Posts Tagged ‘Palestinians’

Israel reopens Gaza crossings as relative calm holds

October 21, 2018

Defense minister says he will consider allowing Qatari-bought fuel into Strip in the coming days, following decrease in border clashes

Protesters near the Gaza Strip border with Israel east of Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, Friday, October 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Protesters near the Gaza Strip border with Israel east of Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, Friday, October 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Israel reopened the crossings into the Gaza Strip on Sunday morning, allowing people and goods in and out of the coastal enclave, following a decrease in the amount of violence along the border

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s office said the decision was made in consultation with officials from the Israel Defense Forces, the Shin Bet security service and the liaison unit to the Palestinians, known as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.

The defense minister’s office said a decision had yet to be made about allowing a supply of fuel that was purchased by Qatar into the coastal enclave.

“The decision… was postponed at this time and will be considered in a few days, depending on incidents [along the border],” Liberman’s office said.

Israeli trucks carrying diesel fuel enter Kerem Shalom cargo crossing on the Israel-Gaza border, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

The defense minister ordered the pedestrian Erez Crossing and Kerem Shalom goods crossing closed last Wednesday, after a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip exploded outside a home in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba and another landed in the sea off the coast of the greater Tel Aviv area.

In response to the rocket strike, the Israeli military launched a wave of air raids, bombing some 20 targets in the coastal enclave, including a border-crossing attack tunnel, the army said.

In the following days, Egypt and the United Nations were said to broker a ceasefire between Israel and the terror group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip — one that neither side officially acknowledged.

However, the past weekend saw a significant decrease in the amount of violence along the Gaza security fence compared to previous weeks, both in terms of the number of people participating in border riots and the intensity of the clashes.

The IDF said a number of explosives and grenades were set off during clashes on Friday and that Palestinians broke through the fence in three locations before immediately returning to the coastal enclave, with soldiers opening fire at the suspects in one case.

However, Israeli defense officials described the demonstrations as some of the quietest since the wave of protests dubbed the “March of Return” began on March 30.

Israeli soldiers taking position during clashes with Palestinian protesters across the Gaza border on October 19, 2018 in Nahal Oz (Jack Guez/AFP)

“Unlike past weeks, most of the rioters remained at a distance and did not try to reach the fence. Hamas acted for restraint on the ground,” the military said.

On Friday and Saturday, Israeli military aircraft also fired warning shots at two groups of Palestinians who were launching incendiary balloons into Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip, sparking a number of blazes in the area near the coastal enclave.

On Thursday and Friday, leaders of the border protests had told participants to keep away from the security fence and to not behave violently — statements not released in previous weeks.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said 130 Palestinians were hurt in the clashes, including 77 by live fire.

The IDF said some 10,000 people took part in the protests. It sent text messages on Friday to residents of the coastal enclave, warning them not to approach the fence, Palestinians said.

Israeli officials believe Hamas has changed its policies regarding the clashes and was working toward curbing violence at the rallies, which have become a near-daily occurrence, Hadashot TV news reported Friday.

Jerusalem believes the terror group is moderating the demonstrations in order to allow Egyptian mediators a chance to strike a deal between Hamas and Israel for a long-term truce in Gaza, the report said.

From L to R: National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman and IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi hold a situational assessment near the Gaza border on October 17, 2018. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Since March 30, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have participated in a series of protests and riots that have mostly involved the burning of tires and rock-throwing along the security fence, but have also seen shooting attacks and bombings as well as the sending of incendiary balloons and kites into Israel.

Some 156 Palestinians have been killed and thousands more have been injured in the clashes with IDF troops, according to AP figures. Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel, has acknowledged that dozens of the dead were its members. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a sniper on the border earlier this year.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-reopens-gaza-crossings-as-relative-calm-holds/

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Israel, Gaza brace for Friday protests as region lurches between war and calm

October 19, 2018

Strip’s Hamas rulers said to be attempting to tamp down on weekly border riots, after Jerusalem says it will step up response to renewed violence following Wednesday rocket attack

Palestinian protestors place their national flag on a metal structure during a demonstration on the beach near the maritime border with Israel, in the northern Gaza Strip, on October 8, 2018. ( Said KHATIB / AFP)

Palestinian protestors place their national flag on a metal structure during a demonstration on the beach near the maritime border with Israel, in the northern Gaza Strip, on October 8, 2018. ( Said KHATIB / AFP)

Israel and Gaza were girding for a possible return to violence Friday, amid fears that renewed border protests could push the sides back to the brink of war after a brief violent flareup days earlier.

Israeli troops were readying for weekly border protests Friday that have turned deadly in the past, with the day being seen as a key test in whether the sides can continue negotiating a long-term ceasefire deal as part of an Egyptian-led effort.

Israel has demanded an end to the weekly confrontations, as well as the frequent launches of incendiary balloons into Israeli territory.

Daoud Shehab, a member of the organizing committee of the marches, said officials were encouraging protesters to stay away from the border fence. But he said he was not sure to what extent they would succeed in “restraining the public mood.”

“There will be attempts to prevent them from approaching the fence. There might be a reduction of balloons,” he said. “We hope there will be no human losses tomorrow. We are giving a chance to the Egyptian efforts.”

According to reports, Egypt had warned Hamas that renewed protests would bring a heavy Israeli response.

