Archive for November 12, 2018

One seriously hurt as more than 200 rockets, shells from Gaza pummel south 

November 12, 2018

Source: One seriously hurt as more than 200 rockets, shells from Gaza pummel south | The Times of Israel

Bus targeted with anti-tank missile on border before volleys fired at Israel; IDF retaliates with airstrikes, reportedly killing 3

Fresh fighting erupted on the Gaza border Monday afternoon, with dozens of projectiles fired by terrorists in the Strip striking southern Israel, as well as an attack on an Israeli bus near the border that seriously injured one person, officials said.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, more than 200 projectiles were fired at Israel, triggering sirens in Israeli communities close to the Gaza Strip, in the city of Beersheba and even as far away as the Dead Sea and the West Bank’s Hebron Hills.

A number of incoming rockets and mortar shells from Gaza were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system, while several others struck homes and buildings in Israeli communities near the border, causing light injuries and severe damage.

In response to the heavy barrage from the Gaza Strip — one of the largest attacks since the 2014 war — Israeli fighter jets launched a series of air and ground strikes. At least three Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire in the retaliatory attacks and three others were wounded, the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said.

The attacks from Gaza came less than a day after an IDF special operations officer was killed in an operation gone awry that also killed seven Palestinian gunmen in the Strip. Following Sunday night’s incident, the Gaza-ruling terror group Hamas said “the blood of our righteous martyrs will not be wasted.”

The renewed clashes dashed hopes that Israel and Hamas would uphold a precarious ceasefire agreement recently brokered by Egypt and the United Nations and supported by Qatar.

The Israeli military said its helicopters, tanks and other aircraft bombed some 20 sites connected to the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups — the two largest organizations in the Gaza Strip.

According to the military, approximately half of the targets were located in the northern Gaza Strip, including military facilities and observation posts. The other half were located in the southern Strip, the army said.

“In addition, a number of rocket-launching cells were attacked,” the IDF said in a statement. “The IDF is continuing at this time to attack terror cites throughout the Strip.”

The Gaza health ministry identified the dead in the enclave as Muhammed al-Tatri, 27, Muhammed Oudeh, 22, and Hamad al-Nahal, 23. The military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group claimed two of the dead as its members.

A home in Sderot hit by rocket fire from Gaza on November 12, 2018. (Screen capture/Hadashot news)

Rockets struck homes in the coastal city of Ashkelon and the southern Israeli towns of Sderot and Netivot, sparking fires. A mortar shell also hit a powerline in the Sdot Negev region of southern Israel, according to local government officials.

In Sderot, six people were lightly wounded by shrapnel. A seventh victim in Sderot, a 16-year-old girl, was lightly wounded when a heavy metal bomb shelter door closed on her hand, medics said.

In total, at least nine people were taken to Ashkelon’s Barzilai Hospital for treatment, with more receiving first aid on the scene.

The barrage triggered incoming rocket sirens throughout southern Israel, sending hundreds of thousands of Israelis rushing to bomb shelters for cover.

In light of the barrage from the Gaza Strip, which began shortly after 4:30 p.m., the Israeli military ordered residents of communities near the Gaza Strip to remain inside bomb shelters until further notice. That included residents of the towns of Netivot and Ofakim, which are not typically as affected by Gaza rockets as communities closer to the border.

Residents of the cities of Beersheba, Ashkelon and Ashdod were told to stay within close proximity of bomb shelters and protected spaces.

The military also preemptively canceled school for Tuesday in the Gaza border region. In addition, businesses are ordered closed, along with government offices, unless they are considered essential, the army said. No large gatherings are allowed in southern Israel on Monday night and Tuesday, it said.

The barrage began after an anti-tank missile was fired from the Gaza Strip at a bus that was parked at the Black Arrow memorial site in the Sha’ar Hanegev region of southern Israel, a few hundred meters from the Gaza border.

