Archive for March 31, 2019

Ayaan Hisri Ali: “No compromise with islamists

March 31, 2019

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https://voiceofeurope.com/2019/03/ayaan-hisri-ali-no-crompromise-with-islamists/

In order to actually make Islam the religion of peace, the majority of Muslim people should change in five aspects, Somali-born Dutch-American activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali told Mandiner.

 

According to Hirsi Ali, Muslims should change their attitude to the Quran and Muhammad instead of taking everything literally; appreciate actual life more than life after death; the sharia and the concept of jihad should be changed and they should change the norm of not reporting radicals to the police.

Speaking to Hir Tv, she warned the Islamisation is an actual threat in Europe, financed by countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

In an interview with daily Magyar Hirlap, Hirsi Ali pointed out that while compromises can be found among the various groups in democracy, it is not possible to reach a compromise with Islamists.

Netanyahu not calling security cabinet meeting for political reasons, Bennett says

March 31, 2019

Earlier that day, Bennett, a cabinet member, had written a letter to Attorney-General Avihai Mandelblit calling on him to require Netanyahu to call a meeting.

By Lahav Harkov
March 31, 2019 13:50
https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Netanyahu-not-calling-security-cabinet-meeting-for-political-reasons-Bennett-says-585330
Naftali Bennett (L) and Benjamin Netanyahu (R). (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled the first Security Cabinet meeting called since Hamas escalated its attacks on Israel last week, a move that New Right leader Naftali Bennett has said is politically motivated.

The meeting was set for Wednesday and then canceled soon after on Sunday.

Earlier that day, Bennett, a cabinet member, had written a letter to Attorney-General Avihai Mandelblit calling on him to require Netanyahu to call a meeting.

In light of Hamas launching rockets at the Tel Aviv suburbs over 2 weeks ago, last week’s rocket attack, which destroyed a home in Moshav Mishmeret, near Kfar Saba, and an onslaught of launches at towns in the south, together with over 40,000 rioters at the Gaza border over the weekend, Bennett said Netnayahu’s reticence to call a cabinet meeting “doesn’t make sense.”

According to Bennett, the actions taken so far “have not created the necessary deterrence against Hamas’ actions, which are meant to hurt the security of Israeli citizens.”

He also expressed concern at reports that Israel is negotiating with Hamas.

“It is not reasonable, in my opinion, for the Prime Minister and security establishment to manage such important security events on their own, without the Security Cabinet ministers, who carry the responsibility [for Israel’s response] by law, giving their opinions,” Bennett wrote to Mandelblit.

After the meeting was canceled, Bennett said it was a political move, and that Netanyahu is “holding residents of the South hostage for a political campaign.

“Netanyahu is avoiding calling a cabinet meeting, because he knows that, just like with the operation to destroy Hamas tunnels in Protective Edge, I will oppose a shameful deal with Hamas and will lead a creative initiative to defeat Hamas,” said Bennett, who seeks to be appointed defense minister in the next government.

Spokespeople for the prime minister did not respond to requests for comment.

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Greenblatt: US recognizes Golan annexation ‘for the safety of Israel’ 

March 31, 2019

Source: Greenblatt: US recognizes Golan annexation ‘for the safety of Israel’ – Israel Hayom

Attempts to label U.S. President Trump’s recognition of Israeli Golan Heights as move to boost Netanyahu’s re-election chances “cynical,” U.S. special envoy Jason Greenblatt says • Move necessary given increased security threats from north, he says.

JNS and Israel Hayom Staff // published on 31/03/2019
   
U.S. Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt 


U.S. Special Envoy for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt said on Thursday it was “cynical” to label this week’s U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights as a move to boost Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election chances just weeks before Israelis go to the polls on April 9.

“That’s a cynical response,” Greenblatt told JNS. “This is necessary for the safety of Israel. We see more and more security risks coming from the north. People will define it the way they want to define it, but what I think [U.S.] President [Donald] Trump did was absolutely the right decision.”

On Monday, the president signed a proclamation to make what he tweeted last week become official.

“After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and regional stability!” he wrote on Twitter.

Greenblatt reiterated to JNS on Thursday that the move was a “historic and bold” but also “necessary announcement, similar to the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017, followed by the relocation of the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv in May the following year.

