July 17, 2018

IDF deploys iron dome in central Israel, reinforces batteries in the south

The IDF deployed Iron Dome missile defense batteries across central Israel and reinforced the batteries in the south of the country, the military announced Sunday evening.   The move, which also saw a limited reserve call-up to boost manpower in the Aerial Defense Division was made following a situational assessment, the IDF said.

The decision came amid heightened tensions in the south. On Sunday, the Israeli Air Force struck three cells of Palestinian terrorists who launched incendiary balloons towards Israel from the northern and central Gaza Strip.  Palestinian media reported that the strikes were carried out by drones, two near Beit Hanoun in the northern part of the Hamas-run coastal enclave which wounded three men and another near Deir al-Balah.  Six fires were caused by incendiary balloons in southern Israel on Sunday, and one emergency official told The Jerusalem Post that Sunday was the “quietest” day in terms of fires since March 30th.

According to Southern Command Chief Maj.-Gen. Herzl Halevi, the IDF has “developed various techniques for increasing our response.  We are creating a state of affairs in which Hamas is paying a rising price for all the fires it is starting.”   The strikes came a day after some 200 rockets and mortars were fired from the Hamas-run enclave towards southern Israel on Saturday night with 40 of them intercepted by the Iron Dome Missile Defense System and another 73 landing in open territory.

Another 13 landed in communities bordering the Gaza Strip and another two hit the city of Sderot, injuring three residents who were transferred to hospital in light to moderate condition.

In response to the rocket fire Israel carried out several waves of airstrikes in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, dropping 50 tons of explosives on Hamas military targets as well as rocket launchers after the launch sites were identified.  According to a senior Air Force officer, the IDF has been preparing for an escalation in the south for several weeks and struck targets which had been chosen in advance.   “We attacked a range of targets, including some surprising ones, after weeks of preparing for this day,” he said, warning nonetheless that “this is not all of the power we can bring. We have a broad list of high-quality targets, and we are prepared to act day and night.”

The senior air force officer said their planes were instructed not to hit Hamas operatives, as well as civilians who are not involved in the launching of incendiary balloons and devices into Israel.  “We acted in a very precise manner, in the most crowded place in the world, without harming those uninvolved in the fighting,” he said.

“The other side is learning. They [Hamas] got used to Israeli jets attacking at night; and military compounds are in populated areas. While we want to destroy their infrastructure, we wanted to do that without hitting civilians or fighters which is more challenging when it happens during the daylight,” the officer said.

“Our intelligence is very precise,” he continued. “If the other side remains quiet so will we. But if not, we are ready and we know what to do in order to return the quiet to the residents of the south.”  One Hamas training facility destroyed by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza on Saturday was known as the “Palestinian national library,” the IDF said Sunday morning.  The “building which was once a civilian residential building became a terror building,” the senior Air Force officer said.

The largely abandoned building in the al-Shati refugee camp was located next to the Sheikh Zayed mosque which sustained light damage from the strike that killed two Palestinian teenagers identified by the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry as 15-year-old Amir al-Nimra and 16-year-old Louay Kahil.

Another 25 people were injured in the strike despite the IDF stating that it had warned residents in advance of the strike which was in response to repeated mortar and rocket barrages from the coastal enclave towards southern Israel communities.

According to the army, the building was targeted because it was being used by Hamas as an urban warfare training facility and had a tunnel underneath it for underground warfare training connected to a network of other Hamas tunnels in Gaza.  “Hamas continues using civilian infrastructure for military purposes, and in doing so endangers the civilians under its charge,” the IDF said in a statement.

“The building’s five floors were supposed to be used for residents of the Strip, for public and government services or at least for housing. Instead, for the past few years, the large building has been used as a training facility for Hamas’s fighting battalions for urban warfare, exercises in conquering buildings and recently as a facility for surviving inside tunnels — thanks to an attack tunnel that was dug underneath the building,” the statement continued.



Syrian army says it captures strategic hill overlooking Israeli border

AMMAN – The Syrian army has taken control of a strategic hill that overlooks the Golan Heights, state television said on Monday.  It said the army had taken control of al-Haara hill in the second day of an offensive to seize remaining parts of southwest Syria that are in rebel hands and are close to the border with Israel.

The hilltop, which had a major anti-aircraft radar base that was part of elaborate Syrian army defenses against Israel, fell into rebel hands in October 2014.

“The situation remains unstable in southwest Syria due to the escalation of hostilities. The area witnessed a large-scale displacement which raises serious concerns about the situation of internally displaced people (IDPs) who are without appropriate shelter and adequate health assistance,” Tarik Jasarevic, a World Health Organization Spokesperson, said in a statement to The Jerusalem Post. “WHO expresses its deep concern over tens of thousands of displaced Syrians located in hard-to-reach areas of Dar’a and Quneitra who need urgent healthcare, calling on all parties to protect civilians and infrastructure in accordance with international humanitarian law.”