The bus caught fire after the projectile hit it. One man, 19, who was standing nearby was seriously injured. The driver of the bus, 25, was also taken to the hospital after he suffered a panic attack, medics said.

Israeli security forces and firefighters gather near a bus set ablaze after it was hit by an anti-tank missile fired from the Palestinian enclave, at the Israel-Gaza border near the kibbutz of Kfar Aza, on November 12, 2018. (Photo by Menahem KAHANA / AFP)

The 19-year-old Israeli was taken to Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center in serious condition, with injuries throughout his body, medics said.

The military said it did not know the exact type of missile that was used in the attack.

As the fusillade began, Palestinian media reported that Israeli tanks fired artillery shells at a Hamas observation post in northern Gaza. Other reports in the Strip said an Israeli helicopter fired warning shots toward Hamas fighters who approached the border fence in southern Gaza.

Earlier in the day, the Israeli military deployed additional Iron Dome air defense batteries, as well as infantry reinforcements, to southern Israel.

“The Israel Defense Forces reinforced its troops in the Southern Command and is prepared to use large amounts of force if necessary,” the army said in a statement Monday.

After Sunday night’s incident, the Israel special forces squad was forced to retreat to the Israeli side of the fence under the cover of the aerial bombardment, Hamas’s military wing said in a statement. A Hamas spokesperson praised the “brave resistance that repulsed the Israeli aggression.”

Hamas accused Israel of sabotaging the emerging ceasefire agreement that was brokered by Egypt and supported by Qatar.

Palestinians stand next to the remains of a car allegedly used by Israeli special forces during a raid in Gaza, which was was later destroyed in an Israeli airstrike, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on November 12, 2018. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

Weekly Gaza border protests, dubbed the “Great March of Return,” have been taking place since March 30 and have mostly involved the burning of tires and rock-throwing along the security fence, but have also seen shooting attacks, bombings and attempted border breaches as well as the launching of incendiary balloons and kites into Israel. Southern Israel has also seen sporadic, but aggressive rocket bombardments from the Gaza Strip.

Over 160 Gazans have been killed in the clashes, dozens of them members of Hamas. The Hamas Islamist terror group, which seized control of Gaza in 2007, seeks to destroy Israel.

Egypt, alongside United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process Nikolay Mladenov, has recently played a key role in attempts to mediate a ceasefire between Israel and the armed groups in the Strip, as well as to bring about national reconciliation between Hamas and the West Bank-based administration of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.

 

Heavy rocket salvos from Gaza after an Israeli bus hit. 4 Israelis injured – DEBKAfile

November 12, 2018

Source: Heavy rocket salvos from Gaza after an Israeli bus hit. 4 Israelis injured  – DEBKAfile

The Israeli Air Force in action after Palestinians fired 90 rockets from Gaza, hitting three towns and injuring four Israelis on Monday, Nov. 12.  They came after hitting an Israeli bus and scoring the first injured Israeli casualty. The bus was empty.

As it burned,  heavy salvos of at least 90 rockets were fired continuously from the Gaza Strip, many of them intercepted by Iron Domes. They came from all parts of Gaza, and were aimed at Sderot, the Eshkol and Hof Ashkelon councils. Rocket alerts were heard  in Beersheba, Kiryat Gat, Ofakim and Netivot

Paramedics were delayed from evacuating the seriously injured Israeli man by continuous rocket fire. Rockets landed inside three towns, Sderot, Netivot and Ofakim. Four people were injured. Firefighters battled the blazes as the fire from Gaza continued into the central and western Negev, many of the projectiles intercepted in the air by Iron Dome.

There are many shock victims.  The Israel Air force is in action over the Gaza Strip.

