Archive for November 12, 2019

On the border of Gaza, facing Iran 

November 12, 2019

Source: On the border of Gaza, facing Iran – analysis – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

PIJ is important for Iran because the Islamic republic’s regime often argues that the terrorist group is the center of “resistance” against Israel and the US.

BY SETH J. FRANTZMAN
 NOVEMBER 12, 2019 15:08
On the border of Gaza, facing Iran - analysis

Tuesday morning saw more than 150 rockets fired from Gaza by Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in response to Israel striking and killing an Islamic Jihad commander. This builds upon more than a year of escalating tensions between Israel and the militants in Gaza, which often comes in the context of Iran tensions. The question is whether this morning’s rocket fire is the storm before the calm or just a prelude to something worse.

In the past, particularly last October and November, the tensions between Islamic Jihad and Israel were seen in the context of Iran. Iran is a close ally, supplier and financial support of PIJ. It sees the terrorist group like one of its many proxies and allies in the region. In contrast to other groups, PIJ is made up of Sunni Arabs in Gaza, whereas Iran usually works solely with Shi’ite proxies such as Hezbollah.

PIJ is important for Iran because Tehran’s regime often argues that it is the center of “resistance” against Israel and the US. In order to weave a narrative of “resistance,” it must show that it is actually doing something against Israel. Since Iran doesn’t like to sacrifice its own Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps members, it works through other groups. In Lebanon it supplies Hezbollah with precision guidance for its rocket arsenal; in Gaza it has relations with PIJ and also with Hamas.

The morning hours in Israel brought increasing barrages from Gaza, creeping north toward Tel Aviv. They aimed at Gadera and Holon and then Modi’in. But by 11:30 a.m., PIJ was hesitant to extend the range to Tel Aviv. It wants to show that it will not remain silent in the face of the killing of Baha Abu al-Ata, the commander that Israel killed in the morning. In the past, PIJ has shown that it can fire large barrages of rockets and that it has sophisticated and numerous projectiles.

I drove south from Jerusalem toward the border of Gaza on Tuesday. After Gadera, Route 4 heads toward Ashdod and Ashkelon, the two large coastal cities north of Gaza. It was there that a missile struck near the side of the road, the blast leaving a small crater around a meter long. The explosion had caused injuries, and a car drove off the road, the driver in shock. Had it impacted just a few meters away in the road, it would have been worse.

Further south, below Ashkelon, the roads became empty. The army had cordoned off part of the roads near the Gaza Strip, stopping traffic from Netiv Ha Asa’ara to Sderot. This road has been the front line of so many conflicts going back to the Gaza disengagement. Rockets fired from the Strip go over the road and head toward other parts of Israel. In the past, when Israel has built up ground forces before fighting in Gaza, it has staged them near here.

The border was quiet on Tuesday after the initial morning rocket fire – until noon. A few booms could be heard in the distance. Airplanes and drones made a cacophony in the distance. PIJ knows that if it continues, this will lead to a wider conflict. Hamas also remained outside the conflict in the morning, knowing that it, too, must calculate what comes next. It has talked about elections with the Palestinian Authority, and must gauge the possible gains and losses from a new conflict with Israel. Since March of 2018, Hamas has staged protests and fired a thousand rockets at Israel. It knows the outcome. PIJ has also fired numerous rockets.

With Syrian media reporting an airstrike in Damascus, there are wider calculations as well. However, pro-Iranian media tended to shy away from numerous accounts of the conflict in Gaza, perhaps not wanting to admit that their proxy was in trouble. In August, Israel struck a “killer drone” team near the Golan that was linked to Iran and Hezbollah. In September, Shi’ite militias in Damascus tried to fire a rocket at Israel. The tensions are clear, but Iran faces challenges in Syria and Iraq. It wants to crush anti-Iranian protests in Iraq, and is concerned that the US may stay in Iraq. Hezbollah also faces protests in Lebanon.

On the border of Gaza, near a concrete shelter that has been painted with scenes of a farm, the Iranian threat seems far away. But it is always right there. The bucolic fields, the greenhouses and the chirping of birds say that there will not be a major war. The fields have not yet been churned up by Merkava tanks as they were in 2014. The soldiers are walking nonchalantly. They’ve been up since the morning too, with the sirens. Everyone is waiting.

