August 21, 2018

As Gaza Truce Talks Falter, Israel Closes Border Crossing

The Erez border crossing, the only land crossing for the movement of people between the Gaza Strip and Israel or the West Bank, was not opened on Sunday (19th), because of stalled efforts to establish calm along the Israel-Gaza border.

The impetus for the decision, officials explained, was the violent Palestinian demonstration at the border Friday (17th), in which some 20,000 people hurled rocks and firebombs at Israeli troops under the cover of thick smoke from burning tires, witnesses said.

Israeli forces responded with tear gas and sporadic live fire.  Medics said Israeli gunfire killed two men and wounded at least 60 other Palestinians.

The violence erupted Friday (17th) despite ongoing efforts by Egyptian mediators to clinch a truce deal that would calm the impoverished enclave.

Last week, after a more than four-month surge in violence along the Gaza Strip border, Israel eased its clampdown on the enclave’s commercial traffic and fishing.  The clashes included sporadic rocket and mortar fire into Israel, unrelenting arson attacks on Israeli communities and retaliatory strikes on Hamas terror targets in the Strip.

Following Friday’s (17th) clashes, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit issued a statement asserting that “thousands of Palestinians and rioters gathered in the Gaza Strip, many of them deep within the territory.  Several firebombs and homemade explosives were hurled across the border fence. No one was hurt and there was no damage. Several suspects were seen crossing the border into Israel and immediately turning back.  IDF troops responded with riot dispersal measures and live fire in adherence with the rules of engagement.”

Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Yahya Sinwar both attended a number of riot flashpoints along the border on Friday (17th).



Arson Balloons From Gaza Spark Two Fires In Southern Israel

Incendiary balloons from Gaza sparked fires in southern Israel on Sunday (19th), firefighters said.

One blaze erupted near Kibbutz Or Haner while the second spread in the Be’eri forest.

Both fires were extinguished by the fire brigade.

In recent months, Israeli communities, agricultural land, and parks on the Gaza periphery have suffered from hundreds of fires as a result of incendiary kites and balloons flown over the border from Gaza on a daily basis.  Over 7,000 acres of land have been burned, causing millions of shekels in damages, according to Israeli officials.

On Saturday night (18th), more than 200 Israelis from communities along the Gaza border converged on Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, calling on the government to act to ensure their security after months marked by rocket fire that has seen them scrambling toward shelters on a regular basis.

They released balloons, to highlight the arson kite and balloon attacks from Gaza, and laid on the ground to mimic safety procedures when rocket attacks find them too far from shelters.

While no rockets have been launched at Israel in over a week, residents from the Gaza Strip have continued to release incendiary balloons at bordering Israeli towns nearly every day.



Israel’s Unsung Humanitarian Mission Saved Thousands Of Syrian Lives – Yaakov Lappin

As the Assad regime completes its takeover of southern Syria, Israel is winding down its humanitarian and medical operation that saved thousands of Syrian lives throughout the civil war.  Israeli hospitals have treated 4,800 Syrian civilians since 2011, half of them children. A separate field clinic in the Golan Heights treated 6,000 Syrian civilians since last year.

Brig.-Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser, former IDF Military Intelligence research division chief, said the Syrians “are much more aware than they were in the past that Israel is a force for good.  In the past, due to education programs, Syrians perceived Israel as a demon that wants to expand, and which poses many dangers. Today, the Syrian public knows that Israel is a power that tried to help it, at least on the humanitarian level, during years of war.  They know Israel provided extraordinary care for the sick and wounded near the border. And beyond that, that a variety of Israeli humanitarian organizations provided aid. That will remain in the Syrian public awareness.

Syrian-Druze civilians living near the Israeli border have also become more friendly towards Israel, Kuperwasser assessed.  “They see Hizbullah [which fought alongside the Assad regime] as hostile. There has been an attempt to force the Syrian-Druze in the southwest village of As-Suwayda to join Hizbullah.  But they have resisted this. The Assad regime is also trying to forcibly recruit them – but they refuse this as well.”



Israeli Leaders Explain Support For Nation-State Law – Jeremy Sharon

Deputy Minister and former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren strongly rejected claims that the Nation-State Law is discriminatory and insisted that Israel’s democracy was alive and well.  “All you have to do is walk through the country, go to shopping malls, hospitals, and know their is no apartheid. All you have to do is spend a day in the Knesset, where Arab member after Arab member gets up and basically impugns and refutes the very existence of the Jewish state and you’ll know we have democracy.”  He said no member of Congress would ever speak about his or her country, flag, or anthem the way Arab MKs speak about Israel and its national symbols.

Likud MK Amir Ohana, who chaired the committee which dealt with the law, insisted that there is no right held by any citizen, that existed before the law was passed, that no longer exists.  He continued: “Why did we come here 70 years ago and before? Why did people come here from Russia, Morocco, Yemen, Iraq, Poland, and so on?…They came to establish a Jewish state, where the flag, symbols, anthem, holidays and language belong to the Jewish people.  There are 21 Arab states. Can’t the Jews also have their own state?”



Spying Seagull: The Enemy Of The Arab Nation

Researchers at Ramat Gan Safari attached a surveillance transmitter to a seagull’s leg for research purposes and set it free.  Unfortunately, the bird landed in Tripoli, where it was soon caught and transferred to the authorities on suspicion of spying for Israel.

How does a wounded gull become an Israeli spy? Ask the media outlets in Arab countries.

This story began a few months ago when a sick seagull discovered in Eilat was transferred to the veterinary hospital at Ramat Gan Safari.  In April, the bird recovered and was released near Atlit, a small town located on the northern coast.

Before its release, researchers attached a GPS-based satellite transmitter (one of 12 given to the Safari by a German University) onto the seagull’s leg, in order to track the bird’s migration route.

The gull arrived at Tripoli, Libya.  Unfortunately, locals noticed the transmitter attached to its leg, and transferred the bird to authorities.

The authorities suspected that the seagull was part of an Israeli espionage plot, and Arab media outlets published pictures of the seagull with the transmitter alongside a caption accusing the bird of espionage: “engaged in spying for Israel.”   

The transmitter indicated that the bird was later transferred to a villa in Beirut, Lebanon.  Apparently, the flapping bird had undergone a thorough examination there, perhaps by Hizbullah members.

On August 15, the GPS device stopped transmitting signals on its location, apparently because it had been neutralized.  The seagull’s fate remains unknown.

Amir Ben Dov, the ornithologist who attached the transmitter to the seagull’s leg said Friday (17th), “We have invested a lot in trying to understand the migratory trajectory of the Armenian seagull which is an endangered species.  There is no telling what the bird’s captors have done with it. We would like if the bird is still alive for them to set it free. We fear for its life.”

Dov said, in conclusion,  “Unfortunately, there are those who have decided that this innocent bird is a sophisticated Israeli spy.”