 

Israeli seriously hurt as massive barrage from Gaza pummels south 

November 12, 2018

Source: Israeli seriously hurt as massive barrage from Gaza pummels south | The Times of Israel

Dozens of rockets, mortar shells, anti-tank missiles fired at Israel, IDF retaliates with airstrikes, a day after deadly flareup in the Strip

Fighting on the Gaza border erupted Monday afternoon, with dozens of projectiles fired from the Strip striking southern Israel, including one that hit an Israeli bus near the border and seriously injured at least one person, officials said.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, over 80 projectiles were fired at southern Israel in less than 40 minutes. Some were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system, while several others struck homes and buildings in Israeli communities near the Gaza border, causing injuries and damage.

In response to the heavy barrage from the Gaza Strip, Israeli fighter jets launched a series of air raids against targets in the coastal enclave, the military said.

The attack from Gaza came less than a day after an IDF special operations officer was killed in an operation gone awry that also killed seven Palestinian gunmen in the Strip. Following Sunday night’s incident, the Gaza-ruling terror group said “the blood of our righteous martyrs will not be wasted.”

The renewed clashes dashed hopes that Israel and Hamas would uphold a recent ceasefire agreement brokered by Egypt and the United Nations and supported by Qatar.

The barrage triggered incoming rocket sirens throughout southern Israel, and sending tens of thousands of residents rushing to bomb shelters for cover, where they were told to remain until further notice. The military said Iron Dome air defense batteries intercepted some of the incoming rockets and mortar shells.

A projectile fired from the Gaza Strip hit a bus that was parked in the Black Arrow memorial site in the Sha’ar Hanegev region of southern Israel, a few hundred meters from the Gaza border.

One man was seriously injured, medics said. The bus caught fire after the projectile hit it. No alarm sounded in Israeli communities before the mortar strike.

It was not immediately clear what type of munition was fired at the bus, with some reports indicating it was a mortar shell, while others said it was an anti-tank missile.

Palestinians stand next to the remains of a car, said to be destroyed following an Israeli air strike, in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on November 12, 2018 (Photo by SAID KHATIB / AFP)

The 19-year-old Israeli man was taken to Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center in serious condition, with injuries throughout his body, medics said.

The fusillade came minutes after Palestinian media reported that Israeli tanks fired artillery shells at a Hamas observation post in northern Gaza. Other reports in the Strip said an Israeli helicopter fired warning shots toward Hamas fighters who approached the border fence in southern Gaza.

Earlier in the day, the Israeli military deployed additional Iron Dome air defense batteries, as well as infantry reinforcements, to southern Israel.

“The Israel Defense Forces reinforced its troops in the Southern Command and is prepared to use large amounts of force if necessary,” the army said in a statement Monday.

Israeli schools in communities near the Gaza border were ordered shut on Monday, and local farmers were forbidden to work in their fields. Residents of southern Israel were initially instructed to remain close to bomb shelters or other protected spaces, but that directive was later rescinded on Monday morning.

After Sunday night’s incident, the Israel special forces squad was forced to retreat to the Israeli side of the fence under the cover of the aerial bombardment, Hamas’s military wing said in a statement. A Hamas spokesperson praised the “brave resistance that repulsed the Israeli aggression.”

Hamas accused Israel of sabotaging the emerging ceasefire agreement that was brokered by Egypt and supported by Qatar.

Palestinians stand next to the remains of a car allegedly used by Israeli special forces during a raid in Gaza, which was was later destroyed in an Israeli airstrike, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on November 12, 2018. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

But IDF Spokesperson Ronen Manelis said the decision to carry out the still-classified raid was not made lightly. “Actions like this are considered seriously,” he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had been in Paris on an official state visit, cut his trip short and returned to Israel on Monday morning in an effort to salvage the ceasefire deal with Hamas. Upon his arrival, the prime minister received a security briefing from senior defense officials.

The flareup punctured a brief calm along the restive border, coming two days after Israel allowed Qatar to send $15 million in cash to Hamas in Gaza — one of the first moves in a reported ceasefire agreement between Israel and the terrorist group.

Weekly Gaza border protests, dubbed the “Great March of Return,” have been taking place since March 30 and have mostly involved the burning of tires and rock-throwing along the security fence, but have also seen shooting attacks, bombings and attempted border breaches as well as the launching of incendiary balloons and kites into Israel. Southern Israel has also seen sporadic, but aggressive rocket bombardments from the Gaza Strip.