Greenblatt, who spoke at the World Values Network’s International Gala, said that “Trump has been clear about Israel’s absolute right to defend itself in the face of terror and aggression, including most recently the attacks from [the] Gaza [Strip].”

“That is why Trump has recognized Jerusalem and moved our embassy there and just this week signed a proclamation recognizing the Golan Heights.”

He also discussed the widely anticipated Middle East peace plan that is expected to be released after the elections. Greenblatt said that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is “one of the most complex and difficult conflicts in human history.”

“Many well-meaning and talented teams had attempted to mediate. We studied why these attempts had not succeeded,” he said. “Peace can only be built on truth.”

 

Iran urges Palestinians to resist Trump’s pro-Israel moves 

March 31, 2019

Source: Iran urges Palestinians to resist Trump’s pro-Israel moves – Israel Hayom

Iran’s Foreign Ministry says U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Golan Heights as part of “illegitimate Zionist regime” shows Palestinian resistance, perseverance is the right path • Trump to host Egypt’s el-Sissi at White House next week.

Reuters and Israel Hayom Staff // published on 31/03/2019
   
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif 


Iran’s foreign ministry on Friday called on Palestinians to be steadfast in their resistance against U.S. President Donald Trump’s moves in support of Israel on Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

In a statement on the eve of “Land Day,” an annual commemoration of the deaths of six Arab Israelis killed by Israeli security forces during demonstrations over government land confiscations in northern Israel in 1976, the foreign ministry said: “The U.S. president’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital … and the occupied Golan Heights as part of the illegitimate Zionist regime … shows clearly that Palestinian resistance and perseverance as symbolized by ‘Land Day’ is the right path.”

In remarks carried by state television, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said accused the U.S. of “breaking international law on a daily basis … and recently in regards to the Golan Heights.” He said, “We should resist this and, God willing, we will come out victorious.”

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday signed a decree recognizing Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights, captured from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War. The decision, which was criticized by Arab states, came as Israel gears up for elections on April 9. The U.N. Security Council has declared the annexation “null and void and without international legal effect.”

EPA
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Golan decision would help resolve the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians by removing uncertainty. White House advisers Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt have been working on a peace proposal to address the conflict.

Meanwhile, the White House announced that U.S. President Donald Trump will host his Egyptian counterpart Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi at the White House on April 9 for talks on strengthening their strategic partnership and working on shared priorities in the Middle East, the White House announced on Friday.

In a statement, the White House said the two leaders would discuss “building on our robust military, economic and counterterrorism cooperation” as well as regional economic integration and “Egypt’s longstanding role as a lynchpin of regional stability.”

The visit by el-Sissi comes at a time of renewed tensions between Israel and Palestinian terrorists in Gaza after a rocket fired from the coastal enclave wounded seven Israelis near Tel Aviv.

Israel responded with airstrikes and warnings from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel was prepared to wage a broad military campaign in Gaza if needed.

 

5 rockets fired from Gaza despite supposed ‘understanding’ 

March 31, 2019

Source: 5 rockets fired from Gaza despite supposed ‘understanding’ – Israel Hayom

Despite attack, Israel opens border crossings • Hamas: Israel offering economic incentives in exchange for calm • 40,000 Palestinians gather for mass marches Saturday, far less than 100,000 initially predicted • Four Palestinians killed in border riots.

Lilach Shoval, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff // published on 31/03/2019
   
Palestinian protesters neat the Gaza-Israel border fence, Saturday 


Palestinian terrorists fired five rockets from Gaza into Israel early Sunday, the IDF said, following a day of Palestinian mass protests along the Israel-Gaza border fence. Four Palestinians, including three teenagers, were killed and dozens were wounded by IDF soldiers.

The rocket fire threatened to undermine Egyptian-mediated efforts to cement a deal that the Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers hope will ease an Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the territory.

No casualties were reported from the rockets and no Palestinian group claimed responsibility.

Despite the rocket attack, meanwhile, Israel reopened the two crossings with the Gaza Strip after days of hostilities in a sign that cease-fire talks may be advancing.

Israeli and Hamas officials confirmed Sunday that the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings were opened for the first time since Monday.