 

IDF girds for several days of fighting after 150 rockets fired at Israel

November 12, 2019

Source: IDF girds for several days of fighting after 150 rockets fired at Israel | The Times of Israel

After six hours of attacks by Islamic Jihad in response to assassination of top terrorist, army announces start of retaliatory air campaign

Smoke billows from a building in Gaza City on November 12, 2019, after an Israeli airstrike killed a commander of Palestinian militant group and prompted retaliatory rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

The Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday afternoon launched a campaign of retaliatory airstrikes against the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group in the Gaza Strip following approximately six hours of unanswered rocket attacks on central and southern Israel from the enclave.

The military said its airstrikes targeted Palestinian Islamic Jihad underground facilities and training camps. The IDF said these underground facilities were used “for storage and manufacturing of weapons.”

These sites are seen as critical facilities for the terror group, which PIJ has invested large sums of money to construct.

IDF aircraft also bombed a group of Islamic Jihad operatives in the northern Gaza Strip as they prepared to fire rockets at Israel around 1 p.m., the military said.

One of the terrorists was killed and three others were wounded in the strike, the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said.

In the predawn hours of Tuesday morning, Israeli Air Force jets fired precision ammunition at a building in the Shejaiya area of Gaza City where PIJ senior commander Baha Abu al-Ata was located, assassinating him and killing his wife, in a joint operation by the IDF and Shin Bet security service.

According to the IDF, Abu al-Ata was the true “senior commander” of the Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, having ordered the group to carry out most of the significant rocket and border attacks from the Palestinian enclave in recent months and planning to carry out more.

“[Abu al-Ata] acted in every way to sabotage attempts for calm with Hamas, and… was responsible for the majority of attacks that took place over past year,” IDF chief Aviv Kohavi said in a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.

Shortly after Abu al-Ata’s assassination, the PIJ began launching dozens of both short- and long-range rockets, firing the majority of them at the Israeli communities around Gaza and a smaller number at major cities in central Israel throughout the morning.

One man was lightly injured by a rocket attack that struck a highway near the town of Gan Yavne, and an 8-year-old girl was in serious condition after she collapsed suddenly while hiding in a bomb shelter during a rocket attack on the city of Holon. It was not immediately clear if her injury was caused by the rocket attack. In addition, several people were hospitalized with light injuries that occurred as they ran to bomb shelters.

Israel largely refrained from retaliating for the first six hours of the rocket attacks, during which an estimated 150 projectiles were fired from Gaza, with the exception of one airstrike on Tuesday morning against two PIJ members whom the IDF said were preparing to launch projectiles at Israel. At least one of them was killed and the other was injured in the strike, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.

Approximately 60 incoming rockets were shot down by the Iron Dome missile defense system, according to unofficial tallies that were not immediately confirmed by the IDF.

Firefighters respond to a blaze at a factory in the town of Sderot that was caused by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip on November 12, 2019. (Fire and Rescue Services)

Shortly after noon, following a meeting of the security cabinet, the IDF announced it was launching retaliatory strikes against Islamic Jihad targets in the Strip.

Notably, the Israeli military did not say it would be conducting strikes against the Hamas terror group, the de facto rulers of the Gaza Strip. In general, the IDF’s modus operandi has been to attack Hamas targets in response to any violence emanating from the Strip, as it considers the terror group to be the sovereign of the enclave.

IDF spokesperson Jonathan Conricus said Israel sent messages to Hamas, through unidentified third parties, urging the terror group to not take part in this round of fighting and that in return the IDF would not carry out strikes against it.

“We are monitoring [Hamas’s] activities and will conduct ourselves accordingly,” Conricus said.

The military said it was preparing for several days of fighting with terror groups in the Gaza Strip.

On Tuesday morning, the IDF Home Front Command ordered all schools and non-essential businesses closed in the following areas: the Gaza periphery; the Lachish region; the western Negev; the central Negev; and the Shfela region. The IDF also forbade gatherings of more than 100 people there.

Schools were also closed in the Dan region, including Tel Aviv, and in the Yarkon region. Businesses were temporarily ordered shut there as well, but were allowed to reopen on Tuesday morning, providing there was a bomb shelter nearby, the military said. In the Dan and Yarkon regions, the IDF forbade all public gatherings of more than 300 people.

It was the first time that the IDF ordered a closure of schools and businesses in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area since the 2014 Gaza war, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge.