Over 160 Gazans have been killed in the clashes, dozens of them members of Hamas. The Hamas Islamist terror group, which seized control of Gaza in 2007, seeks to destroy Israel.

Egypt, alongside United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process Nikolay Mladenov, has recently played a key role in attempts to mediate a ceasefire between Israel and the armed groups in the Strip, as well as to bring about national reconciliation between Hamas and the West Bank-based administration of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.

 

New Powerful Defense Alliance Changes European Security Landscape

November 12, 2018
Alex GORKA | 11.11.2018 | WORLD / Europe
https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2018/11/11/new-powerful-defense-alliance-changes-european-security-landscape.html

Ten European states have created a new defense coalition. It was launched on June 25 and held its first historic meeting in Paris on Nov.7 to start thrashing out details of how the force will operate and welcome Finland as the tenth participant. All founding nations are EU members, including Great Britain, which is to leave the bloc in March, 2019. Led by France, the European Initiative Intervention (EII) comprises the UK, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and Finland to cooperate in the planning, analysis of new military and humanitarian crises, and possible joint activities in response to contingencies. It is planned to have a common budget.

In a nutshell, the EII members will maintain readiness to carry out missions together independently from the United States, the EU or NATO. A streamlined decision-making process will permit a quick reaction time while the smaller number of members will give more flexibility in comparison with the North Atlantic Alliance, where the process is based on consensus among 29 nations, or the EU, which has failed to deploy the four multinational military battle groups created as far back as 2007.

French President Macron said he wanted a “real European army” because “We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America.” “When I see President Trump announcing that he’s quitting a major disarmament treaty which was formed after the 1980s Euromissile crisis that hit Europe, who is the main victim? Europe and its security,” he told Europe 1 in his first radio interview since becoming president. Emmanuel Macron believes that “Europe can ensure its own protection against Russia and even, under an unpredictable President Donald Trump.” That’s how the US is viewed in Europe now. Not a defender but rather a threat.

“The goal: that our armed forces learn get to know each other and act together,” French Defense Minister Florence Parly tweeted on the occasion of launching the EII. “Thanks to exchanges between staff and joint exercises, we will create a European strategic culture. We will be ready to anticipate crises and respond quickly and effectively,” he commented on the final goal.

According to Stratfor, “the EI2’s membership reveals that France is willing to go beyond the European Union in its quest for partners (as the United Kingdom will leave the bloc in 2019) and also outside of NATO (as Finland is not a member of the Atlantic alliance).”

The EU defense integration moves ahead at frustratingly slow pace. The 2017 “Permanent Structured Cooperation” (PESCO) defense agreement brought together 25 of the 28 armed forces. The UK, Denmark and Malta have decided to opt out of the voluntary system. Focused mainly on industrial cooperation, PESCO is not a great thing in real terms. It only offers a relatively small special fund to finance operations. It does not provide the EU with real joint fighting forces but rather offers a gradual integration at slow pace. The agreement has no provision on defense expenditure hike. The EU budget does not allocate money for creation of “European Army.” Besides, there are deep divisions between EU members states with different groups formed inside the Union. What sounds good on paper, may have little relation to real life. New smaller alliances are gradually being formed inside NATO and the EU – the blocs facing the threat of partition.

This and US President Trump overturning the treaties and putting into question the invocation of Article 5 prompted the formation of the new European defense alliance that is supposed to have real teeth and operate outside the EII’s control. The French-led initiative uniting EU and non-EU countries is especially attractive for Great Britain, which seeks a potential vehicle for post-Brexit defense cooperation outside the EU framework.