On Saturday, tens of thousands of Palestinians rallied in the Gaza Strip to mark the one-year anniversary of their mass protests along the Israeli border.

Most demonstrators kept their distance from the border, though crowds of activists approached the border fence and threw stones and explosives toward Israeli troops on the other side..

Hamas had pledged to keep the crowds a safe distance from the fence to avoid inflaming the political atmosphere during negotiations of a possible easing of the blockade.

Hamas officials said that Israel is offering a package of economic incentives in exchange for calm along the volatile border.

Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official, said the group had received “positive signs” from the Egyptians. He added that the Egyptian team was to return to Israel on Sunday to continue the talks. “We will continue our marches until all our goals are achieved,” he said.

Saturday’s protest came at a sensitive time, with Israel and Hamas, bitter enemies that have fought three wars and dozens of smaller skirmishes, both having a strong interest in keeping things quiet.

Hamas, meanwhile, faces growing unrest in Gaza as a result of worsening economic and humanitarian conditions. Earlier this month, Hamas violently suppressed several days of public protests, staged under the slogan “We want to live,” over the dire conditions.

Speaking on the group’s Al-Aqsa TV station, Hamas’ top leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, praised the protesters. “With this big turnout, our people say, ‘We want to live!'”

His use of the protesters’ slogan appeared to be aimed at diverting the recent criticism of his group. Hamas blames the Egyptian-Israeli blockade and punitive measures by the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority for worsening the living conditions.

The fence protests haven’t delivered major improvements.

Saturday’s demonstrations were held at five rallying points along the border with Israel. Dozens of volunteers in fluorescent vests were deployed to restrain demonstrators, and rainy weather also appeared to affect enthusiasm.

The IDF estimated 40,000 Palestinians were gathered at the marches, far fewer than the 100,000 it had initially predicted.

“The rioters are hurling rocks and setting tires on fire. In addition, a number of grenades and explosive devices have been hurled at the Gaza Strip security fence,” the army said in a statement.

In a statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the army’s preparation and performance in maintaining “calm.”

While bloodshed was not avoided, it was far less than previous high-profile protests. Over 60 people were killed during intense protests on May 14, the day the U.S. moved its embassy to Jerusalem.

As Saturday’s protest was winding down, organizers vowed to continue the marches and said they would gather again as usual next Friday.

The army also said it caught two young Palestinian children who had tried to cross the border with a knife. The children were returned to Gaza through a border crossing.

Earlier on Saturday, Gaza health officials said Israeli troops shot and killed a 21-year-old Palestinian man near the perimeter fence, hours before the mass rally.

The army said about 200 Palestinians “rioted during the night along the fence” and that the army used riot dispersal means against them.

Egypt has repeatedly tried to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, stepping up efforts in recent days after a Gaza rocket struck a house in central Israel earlier this week, wounding seven Israelis and threatening renewed escalation.

 

Off Topic:  Ilhan Omar can declare victory 

March 31, 2019

Source: Ilhan Omar can declare victory – Israel Hayom

Ari Blaff

Defying the odds, accusations and invective, U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) has won.

At the very least, she has succeeded in shifting the bounds of acceptable debate on the topic of Jewish power and influence. Omar’s repeated comments on Jews buying politicians, Israel hypnotizing the world and her promoting the canard of dual loyalty has resonated with a growing faction of the Democratic Party. Such statements have now been translated from fringe rhetoric to unspoken policy.

It came with little surprise, then, that leading Democratic presidential nominees decided to refrain from attending the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference. That list of luminaries included Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren and Beto O’Rourke. Their absence was optical: a signal to American Jews and Israelis alike that a growing faction of the Democratic Party is questioning old orthodoxies, starting with Israel.

The move was spurred on by the progressive organization MoveOn, which denounced AIPAC for opposing the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and undermining Palestinian self-determination.

In conjunction with earlier comments by Omar (herself an icon of American progressivism), these developments underscore a deeper shift unfolding within the Democratic Party. Although much outrage and condemnation were dispensed in the wake of the congresswoman’s comments, the choreographed vitriol proved to be little more than political doublespeak: “We condemn the promotion of Jewish conspiracy theories but, effectively, we will follow your lead.” Simply a polished version of the anti-Semitic myths parroted by Omar.