Israelis inspect a house in the southern Israeli town of Netivot on November 12, 2019, following a rocket attack from Gaza City in retaliation for an Israeli strike that killed a commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)

Though there have been relatively few injuries caused by the rocket attacks, several projectiles have caused damage to homes and roads in southern Israel.

A rocket struck a factory in the town of Sderot, northeast of Gaza, causing a large fire that threatened to collapse the building, the local fire department said.

Another rocket hit a home in the southern town of Netivot, causing a large amount of damage, police said. One also hit the roof of a home in the Eshkol region of southern Israel while the family was taking cover in the bomb shelter. There were no injuries.

A rocket struck the Route 4 highway near the Gan Yavne Junction, lightly injuring a man and causing significant damage to the road and several cars. Police sappers were called to the scene to remove the projectile.

Several rockets also struck elsewhere in the town of Sderot, northeast of the Gaza Strip, causing light property damage; one hit the city of Ashdod, damaging a car; and one struck a street in the central Israeli city of Rishon Lezion.

A mortar shell fired from the Gaza Strip landed in an open field in the Sha’ar Hanegev region of southern Israel, sparking a fire, a regional spokesperson said.

Hospitals and other emergency services were put on high alert in light of the ongoing rocket attacks.

Palestinians inspect the damaged house of Islamic Jihad leader Baha Abu Al-Ata after an Israeli attack in Gaza City, on November 12, 2019.(MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

The Ben Gurion International Airport was not affected by the closures, though some flight paths appeared to have been changed. “Ben Gurion Airport is working as usual with no changes to the flight schedule,” a spokesman for the Israeli Airports Authority said.

The military said it had sent a number of warnings to Abu al-Ata — through unidentified mediators — to call off his operations, but they went unheeded.

“We tried to send a message to Abu al-Ata and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad that we are aware of his actions and to persuade him to stop these attacks. Obviously, these warnings were not successful,” said IDF spokesman Conricus.

He said the assassination did not signify “a return to previous policies of what has been termed in the media ‘targeted killings.’”

“We conducted the attack because there were no other choice,” he said.

Islamic Jihad leader Baha Abu al-Ata (Israel Defense Forces)

The timing of the IAF strike — in the midst of heated political debate as prime minister-designate Benny Gantz works to form a coalition — drew immediate criticism from opponents of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who questioned the need to conduct a targeted assassination at this time.

Conricus said the IDF asked for permission from Netanyahu, who serves as both prime and defense minister, as well as the security cabinet to carry out the assassination operation over a week ago and was waiting for the right time to act.

“Over the last week, we have been waiting for the opportune moment to conduct the surgical strike,” he said.

The army spokesman said the military saw its chance on Tuesday morning when Abu al-Ata was relatively isolated and the risk to Gazan civilians was less.

“The missiles were fired from fighter jets with the intention of not bringing down the entire building, but just the floor where he was located,” Conricus said.

Palestinians inspect the damaged house of Islamic Jihad leader Baha Abu Al-Ata after an Israeli attack in Gaza city, on November 12, 2019. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

He said he was aware of the reports of additional casualties in the strike, but could not comment on the matter.

Conricus said the military did not believe that Abu al-Ata was acting on the orders of Iran, which backs the PIJ, but was “more a local terrorist who acted unchecked.”

Israeli military officials hinted at having Abu al-Ata on their kill list in recent weeks, leaking his name and picture to the media in what was widely seen as a tacit threat.

The targeted killing of a Palestinian leader in Gaza is a rare event.

In May, during the most serious flareup in recent years, when Palestinian terrorists fired more than 700 rockets into Israel, the IAF killed Hamed Hamdan al-Khodari, who it said was responsible for funneling money from Iran to Gaza terror groups.

Israel and Gaza have engaged in several sporadic rounds of violence over the last two years as the sides attempted to reach a long-term ceasefire.

 

Israel Under Fire

November 12, 2019

 

 

The Threat of The Islamic Jihad in Gaza

November 12, 2019

 

 

Israel/Gaza Escalation: Netanyahu & IDF Chief of Staff Statement 

November 12, 2019

 

 

Israel is at war with Islamic Jihad. Tehran weighs opening northern fronts as punishment for Al-Atta killing – DEBKAfile

November 12, 2019

Source: Israel is at war with Islamic Jihad. Tehran weighs opening northern fronts as punishment for Al-Atta killing – DEBKAfile

By two targeted assassinations in Gaza and Damascus, Israel on Tuesday, Nov. 12, went to war against the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Baha Abu Al-Atta, chief of the northern Gaza command, was killed in an IDF bombing raid on his home in Gaza city; Akram Al-Ajouri’s home in the Maze district of Damascus was struck by two rockets.