On Thursday, Israel’s top-level security cabinet instructed the army to take a wait-and-see approach to allow mediation efforts to succeed, but also ordered the military to step up reprisal attacks should there be border violence.

Ministers said the IDF should ultimately adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward rocket attacks, arson balloons and rioting along the Israeli border, according to reports in Hebrew-language media.

The army may also look to tamp down on border riots by entering areas where it previously stayed away from, according to Israel’s Channel 10 news.

Israeli army jeeps patrol on the border with the Gaza Strip on October 17, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Gaza’s Hamas rulers on Thursday warned Israeli leaders not to make a mistake, while ordering a probe into how a missile was launched from the Strip at the Israeli city of Beersheba Wednesday.

The Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups have denied responsibility for the early morning attack, which destroyed a house but did not cause any injuries, saying it was meant to sabotage ceasefire talks.

Damage to a Beersheba home hit by a rocket on October 17, 2018. (Flash90)

Israel contends the two groups are the only ones with the ability to launch rockets capable of reaching the northern Negev city. Experts have surmised a freak lightning strike may also be to blame for launch, including a rocket shot at the same time that landed in the sea off the coast of the Tel Aviv area.

Israel struck back Wednesday with some 20 airstrikes and threatened more in response to continued violence, but the area has remained calm since.

On Thursday, a team of Egyptian mediators shuttled between Israel and Hamas in a stepped-up effort to forge a cease-fire between the two enemies.

The four Egyptian intelligence officials entered Gaza from Israel on Thursday afternoon, and then returned to Israel after meeting with Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’s top leader. The group did not include Cairo’s spy chief Abbas Kamel, who on Wednesday canceled a planned trip to Gaza, the West Bank and Israel.

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المركز الفلسطيني للإعلام

@PalinfoAr

.. لقاء رئيس المكتب السياسي لحركة حماس إسماعيل هنية مع الوفد المصري في مكتبه بمدينة غزة

Khalil al-Haya, a top Hamas official, said the Egyptians had discussed cease-fire efforts, as well as on-and-off attempts at reconciliation with the rival Palestinian Authority. The talks were ongoing.

Arabic media reports have said that if achieved, a ceasefire would include at least a partial lifting of Israel’s restrictions on the movement of goods and people into and out of Gaza.

Even before the rocket attack, tensions along the border had been rising, with increasing calls within Israel for military action to stop incessant balloon attacks and border riots.

A Palestinian man walks on debris following a retaliatory Israeli air strike near the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah after a rocket struck a home in the Israeli city of Beersheba on October 17, 2018. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

Last week, some 14,000 Palestinians thronged to the perimeter fence, burning tires and throwing rocks, firebombs and grenades at soldiers on the other side.

A Palestinian protester runs by burning tires at the Israel-Gaza border, east of Gaza city, on October 12, 2018. (Said KHATIB / AFP)

Some 20 Palestinians breached the border during the riots, and seven Palestinians were killed, including four who the military said had entered Israel and approached a military position. Israel responded by cutting off Qatari-funded fuel shipments meant to ease a chronic electricity shortage.

There has been increasing pressure on politicians and the military to launch a broad offensive to put an end to the weekly protests, arson balloons and occasional rocket fire.

An Israeli policeman watches a fire started by a balloon with attached burning cloth launched by Palestinians from Gaza Strip in Karmia nature reserve park near Israel and Gaza border, Thursday, October 11, 2018. (AP/Tsafrir Abayov)

The cabinet’s decision not to launch a military operation against Gaza’s Hamas rulers and other terror groups in the Strip was met with condemnation by local government leaders in southern Israel.

“We had every reason to deliver a serious response in a way that they would understand the message,” Eshkol Regional Council head Gadi Yarkoni told Channel 10 Thursday. “We should have taken advantage of what happened in Beersheba to restore deterrence, but unfortunately that did not happen.”

At the UN Thursday, envoy Nickolay Mladenov urged all friends of Israel and the Palestinians to push for all sides “to step back from the brink” of war, calling Gaza a “powder keg.”

Israeli trucks carrying diesel fuel enter Kerem Shalom cargo crossing on the Israel-Gaza border, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

“We remain on the brink of another potentially devastating conflict, a conflict that nobody claims to want, but a conflict that needs much more than just words to prevent,” he told the UN Security Council in a video briefing from Jerusalem.

“I am afraid that there is no more time for words,” Mladenov said. “Now is the time for action. And we must see very clear actions on all sides that de-escalate the situation. Otherwise, the consequences will be terrible for everyone.”

He said all parties must maintain their commitment under a cease-fire that ended a 2014 war — the third between the sides since the Hamas takeover.

Mladenov said Hamas and other terror groups must immediately stop “all provocations and attacks,” attempts to breach the border fence, end the use of incendiary balloons and kites, and halt tunnel construction.

“Israel must restore the delivery of critical supplies to Gaza and improve the movement and access of goods and people,” he said. “And Israeli security forces must exercise maximum restraint in the use of live ammunition.”

Since March 30, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have participated in a series of protests and riots dubbed the “Great March of Return,” which have mostly involved the burning of tires and rock-throwing along the security fence, but have also seen shooting attacks and bombings as well as the sending of incendiary balloons and kites into Israel.