Omar and MoveOn are not out of sync with the Democratic Party: They are the progressive pacesetters, the trailblazers, illuminating where liberal politics in the United States is bound. Nor are they out of step with other liberals. According to MoveOn polling, more than three-quarters of members supported the boycott in an online survey. Such findings were reiterated by an Economist-You Gov survey showing that cross-sections of the Democrats – millennial, liberal and female – no longer support Israel much.

This is the progressive core that Omar and her ilk pander to. And for these political forces, ideologies decrying the harm of Jewish influence, money and power are well and fair: “punching up,” speaking truth to power.

Nowhere has this veneer of acceptability been more tolerated than when directed at Jews.

When asked about American Jewish concerns with the anti-Semitic rhetoric of Nation of Islam head Louis Farrakhan, who has been linked to the leadership of the Women’s March, progressive political commentator Melissa Harris-Perry called it “weird.” Harris-Perry maintained that only Farrakhan’s ability to enact, to carry out, his bigotry could drive her to denounce him. The progressive magazine Salon condemned alt-right anti-Semitism in 2017 as a “bellwether of society.” However, when the shoe was on the other foot – and Omar as well as other progressive figures, including Women’s March leaders Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory, waded into the shoals of Jew-hatred – Salon conveniently moved the yardsticks. In its view, the political establishment had mobilized to crush Omar.

This is the ultimate irony that American Jews are only now beginning to digest: that Jews are not part and parcel of the “diversity” progressives have in mind. Jews are now too successful, too white and too powerful. In other words, Jews, or perhaps more aptly, those who support Israel, are not welcome.

This article is reprinted with permission from JNS.org.

Ari Blaff is a journalist whose writings have appeared in The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel, National Post, Israel Studies, Quillette and Marginalia.

Russia grabs the reins on Mideast peace 

March 31, 2019

Source: Russia grabs the reins on Mideast peace – Israel Hayom

Mickey Ahranson

In one of his first comments as Palestinian Authority Prime Minister, Mohammed Shtayyeh said other countries, chief among them Russia, would support Palestinian rejection of the Trump administration’s “deal of the century” for Israeli-Palestinian peace. It wasn’t for nothing that Shtayyeh highlighted Russia.

In recent years, Russia has expressed an interest in getting involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, due to its own regional and global interests of restoring its status as a superpower. Hence Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently refloated the idea of hosting talks between Israel and the Palestinians in Moscow. Over the years, Moscow has on multiple occasions proposed advancing a peace agreement via a Moscow summit, but Israel has preferred to let the United States spearhead the process. The current Russian interest in the conflict is a reflection of Moscow’s ambitions to establish a presence in the Middle East as a mediator, within the prism of a zero-sum game against the Americans, and amid the view that U.S. clout on the Arab street is waning. Russia, from its perspective, assumes this activity is only beneficial: The cost, in any practical or abstract sense, is insignificant, and the expected returns of restoring Russia to prominence in the Arab and Muslim world are self-evident to the Kremlin.

Russia also illustrates its desire to be a mediator on the global stage by saying and doing certain things to paint itself as a critical cog in any peace process. This always occurs simultaneous to, or immediately after, the Americans unveil their own initiatives. In 2017, for example, as talks were progressing over moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, Russia announced its desire, as a member of the Quartet, to advance a peace deal. At the time, Russia issued a surprise declaration that it recognizes west Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel, regardless of the establishment of a Palestinian capital in east Jerusalem. The Kremlin also supported direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians and expressed its interest in facilitating an agreement. The declaration emphasized Russia as a key player due to its membership in the Quartet and its permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council. Lavrov also denounced the “deal of the century” and stressed Russia’s commitment to a peace deal based on U.N. resolutions and the Arab peace initiative.

In recent months, as the American “deal of the century” has gained more exposure, Moscow has intensified its efforts to advance intra-Palestinian reconciliation, including repeatedly inviting Palestinian factions for talks in Moscow. Hamas is shunned to varying degrees by the U.S. and European Union, and Russia wants to signal it can hold dialogue with the PA and the regime in Gaza.