Some sources say he escaped; others that he was injured. Al Ajouri was the liaison officer between the Palestinian Jihad in Gaza and the Iranian Al-Qods Brigades and its chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

The Islamic Jihad’s first response was a wide-ranging rocket barrage against key towns in central and southern Israel, including Sderot, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gedera, Rishon Lezion and Tel Aviv, after announcing that “there were no borders.” Iron Dome downed some 20, including the rockets targeting Tel Aviv.

DEBKAfile: The IDF initially relayed messages to Gaza City that the slaying of Abu Al-Atta did not portend a new wave of targeted assassinations against Palestinian terrorist leaders, in the hope of persuading Hamas to stay out of it and let Jihad act on its own. This was intended to avert a major conflagration. This hope was largely unfounded because it is not in the power of Hamas or Egypt or even Israel to determine how far this incident escalates but Tehran.  DEBKAfile’s sources report that when Israel’s security cabinet was convening in Tel Aviv on Tuesday morning, so too were senior officials in Tehran, Damascus and Beirut. They were discussing whether to punish Israel by opening a second or third front in the north.
The Palestinian Jihad also maintains armed forces in Syria and Lebanon, who may be conscripted in both countries for strikes against northern and central Israel in solidarity with their brothers in Gaza. The Gaza headquarters initially reacted to the death of its leader by announcing that their retaliation “would have no borders.” Then, after firing some 50 rockets, Jihad stated that as yet “unprecedented retaliation” was still to come, suggesting that Israel faced attacks from additional borders.

Any Egyptian or UN efforts to mediate de-escalation would be irrelevant in these circumstances since neither has access to this extremist Palestinian terrorist group or its Iranian masters. And Hamas can hardly afford to stand aside in the event of a multi-front conflict erupting and is likely to be drawn into backing a fellow Palestinian terrorist organization.

 

Netanyahu: Gaza Operation will take time; We will hit anyone who hits us 

November 12, 2019

Source: Netanyahu: Gaza Operation will take time; We will hit anyone who hits us – Arab-Israeli Conflict – Jerusalem Post

Watch as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi address the current escalation with Gaza.

BY JERUSALEM POST STAFF
 NOVEMBER 12, 2019 12:48
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi and head of Shin Bet Nadav Argama

Israel will target anyone who tries to attack the State of Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened Tuesday, hours after the IDF assassinated a top Islamic Jihad commander in the Gaza Strip and as dozens of rockets were being fired across the country.

Netanyahu was joined at the press conference by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Nadav Argaman. Missing was newly-installed Defense Minister Naftali Bennett who officially took up the role an hour before the press conference.

“Terrorists think they can hit civilians and hide behind civilians,” the prime minister said. “We showed that we can hit the terrorist with minimal damage to civilians. Anyone who thinks they can hit our civilians and get away with it is wrong. If you hit us we will hit you.”

Kochavi said that Al-Atta was the person who tried to undermine Israel’s efforts to reach a ceasefire with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. “In recent days he was working to perpetrate attacks against Israel,” he said. “We tried to thwart his efforts in different ways without success and we then recommended a targeted killing.”

Kochavi added: “We are not interested in an escalation but we are ready – on the ground, in the air and at sea.”

Argaman said that the killing of Al-Atta was done at the best time from an operational perspective. Netanyahu called Al-Atta a “ticking bomb” and said that the cabinet had approved the operation to kill him about 10 days ago.

Early Tuesday morning, Israel struck a home in the Gaza Strip, killing Bahaa Abu Al-Atta, a top Islamic Jihad field commander, responsible for recent rocket fire against Israel and said to have been in the midst of planning a series of attacks against the Jewish state.

 

Abu al-Ata assassination: Hamas warns IDF action ‘will not go unpunished’ 

November 12, 2019

Source: Abu al-Ata assassination: Hamas warns IDF action ‘will not go unpunished’ – Arab-Israeli Conflict – Jerusalem Post

The IDF reinforced its troops and prepared for multiple possible situations. Shelters in Ashkelon were opened and school was canceled as a “severe security event.” Ashdod is in a state of emergency.