Palestinians react as tear gas canisters fired by Israeli forces rain down during clashes along the Israeli border fence, east of Gaza City on September 28, 2018. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

There have also been several flareups that took Israel and Hamas to the brink of war, with Palestinians firing rockets into Israel and the IDF responding with airstrikes.

Some 155 Palestinians have been killed and thousands more have been injured in the clashes with IDF troops, according to AP figures; Hamas has acknowledged that dozens of the dead were its members. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a sniper on the border.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-gaza-brace-for-friday-protests-as-region-lurches-between-war-and-calm/

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Missing journalist has made Trump’s Saudi bet much riskier

October 18, 2018

US president has leaned heavily on kingdom for his Middle East policy, but ties now face bipartisan scrutiny over Jamal Khashoggi affair

The Associated Press
In this photo from May 20, 2017, US President Donald Trump holds a sword and dances with traditional dancers during a welcome ceremony at Murabba Palace, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

In this photo from May 20, 2017, US President Donald Trump holds a sword and dances with traditional dancers during a welcome ceremony at Murabba Palace, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — US President Donald Trump put a big and risky bet on Saudi Arabia and its 33-year-old crown prince. It’s now become much riskier.

From the early days of his presidency, Trump and his foreign policy team embraced the kingdom and Mohammed bin Salman as the anchors of their entire Middle East strategy. From Iran and Iraq to Syria, Yemen and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the administration gambled that Saudi Arabia, effectively run by the prince, could credibly lead, and willingly pay for, a “Pax Arabica” in a part of the world from which Trump is keen to disengage.

For nearly two years, through an ongoing crisis with Qatar and international outrage over civilian casualties in the Saudi-led campaign against Yemeni rebels, the prince has managed to keep Washington’s confidence. But now, the tide is turning amid growing outrage over the disappearance and likely death of a US-based journalist inside a Saudi Consulate in Turkey, and that confidence appears to be waning. The Trump administration’s grand strategy may be upended with far-reaching ramifications that extend well outside the region.

Even if an investigation into what happened to Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul exonerates the prince and the top Saudi leadership, the administration’s deep reliance on him will be severely tested not least because of broad bipartisan revulsion in Congress to as-yet unconfirmed accounts of Khashoggi’s fate. Already, prominent lawmakers from both parties are questioning his fitness to lead the country and suggesting it might be time to re-think US-Saudi relations and sharply curb arms sales.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at the Pentagon in Washington, on March 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Trump ally Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican-South Carolina) and other influential politicians warned of dire consequences on Tuesday, saying the prince, often known as MBS for short, should be removed from his post.

“This guy is a wrecking ball, he had this guy murdered in a consulate in Turkey, and to expect me to ignore it, I feel used and abused,” Graham said on “Fox and Friends.” “Saudi Arabia, if you’re listening, there are a lot of good people you could choose, but MBS has tainted your country and tainted himself.”

Trump foe Senator Chris Murphy (Democrat-Connecticut) said the Khashoggi case “should trigger a fundamental review of the nature of the United States’ alliance with the Saudis.”

“As the new crown prince engages in increasingly reckless behavior, more and more of us are wondering whether our ally’s actions are in our own best interests,” he wrote in The Washington Post.

And Trump ally Senator Marco Rubio (Republican-Florida) called the situation a “catastrophe” for the Saudis that will “alter the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia for the foreseeable future.”

“This is a fear we’ve had for a long time is that the crown prince is a young and aggressive guy that would overestimate how much room he had to do things, would get over aggressive and overestimate his own capabilities and create a problem such as this,” he said. He added that the situation was one that “would really blow apart our Middle Eastern strategy.”

In this photo from February 1, 2015, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi speaks at a press conference in Manama, Bahrain. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File)

The impact of a US-Saudi rift, however remote the possibility, could send shockwaves around the world, destabilizing oil markets and the global investment climate, not to mention dealing a blow to the Trump administration’s own plans in the Middle East.

Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner has made Saudi Arabia a centerpiece of his yet to be revealed Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, which is expected to call for massive Saudi and Gulf Arab contributions to fund reconstruction and development projects in the West Bank and Gaza.

Saudi support will also be key to the political elements of the plan that Israel insists put its security on par with Palestinian statehood. That means that Israel will likely seek assurances that any deal with the Palestinians be followed by a broader agreement that normalizes its relations with the rest of the Arab world, particularly Saudi Arabia.

In Syria, the administration relied almost entirely on Saudi Arabia, along with the closely allied United Arab Emirates, to make up for steep cuts in US stabilization assistance to areas liberated from Islamic militants. Next door in Iraq, the current secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and his predecessor, Rex Tillerson, have leaned heavily on the Saudis to make large financial pledges for reconstruction of war-shattered communities.

But it is the administration’s policy of isolating Iran that may suffer the most from Saudi-US estrangement.

US President Donald Trump, left and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud gesture during a signing ceremony at the Saudi Royal Court in Riyadh on May 20, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)

Trump is counting on the Saudis to shore up and complement its Iran policy on several fronts.

In Yemen, where the US-backed Saudi-led coalition is fighting Iran-backed Houthi Shiite rebel insurgency, the effort to blunt Tehran’s increasing assertiveness would be hurt by any reduction in American help.