An independent military bloc will weaken NATO and reduce the Europe’s dependence on the United States. From this point of view, it will benefit Europe because its interests often do not coincide with that of the US. For instance, America cares little about the immigration, which is a far-flung problem for Washington, but keeping new migrants waves away is a matter of make it or break it for EU. In their turn, Europeans have nothing to do in Iraq and Afghanistan and have sent forces there only to demonstrate the transatlantic solidarity.

As one can see, Finland has found the EII preferable to NATO. But having joined the officially inaugurated new military alliance, it won’t be a neutral state anymore. It has become a member of the military organization, which openly says that Russia, its neighbor, is a threat to counter. This is a very significant change in the country’s foreign policy. Actually, the launching of the EII has attracted little media attention and undeservedly so, but the Finland’s EII membership has not gone unnoticed in Russia. Last year, Finland along with Sweden joined the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF). It has allowed to use NATO forces use its territory during exercises, such as Trident Juncture-2018 – the largest NATO training event since the cold War.

The UK has always opposed the plans to create a European defense alliance, fearing it would be detrimental for NATO. Now it has done an about-face. It can continue to maintain special ties with US being a part of the new European defense alliance.

The formation of the EII shows how deep are the rifts dividing NATO and the EU into groups pursuing their own interests. These large organizations appear to have seen better days. They have become too large to be really united and strong. Like the empire of Alexander the Great, such large organizations have short lives. NATO and EU expansions were mistakes. It may never be said officially but the ten European nations have delivered a heavy blow against the US-led NATO. If the project does not gradually die away with all the ideas and initiatives swept under the rug being entangled in red tape, President Emmanuel Macron will go down in history as the architect of new large and powerful defense alliance to change the European security landscape.

The tensions and divisions between Europe and Russia are not forever and the EII and Russia don’t have to be adversaries, looking at each other through crosshairs. After all, they face common security threats. Sooner or later, cooperation in the field of security will be back on the agenda.

New waves of asylum seekers from Libya are a potential danger for Europe. Russia has influence in that country- it can help to prevent it. Joining together to restore Syria is another potential area of cooperation. The deployment of intermediate range weapons in Europe could be prevented with the INF Treaty not in force anymore if certain agreements were reached at Russia-Europe level even without US participation. The military activities can be discussed to ease the tensions. While the United States is preoccupied with the promotion of “America First” concept, the EII and Russia can talk. They could use the OSCE framework for it.

In August, President Macron called for strategic partnership with Russia. According to him, “I think that on matters like cybersecurity, defense, strategic relationships, we could envisage the outlines of a new relationship between Russia and the EU which is coherent with the direction Europe is headed in.” No improvement in the Russia-EU, Russia-NATO relationships is looming but it could be different regarding the ties between the EII and Russia. The options are a dialog and confrontation. Which of them will prevail? You never know. President Macron has said he prefers the first.

Netanyahu: ‘The citizens of Israel owe an enormous debt to fallen soldier’ 

November 12, 2018

Source: Netanyahu: ‘The citizens of Israel owe an enormous debt to fallen soldier’ | The Times of Israel

Defense minister says contributions by Lt. Col. Mem, who was killed in intelligence-gathering mission that went awry, may never be known publicly

A helicopter carrying a wounded Israeli soldier who was injured during an operation in the Gaza Strip lands outside Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center on November 11, 2018. (Twitter)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday offered his condolences to the  family of the senior special forces officer who was killed overnight during an operation in the Gaza Strip that sparked hours of clashes.

“I bow my head in sadness at the loss of Lt. Col. Mem, a glorious fighter who fell during an IDF operation in the Gaza Strip,” the prime minister tweeted.

“The day will come when we can tell of all his valor. The citizens of Israel owe him an enormous debt.

“Our forces acted valiantly tonight. I salute Lt. Col. Mem, his family and his comrades in arms,” wrote Netanyahu.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at a press conference in Paris, France, on November 11, 2018. (screen capture: GPO)

President Reuven Rivlin said he was “shocked and saddened” to learn of the death of Lt. Col. M, and said he was joining the rest of Israel in praying for the recovery of the other soldier injured in what the army described as an intelligence-gathering mission that went awry.