BY TZVI JOFFRE, KHALED ABU TOAMEH, TOVAH LAZAROFF, ANNA AHRONHEIM
 NOVEMBER 12, 2019 11:46
Abu al-Ata assassination: Hamas warns IDF action 'will not go unpunished'

Israel came under heavy rocket fire Tuesday morning after the Air Force bombed a building in the Gaza Strip in a targeted strike which killed Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) Leader Bahaa Abu Al-Ata. Rocket sirens sounded in Israeli cities surrounding the Gaza Strip including Ashkelon, Ashdod and Gedera as two different barrages of rockets slammed into Israel.

The Prime Minister’s Office confirmed that Israel was responsible for the airstrike which killed Al-Ata, who it described as a “senior Islamic Jihad commander” who master-minded “numerous terrorist attacks and rocket attacks against the State of Israel in recent months and who intended to immediately carry out further attacks.”

In addition to al-Ata’s killing, Syrian media reported that another senior PIJ commander, Akram al-Ajouri, along with his wife and daughter, were killed in an airstrike in Damascus overnight by an Israeli strike. The IDF has not commented. Ajouri was responsible for coordination between Syria, where the group has its headquarters, and Gaza.

The security cabinet convened at 9 a.m. to discuss the violence and next steps in Israel’s operation. Defense officials said that if Islamic Jihad restrained itself and Hamas did not join the rocket fire, Israel would also hold back from escalating.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi will make a joint statement at 10:30 from the Kirya Military Headquarters in Tel Aviv following the security cabinet meeting.

The IDF’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories closed the Erez and Kerem HaShalom crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip, and restricted the fishing zone Palestinians can enter off the coast of Gaza.

“We stand behind the security forces, who have been working for the success of this morning’s operations for a long time,” said President Reuven Rivlin in a statement. “I know that they, and the Israeli government that approved the operation, have Israel’s security, and only that, in their minds.
“This is no time for political squabbles, and those who do so bring no credit to themselves. It is the time to stop such statements immediately. Israeli citizens – please listen to the life-saving instructions of the IDF Home Front Command and take good care of yourselves.”

PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat condemned as a “crime” the assassination of al-Ata.

Erekat, in a statement published by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority news agency Wafa, said that the Israeli government bears “full responsibility for the results of this crime.”‭‮

At least 50 rockets were fired towards Israel on Tuesday morning after the IDF confirmed that it had killed al-Ata in Gaza in a “surgical airstrike.”

An hour after the strike, sirens were activated in numerous communities bordering the Gaza Strip as well as the cities of Ashkelon, Ashdod and Gedera. At least two rockets impacted in the city of Sderot, causing one light injury and damaging a home.

Incoming rocket sirens were also activated in the central Israeli cities of Rishon Lezion and Holon.

Several Israelis were injured, including an eight-year-old girl who collapsed while running for shelter in Holon. She was evacuated to Wolfson hospital in serious condition.

IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Hidai Zilberman confirmed Tuesday morning that the military had received specific intelligence on al-Ata’s location and targeted the specific room where he was sleeping, leaving the rest of the building untouched in order to avoid civilian casualties.

Zilberman stressed that while the operation to kill Al-Ata was approved by the IDF chief of staff, the head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the security cabinet, the IDF was not returning to a policy of targeted killings.

“Over the past few months the IDF warned several times, and in various ways, that he should stop his activities,” Zilberman said. “The Chief of Staff decided on this operation because there was no other way.”

The IDF reinforced its troop deployment near Gaza and said it was prepared for multiple developments. Bomb shelters in Ashkelon were opened and school was canceled for children in the area due to the expected heavy rocket fire. Ashdod declared a state of emergency and the city said it is opening public shelters.

The operation against Al-Ata was approved by the security cabinet led by Netanyahu, who also serves as Israel’s defense minister. It was done after consultations with the IDF top brass in a joint operation with the Shin Bet.

Islamic Jihad confirmed that al-Ata was killed. The group said that one missile hit his house, killing him and his wife instantly. Two of his children were seriously wounded and rushed to hospital, the terrorist group added.

The Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health confirmed that two Palestinians were killed in the Israeli attack early Tuesday.

Islamic Jihad Secretary-General Ziad al Nakhaleh, based in Lebanon, said in response to the assassination that Netanyahu has “crossed all redlines.”

“We are going to war,” Nakhaleh said.‭‮

The PIJ’s Al-Quds Brigade declared that the terrorist group was on the highest level of alert after the assassination.