In Syria, where Saudi stabilization funds are being used in part to prevent Iranian proxies from encroaching on communities previously held by the Islamic State group, a reduction in Saudi cooperation would allow Iran a freer hand. The same holds true in Iraq, where Saudi investment is seen as critical to prevent Iran from gaining more of a foothold than it has in the Shia majority state.

More importantly, the administration has been counting on Saudi Arabia to step in to prevent oil prices from skyrocketing once it re-imposes energy-related sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal from which Trump withdrew. Those sanctions require countries to halt Iranian oil imports unless they receive a waiver or face penalties. Frosty relations with Washington may tempt Riyadh to cut back on any increase in oil supply to make up for the loss of Iranian crude.

Of course, Trump’s bet could still pay off in the event the Khashoggi investigation is found to be credible and those responsible for his fate are held accountable, as Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Pompeo have all demanded. But with anti-Saudi sentiment running high in the corridors of power, Trump may find that going all in on the prince was a loser.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/missing-journalist-has-made-trumps-saudi-bet-much-riskier/

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Israel Strikes Gaza After a Rocket Is Fired, in a Sharp Escalation of Tensions

October 17, 2018

Israeli fighter jets attacked targets in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, the military said, hours after a rocket fired overnight by militants in the territory struck a house in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, a sharp escalation after months of simmering tensions along the Israel-Gaza border.

The residents of the house — a woman and her three young children — were treated for shock, according to the Israeli emergency services, and the Israeli military said a second rocket fell into the sea after it was fired overnight toward the crowded coastal area of central Israel.

Members of the Hamas terror group’s military wing attend the funeral of six of its fighters at a cemetery in the Deir al-Balah refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on May 6, 2018. (Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The Israeli military said it had struck 20 targets in the Gaza Strip, including Hamas sites, but Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the other main militant group in Gaza, issued a joint statement soon after the first Israeli strikes denying responsibility for the rocket fire against Israel.

It would be unusual for a smaller, rogue group to fire longer-range rockets that can reach the central coastal area and, in any case, Israeli officials said they held Hamas responsible for the attacks.

By  Isabel Kershner
The New York Times

Smoke billowed from the Gaza city of Rafah on Wednesday after an Israeli airstrike. Credit Said Khatib/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Hamas controls Gaza, and Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, said only Hamas and Islamic Jihad possessed the midrange, locally produced rockets that were used overnight, “which narrows it down.”

Israel has fought three wars against Palestinian militant groups in Gaza over the last decade, with deadly and devastating consequences. The most recent was in 2014, a 50-day war in which thousands of rockets were fired out of Gaza at Israel and that ended only after widespread destruction to the territory.

Tensions have burst out in brief bouts of fierce, cross-border fighting at least twice in recent months but international mediators were able to quickly restore the fragile cease-fire.

The house in Beersheba, Israel, that was hit by a rocket fired overnight from the Gaza Strip. Credit Abir Sultan/EPA, via Shutterstock

Israel also said it had targeted a squad of militants who were trying to launch more rockets into southern Israel. One Palestinian militant was killed, according to Gaza health officials, and three Palestinians were injured in earlier airstrikes on militant targets in Rafah, in southern Gaza.

The overnight exchange came after seven Palestinians were killed on Friday by Israeli fire during a particularly stormy day of protests. Four of the dead had crossed the fence that separates Gaza from Israeli territory and tried to reach an army sniper’s post, and one was armed with a knife, according to Israeli forces at the scene.

In recent weeks, the Palestinians have also resumed flying incendiary balloons from Gaza, some rigged with small explosive devices and others designed to set fires in Israel.

The Israeli defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, warned during a visit to the Gaza Division of the Israeli military on Tuesday, “We have all come to the understanding that the situation as it is today cannot continue.”

Mr. Lieberman, who is known for taking a hard-line stance toward the Palestinians, said Israel had tried using peaceful means to reduce tensions in the area, which have risen since border protests began in late March, including cooperating with international mediation efforts to restore and stabilize the cease-fire that ended the war in 2014.

“We have exhausted all the options, all the possibilities,” he said. “Now is the time for decisions.”

Israel needed to “deal Hamas a strong blow,” Mr. Lieberman added, referring to the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza.

Read the rest:

NYT:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/17/world/middleeast/israel-gaza-rocket-hamas.html

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Israeli jets strike Gaza after rocket lands in Beersheba

October 17, 2018

Israeli jets struck targets in the Gaza Strip early on Wednesday after a rocket fired by militants in the coastal enclave struck a house in the major Israeli city of Beersheba, the Israeli military said.

Israeli jets had targeted three locations in the Gaza Strip on early Wednesday, but there were no initial reports of casualties. (AFP)

A medical official told Israel Radio that three people were taken to hospital with injuries after the rocket struck the house. Residents in the Gaza Strip said jets had targeted three locations but there were no initial reports of casualties.

Reuters

Writing by Ori Lewis; editing by Darren Schuettler

****************************************

Rocket fired from Gaza hits house in Beersheba; no injuries

IDF says it identified two launches from the Strip; one projectile lands in courtyard of home; five people, including a mother and three children, treated for anxiety

Illustrative: Flames from rockets fired by Palestinians are seen over Gaza Strip heading toward Israel, in the early morning of May 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

Illustrative: Flames from rockets fired by Palestinians are seen over Gaza Strip heading toward Israel, in the early morning of May 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired a rocket at the southern city of Beersheba early Wednesday that landed and exploded in the courtyard of a house, causing serious damage, but no injuries.