The injured soldier regained consciousness Monday morning, and was not in life-threatening danger, the hospital said.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (C) leads discussions at military headquarters in Tel Aviv, November 12, 2018 (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman extended his condolences to the family of Lt. Col. M, and indicated that his contributions to the state may never be known publicly.

“Israel lost an experienced fighter, whose contributions to the country will remain a secret for years to come,” Liberman tweeted. “I send my heartfelt condolences to his family and wishes for a speedy recovery to the injured officer.”

Liberman on Monday morning continued his security consultations at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, his office said.

President Reuven Rivlin speaking at the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly in Tel Aviv, October 22, 2018. (Mark Neyman/GPO)

Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett, a member of the security cabinet, said Israel was united in mourning the death of the officer and praying for the speedy recovery of the other.

“Thanks to the heroes who work year-round in the shadows to ensure Israel’s security, we can all live here safely,” he said in a statement.

Chairman of the Yesh Atid party Yair Lapid also offered his condolences, and in a statement praised IDF soldiers “who with bravery and determination reminded Hamas and our other enemies that there is no place where we will not find them.”

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni said Monday that all of Israel was mourning the death of Lt. Col. M, and that Israel is “proud of our courageous soldiers who are ready for any mission at any hour.”

Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein extended condolences to the family of the “courageous fighter” on behalf of the Israeli parliament. He said the hearts of all Israelis were “with our forces working in Gaza, and we hope that they all return in peace.”

IDF Spokesperson Ronen Manelis said Monday that the overnight mission in Gaza was intended as an intelligence-gathering mission by IDF special forces operating deep inside Gaza, not an assassination or kidnapping attempt.

Most details of the raid, including the identity of the officer who was killed, remained subject to a military censor and could not be published.

Members of the Palestinian security forces gather at a hospital morgue where the bodies of five of the six men killed during an Israeli operation on Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip were transported on November 11, 2018. (Said KHATIB / AFP)

At some point during the overnight operation, the Israeli troops clashed with local Hamas fighters, killing a senior commander and several other members of the Gaza-ruling terrorist group.

The IDF unit called in aerial support — aircraft to bomb the surrounding area — and made its away out of the Gaza Strip.

Manelis said the soldiers operating in Gaza overnight “became trapped in a highly complex situation but they had responded “heroically, hit those who threatened them and extracted themselves to Israeli territory.”

In addition to the IDF lieutenant colonel who was killed — identified only by the Hebrew letter of his first name, “Mem” — a second IDF officer was wounded in the firefight and taken to Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center in moderate, stable condition.

According to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, seven Palestinians in total were killed in the exchange and another seven were injured.

Following the raid, Palestinian terrorist groups launched at least 17 projectiles — rockets and mortar shells — at southern Israel. Three of them were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system. The rest fell in open fields outside populated communities, one of them causing light damage to a greenhouse in the Eshkol region.

Hamas accused Israel of sabotaging an emerging ceasefire agreement that was brokered by Egypt and supported by Qatar.

Residents of southern Israel were told to remain close to their bomb shelters in the event of reprisals Sunday night, with updated instructions early Monday allowing them to move away from protected spaces. Early Monday the IDF declared the area around Gaza a closed military zone and train lines south of Ashkelon were cancelled.

Netanyahu cut short an official state visit to Paris and is set to return to Israel later on Monday to try to salvage the ceasefire deal with Hamas.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

 

Israeli special forces officer killed, another injured in Gaza raid 

November 12, 2018

Source: Israeli special forces officer killed, another injured in Gaza raid | The Times of Israel

Fatal mission appears to have been an operation that went awry, but not an assassination attempt; senior terror commander and six other Hamas members said killed

IDF strikes in Gaza, November 11, 2018 (Channel 10 screenshot)

IDF strikes in Gaza, November 11, 2018 (Channel 10 screenshot)

An Israeli special forces officer was killed and another was moderately wounded during a night-time operation in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the army said. The incident sparked intense clashes between the Israeli military and the Hamas terror group.

