Archive for July 21, 2018

Hamas announces ceasefire after killing of IDF soldier near Gaza sparks strikes

July 21, 2018

20 Jul 2018

Soldier wounded by sniper fire on Friday dies of his wounds; IDF says three Hamas battalion headquarters destroyed in reprisal raids; 3 projectiles fired at Israel, 2 intercepted

A picture taken on July 20, 2018 shows explosions from Israeli bombardment in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. Israeli aircraft and tanks hit targets across the Gaza Strip on July 20 after shots were fired at troops on the border and a soldier was killed, the army said, with Hamas reporting several members of its military wing killed in the latest flare-up in months of tensions.( AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

Hamas announced a ceasefire with Israel in the early hours of Saturday morning, after Palestinian snipers shot and killed an IDF soldier on the Gaza border earlier on Friday, sparking the night’s widespread Israeli strikes on Hamas targets across Gaza.

“With Egyptian and UN efforts, [an agreement] was reached to return to the previous situation of ceasefire between the occupation and Palestinian factions,” tweeted Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum.

Israel had no official comment on the ceasefire announcement.

The IDF announced the death of the soldier late Friday night, revealing details on the deadly incident hours after it happened.

“Today, an IDF combat soldier was killed during operational activity near the southern Gaza Strip. During the incident, a terrorist squad shot at IDF troops and the IDF soldier was severely injured. He later succumbed to his wounds,” the army said.

Details of the death were withheld for several hours until the soldier’s family were notified. His name was not immediately published.

The death was the first of an Israeli soldier on the Gaza front since 2014’s Operation Protective Edge.

Earlier the IDF said Gaza snipers had opened fire on troops, calling it the “most serious incident since the 2014 Gaza war.

In response the Israel Air Force launched a major wave of strikes at Hamas targets across the Gaza Strip on Friday evening.

“At this time our aircraft are carrying out widespread attacks against terror targets belonging to Hamas in the Gaza Strip,” the IDF said, adding that this came after the “serious shooting incident against our forces,” referring to sniper fire at IDF troops during a riot on the border earlier in the day.

A picture taken on July 20, 2018 shows a fireball exploding in Gaza City during Israeli strikes (AFP PHOTO / BASHAR TALEB)

The army said around 60 targets were hit, including three Hamas brigade headquarters in Zeitoun, Khan Younis and al-Bureij. The army said the headquarters were completely destroyed along with “weapons and ammunition stores, training grounds, observation posts, control centers and the offices of the brigade commander.”

The IDF said it also destroyed factories and machinery for the manufacture of weapons, a drone storage facility, an entry shaft to tunnels and “elements for constructing underground infrastructure.”

There were no reports from Gaza of injuries in the strikes.

“The strikes are continuing,” the IDF said, releasing video of the strikes.


Following the strikes, rocket warning sirens wailed in communities around Gaza. At least two projectiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome system and another fell in an open field, the army said. There were no reports of projectiles falling in Israeli communities or injuries.

The air raids came as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived at the IDF headwaters in Tel Aviv to join Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and the top IDF generals for a security assessment.

The IDF Spokesman Ronen Manelis did not rule out a major ground offensive, but said the IDF was not looking to enter a full-scale conflict. Nonetheless, the fire on the troops at the border was “the most serious incident” since the 2014 conflict, Manelis said, and the IDF’s Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot had spent the years since then ensuring that the army was ready for “whatever response is necessary.”

A picture taken on July 20, 2018 shows smoke plumes rising after an Israeli bombardment in Gaza City.
Israeli aircraft and tanks hit targets throughout the Gaza Strip on July 20 after shots were fired at troops along the border, the army said, with Gaza’s health ministry reporting three Palestinians killed. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

Cabinet minister Tzachi Hanegbi told Hadashot news that Israel was preparing for a massive response on Gaza.

“Last week the air force carried out strikes that were described as the largest since Operation Protective Edge in 2014, we will look back at it after our response now and say it was a joke,” Hanegbi said. “The gloves are coming off.”

“The situation is that Hamas has repeatedly ignored our warnings, both private and public,” Hanegbi said.

Hadashot news analysts said that while Israel’s response would be widespread, it was unlikely to include the entrance of ground forces.

Israelis living close to the Gaza border were told to stay close to bomb shelters, and not to attend synagogues for Friday evening prayers in larger numbers than could be accommodated in protected rooms if Gaza terror groups were to launch rocket attacks.

Reports said that Israeli special forces had been stationed near border communities to prevent possible Hamas attacks through attack tunnels into Israel.

Manelis said that Hamas had spent the past three and a half months carrying out acts of terrorism during mass demonstrations at the border, firing rockets and mortar shells into Israel, and launching arson kites and balloons. Israel had tried to convey to the terror chiefs that it “means business” in demanding that the terrorism stop, but Hamas evidently had not got the message, he told Hadashot TV news.