The Israel Defense Forces said it had identified two launches from Gaza. One targeted Beersheba located some 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Strip. A second rocket was fired out to sea.

Rocket attacks on the city are rare and considered a major escalation. The attack came after Israel’s defense minister warned the military was gearing up for a major strike on Gaza to stop ongoing violence.

Rocket warning sirens blared at 03:40 am and residents reported hearing a loud blast. The rocket landed in the courtyard of a private house. No one was hurt in the explosion but five people were being treated for anxiety.

A Magen David Adom medic said among those treated were a mother and her three children. The woman had lightly hurt her head when she fell running to the bomb shelter when the siren went off, he said, adding that they were taken to hospital.

Emanuel Miller@emanumiller

The site of a strike from which landed in a residential area of Beersheba, . Iron Dome isn’t totally impenetrable. pic.twitter.com/vUBkXJqwep

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Emanuel Miller@emanumiller

A woman and three children were inside this home in when the rocket from slammed into their home. pic.twitter.com/1210PdqRxF

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This was only the second rocket fired at Beersheba since the 2014 Gaza war. Another rocket struck a field north of Beersheba on August 9 and came as Palestinians fired dozens of projectiles at Israeli communities along the Gaza border.

Most of those attacks are carried out with mortars or short-range Qassam rockets, however, Palestinian terror groups can only reach Beersheba with longer-range rockets, notably the Grad.

Israel Radio said that even though the sirens went off, the rocket was not intercepted by the Iron Dome system because there were no batteries deployed in the area at the time.

Following the attack, the Beersheba municipality announced that schools in the city would be closed for the day.

In an initial response,  Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman ordered the crossings into Gaza closed. Media reports said IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot was cutting short his visit to the US, following the attack,

The attack come as Liberman on Tuesday urged the cabinet to authorize large-scale military campaign against the Hamas terror group in Gaza in light of ongoing riots and violence along the Strip’s security fence.

Joe@Jtruzmah

Sirens wail across Beersheva as Red Alert is activated for an incoming rocket from .

“I’ve held a series of meetings with the head of the Southern Command, the head of the [Gaza] Division, the brigade commanders, the battalion commanders, also with soldiers. My impression is that they all have reached the understanding that the situation as it is today cannot continue,” Liberman said.

According to the defense minister’s assessment, a “serious blow” to Hamas would result in four to five years of calm along the Gaza border — akin to the quiet that persisted from the end of the 2014 Gaza war, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge, until the start of the current round of clashes in late March, a few limited skirmishes notwithstanding.

Since March 30, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have participated in a series of protests and riots dubbed the “Great March of Return,” which have mostly involved the burning of tires and rock-throwing along the security fence, but have also seen shooting attacks and bombings as well as the sending of incendiary balloons and kites into Israel.

There have also been several flareups that took Israel and Hamas to the brink of war with Palestinians firing rockets into Israel and the IDF responding with airstrikes.

Some 155 Palestinians have been killed and thousands more have been injured in the clashes with IDF troops, according to AP figures; Hamas has acknowledged that dozens of the dead were its members. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a sniper on the border.

Palestinian demonstrators burn tires as they demonstrate during the “Great March of Return” on the Gaza-Israel border in Rafah, Gaza on October 12, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The riots began as weekly events, but in recent weeks — due to both an internal Palestinian conflict and failed indirect negotiations with Israel — the clashes have become a daily event.

The defense minister said the “straw that broke the camel’s back” and convinced him that a full-scale military action was necessary in Gaza was the rioting that took place along the border last Friday evening, after Israel allowed additional fuel into the Strip that had been purchased by Qatar.

“We have exhausted all other options in Gaza,” Liberman said during a visit to the Israel Defense Forces’ Gaza Division headquarters near the Strip.

“Now is the time to make decisions,” he added.

The security cabinet, which approves such military campaigns, met Sunday to discuss the possibility of an attack against Hamas, but ultimately decided to wait until the week’s end in order to give negotiators a chance to convince the group to abandon its current violent tactics.

On Wednesday, the cabinet is due to meet again.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/rocket-sirens-blare-in-beersheba-southern-israel/

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Israel’s Defense Minister Signals War

October 16, 2018

Seeks a strong blow against Hamas — Defense minister says daily riots along security fence cannot continue, believes large military campaign could bring 4-5 years of calm

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Tuesday called on his fellow ministers to approve a large-scale military campaign against the Hamas terror group in Gaza in light of ongoing riots and violence along the Strip’s security fence.

“I’ve held a series of meetings with the head of the Southern Command, the head of the [Gaza] Division, the brigade commanders, the battalion commanders, also with soldiers. My impression is that they all have reached the understanding that the situation as it is today cannot continue,” Liberman said.

Image result for Avigdor Liberman, photos

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman

According to the defense minister’s assessment, a “serious blow” to Hamas would result in four to five years of calm along the Gaza border — akin to the quiet that persisted from the end of the 2014 Gaza war, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge, until the start of the current round of clashes in late March, a few limited skirmishes notwithstanding.

Since March 30, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have participated in a series of protests and riots dubbed the “Great March of Return,” which have mostly involved the burning of tires and rock-throwing along the security fence, but have also seen shooting attacks and bombings as well as the sending of incendiary balloons and kites into Israel.

