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The Palestinians’ Uncivil War

January 9, 2019
  • The biggest losers from this internal bloodletting are the Palestinians living under these leaders in the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas-ruled Gaza.
  • The dispute between Hamas and Fatah is not over who will bring democracy and a better economy to the Palestinians. They are not fighting over who will improve the living conditions of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip by building new schools and hospitals. They are not fighting over who will introduce major reforms to the Palestinian government and end financial and administrative corruption. They are not fighting over the need for freedom of expression and a free media.
  • Mahmoud Abbas, the Hamas leaders correctly argue, is not a rightful or legitimate president. If Abbas were to sign a deal with Israel, people could come along later and say that he lacked the legal authority to do so; they would be right.
  • In order for any peace process to move forward, the Palestinians first need to stop attacking each other. [Never going to happen] Then, they need to come up with new leaders who actually give a damn about their people. [Even less likely to happen]

https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/13502/palestinians-hamas-fatah-conflict

Pictured: Fatah gunmen guard the home of a senior Fatah official in the Gaza Strip on January 30, 2007, during the violent Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinians’ major ruling groups, Fatah and Hamas, are now saying they are done with each other: that the divorce is final.

Recent days and weeks have witnessed the two groups maligning each other beyond anything previously seen. Fatah and Hamas have reached a new level of mutual loathing. At times, it even seems as if Fatah and Hamas hate each other more than they hate Israel [Crikey, that bad, eh?]

Many in the West say they would like to see Israel and the Palestinians return to the negotiating table. They want Israelis and Palestinians to resume the so-called peace process. They are hoping that Israel and the Palestinians will manage to reach a historic agreement that would end the Israeli-Arab conflict and bring real peace to the Middle East.

The region, however, does not need a “peace process” between Israel and the Palestinians. It needs one of a different type. The “peace process” that the Middle East is crying out for is one between Palestinians and Palestinians, one that would end their bloody, internecine war.

Before pushing “peace” upon Israel and the Palestinians, it would be helpful if the international community first tried to help the Palestinians stop torturing each other. The Palestinians cannot make peace with Israel while they are busy killing their own people. The Palestinians cannot make peace with Israel when their leaders lead only themselves — to money and power.

The political struggle between Fatah and Hamas is not a normal dispute between two rival parties in parliament. Rather, it is a rivalry between two large groups and governments that have tens of thousands of armed men at their disposal and massive arsenals of weapons.

The biggest losers from this internal bloodletting are the Palestinians living under these leaders in the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas-ruled Gaza.

Fatah, the largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), is the dominant party that controls the PA. The PA has tens of thousands of policemen and security officers (in the West Bank) who are funded and trained by various Western countries, including the US and UK.

Similarly, Hamas has thousands of security officers and militiamen who help it maintain a tight grip on the Gaza Strip.

In 2007, two years after the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, Hamas overthrew the PA regime in Gaza. Since then, Hamas has been the unchallenged ruler of the Gaza Strip, home to nearly two million Palestinians. It took Hamas less than a week to remove Abbas’s government from power and seize control of the entire coastal territory.

The dispute between Hamas and Fatah is not over who will bring democracy and a better economy to the Palestinians. Let us make this clear: they are not fighting over who will improve the living conditions of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip by building new schools and hospitals. They are not fighting over who will introduce major reforms to the Palestinian government and end financial and administrative corruption. They are not fighting over the need for freedom of expression and a free media.

Instead, this is a struggle over money, power and ego.

The Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, are furious with Hamas because it forced them out of the Gaza Strip 11 years ago. Abbas and his senior aides and advisers have yet to overcome the deep humiliation they suffered when Hamas militiamen overthrew their regime in the Gaza Strip and killed several PA and Fatah men. Abbas seeks to shame his rivals in Hamas. He seems to want Hamas to pay a steep price for expelling him and his regime from the Gaza Strip.

Abbas is also apparently disturbed because Hamas defeated his Fatah loyalists in the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections. The result of that vote, too, was humiliating for Abbas and his regime.