At least seven Palestinian terrorists were killed in the firefight and airstrikes that followed the Israeli raid, including a senior Hamas commander, according to Palestinian officials. Six of the Palestinian fatalities were said by Hamas to be its members. The seventh was a member of the Nasser Salahdin Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, Hamas said in a statement.

Israeli officials later indicated that the incident was an operation that went awry but not an assassination attempt.

The military censor barred news of the IDF officer’s death and the second officer’s injuries from being published for several hours until their families could be notified. The names of the soldiers were not immediately released.

The fighting set off a massive round of Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, and by morning 17 rockets or mortar shells were fired at southern Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced late Sunday he would cut short an official state visit to Paris and return to Israel immediately.

The flareup punctured a brief calm along the restive border, coming two days after Israel allowed Qatar to send $15 million in cash to Hamas in Gaza — one of the first moves in a reported ceasefire agreement between Israel and the terrorist group.

According to Hamas’s military wing, the Qassam Brigades commander Nour Baraka was killed along with six other Palestinian terrorists by Israeli special forces who drove a “civilian vehicle” three kilometers into Gaza from the border or during the ensuing Israeli airstrikes.

Hamas terrorist Nour Baraka (Hadashot TV Screenshot)

Baraka was reportedly closely involved in Hamas’s tunnel program and also served as the commander of a Khan Younis regional battalion.

Maj. Gen. (res.) Tal Russo, a former commander of the IDF Southern Command, indicated that the operation was likely an intelligence-gathering mission gone wrong, rather than an assassination attempt on Baraka, as Hamas initially claimed.

“Activities that most civilians aren’t aware of happen all the time, every night and in every region. This action — an operation that was apparently exposed — wasn’t an assassination attempt. We have other ways of assassinating people and we know how to do it much more elegantly,” Russo told Channel 10 news.

The retired general, who until recently was responsible for the IDF’s missions abroad, also told Army Radio that Baraka was likely killed in exchanges of fire amid an Israeli rescue effort to extract the special forces soldiers.

Palestinian media outlets reported the Israeli troops had initially tried to capture — not kill — Baraka during the raid, but that the Hamas commander was shot dead after the operation was exposed. The Israeli military later denied this, saying the mission was not an assassination or kidnapping operation.

Members of the Palestinian security forces gather at a hospital morgue where the bodies of five of the six men killed during an Israeli operation on Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip were transported on November 11, 2018. (Said KHATIB / AFP)

The Qassam Brigades said it engaged the Israeli commandos, setting off an intense firefight with Israeli troops, including reported intense drone strikes throughout the southern Gaza Strip.

The special forces squad was forced to retreat to the Israeli side of the fence under the cover of the aerial bombardment, Hamas’s military wing said in a statement. A Hamas spokesperson praised the “brave resistance that repulsed the Israeli aggression.”

Israeli military sources, however, indicated that the raid was not an attempted assassination against Hamas figures but a more routine intelligence gathering operation that had been completed when the troops were spotted and confronted, prompting exchanges of gunfire.

The Israeli military confirmed that “an exchange of fire broke out during security activities by the IDF in the Gaza Strip region,” but would not elaborate further.

Many details of the Israeli operation in Gaza could not be published by order of the military censor.

Jonathan Conricus@LTCJonathan

Quick recap so far: IDF operated in the Gaza Strip, exchange of gunfire ensued. All IDF soldiers back in Israel. Several alarms have sounded in Southern Israel. More to follow.

Following the clashes, at least 17 projectiles were fired at southern Israel as of 05:05 a.m Monday, three of which were shot down by the Iron Dome air defense system, the army said with no immediate reports of casualties.

Light damage was caused to a number of greenhouses in the Eshkol region, locals said.