Some 155 Palestinians have been killed and thousands more have been injured in the clashes with IDF troops, according to AP figures; Hamas has acknowledged that dozens of the dead were its members. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a sniper on the border.

Palestinian protesters carry tires as smoke billows from burning tires at the Israel-Gaza border, east of Gaza city, on October 12, 2018 (Photo by SAID KHATIB / AFP)

The riots began as weekly events, but in recent weeks — due to both an internal Palestinian conflict and failed indirect negotiations with Israel — the clashes have become a daily event.

The defense minister said the “straw that broke the camel’s back” and convinced him that a full-scale military action was necessary in Gaza was the rioting that took place along the border last Friday evening, after Israel allowed additional fuel into the Strip that had been purchased by Qatar.

“We have exhausted all other options in Gaza,” Liberman said during a visit to the Israel Defense Forces’ Gaza Division headquarters near the Strip.

“Now is the time to make decisions,” he added.

Liberman said “persuasions and international cooperations” have failed to bring about a negotiated armistice with the Hamas terror group, leaving only the possibility of military action.

“We need to strike a serious blow at Hamas,” he said. “That’s the only way to bring back quiet.”

The security cabinet, which approves such military campaigns, met Sunday to discuss the possibility of an attack against Hamas, but ultimately decided to wait until the week’s end in order to give negotiators a chance to convince the group to abandon its current violent tactics.

An Egyptian military intelligence delegation reportedly arrived in Gaza on Tuesday to meet with Hamas officials in an attempt to calm the situation.

On Wednesday, the cabinet is due to meet again.

“[A strike on Hamas] must be the decision of the security cabinet,” Liberman told reporters following his meetings with senior IDF officers.

The defense minister said he was taking Hamas at its word that what it sought to achieve with the riots was an end to the blockade that Israel and Egypt have imposed on Gaza since Hamas took control of the Strip in 2007 — a measure that Jerusalem and Cairo say is in place to prevent arms and hostile forces from entering the coastal enclave.

“When Hamas says that it’s going to continue rioting on the border until there’s an end to the blockade, we need to accept that as it is, without interpretations,” Liberman said.

“Getting rid of the blockade has one meaning… allowing Hezbollah members and Iranians into Gaza,” he said, referring to the powerful Lebanon-based terror group.

A Palestinian uses a slingshot to hurl a stone during clashes at the Erez border crossing with Israel in the northern Gaza Strip on October 3, 2018. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

Asked if the government was seeking to ensure lasting quiet for southern Israelis — beyond the four or five years that Liberman said a campaign would bring — the defense minister said that for now he was “only looking at the short term.”

“But if we get four or five years of quiet, we need to take advantage of it,” he said.

Liberman acknowledged that such a campaign would come at a cost to the IDF, as Hamas’s weapons have become more powerful and more accurate.

The defense minister also briefly discussed the criticism he has faced from within the security cabinet, notably from Education Minister Naftali Bennett, over the violence in Gaza.

Bennett has accused the defense minister of failing to address the problem and holding back the military from attacking Hamas.

Liberman brushed off Bennett’s critiques, saying he had “deleted” him from his life.

“I don’t know a Minister Bennett,” Liberman told reporters with a smirk.

Asked about the disappearance and alleged murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudi government, the defense minister refused to comment.

“I’ll leave that to the international community. We have enough problems here,” he said

https://www.timesofisrael.com/signaling-war-liberman-urges-cabinet-to-okay-serious-blow-to-hamas-in-gaza/

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Australian PM faces backlash over surprise shift in Israel policy

October 16, 2018

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whose government faces a crucial by-election that could weaken its grip on power, said on Tuesday Canberra was open to recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and shifting its embassy there.

Image result for Scott Morrison, photos

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Such a move, which would follow U.S. President Donald Trump’s controversial decision in December to do just that, would reverse decades of foreign policy and inflame tension with some of Australia’s Asian neighbors.

Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, and Australia are due to sign a trade deal this year.

Indonesia’s trade minister, Enggartiasto Lukita, denied Australian media reports on Tuesday that Jakarta was considering putting the pact on hold over the possibility of Canberra changing its stance on Israel.

Morrison’s openness to recognizing Jerusalem and moving Australia’s embassy there comes four days before a by-election in Sydney where his center-right coalition faces the risk of losing its tenuous hold on power.

The by-election is in the Sydney harbourside seat of Wentworth vacated by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, who was ousted in a party-room coup by members of Morrison’s Liberal party, the senior partner in a Liberal-National coalition, in August.

Census figures show 12.5 percent of people in Wentworth are Jewish, a significantly larger proportion than the rest of the country. The Liberal candidate contesting the by-election on Saturday is Dave Sharma, a former Australian ambassador to Israel who has floated the idea in the past.

Morrison will have to negotiate with independent lawmakers in order to continue governing in minority if the coalition loses Saturday’s by-election.

The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper described Morrison’s apparent change of heart as “unprincipled and craven” and he faced a torrid question time in parliament.

“The orthodoxy that’s driven this debate which says issues like considering the question of the capital are taboo. I think we have to challenge that,” Morrison said earlier in Canberra.