The Hamas terrorist movement warned as well that the assassination “will not go unpunished.”

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement that “the blood of our people and leaders is a redline and precious to all Palestinians.” The killing of al-Ata, he said, is a “dangerous escalation and a continuation of the aggression and crimes against our people and its resistance.”

Barhoum accused the Israeli government of seeking to “export its internal crises and impose new equations.” Israel, he added, “must pay the price and bear responsibility for the consequences” of the targeted killing.‭‮

Al-Quds Brigades, said in a statement that al-Ata, commander of the northern Gaza Strip, was “martyred while performing heroic jihad [holy war] to thwart conspiracies and defend the land.”

The group vowed to continue in the footsteps of its slain commander in order to “complete the process of liberation of the entire beloved Palestine. Our response will inevitably shock the Zionist entity.”

The military says that it expects a strong response from the PIJ following the strike, including rocket fire towards central Israel, and has urged residents of southern Israel to stay close to bomb shelters.

“The military says that it expects a strong response from the PIJ following the strike, including rocket fire towards central Israel and has urged residents of southern Israel to stay close to bomb shelters.”

وكالة سوا الإخبارية@palsawa

( شهود عيان : مكان الانفجار في وحدة سكنية شرق مدينة غزة، وسيارات الطوارئ وصلت المكان ) ؛ ولا معلومات رسمية حتى اللحظة حول طبيعة هذا الحدث.

وكالة سوا الإخبارية@palsawa

صورة للمنزل الذي وقع فيه الانفجار شرق غزة الآن.

View image on Twitter

Smoke was seen rising from the scene before 5 a.m.
Israel’s Homefront Command said that due to the sensitive security situation, schools were closed in the South and the central Gush Dan region, the first time since Operation Protective Edge in 2014. All non-essential work was also cancelled.

Israel said that the operation was launched to stop al-Ata, who was in the midst of launching a series of attacks against Israeli civilians and IDF troops, including preparations for sniper and kidnapping attacks, killer drone attacks, and rocket fire throughout Israel.

Train service was temporarily canceled between Ashkelon and Beersheba and at the Sderot, Netivot and Ofakim stations.

The Home Front Command released directives for the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip and the Dan and Shfela region of central Israel. Gatherings in areas surrounding the Gaza Strip may include no more than 100 people in closed places. In Lahish and the central Negev, gatherings are limited to 300 people;  in central Israel they may have  up to 1,000 people in open areas and are without restrictions in closed areas.

Non-vital work will not take place in areas surrounding the Gaza Strip. Roads near the border fence will be closed.

“[Al-Ata] and his activities were a time bomb that violated the understandings and undermined security, and the State of Israel therefore carried out an activity to remove this threat and prevent continued attempts to undermine stability and security,” wrote COGAT on Twitter.

Al-Ata was considered one of the top terrorists in the blockaded coastal enclave. He had been involved in planning attacks against Israel, manufacturing arms and upgrading long-range rocket launching capabilities.

The second largest group in the Gaza Strip after Hamas, PIJ has been assessed by military intelligence as a factor increasing the risk of an escalation in the blockaded coastal enclave, since it is not under the direct control of Hamas but acts independently for its own interests.

 

UN watchdog confirms Israel’s allegations against Iran’s nuclear program

November 12, 2019

Source: UN watchdog confirms Israel’s allegations against Iran’s nuclear program

IAEA reports its inspectors found traces of uranium at a site the Islamic Republic did not declare to the agency, more than a year after Netanyahu revealed Iran’s ‘secret atomic warehouse’ during an UNGA speech

The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog reported Monday that its inspectors have discovered uranium particles of a man-made origin “at a location in Iran not declared to the agency,” confirming allegations made earlier by Israel and the United States.

The International Atomic Energy Agency did not identify the site in the confidential quarterly report that was distributed to member states and seen by The Associated Press.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Iran's President Hassan Rouhani (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky, AP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky, AP)

An IAEA meeting last week included discussions about an undeclared site on the outskirts of Tehran that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described to the UN General Assembly in 2018 as a “secret atomic warehouse.”

Although the IAEA report did not identify the location where its inspectors found the uranium particles, it said the information was reported by its acting director general to the board last week.

Senior Israeli intelligence officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to the AP at the time to discuss intelligence, alleged the site in Iran contained undeclared nuclear materials. They claimed there were “several other” similar clandestine nuclear facilities under the purview of Iran’s Defense Ministry, not the country’s civilian atomic energy agency.

