Ambassador David Friedman (second left); and special envoy Jason Greenblatt, on June 22, 2018. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

In an op-ed published in the Washington Post late Thursday, US negotiators Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, along with US Ambassador David Friedman, indicated that the US and other countries were prepared to offer humanitarian aid to the beleaguered Strip, but were stymied by Hamas’s commitment to fighting Israel.

“International donors are conflicted: Should they try to help the people directly, at the certain risk of enriching terrorists, or withhold funding to Hamas and watch the people it is supposed to govern suffer?” Kushner, Greenblatt and Friedman wrote.

In what may be seen as a shift, the three said they would be willing to work with a reformed Hamas, seemingly retreating from the stance that the terror group allow the Palestinians Authority to retake power in the Strip.

“There are engaged, interested parties with resources who are ready to get to work. Yet without real change accompanied by reliable security, progress is impossible,” they wrote. “If Hamas demonstrates clear, peaceful intentions — not just by word but, more importantly, by deed — then all manner of new opportunities becomes possible.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/liberman-hamas-leaders-forcing-israeli-into-large-and-painful-gaza-war/

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Jewish nation-state bill disregards norms of universal law, Palestinians’ rights, Turkey says

July 20, 2018

The Jewish nation-state bill passed by the Israeli parliament early Thursday disregards the norms of universal law and the rights of Palestinian-origin Israeli citizens, the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.

“The law announcing Jerusalem, occupied by Israel, as the capital city is null and void in the eyes of the international community,” the ministry said, adding that promoting Jewish settlements that have been repeatedly deemed unlawful by the United Nations is also “unacceptable.”

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Giving the right of self-determination only to Jews is “the product of an outdated and discriminatory mentality” and the law “eliminates the vision of a two-state solution,” the ministry warned.

The ministry also called on the international community to respond to Israel’s bid to cover up ongoing occupant and unlawful activities in Palestine.

Vice President Fuat Oktay also lashed out at the bill and said it hurts the rule of law and cannot be accepted by the Republic of Turkey.

Presidency Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalın also criticized the bill, saying that Turkey condemns the move in the strongest terms and it is unacceptable to accept this racist step aiming to legally erase the people of Palestine from their homeland.

The controversial legislation officially defines Israel as the “national homeland of the Jewish people.”

The law, which passed with a 62-55 backing, is defined as a “basic law,” granting it quasi-constitutional status.

Opponents to the law say it marginalizes the country’s Arab minority. One clause downgrades the Arabic language from official to “special” standing.

Israel’s Arab citizens number some 1.8 million, about 20 percent of the 9 million population.

Early drafts had gone further in what critics at home and abroad saw as discrimination towards Arabs, who have long said they are treated in Israel as second-class citizens.

Clauses that were dropped after political wrangling would have enshrined in law the establishment of Jewish-only communities.

“This controversial law is another attempt to obliterate the Arab-Palestinian identity and to institutionalize and legitimize apartheid policies rather than promoting peace,” Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said in a statement.

Hamdallah also said the law, which refers to the contested city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, “is the last nail in the coffin of the two-state solution.”

The European Union on Thursday also said it was concerned about the new Israeli law.

“We are concerned, we have expressed this concern and we will continue to engage with Israeli authorities in this context,” a spokeswoman for EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini told a news briefing.

“We’ve been very clear when it comes to the two-state solution, we believe it is the only way forward and any step that would further complicate or prevent this solution from becoming a reality should be avoided,” she said.

https://www.dailysabah.com/diplomacy/2018/07/19/jewish-nation-state-bill-disregards-norms-of-universal-law-palestinians-rights-turkey-says

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‘Racist’ Israeli homeland law ‘legalizes apartheid,’ say Palestinians

July 20, 2018

Palestinians, Israelis and human rights activists have publicly denounced a controversial law passed by the Israeli Knesset which declares that only Jews have the right to self-determination in the country.

Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Secretary Saeb Erekat said that the legislation enshrines Israel as the national home of the Jewish people and “legalizes apartheid.”

Image result for Saeb Erekat, photos

Saeb Erekat

“The ‘Jewish nation-state’ (law) officially legalizes apartheid and legally defines Israel as an apartheid system,” Erekat tweeted from the PLO Negotiation Affairs Department account.

“It is a dangerous and racist law. It denies Arab citizens the right to self-determination to instead be determined by the Jewish population.”

International law considers apartheid a crime against humanity.

Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, passed the law after hours of heated debate with 62 lawmakers voting in favor, 55 opposed and two abstaining.

The new law describes Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people” and says the right to exercise national self-determination there is “unique to the Jewish people.”

The new law recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and calls for Jerusalem to remain an undivided city.

Sama Aweidah, director of the Women’s Studies Center in Jerusalem, told Arab News that the racist nature of the law should be exposed.

“What is expected of all the Palestinian missions abroad is to explain to the peoples of the world and especially human rights organizations the true racist nature of Israel.”

Demonstrators attend a rally to protest against the ‘Jewish Nation-State Bill’ in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv on July 14, 2018. (AFP)

Discrimination

PLO executive committee member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi said that the law gives “license to apartheid, discrimination, ethnic cleansing and sectarianism at the expense of the Palestinian people.”

She also took a swipe at the Trump administration, saying: “Undoubtedly, the US administration’s blind bias in favor of Israel and its total disdain for international law have emboldened Israel to persist with such unlawful and immoral policies.”

Botrus Mansour, director-general of the Baptist School in Nazareth, said that the law reflects the absence of Israeli confidence.

“If Israel needs to declare that it is ‘the national homeland of the Jewish people’ after 70 years of independence and tens of thousands of causalities, then that reflects a lack of confidence and belief in their own ways.”

Mansour, a member of the Israeli Bar Association, said that the new bill would have little effect on the ground. “This is a declarative law created by a narrow nationalistic agenda that doesn’t change anything on the ground except for the exclusive rhetoric, hate speech and feelings of marginalization and added alienations of the Arabs in the homeland that they and their ancestors have been living in for centuries.”

Sharona Weiss, director of international relations and advocacy at Yesh Din: Volunteers for Human Rights, said that many Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations are deeply concerned about the bill and are examining its legality.

“I would not be surprised if eventually a few organizations petition the High Court, once they have examined the details of the bill. However, it is always a sensitive matter petitioning against a law passed in a democratically elected parliament.”

Weiss said that the law enshrined “the discriminatory and unjust practices that Israel has been acting on for years, which actually could be a good thing, in that the world can no longer ignore what’s happening and can no longer call Israel ‘democratic.’ Israel’s true colors can be seen, which could be a catalyst for real change.”

Thousands of protesters marched through central Tel Aviv on Saturday night to protest against the controversial bill, calling it racist and discriminatory.

Under the banner “This is home for all of us,” public figures, parliamentarians and social activists addressed the demonstration, with participants marching from Rabin Square to the Dizengoff Center.

Addressing the crowd, M.K. Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint List, an alliance of four Arab-dominated parties, said that what is most frightening to the right-wing Israeli government is that Jews and Arabs can live together.

“The nation-state bill won’t make us disappear, but it will massively harm democracy,” he said.

Gershon Baskin, an Israeli political scientist, described the passing of the law as “the darkest day” of Israel’s already challenged democracy.

“The Palestinian citizens of Israel, according to the Netanyahu regime, represent a barely tolerated minority,” he said.

Arab News

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1341456/middle-east