“No decision has been made regarding the recognition of a capital or the movement of an embassy … but at the same time, what we are simply doing is being open to that suggestion,” Morrison said.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest obstacles to a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel regards all of the city, including the eastern sector that it annexed after the 1967 Middle East war, as its capital.

Australia refused to follow Trump’s decision in December, which enraged Palestinians and upset the Arab world and Western allies, and has so far kept its mission in Tel Aviv.

The apparent change of policy was welcomed by Israel but swiftly criticized by Palestinian representatives.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom Morrison had telephoned to explain his shift, said on Twitter he was “very thankful” Morrison was considering the move.

Palestinians, with broad international backing, want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state they hope to establish in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Peace talks between the parties broke down in 2014.

In a statement, Palestine’s embassy in Australia called Morrison’s announcement “deeply disturbing”. It said short-term political gain “would surely be outweighed by the detriment both to Australia’s international standing and in its relations with Arab and Muslim-majority countries”.

The U.S. Embassy became the only foreign embassy in Jerusalem in May, but Netanyahu has attempted to persuade others to follow suit.

University of Sydney political analyst Rod Tiffen said the shifting position was being driven by local politics.

“It’s a big change, it is out of step with everyone, except America,” said Tiffen.

“But three days out from the Wentworth by-election, it’s pretty blatant … to the extent that there is a Jewish vote there, it probably helps.”

Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Additional reporting by Ori Lewis in JERUSALEM; Editing by Paul Tait

Reuters

Israel approves 31 settler homes in flashpoint Hebron

October 15, 2018

An Israeli plan to construct 31 settler homes in Hebron has triggered angry reactions from Palestinian officials and rights activists calling on the Palestinian Authority to challenge the move in the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Hebron is home to around 200,000 Palestinians, with about 800 settlers living under Israeli army protection in several heavily fortified compounds in the heart of the city.

Bassam Shweiki, a senior PLO official in Hebron, said the city’s Palestinian population has been fighting legal battles in Israeli courts without progress. “They have now set aside $6 million to build 31 settlement units in an area (old bus station) that has been the center of unresolved legal fighting for decades.”

The Hebron units are to be built on Shuhada Street, once a bustling shopping street leading to a holy site where the biblical Abraham is believed to have been buried. (AFP)

Shweiki who heads the PLO’s Refugee Rights Committee said the Israeli army took over the old bus station in the 1980s for “security reasons.” It was supposed to be a temporary arrangement, he said.

Construction permits were agreed in October last year but needed the government’s approval, according to the Peace Now NGO which monitors settlement construction in occupied territory.
“For the first time in more than 20 years, Hebron will have a new Jewish neighborhood where a military camp once stood,” Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said after the weekly Cabinet meeting.

Hussein Sheikh, a lawyer from Hebron, said the issue of settlements has intensified manifold since the Oslo Accords.

“After Oslo Accords, Israel stopped worrying about local resistance and worldwide accountability and the Palestinian Authority has failed to check Israel’s hegemonic designs,” the lawyer lamented.

Hebron is a flashpoint reflecting the deep tensions that run between Palestinians and Israelis.

The Hebron units are to be built on Shuhada Street, once a bustling shopping street leading to a holy site where the Prophet Ibrahim is believed to have been buried.

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The street is now largely closed off to Palestinians who have repeatedly demanded that it be reopened to traffic.

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Brian Reeves, a spokesman for the Israeli Peace Now movement, said the Israeli government is again stoking conflict by approving construction of settlement units in Hebron. “It is well known that Hebron is one of the centers of the conflict, yet Netanyahu’s coalition chooses to appease a fringe radical settler minority on the taxpayers’ dime rather than act earnestly to disentangle Israel from the West Bank and to strive to end the conflict.”

He believes there is some connection between this decision and the possibility of calling early elections.

Reeves in an email said Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party has reportedly criticized Lieberman’s party for appearing weak on Gaza and on the settlements issue.

He said this appears to be an attempt to compete for right-wing voters.

“Likewise, 14 ministries headed by a handful of parties within the governing coalition have contributed to the $6 million slush fund to restructure the military base to make way for the settlement housing project,” Reeves said.

ARAB NEWS

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1387551/middle-east

 

Israel’s Netanyahu threatens Hamas with ‘very strong blows’

October 14, 2018

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday threatened to inflict “very strong blows” on Hamas after fresh violence along the border with the Gaza Strip controlled by the Islamist group.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatens Islamist group Hamas over Gaza Strip violence. (AP)

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“Hamas has apparently not understood the message — if these attacks do not stop, they will be stopped in another way, in the form of very, very strong blows,” Netanyahu said during the weekly cabinet meeting.

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Seven Palestinians were killed in clashes along the Gaza border on Friday and Israel suspended fuel deliveries, having accused Hamas of using demonstrations as cover for attacks against the Jewish state.

AFP

Missing journalist puts spotlight on Saudi prince’s friendship with Kushner

October 13, 2018

US president’s son-in-law has developed close ties with kingdom’s Mohammed bin Salman, who has been accused of ordering Jamal Khashoggi’s murder

 

Jared Kushner, left, is seen at a White House meeting, on October 23, 2017. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a meeting with Lebanon’s Christian Maronite patriarch in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on November 14, 2017. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images; Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images via JTA)

Jared Kushner, left, is seen at a White House meeting, on October 23, 2017. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a meeting with Lebanon’s Christian Maronite patriarch in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on November 14, 2017. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images; Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images via JTA)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — In March, Saudi Arabia was on the brink of a new age of modernity. At the epicenter of the transformation were Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser.