Residents of southern Israel were instructed to remain close to their bomb shelters in the event of reprisals Sunday night. Early Monday the IDF declared the area around Gaza a closed military zone and train lines south of Ashkelon were cancelled.

There were no reports of rockets or mortar shells landing inside Israeli communities near the Gaza border. The projectiles not intercepted by the Iron Dome apparently landed in open fields.

The flight paths into and out of Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport were altered in light of the Gaza clashes, a spokesperson for the Aviation Authority said.

Netanyahu was informed of the flare-up while in Paris on an official state visit.

“In light of the security-related incidents in the South, the prime minister has decided to shorten his visit to Paris and to return to Israel tonight,” his office said in a statement.

Culture Minister Miri Regev was appointed acting prime minister in Netanyahu’s absence; however, she cannot call a meeting of the powerful security cabinet as she is not a member of it.

A Palestinian hurls stones at Israeli troops during a riot on a beach near the maritime border with Israel, in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, on October 29, 2018. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has the authority to hold a special session of the security cabinet.

On Sunday evening, he met with top defense officials in the army’s Tel Aviv headquarters, including IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot and the head of the Shin Bet security service Nadav Argaman.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman meets with IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot, the head of the Shin Bet security service and other senior defense officials in the army’s Tel Aviv headquarters on November 11, 2018. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

According to the Gaza Strip’s Hamas-run health ministry, in addition to Baraka, six other Hamas members, all in their 20s, were killed in clashes with the IDF.

Seven other Palestinians were reportedly injured in the clashes.

Israelis in the Eshkol region, across from Khan Younis, reported hearing multiple explosions as fighting broke out at around 9:30 p.m.

Roads immediately surrounding the Gaza Strip were closed in light of military activities, the police said.

Hamas’s interior ministry told Palestinian media that the terror group’s military wing and police force were put on high alert throughout Gaza, following the clashes.

The flare-up came as the sides were said to be nearing a deal for a ceasefire along the restive border.

On Friday, Israel allowed in $15 million of Qatari cash for Hamas to pay workers amid intensive Egyptian led efforts to reach a calm between the sides.

Earlier Sunday, Netanyahu said Israel was doing its utmost to prevent “unnecessary wars” in the Gaza Strip, but maintained that diplomacy was futile with the Hamas leaders of the Palestinian enclave.

At a press conference in Paris, where the prime minister had attended the 100th anniversary commemorations of the end of World War I along with other world leaders, Netanyahu said no final diplomatic deal was possible with Hamas — the ruler of the beleaguered enclave.

“There is no diplomatic solution for Gaza, just as there is no diplomatic solution for ISIS,” said Netanyahu.

A Palestinian woman counts her money after receiving her salary in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip November 9, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

“I am doing everything I can to avoid an unnecessary war,” said the prime minister, pointing to the deaths of millions during the First World War as an example of senseless bloody warfare. “I am not afraid of war if it’s necessary, but I want to avoid it if it’s not necessary.”

Weekly Gaza border protests, dubbed the “Great March of Return,” have been going on since March 30 and have mostly involved the burning of tires and rock-throwing along the security fence, but have also seen shooting attacks, bombings and attempted border breaches as well as the launching of incendiary balloons and kites into Israel. Southern Israel has also seen sporadic, but aggressive rocket bombardments from the Gaza Strip.

Over 160 Gazans have been killed in the clashes, dozens of them members of Hamas. The Hamas Islamist terror group, which seized control of Gaza in 2007, seeks to destroy Israel.

Egypt, alongside United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process Nikolay Mladenov, has recently played a key role in attempts to mediate a ceasefire between Israel and the armed groups in the Strip.

Egyptian mediators have been working intensively to maintain calm, and also hope to bring about national reconciliation between Hamas and the West Bank-based administration of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

TOI staff and Agencies contributed to this report.

 

US-backed Syrian fighters resume offensive against ISIS 

November 12, 2018

Source: US-backed Syrian fighters resume offensive against ISIS – Israel Hayom