Manelis noted that the IDF carried out a major drill this week, including simulating a ground incursion to retake control of Gaza, from where Israel withdrew in 2005. Asked whether that was a likely scenario, Manelis said it would be more sensible to wait for the completion of the current military action “over the next few hours.”

He noted that Israel had deployed Iron Dome missile defense batteries in the south and center of the country, and said the IDF was prepared “for all scenarios.”


Senior official: Hamas has committed to halt the fire terrorism

July 21, 2018

Source: Senior official: Hamas has committed to halt the fire terrorism

After a ceasefire is reached between Hamas and Israel following a severe flare-up in Gaza caused by the death of an IDF soldier by sniper fire, an Israeli senior official warns Hamas it will pay a much more heavy price if kite and balloon terrorism continues.
An Israeli senior official said Saturday that “Hamas has taken a hard pounding Friday evening which led it to ask for to a truce with Israel  while committing to halt the fire terrorism and the Gaza border violence.”

“The actions in the field are those to determine what happens next. If Hamas breaks (the ceasefire) it would pay even a more severe price,” the official asserted.

Incendiary kite terrorism  (Photo: AFP)

Incendiary kite terrorism (Photo: AFP)

Following a special situation assessment held Saturday morning and a calm night on the border fence, the IDF’s Home Front Command said Israeli communities on the Gaza border can return to civilian routine. The Zikim beach, which was closed Friday amid the volatile situation, was reopened Saturday morning.

“With Egyptian and United Nations efforts it has been agreed to return to the era of calm between (Israel) and Palestinian factions,” said Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman.

Nevertheless, shortly after that an IDF tank fired at a Hamas post in northern Gaza after several Palestinians crossed the border fence into Israel. The infiltrators immediately returned to Gaza’s territory, and no casualties were reported.

Back to routine in Zikim beach (Photo: Roee Idan)

Back to routine in Zikim beach (Photo: Roee Idan)

Apart from that incident, the truce has been holding, with no further retaliation from Gaza. Hamas came under pressure not to retaliate to the extensive Israeli strikes, and the terror group exercised restraint throughout the night, only responding with moderate short-range rocket fire.

An IDF soldier was killed near Kissufim by sniper fire from the Gaza Strip on Friday afternoon, leading to a retaliatory strike by the IDF that killed at least four Hamas members.

The IDF soldier, who was wearing a ceramic vest, was killed by a bullet hitting his chest. A helicopter was called to evacuate the severely wounded soldier, but he was pronounced dead in the field, the IDF said.

IDF pounds Gaza (Photo: AFP)

IDF pounds Gaza (Photo: AFP)

This incident marks the first time an IDF soldier is killed on the Gaza frontier in active duty since the 2014 Operation Protective Edge and since the “March of Return” campaign had been launched.

The soldier’s death sparked a retaliatory strike by the IDF that killed at least four Hamas fighters.

During the flare-up, which lasted several hours, IDF tanks had hit 68 Hamas targets and had “eliminated about 60 buildings and infrastructures and revoked significant military and command and control capabilities.”

The Hamas Zaytun battalion headquarters in northern Gaza, as well as Hamas headquarters in Bureij in central Gaza and in Khan Yunis in the southern part of the strip, were completely destroyed.

The IDF’s spokesperson’s Unit called Friday’s offensive “The Headquarters Night” and stressed that it had severely damaged Hamas’s arms depots, training facilities, observation posts, battalion situation rooms, battalion commander’s offices and other infrastructures.

Khamenei backs blocking Gulf oil exports if Iranian sales stopped 

July 21, 2018

Source: Khamenei backs blocking Gulf oil exports if Iranian sales stopped – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

Iranian officials have in the past threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, a major oil shipping route, in retaliation for any hostile US action.

 JULY 21, 2018 16:20
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

DUBAI – Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday backed President Hassan Rouhani’s suggestion that Iran may block Gulf oil exports if its own exports are stopped and said negotiations with the United States would be an “obvious mistake.”

Rouhani’s apparent threat earlier this month to disrupt oil shipments from neighboring countries came in reaction to looming US sanctions and efforts by Washington to force all countries to stop buying Iranian oil.

“(Khamenei) said remarks by the president… that ‘if Iran’s oil is not exported, no regional country’s oil will be exported,’ were important remarks that reflect the policy and the approach of (Iran’s) system,” Khamenei’s official website said.

Iranian officials have in the past threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, a major oil shipping route, in retaliation for any hostile US action.

Khamenei used a speech to foreign ministry officials on Saturday to reject any renewed talks with the United States after President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from a 2015 international deal over Iran’s nuclear program.

“The word and even the signature of the Americans cannot be relied upon, so negotiations with America are of no avail,” Khamenei said.

It would be an “obvious mistake” to negotiate with the United States as Washington was unreliable, Khamenei added, according to his website.