But allegations this week that bin Salman — or MBS, as he is known — ordered the brazen murder of a dissident Saudi journalist in Istanbul, Turkey, have roiled the prince’s reputation as a modernizer.

So where does that leave Kushner, who cultivated a close friendship with MBS in part to advance Kushner’s efforts to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks? Does Kushner counsel the president to distance the United States from Saudi Arabia? Or does he wait out the storm and return to the bromance when things are quieter?

Despite some favorable media coverage at the time of his last US visit in March, much reporting suggested — even before the disappearance in Istanbul last week of Jamal Khashoggi, a permanent resident of the United States — that MBS’s reforms were more show than substance.

Yes, women could drive, but the activists who helped bring about the change were languishing in jail. Yes, he seemed ready for closer relations with Israel, while also bombing Yemen into submission, with little regard for civilian casualties. Yes, the extended Saudi royal family seemed on board with his changes, but maybe a period of imprisonment and torture in 2017 had something to do with that.

With the Khashoggi crisis in full bloom, the Trump administration is scrambling for a strategy. Trump himself is wary of penalizing a nation that spends big money on US arms.

A demonstrator dressed as Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (C) with blood on his hands protests outside the Saudi Embassy in Washington, DC, on October 8, 2018, demanding justice for missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (Jim Watson/AFP)

“I don’t like stopping massive amounts of money that’s being poured into our country on — I know they’re talking about different kinds of sanctions,” he said Thursday, referring to moves in Congress to sanction Saudi Arabia, “but they’re spending $110 billion on military equipment and on things that create jobs, like jobs and others, for this country.”

Saudi Arabia also figures large in Trump administration plans to isolate Iran.

At the center of the US-Saudi relationship is Kushner, whom Trump has tasked with relaunching the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The drive for a peace deal is what ostensibly brought Kushner and MBS together, but their relationship has broadened to include arms sales and regional strategy making.

Here are five key moments in the Kushner-MBS bromance.

The first meeting

According to The Washington Post, MBS and Kushner became friendly when the crown prince first visited Trump as president in March 2017. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was next on the agenda but was delayed by a snowstorm, which allowed the two 30-somethings to become acquainted. That set off a long distance relationship, with frequent phone calls, the Post reported.

Open arms and an arms deal

One result of the closeness was a major shift: A president’s inaugural trip has traditionally been to a neighbor, Canada or Mexico. Trump instead first headed to Saudi Arabia, in May 2017, and Kushner was instrumental in setting the agenda — so instrumental that he says he got a rabbi’s permission to join his father-in-law on the Shabbat flight. (Which rabbi? That’s still a mystery.)

The trip went off smoothly — remember that glowing orb Trump and MBS’s dad touched together? And Trump signed a $110 billion arms sale deal with the country.

US President Donald Trump shows a chart highlighting arms sales to Saudi Arabia during a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House, March 20, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

That Lebanon business

Kushner visited with MBS in Saudi Arabia in October 2017, supposedly to discuss advance of the Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. A week or so later Saad Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister, turned up in Saudi Arabia to resign, citing the overweening influence in his country of Hezbollah, the Shiite militia aligned with Iran.

It was a bizarre moment, and soon Hariri was back in Lebanon having rescinded his resignation. What happened?

Hariri has close business and family relations in Saudi Arabia, and MBS may have coerced his resignation as a means of sowing chaos in Lebanon, which he reportedly hoped would spark a punishing Israeli assault on Hezbollah. No one told the Israelis and they were not game to be Saudi Arabia’s proxy in its longstanding dispute with Iran.

Did Kushner give MBS a green light? They chatted until 4 a.m. during the visit. We may never know what they discussed, but the proximity (and secrecy) of his visit so close to the Lebanon fiasco led to speculation that Kushner winked at MBS’s maneuvering. The crown prince arrested a bunch of his extended family at around the same time. That was the second round of arrests; the first was in June, soon after the Trump visit. Making matters murkier, Trump praised the prince for the arrests in a tweet.

That peace deal

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was summoned to Saudi Arabia the same month as Hariri, November 2017. What was said was not clear, but according to subsequent reports, MBS pressed Abbas to accept Kushner’s terms for a peace deal that would comprise a Palestinian quasi state with its capital in Jerusalem’s suburbs, as opposed to the city itself.

Abbas reportedly declined, and Saudi statements denied that MBS had ever embraced such a proposal.

US presidential adviser Jared Kushner, left, meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on June 21, 2017 (PA press office)

One year later …

A year after their snowbound bromance began, MBS was back in the United States for what was to be a turning point in the US-Saudi relationship. He met with Trump, and Kushner helped organize a busy itinerary for the prince, including stops in high-tech centers on the East and West coasts to talk investment. MBS and his modernization proposals received glowing attention from influential columnists.

Marring the visit was the revelation, first reported at the time by The Intercept, that MBS told Persian Gulf buddies that he had Kushner “in his pocket.”

Is that the case? The Khashoggi mystery is not going away, and we may learn more soon.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/missing-journalist-puts-spotlight-on-saudi-princes-friendship-with-kushner/

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