News Digest — 6/17/19

IDF Troops Come Under Fire In Gaza Hours After Qatar Delivers $25 Million To Hamas

Israeli troops came under Hamas fire in the Gaza Strip on Sunday night (16th), just hours after Qatar delivered $15 million to the coastal enclave.  Another $10 million, earmarked for the purchase of fuel for the Gaza power station, was delivered to Israel.

According to Palestinian media, an IDF force came under Hamas fire while operating in the Khan Yunis area in southern Gaza, allegedly forcing it to withdraw.  No injuries were reported.

The report was confirmed by an Israeli source.

Deputy Qatari Ambassador to the Gaza Strip Khaled al-Hardan entered Gaza Sunday night (16th) to deliver the money that Doha provides for Gaza every month.  Qatari ambassador Mohammed al-Emadi also arrived with him to monitor the distribution of the funds.

The Qatari funds have been earmarked for the salaries of public servants in Gaza and welfare subsidies of some 100,000 families, who receive $100 each.

The parents of Givati Brigade Lt. Hadar Goldin, who was killed in Gaza in 2014 and whose body is held by Hamas, criticized the government for allowing the payments.

“For the eighth time, the Qatari envoy entered Gaza with $25 million.  How many millions of dollars must be transferred to bring Hadar home?” they tweeted.



Gaza Balloon Terrorism Continues Despite Ceasefire Efforts

Incendiary balloon terrorism from the Gaza Strip shows no signs of slowing down despite the Qatari aid transferred  to the Gaza enclave, with dozens of fires being started in the nearby Israeli communities over the weekend.

Qatari envoy to Gaza Muhammad al- Emadi entered the Hamas-controlled enclave on Sunday (16th) and delivered the latest $25 million in aid to the officials in the Strip, said Palestinian sources.  The transfer of the funds is apparently one of the key demands put forward by the terror group in order for quiet along the border to be maintained. This is the eighth delivery of funds to Gaza from Qatar.

However, at least three fires were started on Sunday (16th) in the Eshkol and Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Councils.  All the fires have been extinguished and no injuries were reported. The same two communities were subjected to incendiary balloon attacks on Friday (14th) with seven fires breaking out there.

In addition, on Thursday (13th) an explosive device attached to a balloon was found in Kibbutz Ruhama near the southern city of Sderot and a fire broke out in Simhoni Forest near Kfar Aza.

Over the course of Wednesday (12th) and Tuesday (11th) more than a dozen blazes broke out in the communities bordering Gaza as a result of incendiaries launched into Israel by Palestinian factions in the Strip.

Last week it was reported that terror groups appear to have found a new method of launching balloons in order to ignite as many fires as possible on Israeli territory, thereby maximizing damage.

The latest upgrade, in what has becoem an entire arsenal of terror tools for the Palestinian factions in Gaza, is to soak a slow-burning fuse in explosive liquids and attach it to an incendiary balloon.  The balloon then drips fireballs as it flies, creating several ignition points from just one device.



Fatah Expels Mayor For ‘Inviting’ Settlers To Son’s Wedding

The mayor of a Palestinian town in the West Bank is facing strong condemnations for inviting Jewish settlers to the wedding of his son.

The Palestinian-ruling Fatah faction decided to expel the mayor from its ranks and has called on the Palestinian Authority security forces to launch an investigation against the Palestinians who were seen celebrating with the settlers during the wedding.

Fatah said it has also formed a commission of inquiry to investigate Radi Nasser, the mayor of Deir Qaddis, west of Ramallah.

The commission decided to immediately dismiss Nasser from Fatah and said it will work to remove him from his job.  The mayor was elected as a representative of Fatah.

The committee also said it has decided to deliver the names of Palestinians who attended the wedding to the Palestinian security forces so they would face legal measures.

Pictures from the wedding showing a number of settlers being carried on the shoulders of some Palestinian men appeared on social media, drawing strong condemnations from many Palestinians.

Palestinian social media users expressed shock and anger over the presence of the settlers at the wedding and accused the mayor and his son, the groom, of treachery.

The Fatah leadership issued a statement strongly condemning the presence of settlers at the wedding, dubbing it harmful to Palestinian national customs. Calling on the mayor to immediately submit his resignation, the statement stressed Palestinian opposition to normalization with Israel.

Fatah spokesman Osama Qawassmeh said that the participation of “terrorist settlers in Palestinian social events is a cowardly, condemnable, despicable and reprehensible act.”

The mayor denied that he or his son had invited the settlers to the wedding Wednesday night (12th) and said that the settlers were brought by some Palestinians who work with them in a car-repair garage.   

The mayor said that despite the incident, he remains loyal to Fatah.



No To BDS: French Muslim Leaders Tour Northern West Bank As Guests Of Settlers

A group of French imams toured the northern West Bank Thursday (13th) on the invitation of settler leaders.  One of them, Hassen Chalghoumi, said support of boycotts of Israel run against Quranic law.

Chalghoumi, who is well-known in France for his involvement in interfaith forums and initiatives, has received many death threats for his friendly ties with CRIF, the umbrella group representing French Jewish communities, and for visiting Israel several times.

Last week he was part of a delegation of over 40 Muslim leaders hosted by the Samaria Regional Council.  The meeting was organized by the European Leadership Network (ELNET), an organization that seeks to strengthen Israeli-European ties.

Chalghoumi said he hopes to encourage dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians so “no mother – either Israeli or Palestinian – will cry in the future.”

He also criticized Palestinian rejection of an upcoming US-led peace conference in Bahrain.  “I don’t think that’s right. You shold always go and talk, sit around the same table. Even if you don’t agree – dialogue can save us, he said”

Chalghoumi is something of an outlier in Muslim religious discourse – he was notable for supporting France’s ban on the burqa – or full face covering.



US Senate Warns Israel Against Letting China Run Haifa Port

WASHINGTON–A major spending bill in the Senate includes veiled warning to Israel not to allow Beijing to run one of its ports and reconsider massive investments flowing to Israel from China.

The National Defense Authorization Act is in its final stages of passage and is likely to be approved by the Republican-led Senate.

It includes a “sense of the Senate” passage stating that “the United States has an interest in the future-forward- presence of United States naval vessels at the Port of Haifa in Israel but has serious security concerns with respect to the leasing arrangements of the Port of Haifa as of the date of the enactment of this Act; and should urge the Government of Israel to consider the security implications of foreign investment in Israel.”

Haaretz, which first reported the passage in the massive bill when it was posted Thursday (13th) on a congressional website, said the reference is to the Shanghai International Port Group, which under a deal with Haifa is set to operate its port for 25 years starting in 2021.

The US Navy’s Six Fleet often docks at Haifa and is a major economic boost to the city.  Successive administrations and leaders of both parties see China as a security threat and are wary of any deals that facilitate its access to US security.

The bill includes multiple passages favorable to Israel, including funding for its anti-tunnel technology and anti-missile systems.

In March, US President Donald Trump reportedly warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that if Israel does not curb its ties with China, its security relationship with the US could suffer.

Trump issued the warning during his meeting with Netanyahu in Washington, shortly after he officially recognized Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights, according to Channel13, citing several senior Israeli officials briefed on the content of the meeting.