Israeli troops kill four Palestinians in fourth week of protests

A demonstrator gestures as he hurls stones during clashes with Israeli troops at a protest at the Israel-Gaza border where Palestinians demand the right to return to their homeland, east of Gaza City April 20, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

y Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) – Israeli troops shot dead four Palestinians and wounded 12 in renewed unrest on the Gaza-Israel border on Friday as a series of mass protests in the enclave reached its half-way mark.

Some Palestinians brought wire-cutters to cut through the border fence. As the crowd grew, Israeli soldiers called out warnings in Arabic over loudspeakers to individuals who approached the border fence.

Demonstrators use a large slingshot to hurl stones during clashes with Israeli troops at a protest at the Israel-Gaza border where Palestinians demand the right to return to their homeland, east of Gaza City April 20, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Demonstrators use a large slingshot to hurl stones during clashes with Israeli troops at a protest at the Israel-Gaza border where Palestinians demand the right to return to their homeland, east of Gaza City April 20, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Despite the warnings, two Palestinians were killed and 12 wounded by Israeli gunfire, Palestinian health officials said, bringing the death toll in the past few weeks of protests to at least 33. Several hundred people have also been wounded by Israeli sharpshooters.

Away from the border, Israeli-American Hollywood actress Natalie Portman announced she would not attend a ceremony in Israel to accept a million-dollar prize because of “distressing” events in the country.

The protests have been staged every Friday for the past month to push demands for Palestinian refugees to regain ancestral homes in what is now Israel. They are expected to culminate on May 15.

The Israeli military said that in the latest incident, about 3,000 Palestinians were rioting and tried to approach what it called security infrastructure. Troops responded “with riot dispersal means and are firing in accordance with the rules of engagement,” it said.

The use of live fire has drawn international criticism but Israel says it is protecting its borders and takes such action when protesters come too close to the border fence.

It accuses Hamas, the Islamist militant group which rules Gaza, of staging riots and trying to carry out attacks. Although the main protest campaign is intended to be peaceful, Gazans have hurled stones and burning tyres near the border fence.

A Palestinian holds a dummy depicting an Israeli soldier during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border where Palestinians demand the right to return to their homeland, east of Gaza City April 20, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

A Palestinian holds a dummy depicting an Israeli soldier during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border where Palestinians demand the right to return to their homeland, east of Gaza City April 20, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Some protesters on Friday fitted kites with cans of flammable liquids which they flew across the border to start fires in Israel.

“We aim to distract the soldiers from shooting and wounding or killing our people. Israeli soldiers will be worried those fire-kites may fall on their heads or torch bushes around them,” said Mohammad Abu Mustafa, 17, who lost his right leg a few months ago after being shot by an Israeli soldier.

“These kites also torch bushes and trees and not only cause them losses, but keep them busy trying to put out fires,” he said, leaning on crutches.

Early in the morning, the Israeli military used a new tactic, dropping leaflets into Gaza warning residents to not approach the border.

“The Hamas terror organization is taking advantage of you in order to carry out terror attacks. The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) is prepared for all scenarios. Stay away from the fence and do not attempt to harm it,” said the leaflets scattered by Israeli aircraft in areas along the border.

Hamas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction, denies this.


More than 2 million Palestinians are packed into the narrow coastal enclave. Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005 but maintains tight control of its land and sea borders. Egypt also restricts movement in and out of Gaza on its border.

The protest campaign, dubbed The Great March of Return, is leading up to May 15, when Palestinians mark Nakba Day, or the Day of Catastrophe, commemorating their displacement around the time of Israel’s founding in 1948.

It takes place at a time of growing frustration over the prospects for an independent Palestinian state. Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been stalled for several years and Israeli settlements in the occupied territories have expanded.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision last year to recognize disputed Jerusalem as Israel’s capital further fueled Palestinian anger.

In an apparent sign of concern over the bloodshed on the border, the actress Natalie Portman, who was born in Jerusalem, said she would not attend a prize ceremony in Israel.

In a statement, the Genesis Prize Foundation quoted a representative for Portman as saying: “Recent events in Israel have been extremely distressing to her and she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel.”

It gave no further details of her reasons. But the foundation said it “admires her humanity, and respects her right to publicly disagree with the policies of the government of Israel”.

Israel’s culture minister, Miri Regev, suggested the actress was supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, which aims to isolate Israel economically over its treatment of Palestinians. Israel sees the BDS movement as an attempt to delegitimise it.

The Genesis Prize is awarded to individuals for excellence in their professional fields and “who inspire others through their dedication to the Jewish community and Jewish values”.