According to Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman last week, Israel has “identified elements” belonging to Iran and its Shi’ite proxy militias who “under the auspices of the regime” are trying to establish themselves on the Golan Heights.

“This effort to establish a terrorist infrastructure under the auspices of the regime, as far as we are concerned, is unacceptable and we will act with force against any terrorist infrastructure that we will see and identify here in the region,” Liberman warned.  Liberman also said that any Syrian soldier in the buffer zone endangers his life.

It has been heavily bombed by Russian and Syrian army raids in the last two days as the army moved closer to the Israeli border after gaining control of most of Deraa province to the east, according to rebels and a war monitor.

Israel signaled it would not impede the Syrian army offensive, even as it struck Syrian army posts near Aleppo and elsewhere where it suspects Iranian backed forces are stationed.



Netanyahu visits arson-ravaged Gaza border, warns of a ‘protracted struggle’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday paid a visit near the Gaza border — an area whose residents saw hundreds of rockets and mortar shells fired at them over the weekend and endured months of fires set by Palestinian incendiary kites and balloons — warning Israel was in a “protracted struggle.”

Netanyahu cautioned that the IDF’s weekend pounding of the Gaza Strip would not be the final word in the ongoing violence and that Israel would not agree to any form of ceasefire as long as Palestinians continue to send the airborne devices across the border to start fires in Israeli territory.

“We acted with tremendous force against Hamas, the most powerful blow they have received since Operation Protective Edge.” Netanyahu said, speaking in the southern town of Sderot, where he met with leaders of local communities bordering on the Gaza Strip.

“I don’t want to tell anyone that the matter is over,” he said, referring to the fragile quiet Sunday, during which there were no rocket attacks.

The visit came after a weekend of violence during which Hamas and other terror groups fired some 200 rockets at Israel. In Sderot, three people were moderately injured when a rocket hit a home on Saturday. Israel responded to the rocket salvos with dozens of airstrikes on Hamas targets, with the terror group’s health ministry saying two were killed and over 20 injured. It was the biggest daytime Israeli attack on Gaza since the 2014 summer war.

“We need to be prepared for a protracted campaign. There is an exchange of blows; it doesn’t end with one punch,” he said.

The airborne arson attacks have sparked hundreds of fires throughout southern Israel since April, destroying thousands of acres of farmland and nature reserves. According to Israeli officials, the practice began on a small-scale basis and was then quickly adopted and encouraged by Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel.

“As far as we are concerned, there is no such thing as a ceasefire which excludes the fire kites and fire balloons… This place, right now, this is the point of friction between Islamic terror and the Jewish state and we are determined to win.”

The government and military have come under intense domestic pressure to step up the response to the balloons and kites, which has mostly consisted of firing warning shots at cells launching the devices. Some southern residents have adopted the slogan “treat kites as you would rockets” — demanding that the IDF directly engage the arsonists.

Netanyahu said he was confident that Israel would obliterate the threat.

“Just as we are now completing stopping the tunnels, and just as we are successfully acting to stop the mass assaults on the fences, so we have instructed the IDF to defeat and to stop the fire kite and balloon terror,” the prime minister said.

On Sunday, the Israel Defense Forces conducted three drone strikes against Palestinians launching incendiary kites and balloons at southern Israel, injuring three of them, Palestinian media reported.

The kites and balloons, some of which are booby-trapped with explosives, have wreaked havoc in the Israeli communities surrounding the Gaza Strip, sparking fires that have scorched over 7,000 acres of land and caused millions of shekels in damage.



Archaeologists in Egypt discover ancient mummification workshop

CAIRO — Archaeologists in Egypt stumbled upon a new discovery dating back to more than 2,500 years ago near Egypt’s famed pyramids at an ancient necropolis south of Cairo.

The discovery, which includes a mummification workshop and a shaft, used as a communal burial place, is located at the vast Saqqara necropolis, which is part of the Memphis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Memphis, the first capital of ancient Egypt, and its large necropolis are home to a wide range of temples and tombs as well as the three pyramids of Giza.

The latest find, announced at a press conference Saturday, belongs to the Saite-Persian Period, from 664-404 BC The site, which lies south of Unas pyramid, was last excavated more than 100 years ago, in 1900.

Among the artifacts found were a gilded silver mummy mask, fragments of mummy cartonnages, canopic cylindrical jars and marl clay and faience cups. Many of them will be displayed in the under-construction Grand Egyptian Museum, the first phase of which is expected to be inaugurated later this year.