The endorsement by Khamenei, who has the last word on all major issues of state, is likely to discourage any open opposition to Rouhani’s apparent threat.

Khamenei also voiced support for continued talks with Iran’s European partners in the nuclear deal which are preparing a package of economic measures to offset the US pullout from the accord.

“Negotiations with the Europeans should not be stopped, but we should not be just waiting for the European package, but instead we should follow up on necessary activities inside the country (against US sanctions),” Khamenei said.

France said earlier this month that it was unlikely European powers would be able to put together an economic package for Iran that would salvage its nuclear deal before November.

Iran’s oil exports could fall by as much as two-thirds by the end of the year because of new US sanctions, putting oil markets under huge strain amid supply outages elsewhere in the world.

Washington initially planned to totally shut Iran out of global oil markets after Trump abandoned the deal that limited Iran’s nuclear ambitions, demanding all other countries to stop buying its crude by November.

But it has since somewhat eased its stance, saying that it may grant sanction waivers to some allies that are particularly reliant on Iranian supplies.

Mossad said to have thwarted Iranian plot to bomb opposition rally in France

July 21, 2018

Source: Mossad said to have thwarted Iranian plot to bomb opposition rally in France | The Times of Israel

Israeli agents reportedly led European team that prevented Paris attack coordinated by an Iranian diplomat last month

People hold pictures of relatives killed by the Iranian regime during the "Free Iran 2018 - the Alternative" event on June 30, 2018, in Villepinte, north of Paris. Six people were arrested in Belgium, Germany and France for an alleged plot to attack the rally, including an Iranian diplomat and his wife. (AFP Photo/Zakaria Abdelkafi)

People hold pictures of relatives killed by the Iranian regime during the “Free Iran 2018 – the Alternative” event on June 30, 2018, in Villepinte, north of Paris. Six people were arrested in Belgium, Germany and France for an alleged plot to attack the rally, including an Iranian diplomat and his wife. (AFP Photo/Zakaria Abdelkafi)

Israel’s Mossad spy agency thwarted a terror attack in a Paris suburb last month, giving authorities in France, Germany, and Belgium crucial intelligence that led to arrests of a cell headed by an Iranian diplomat, Hebrew media reported Thursday.

The cell, headed by an Iranian diplomat at the Austrian embassy in Vienna, also consisted of  two Belgian nationals and an alleged accomplice in France. They planned to bomb a June 30 conference organized by an Iranian dissident group, the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran.

About 25,000 people attended the rally in the Paris suburb of Villepinte.

The Mossad, in conjunction with their counterparts from Belgium, France, and Germany, led a hunt that crossed several European borders and prevented the bombing, Hadashot news reported, without giving sources.

The operation included tracking the suspects and eavesdropping on them,  Hadashot said.

The Belgian nationals, a husband and wife identified as Amir S. and Nasimeh N., were charged earlier this month with their role in the plot.

The couple, described by Belgian prosecutors as being “of Iranian origin,” carried 500 grams (about a pound) of the volatile explosive TATP along with a detonation device when an elite police squad stopped them in a residential district of Brussels.

The arrests came days before Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif met with European nations to try to shore up the 2015 nuclear accord, after US President Donald Trump walked away from the deal.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu alluded to the operation ahead of the meeting.

“There is a meeting this week by the P4 without the United States…” and “the P4 invited Iran’s President Rouhani to attend,” Netanyahu said derisively at an event to mark US Independence Day.

“At the same time, in recent days, this same regime dispatched a terrorist cell to carry out a major terrorist action in France. The commander of this terrorism cell was an Iranian diplomat in Austria… This Iranian terror plot was planned on the soil of Europe on the same week that the European leaders are supposed to meet the president of Iran about circumventing the sanctions on Iran,” Netanyahu said.

The newspaper Bild identified the Iranian diplomat as 47-year-old Assadollah A.

Björn Stritzel


Iranian diplomat arrested in Germany over terror plot: Allegedly instructed an Iranian couple from Belgium to bomb MEK rally.,la=de.bild.html 

Agenten-Krimi im Spessart! – Plante Iran-Geheimdienstler Anschlag in Paris?

Am Sonntag ging der Polizei auf einer Raststätte an der A3 ein großer Fisch ins Netz! Assadollah A. (47) soll einem Ehepaar aus Antwerpen den Auftrag zu einem Sprengstoffanschlag auf iranische…

Police carried out five raids across Belgium linked to the affair, authorities said, though they refused to detail any results of the operation.

The People’s Mujahedeen (MEK), formed in the 1960s to overthrow the shah of Iran, fought the rise of the mullahs in Tehran following the 1979 Islamic revolution.

It earned itself a listing as a “terrorist organization” by the US State Department in 1997 and was only removed from terror watchlists by the European Union in 2008 and by Washington in 2012.