(Additional reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing Angus MacSwan)

Six killed as Israel destroys Gaza tunnel

An Israeli soldier walks near the border line, between Israel and the Gaza Strip, in Israel October 30, 2017.

By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Dan Williams

GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Six Palestinian militants were killed on Monday when Israel blew up what it said was a tunnel being dug across the Gaza Strip border.

A source for the Islamic Jihad militant group said Arafat Abu Marshould, head of the faction’s armed wing in central Gaza, was killed along with a senior associate and two other gunmen. The group said it had put its fighters on “full alert.”

The armed wing of the Islamist Hamas group said two of its gunmen were killed while trying to rescue Islamic Jihad men working in the tunnel. Gaza health officials said nine people were wounded.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in remarks to legislators of his right-wing Likud party, said “groundbreaking technology” aided the tunnel’s discovery, but gave no details.

Israel has been constructing a sensor-equipped underground wall along the 60-km (36-mile) Gaza border, aiming to complete the $1.1 billion project by mid-2019.

During the last Gaza war in 2014, Hamas fighters used dozens of tunnels to blindside Israel’s superior forces and threaten civilian communities near the frontier, a counterpoint to the Iron Dome anti-missile system that largely protected the country’s heartland from militant rocket barrages.

Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, said the tunnel destroyed on Monday was in the process of being dug from the Gaza town of Khan Younis across the border, where it was blown up.

Asked by reporters if Hamas, rather than another armed faction, had dug it, Conricus said: “I cannot confirm that.”

“The IDF (Israel Defence Forces) does not intend to escalate the situation but stands prepared for a variety of scenarios,” Conricus said. “The working assumption is that this is not the only tunnel that Palestinian terrorist organizations are trying to dig.”

“We see Hamas as being responsible for any attempt emanating from its territory, and carried out by people who are under its authority, to impinge on our sovereignty,” Netanyahu told the Likud lawmakers, stopping short of accusing Hamas directly of digging the tunnel.

Islamic Jihad spokesman Daoud Shehab in a statement said Israel’s bombing of “a tunnel of the resistance is a terrorist aggression” and Palestinian resistance factions retained the right to respond “at the suitable time”.

Hamas reached a reconciliation deal with Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority earlier this month, a decade after Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in a brief civil war.

Israel and the United States have called for Hamas to be disarmed as part of the pact so Israeli peace efforts with Abbas, which collapsed in 2014, could proceed. Hamas has rejected the demand.

On Saturday, UNRWA, the main U.N. welfare agency for Palestinians said it had discovered “what appeared to be a tunnel” underneath one of its schools in Gaza on Oct. 15 and had sealed the cavity.



(Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Janet Lawrence)


Israel intercepts missile fired at its air force in Syria

By Maayan Lubell

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The Israeli military said it shot down one of numerous anti-aircraft missiles launched on Friday at its air force which was operating in Syria, in a rare such incident that spilled over into neighboring countries.

The Syrian army said it had shot down an Israeli jet during the operation. Israel denied this, saying that all its aircraft had returned unscathed.

“At no point was the safety of Israeli civilians or the IAF (Israeli Air Force) aircraft compromised,” an Israeli military spokesman said.

Rocket sirens had sounded in the early morning in Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank and two Reuters witnesses heard an explosion a few minutes later.

The military said in its statement that one of the anti-aircraft missiles had been intercepted. The blast was heard as far away as Jerusalem, dozens of miles away. There were no reports of casualties or damage.

A Jordanian civil defense source said a projectile had landed in a village on the outskirts of the northern Jordanian city of Irbid, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the Syrian and Israeli borders, causing light damage.

The source said army engineers were examining the object, believed to be fired from Syrian territory in the direction of Israel. Video posted on social media purported to show remnants of a rocket, possibly parts of the intercepting missile, though Reuters was unable to independently verify the footage.

“Overnight IAF (Israeli Air Force) aircraft targeted several targets in Syria. Several anti-aircraft missiles were launched from Syria following the mission and IDF (Israel Defence Force) Aerial Defence Systems intercepted one of the missiles,” the Israeli military said in its statement.

Israel has carried out dozens of strikes to prevent weapons smuggling to the Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah, which is fighting rebels alongside the Syrian army. However, the interception of a missile making its way over the Syrian border was an uncommon incident.

Syria’s army high command said in a statement on Friday that Israeli jets had breached Syrian air space early in the morning and attacked a military target near Palmyra, in what it described as an act of aggression that aided Islamic State.

It said its air defenses shot down one of the Israeli jets over what it called “occupied ground” and damaged another. Israel denies this.