Last month, for instance, Hamas representatives flew to Moscow and were given the opportunity to present an alternative solution to the conflict. Among the principles put forth were the rejection of the “deal of the century” and opposition to any form of normalization with Israel. Although these principles are irrelevant to negotiations with Israel, voicing them in Russia strengthens the narrative that Moscow is grabbing the reins as the only mediator capable of communicating with all the Palestinian factions, especially when they are all united in opposing the “deal of the century.”

The United States and Israel must assume from past experience that as the “deal of the century” approaches its deadline, two processes will take place. First, we can assume that ignoring Russia will provoke a Russian attempt to enlist an Arab and international lobby against the U.S. proposal. Additionally, Russia will advance its own alternatives for resolving the conflict, which the Palestinians can view as a basis for negotiations, such as the summit in Moscow, the Quartet path or any other platform that will include Russia as a member of the international “club.”

This situation makes it increasingly likely for a scenario to unfold in which Israel, not the Palestinians, is painted as the rejectionist side, particularly in light of the fact that a plan such as the one presented by Hamas in Moscow in completely unfeasible from Israel’s perspective. In all likelihood, if it were possible to establish an international framework for a peace accord, which would include Russia, such as the Quartet, it would probably rise to the forefront. Because, among other things, Russia has expanded its leverage with the Arab world and it very much wants to partake in the prestigious “club” of nations.

Micky Aharonson was head of the foreign relations directorate of the National Security Council in the Prime Minister’s Office and is a research fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

 

Hold off in Gaza, for now 

March 31, 2019

Source: Hold off in Gaza, for now – Israel Hayom

Dr. Hanan Shai

There are two reasons why Israel must avoid a decisive operation that would entail a deep incursion into Gaza to clear it of terrorists, rockets, and other weapons and create a military reality that would keep the enclave from rearming.

The first is the inhuman monster that has been built in the Gaza Strip, which – like its twin in Lebanon – combines rocket fire against the Israeli homefront; endless obstacles designed to ensure that Israeli ground maneuvers rack up heavy casualties; and “human shields.” All these are meant to keep the IDF from employing massive pre-emptive counterfire to “soften” enemy targets and minimize casualties among its forces, as well as keep the fighting short.

These monsters should have been wiped out in their inception through pre-emptive strikes, like Israel’s strikes to take out the nuclear reactors in Iraq and Syria before they became operational. But the IDF preferred to let the rockets “rust in warehouses” because at the same time the enemy’s capabilities were changes, so was the IDF itself.

Starting at the end of the 1990s, the IDF cast aside its doctrine of swift victories, which was based on a philosophy taken from nature, and donned a new set of emperor’s clothes in the form of a doctrine sewn from existentialism, in which there is no one objective truth that must meet the burden of scientific proof. In this thinking, people “make the truth” and can base that truth on stories and legends, and change is as they see fit.

Since, according to this philosophy, there is no one truth, there can be no distinction between good and bad, between just and evil people, or between friends and enemies. There is also no justification to go to war since in the absence of truth and justice, killing the enemy and even casualties on our side – without which we cannot win – are immoral. The IDF espoused a new doctrine that was supposed to deter the enemy and cause it to give up, even without its physical abilities to wage war being eradicated. The enemy was supposed to give up simply because of shock and awe caused by fireworks displays of advanced technology and intelligence, amazing in their precision and power. The result: an exhausting war of attrition that has gone on since 2002, which Israel can’t stop like it stopped wars of attrition in the past.

Given the failure of this doctrine in the 2006 Second Lebanon War, one might have expected the IDF to take off its new clothes and readopt its traditional approach of quick victories. Operation Protective Edge in 2014 exposed the fact that the IDF had not followed the government’s instructions, which were, in a nutshell: Get back to basics.

Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi is the kid who after two decades of unwillingness to say that the emperor is naked, has stepped in to save Israel from its current impasse. At his swearing-in ceremony, he announced his intention to restore the IDF to an “effective, lethal, and innovative army.” Later, he issued instructions to put together a strategy for an unequivocal win. However, this obviously can’t happen as long as the IDF is clinging to a philosophy that rejects anything unequivocal.