Iran insists its program is for peaceful purposes. However, the IAEA has said Iran “carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device” in a “structured program” through the end of 2003. The Israeli officials said they believe equipment at the warehouse came from that program.

“The main concern is that this is the tip of the iceberg,” one Israeli official said.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (Photo: AP)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (Photo: AP)

In other details, the IAEA said Iran’s stock stockpiles of low-enriched uranium are still growing in violation of the 2015 nuclear deal, and has confirmed that Iran is now enriching uranium at its underground Fordo facility, which is also prohibited by the nuclear agreement.

It also said Iran continues to enrich uranium up to 4.5%, above the 3.67% allowed by the deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

Since the U.S. under President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled out of the Iran nuclear pact last year and imposed new sanctions, Iran’s economy has been struggling. In response, Iran has been slowly violating its provisions to pressure the other major powers involved in the deal – Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia – to provide more economic incentives.

At talks in Brussels on Monday, European Union foreign ministers affirmed their support for the nuclear deal with Iran.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the ministers underlined their “full commitment to the agreement that remains crucial for our security, even if it’s increasingly difficult to preserve it. We will continue our efforts to have a full implementation of the agreement.”

Iran's underground Fordo facility (Photo: EPA)

Iran’s underground Fordo facility (Photo: EPA)

A joint commission meeting of all the signatories is likely to be held in coming days.In its report Monday, the IAEA said as of November 3, Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium was 372.3 kilograms (820.78 pounds) compared to 241.6 kilograms reported on August 19, and past the 202.8 kilogram limit.

It also confirmed the centrifuges at work in the Fordo facility, where Iran invited its inspectors in.

The nuclear deal had called for Fordo to become a research center. It is now home to more than 1,000 centrifuges.

 

 

Foreign diplomats issue warnings as Gaza violence escalates 

November 12, 2019

Source: Foreign diplomats issue warnings as Gaza violence escalates | The Times of Israel

‘Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks,’ UK Foreign Office says in updated travel advisory; Dutch embassy in Tel Aviv remains closed

Palestinian evacuate a wounded man in Gaza City on November 12, 2019, after an Israeli airstrike killed a commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

Palestinian evacuate a wounded man in Gaza City on November 12, 2019, after an Israeli airstrike killed a commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

Foreign diplomats stationed in Israel on Tuesday expressed concern over spiraling violence, after terrorists in Gaza fired more than 60 rockets at the country in retaliation for the Israeli assassination of a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander earlier in the day.

The European Union’s ambassador to Israel, Emanuele Giaufret, said he was “extremely concerned” about the evolving security situation. “A rapid desecalation [sic] is needed, indiscriminate rocket fire is unacceptable. Need to protect all civilians,” he wrote on his personal Twitter account.

German Ambassador to Israel Susanne Wasum-Rainer similarly tweeted that she was following “with great concern the evolving situation after sirens heard this morning in various cities in Israel, and collecting all relevant pieces of information.” She added that she hoped “that there won’t be injuries. Stay safe.”

The United Kingdom on Tuesday morning updated its travel warning for Israel and the Palestinian territories in light of the fraught security situation.

“You should keep up to date with the news and this travel advice while travelling,” the Foreign Office in London said on its website, warning UK citizens against traveling to Gaza and to areas near Israel’s borders with Syria and Lebanon.

The updated travel advisory noted that on Tuesday “more than 60 rockets were launched from Gaza into Southern Israel and towards Rishon Le Zion and Holon,” and that Israel’s Home Front Command declared an emergency situation in southern Israel.

“The security situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories can be fast moving, tense and unpredictable. You should be vigilant at all times and keep up to date with local media and travel reports,” the travel advisory warned.

“Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” it said. “Attacks could be indiscriminate, including places frequented by foreigners, and on public transport.”

Several embassies in Tel Aviv, including those of Spain, Poland, Malta and Cyprus, urged heightened caution in light of the ongoing rocket attacks.

Thessalia S. Shambos@ThsShambos

The Dutch embassy announced that it would remain closed for the time being, noting that it would update citizens as the day progresses.

In the early hours of Monday, the Israel Defense Forces killed Baha Abu al-Ata, a senior commander of the Islamic Jihad terror group responsible for the firing dozens of rockets out of the Gaza Strip, prompting the massive retaliation.