News Digest — 3/11/19
Israeli Aircraft Strike Hamas Naval Base After Mortar Fire Sets Off Iron Dome
Israeli warplanes bombed a Hamas naval post in the Gaza Strip early Thursday (7th), hours after a mortar shell was fired from the Palestinian enclave at southern Israel, the army said.
“Fighter jets and aircraft struck several military targets in a Hamas compound in the southern Gaza Strip,” the Israeli Defense Forces said in a statement.
Palestinian media reported that the target was a Hamas naval commando base. A Palestinian security source confirmed a Hamas base was struck, causing damage but no injuries. The Hamas-linked Shehab news said the site was northwest of Khan Younis.
The IDF said the strike, at about 1:30 a.m., was in response to a projectile fired from the Palestinian enclave and explosive-laden balloons launched at Israel Wednesday night (6th).
Hours earlier, the army said that it had fired an Iron Dome air defense missile in response to an incoming mortar shell from the Strip.
The border region has seen increasingly intense bouts of violence over the last several days, with Israel carrying out airstrikes in response to explosives tied to bunches of balloons launched from the Gaza Strip and detonated above Communities in the Eshkol region.
There have also been nightly clashes between Palestinian rioters and Israeli troops along the border fence, including Wednesday night (6th).
Palestinian Leadership Demands Boycott Of Downgraded U.S. Embassy Unit
Palestinian official Saeb Erekat issued a statement Thursday (7th) calling upon the diplomatic community “not to engage in any kind of formal relationship or collaboration” with the new Palestinian Affairs Unit, which will take over the responsibilities of the shuttered U.S. Consulate.
While the U.S. move to close the consulate earlier this week infuriated the Palestinians, State Department spokesman Robert Palladino explained in a statement that the step “was given by the U.S. global efforts to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of its diplomatic engagements and operations.”
“It does not signal a change of U.S. policy on Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, or the Gaza Strip,” he added.
Nonetheless, the Mahmoud Abbas regime deemed the move humiliating and view the consulate’s shuttering as a “downgrade” in the U.S.’ approach to the Palestinians.
Erekat’s call for a boycott is consistent with the Palestinian Authority’s anti-Trump posture and its official policy of refusing to meet with U.S. officials associated with the administration.
Al-Aqsa TV: ‘Death To Israel, Turn Them Into Body Parts, Roast Them’
“Declaring Al-Aqsa TV a terror organization is a precise labeling,” said Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), a media watchdog group, commenting on Netanyahu’s decision to declare the Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa TV channel a terror organization on Wednesday (6th).
“Al-Aqsa TV promotes all the components of Palestinian terror, including murder of Jews, suicide bombings, kidnapping of soldiers, children’s programs and even music videos celebrating murder.”
PMW recorded the words of a Hamas music video aired on the channel: “Strap on an explosive belt… O Martyrdom seeker, respond to Al-Aqsa’s call…send them to Hell… Let fire burn them, turn them into body parts, roast them.”
The Al-Aqsa TV station was attacked by IDF forces in an airstrike in November 2018 and its studios were destroyed. The airstrike took place during a flare-up of violence in which Hamas fired hundreds of rockets at Israel.
A half hour before the TV station was bombed by IDF forces, the channel broadcast a music video declaring “Death to Israel,” while scenes from terror attacks and funerals of Israeli terror victims played on the screen, as reported by PMW.
“DEATH TO ISRAEL” flashed across the screen in Hebrew as an Arabic song blared from the speakers, “Expel the thieving occupier from the enraged land of Jerusalem Rid your house of that one, that Zionist in his humiliation. Write ‘death, death, death to Israel’ with flowing blood. And with the bleeding body cause death, death, death to Israel.”
When the funeral of the Israeli terror victims appeared on the screen, another song blared with the words, “Be red death. Have no mercy on the army of aggression that wears the clothes of the soldier and the settler.”
Following the IDF airstrike, the channel was forced to go off the air but this proved short-lived and they quickly began broadcasting from a new location, leading to Netanyahu’s decision on Wednesday (6th) to declare it a terrorist organization.
Syria: We Will Attack Israel Unless It Withdraws From The Golan
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad reportedly warned Kristin Lund head of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), that “Syria will attack Israel if it does not leave the Golan Heights.”
“We will not hesitate to confront Israel,” Mekdad said. “We are also not scared away by Israel’s supporters who are helping to perpetuate the occupation of the Golan,” he added.
The Syrian official accused Israel of using violence and harming regional stability.
The message has been interpreted as a sign that Syria is concerned that the U.S. will recognize Israel’s sovereignty on the Golan Heights.
Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin) introduced legislation last week urging the United States to officially recognize Israel’s sovereignty. The IDF captured the territory in the 1967 war. In 1981, the Knesset passed legislation applying Israeli law on the Golan.
Syria also sees the support that the Trump administration has shown for other Israeli positions by withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Time For The U.S. To Recognize Israeli Sovereignty In The Golan Heights – Tvi Hauser
→The border between Israel and Iran – between the West and radical Islam – now passes through the Golan Heights. Iranian militias, looking a lot like Hezbollah, are digging into bases on the border with the Golan, the Shia population in the area grows larger, and rocket supplies threaten the Israeli residents of the Golan Heights and the eastern Galilee.
→American recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the Golan will send a clear message to Iran, stating that Israeli sovereignty is unquestionable.
→The Golan Heights is chock-full of both ancient and current Jewish farms, homes and places of worship. Archeological digs in the Golan have thus far revealed the remains of 25 synagogues that operated between the first century CE and the Muslim conquest In the mid-seventh century CE, as well as evidence of numerous Jewish villages and communities.
→The Zionist movement saw the Golan as an inseparable part of the renewed Jewish sovereign territory in the Land of Israel. But in 1946, the French Mandate in Syria officially ended, leading to the establishment of an independent Syrian state which included the entire territory of the Golan.
→Syria controlled the Golan for 21 years – as opposed to 52 years of Israeli control. In those 21 years, Syria encouraged terrorist organizations to use the Golan as a base for attacks against Israel, ceaselessly bombarding communities around the Kinneret, and attempted to divert the Golan’s water sources. In 1967, during the Six-day War, Israel launched a preemptive strike to remove the ongoing threat posed by the Syrians in the Golan, taking over the territory.
→Israel and the U.S. must act as soon as possible to achieve international recognition of Israel’s sovereignty in the Golan Heights, not as a gesture of goodwill but out of a clear understanding that it is a strategic security interest that both nations share.
The writer served as Israel’s Cabinet Secretary between 2009 and 2013 and is Chairman of the Coalition for the Israeli Golan.