Israeli media said the Syrian army had fired surface-to-air missiles at the Israeli aircraft. The military would not provide further details on the targets it struck, nor on the amount or type of projectiles launched at its forces.

An Israeli military source said Israel’s Arrow ballistic missile shield had identified an “incoming threat” and shot down one of the projectiles.

Last week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss what he charged were Iran’s attempts to establish a permanent military foothold in Syria.

Iran, Israel’s arch-enemy, has been Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s staunchest backer and has provided militia fighters to help him. Israel is concerned Hezbollah, with which it fought a war in 2006, is trying to obtain sophisticated weapons it could use against Israel.

(Additional reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi in Jordan, Angus McDowall in Beirut; Sabreen Taha in Jerusalem and Jeffrey Heller in Modiin; Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Toby Chopra)

Palestinian Rioters Set Fire to Joseph’s Tomb

After a month or rising tensions and violence, Palestinian rioters set fire to Joseph’s Tomb, a Jewish holy site in the West Bank city of Nablus that is believed to contain the remains of the Biblical patriarch.

The arson came hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for Palestinian leaders to stop the attacks that have been plaguing the nation for weeks. Rioters attacked Joseph’s tomb with petrol bombs.

“The burning and desecration of Joseph’s Tomb last night is a blatant violation and contradiction of the basic value of freedom of worship. The IDF will take all measures to bring the perpetrators of this despicable act to justice, restore the site to its previous condition and ensure that the freedom of worship returns to Joseph’s Tomb,” IDF Spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said in a statement Friday morning.

Palestinian Authority security forces arrived on the scene, dispersing the crowd and dousing the fire. Once the confrontation was over, Israel Defense Forces were deployed to the area according to Channel 2 television. There were no reports of any injuries.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli leaders quickly condemned the attacks. Israeli leaders compared it to the actions of ISIS who have destroyed various holy sites throughout the Middle East. Abbas stated that the holy site would be repaired and called for an investigation.

In a separate incident on Friday, a Palestinian man disguised himself as a journalist and attacked an Israeli soldier. The soldier suffered minor wounds; the attacker was shot on site.

Israel Launches Airstrikes in Gaza in Response to Palestinian Rocket

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) launched a series of airstrikes in the Gaza strip after the Palestinian enclave shot a rocket that was heading for the Jewish nation. The Palestinian rocket was stopped by the Iron Dome anti-missile system.

Palestinian sources told Ynet that the IAF hit 4 “terror targets” inside Gaza, and at least two of the targets belonged to Hamas.

While many citizens heard explosions and reported them on social media, there were no immediate reports of injuries. Israel also had no reports of injuries from the rock that had been intercepted by the Iron Dome near the city of Ashdod.

Israel Defence Force (IDF) spokesman, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner stated: “This evening, the third day of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, a rocket was fired at southern Israel sending the residents of Ashdod as well as several surrounding communities to nearby bomb-shelters. Hamas is responsible and will be held accountable for every attack emanating from the Gaza Strip. The IDF will continue defending all Israelis who are repeatedly attacked by such blatant acts of aggression.”

Sheikh Omar Hadid, and ISIS affiliated Salafist group, used social media to claim responsibility for the rocket attack. The group stated that the rocket was a response to the fatal shooting of Hadeel al-Hashlamon, an 18-year-old woman who was killed at the checkpoint in the West Bank last week. The arrest of an Israeli Arab women for allegedly joining ISIS was another stated reason for the rocket attack.

Captured Hamas Terrorist Gives Up Tunnel Locations

Israel’s Shin Bet General Security Service announced Tuesday they had captured a Hamas terrorist who has given up a trove of information on the terrorist group’s tunnel system into Israel.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has confirmed much of the terrorist’s information including a tunnel in the area of the Kerem Shalom border crossing.  The IDF says they are working “around the clock” to take care of the threat from the newly discovered tunnels.

The terrorist, Ibraheem Adel Shehadeh Shaer, was a tunnel digger for the terror group.  In addition to the locations of new parts to the Hamas tunnel system, Shaer provided information emergency procedures and how they plan to use the tunnels to attack Israel.

Shaer told Shin Bet that Iran provided cash to Hamas along with advanced weapons and electronic equipment.  Some of the advanced equipment is designed to interfere with the control signals for Israeli drone aircraft.

The fighter detailed the advanced units of Hamas along with the group’s anti-tank and anti-aircraft capabilities.  He also gave up the location of observation posts and photographic capabilities into Israel.

Shaer also confirmed that Hamas commanders keep weapons and explosives in their homes around their families because of fear of Israeli airstrikes.