Kochavi’s mission is as hard as that of the first IDF chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Yaakov Dori, who in the midst of the War of Independence was forced to turn an army that had been prepared to battle gangs of marauders into an army that could fight other armies. As a lesson from the high price paid in 1948, we must give the IDF the time it needs to implement the “Kochavi revolution.” Otherwise, Israel could find itself drawn into a long period of killing and destruction. That is the second reason why Israel should hold off, for now.

Dr. Hanan Shai is a lecturer in the Political Science Department at Bar-Ilan University.

The Gaza Scam: Hamas eluded IDF payback by its main assault on Friday night, then showed “restraint” on Saturday – DEBKAfile

March 31, 2019

Source: The Gaza Scam: Hamas eluded IDF payback by its main assault on Friday night, then showed “restraint” on Saturday – DEBKAfile

While announcing a big anniversary march on Saturday, March 30, Hamas caught Israel by surprise on Friday night, when a 240-firebomb blitz was aimed for five hours at Israel troops by just 200 Hamas terrorist pros. Hamas then proceeded to stage a “restrained” event at the scheduled time on Saturday. Bracing for the worse the next day, the IDF Friday night was satisfied with firing just three tank shells at a Hamas position.

But people living in the vicinity of Gaza reported that on Friday night the earth and the walls of their homes shook as never before under the impact of the ferocious Hamas blitz. Since the main event was still ahead, Israeli officials and commanders were satisfied with a muted response. But the fierce assault the night before enabled Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar to strut at the head of 40,000 Palestinians on Saturday and claim victory in the contest. “Israel is now on trial,” he told the cheering masses. “Next year’s March of Return demonstrations will be nothing like this year’s!” he shouted.

Since by Saturday, the main event was relegated to the past and Israel’s reprisal was a non-event, Hamas could claim credit for staging the March of the Million with restraint, its operatives conspicuously scurrying about in the crowd and pushing them back from the Israeli border fence.

Although three Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire and scores injured, the terrorists could signal the Egyptian truce brokers that they had behaved reasonably, and it was now up to Israel to make the running.

This Hamas scam was the epitome of low, malign cunning. If Israel and the IDF prove willing to swallow the humiliation meted out to their prized Golani and Paratroop units at by Palestinian terrorists without an appropriate response, they should not be surprised to find people starting to believe the lie propagated by Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah that the IDF is no longer fit for ground combat and its commanders are afraid to send the troops into battle.

Perhaps the last word is still to come. It was announced that the strength the IDF massed over the past week around the Gaza Strip is to remain in place in the coming days.

 

Gazans shoot five rockets at Israel after day of ‘restrained’ border protests

March 31, 2019

Source: Gazans shoot five rockets at Israel after day of ‘restrained’ border protests | The Times of Israel

Regional council says no injuries or damage from missiles, which land in open areas; fire likely to place damper on efforts to mediate truce

Israeli troop firing a tear gas cannister at Gazan protesters during border demonstrations on March 30, 2019 near kibbutz Nahal Oz. (Jack GUEZ / AFP)

Israeli troop firing a tear gas cannister at Gazan protesters during border demonstrations on March 30, 2019 near kibbutz Nahal Oz. (Jack GUEZ / AFP)

Several rockets were fired from Gaza at Israel early Sunday, officials said, marking a likely setback hours after the sides appeared to be headed for an unofficial truce following a day of low-level violence along the border.

There were no reports of injuries or damage from the rocket fire, the Eshkol Regional Council said in a statement.

The Israel Defense Forces said five rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza after sirens sounded in the Eshkol region adjacent to the southern Gaza Strip at about 12:40 a.m.

Explosions had been heard and “rocket strikes had been pinpointed to open areas,” the regional council said. It said searches were underway to locate the fired munitions.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility from Gaza.

Israeli security forces inspect the scene of a house that was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip in the town of Mishmeret in central Israel on March 25, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

The strikes would appear to be the first rocket fire since a round of heavy fighting waned on Wednesday, following a flareup sparked when a rocket hit a home in central Israel, injuring seven people.

The renewed fire will likely place a damper on efforts between the sides to mediate a truce, after both sides expressed satisfaction with a relative lack of violence during large protests along the border Saturday, leading to hopes that understandings could be reached soon. It may also put the kibosh on plans to reopen two crossings in and out of the Strip on Sunday.