Down the 30-meter-deep shaft lie several mummies, wooden coffins, and sarcophagi. The shaft is comprised of burial chambers carved into the bedrock lining the sides of two hallways.

In the mummification workshop, an embalmer’s cachette was found that archaeologists believe will reveal more about the oils used in the mummification process in the 26th Dynasty.

“We are in front of a goldmine of information about the chemical composition of these oils,” archaeologist Ramadan Hussein said at the press conference.

“It’s only the beginning,” added Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani. He told reporters that the sites will likely yield more discoveries after further excavation.

Egypt has gone at great lengths to revive its vital tourism industry, still reeling from the political turmoil that followed a 2011 popular uprising. It hopes such discoveries, along with the inauguration of the museum at the Giza plateau, will help encourage more tourists to visit.



For 2nd time, EU ambassador reprimanded for ‘interfering with Israeli legislation’

“It is not enough that the EU finances NGOs that strive to undermine the State of Israel and finance illegal construction. It is now interfering with Israeli legislation. Apparently, they do not understand that Israel is a sovereign state.”

This was the wording of a press statement issued on Thursday by the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office informing that he has instructed the Foreign Ministry director general to summon the EU ambassador to Israel, Emanuele Giaufret, for a second reprimand, and that “he also intends to take additional steps.”

Giaufret appeared at the Foreign Ministry on Friday morning, but no details from the meeting were released.

The diplomatic reprimand follows a report that the ambassador had lobbied members of the Knesset to vote against a bill being advanced by the Likud-led coalition government to enshrine Israel’s status as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

The European Union is pressuring Israel not to pass the law, claiming one of the clauses is “racist” and that, if passed, the law would harm Israel’s international standing.

The so-called “Nationality Bill” would establish the status of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people and the unique right of the Jewish people to self-determination in its homeland. It would also anchor the symbols of the state – Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the Jewish calendar as the country’s official calendar and Hebrew as the official language.

The current draft also includes a controversial section, Clause 7, which would permit the establishment of town councils to maintain the character of a particular community and bar would-be residents from other sectors of the population.

“The law stinks of racism, and it discriminates against various groups, particularly Arabs, and weakens the values Israel tries to uphold,” Giaufret reportedly said.

Netanyahu has defended the bill by saying most Israelis want to preserve the Jewish identity of the country and that “the majority rules.”

“In the Israeli democracy, we will continue to protect the rights of both the individual and the group; this is guaranteed. But the majority have rights, too, and the majority rules,” he said.

“The vast majority of people want to preserve the Jewish character of our country for generations to come,” he said. “This combination of individual rights and group rights are the definition of a Jewish and democratic state.”



Palestinian terrorist gets light sentence because he stabbed only once

A military court sentenced Hamza Faiz Monday to 14 years in jail for a stabbing attack almost three years ago in which one woman was seriously injured in her back.

He was also ordered to pay half a million shekels in damages to Nirit Zmora, the victim – 10% of what had been demanded by her lawyer.

The lighter-than-usual sentence for such a terror attack stemmed from the fact that the three military judges had convicted him only of aggravated battery and possession of a knife, and not attempted murder, because Faiz struck Zmora only once.

In the April ruling, the judges explained that “only in rare cases have courts convicted defendants of murder or attempted murder for one knife stab, even if it resulted in the death of the victim. The reason for this lies in the difficulty of determining the existence of an intent to kill when just one stabbing is involved.”

This is true, they added, even when the attacker has a clear nationalistic motive for his actions. This was unequivocal in this case, as Faiz was shouting “Allahu akbar” (God is great) while attacking Zmora in a parking lot at the Gush Etzion Junction in October 2015.

The court also stated that doubts arose about whether the terrorist’s intent was to wound or kill since he stabbed her in the back and not the chest; the knife he used was short instead of long; and he fled the scene.

In an Army Radio interview before the sentencing, Zmora called these “hallucinatory claims” by the judges, noting, among other details, that the Hebron resident “admitted that he didn’t know how many times he was going to stab her, but the knife broke so he could not continue.”

Zmora said she was expecting the court to hand down the maximum sentence they could – 20 years – after not charging Faiz with attempted murder as they should have done. She added, however, that her lawyers were already planning to appeal the verdict itself.

The judges, she charged, “protected” the terrorist who tried to kill her, and “chose to use what the terrorist’s lawyer fed them…they simply used their power to choose, and chose the wrong side.” She noted that many lawyers told her that “from a judicial point of view it would have been very easy to convict him of attempted murder.”

“I understand that we are in a battle for the security of the Jewish people … that we, and you in the media, are leading, in contrast to the judges who are not doing their jobs,” she said.