Hamas Strikes Israel; IDF Responds with Air Strikes

Two terrorist attacks were carried out against Israel in the last 24 hours, resulting in a stern response from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

The first was a car attack against Israeli soldiers in the West Bank. Three soldiers were standing along a road in the northern West Bank when the Palestinian driver drove straight into them.  Two of the soldiers were seriously wounded with the third suffering slight injuries.

“We welcome the brave attack that was carried out against the Zionists,” a Hamas spokesperson said, according to the Hebrew-language Maariv website.

“We demand from our people in the West Bank to carry out more attacks, in order to teach the occupation a lesson,” the Hamas statement continued.

Then Friday two rockets were fired by Hamas toward Israel that landed in the Gaza Strip.  The rockets never made it across the Israeli border and no reports of damage or injuries were reported by Hamas.

However, the Israeli Defense Forces struck against Hamas, continuing the policy that Israel will retaliate for any attempted attack upon them by the terrorist group.

“The IDF, by means of Israeli air force aircraft, attacked the Hamas terror organization’s infrastructure in the central Gaza Strip a short time ago,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit announced in a press release.

“The attack was executed in response to the rocket fire at Israeli territory earlier in the afternoon,” the military said. “Hamas is the party responsible for what takes place in the Gaza Strip.”

The IDF reported a direct hit against their target.

Israeli President, Prime Minister Mark Anniversary of Operation Protective Edge

Israeli leaders held an official ceremony marking a year since the beginning of the 50 day war with Gaza.

Both Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid tribute to the 67 soldiers who died during Operation Protective Edge and warned that the next battle could be even more difficult and costly to the nation of Israel.

“The next conflict will be even more difficult than the last. It is clear that such a conflict will require a decisive and difficult decision,” Rivlin said. “When there is no fire towards Sderot, Nahal Oz, Nir Banim, Ashdod or Ashkelon — then there will be no fire towards the Gaza Strip.”

“We are not a people of war, but if forced to take up arms to defend our borders and our existence, we will not hesitate to do so,” the president added.

The remembrance comes as the United Nation’s Human Rights Council voted to condemn Israel for alleged war crimes during the conflict.

Netanyahu, however, appeared to be unmoved the opinion of the United Nations in his comments.

“I say to all enemies of Israel — Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and the Islamic State, too — whoever tries to harm us, their blood is upon their heads,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu also spoke directly to the families of those who perished saying that each one saved lives.

“There isn’t any remedy for your pain,” Netanyahu said. “But with all that pain, you truly understand that your loved ones saved lives… for the sake of Israel.”

“Life is a flowing river that takes us forward and you will eventually know days of hope and happiness,” he continued. “There will always be pain, but your loved ones died as heroes.”

Netanyahu’s brother Yoni died during a 1976 Israeli military action.

Rocket Shot Into Israel From Gaza

A rocket was launched from the Gaza Strip toward Israel on Tuesday night.

Residents scattered for shelter as alarms pierced through the quiet night.  The IDF said the sirens sounded in Zikim, Karmia, Netiv Ha’asara and Yad Mordechai.  All of those towns border the northern Gaza Strip.

Radio Israel reported the rocket landed in an open area between two towns although the IDF would not confirm that report.

The rocket attack was the latest in a string of launches at Israel over the last month due to in-fighting among groups in the Gaza Strip.  A salafi group has been fighting against the Hamas leaders in the Strip and their clashes seem to end with rockets being fired into Israel.

Israeli officials say that Hamas is responsible any time a rocket is fired into their nation from the Gaza Strip.

The attack comes on the heels of the United Nations claiming that Israel could be found liable for war crimes from last summer’s rocket attacks by Palestinian groups.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon earlier this month warned Israel would not allow the conflicts between Hamas and the salafi organization to disrupt Israeli life.

“In recent days we received another reminder about the complexity of the situation in the Gaza Strip, a hostile entity controlled by a murderous terrorist organization, Hamas, which is also challenged by terror gangs affiliated to the global jihad,” he said.

Rockets Fired Into Israel

Rockets were fired toward Ashdod and Lakhish on Tuesday night.

An army source told the Jerusalem Post said that sirens went off in the areas before the rockets headed toward the cities.

Various Israeli media outlets reported five rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip toward the country but that only one rocket actually landed inside Israeli territory.  Initial reports had said that three had landed inside the country.

Sources in Gaza told the Times of Israel that Islamic Jihad fired the rockets toward Israel.  There are disputes inside the organization that led to kidnappings in northern Gaza and ended with the rocket launches into Israel.

The IDF said they are investigating the launch and attempting to confirm the launches were the result of in-fighting among Islamic Jihad.