Egyptian mediators, shuttling between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers, have been engaged in exhaustive efforts to broker a long-term ceasefire deal. The understandings between the sides reportedly included Hamas making arrangements for preventing violence during Saturday’s protests.

Earlier, an official with the Hamas terror group, which rules the Strip, said the sides could reach understandings for a long-term calm “within days,” and Israeli officials were reportedly looking into easing some restrictions on the Strip in place since last week after the relative lack of violence over the weekend.

Israeli military vehicles keeping position at the border fence as Palestinians waving national flags demonstrate to mark the first anniversary of the ‘March of Return’ protests, March 30, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Over 40,000 Palestinians took part in rallies at the Gaza border Saturday afternoon, with some rioters throwing grenades and explosives toward the security fence as well as lobbing rocks at troops and burning tires.

The enclave’s Hamas-run health ministry said three 17-year-old Palestinians were killed during the protests, while at least 300 were injured. Another Palestinian was shot and killed in the early morning before the main demonstration began, reportedly as he approached the border fence during overnight protests.

Most of those hurt were lightly wounded, but three were said to suffer critical injuries.

Tear gas canisters fall amongst Palestinians during a demonstration near the border with Israel, in Malaka east of Gaza City, on March 30, 2019 (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

The army said soldiers responded with “riot dispersal means” and live fire in accordance with IDF regulations, noting that most Palestinians attending the one-year anniversary of the “March of Return” protests remained at a distance from the border.

During the protests Hamas actively worked to keep protesters away from the security fence as part of apparent understandings with Israel.

IDF spokesman Ronen Manelis said Hamas, the terror group that rules Gaza, had “operated with restraint not seen in the past year.”

He said Israeli forces had observed hundreds of Hamas members wearing orange vests spread out between the crowd and the fence, preventing the masses from rushing toward the border.

In this file photo taken on March 30, 2018 Israeli soldiers keep position as they lie prone over an earth barrier along the border with the Gaza Strip in the southern Israeli kibbutz of Nahal Oz as Palestinians demonstrate on the other side commemorating Land Day. (Jack Guez/AFP)

In the past, Israel has accused Hamas of encouraging the protests and using them as cover to carry out attacks on Israeli troops stationed along the frontier. Previous demonstrations have seen dozens of deaths, including among Gazans who crossed the fence with weapons.

An Israeli diplomatic official said Israel was “satisfied” with Egyptian mediation efforts that had contributed to the relatively calm Land Day protests in Gaza. He also credited “Israeli policy that included strong air force attacks, severe warnings to Hamas and the massive deployment of the IDF.”

Speaking to the Lebanese al-Mayadeen TV channel Saturday night, Hamas deputy chief Saleh al-Arouri said “there is a good chance of reaching understandings in the coming few days.”

However, Arouri clarified that any long-term truce reached with Israel would not mean a cessation of their “resistance” efforts.”

“As far as we are concerned, there is no political or national commitment. We…will continue to [participate] in all national activities and [undertake] all forms of resistance against the occupation in every place on the Palestinian land,” the Hamas official said.

Palestinians gather during a demonstration near the border with Israel in Malaka east of Gaza City on March 30, 2019. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

He said the organization’s main aim was “to remove the blockade” on Gaza, which Israel and Egypt have enforced since the group took over the territory from Fatah in a violent coup in 2007. Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent Hamas, a terror group that openly seeks to destroy Israel, from acquiring weapons it will use to attack it.

Under the Egyptian plan, Israel is to offer economic incentives for Gaza in exchange for calm. These are said to include easing restrictions on imports and exports, extended fishing zones and more.

On Saturday night, the government had ordered the IDF to plan to open two crossings closed last week should calm remain overnight.

The Erez pedestrian crossing and the Kerem Shalom commercial terminal were both shuttered Monday after the rocket launched at central Israel. A fishing ban in place since then was also due to be lifted.

Saturday night and Sunday morning also saw dozens of Gazans demonstrating near the border fence as part of nightly protests by so called “confusion units.” The demonstrations normally include rolling burning tires at the fence as well as hurling sound grenades and improvised explosives, and shining laser pointers at troops across the border.