Last year, in the context of his hitherto unsuccessful effort to undermine Hamas and end its rule over the Gaza Strip, Abbas imposed a series of sanctions that included the suspension of salaries to thousands of civil servants living there. Abbas also stopped paying Israel for the fuel and electricity it had been supplying to the residents of the Gaza Strip.

These punitive measures, however, have backfired, further undermining Abbas’s credibility among his people. He is now being accused by many Palestinians of being fully responsible for the suffering and misery of his people in the Gaza Strip. He is being accused of imposing a blockade on his own people and of being an Israeli “collaborator” for conducting security coordination with the Israeli security forces in the West Bank.

Hamas leaders have also called for bringing Abbas to trial on charges of “high treason” — a crime, according to Palestinian laws and traditions, punishable by death.

Hamas says that Abbas is a dictator and traitor because of his refusal to share power with anyone and his “close relations” with Israel. Hamas leaders never fail to broadcast that Abbas’s four-year term in office expired in January 2009. Abbas, the Hamas leaders correctly argue, is not a rightful or legitimate president. If Abbas were to sign a deal with Israel, people could come along later and say that he lacked the legal authority to do so; they would be right.

Recently, Hamas has been condemning Abbas for his decision to dissolve the Palestinian parliament, which, in any event, has been inoperative since Hamas’s violent takeover of the Gaza Strip. This decision, according to Hamas, proves that Abbas is an autocrat and dictator, who presides over an authoritarian regime.

Hamas also claims that Abbas is a traitor because his security forces conduct security coordination with Israel and continue to arrest scores of Hamas supporters in the West Bank.

Abbas, for his part, has made similar charges against Hamas. He recently hinted that Hamas was working for Israel. Abbas, in a speech, referred to Hamas as “spies” (he used the Arabic word jasous) — the word Palestinians use to label Palestinians accused or suspected of collaborating with Israel.

Hamas officials have responded by likening Abbas to Hamid Karzai, the former president of Afghanistan who came to power with the help of the US and Western countries. What they are saying is that Abbas is a puppet in the hands of Israel and the US.

Abbas was expressing outrage over the recent detention of some 500 of his loyalists in the Gaza Strip at the hands of Hamas. The men were reportedly rounded up by Hamas because they were planning to hold a big rally to celebrate the 54th anniversary of the launching of Fatah’s first armed attack against Israel.

Abbas and his advisers have, in turn, repeatedly accused Hamas of being in collusion with the US and Israel to create a separate Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip. According to Abbas and his representatives, US President Donald Trump’s administration and Israel are working to establish a small and isolated Palestinian state there, thus permanently detaching it from the West Bank.

Fatah leaders are now saying that they have cut off contact with Hamas — permanently. Hamas leaders, similarly, are saying that as long as Abbas remains in power, the dispute with Fatah will continue.

The leaders of Hamas and Fatah are making their mutual distrust unmistakably clear. They probably have good reason to believe that their suspicions are not misplaced; after all, they know each other better than anyone else does. If they are right, what is the point of presenting any peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians? Who is Israel supposed to make peace with? With the discredited 83-year-old Abbas, who will never be able to win the backing of a majority of his people for any peace agreement with Israel? Or with Hamas, which forever informs the world that it will never make peace with Israel because it cannot accept the presence of non-Muslims on what it perceives to be Muslim-owned land?

In order for any peace process to move forward, the Palestinians first need to stop attacking each other. Then, they need to come up with new leaders who actually give a damn about their people. As these two conditions seem rather unrealistic at this point, any talk about the resumption of an Israeli-Palestinian “peace process” sounds like nothing so much as a big joke.

New Netflix Series Shines Light on Israel’s Counter-Terror Expertise

December 5, 2018

https://www.algemeiner.com/2018/11/22/new-netflix-series-shines-light-on-israels-counter-terror-expertise/

Israel’s use of targeted killings during the Second Intifada is the focus of an episode of a new Netflix docuseries.

While controversial, the practice of assassinating Palestinian terror leaders helped Israel quell the surge of violence it faced between 2001-2005.

In an interview with The Algemeiner this week, Jon Loew — the chairman of Big Media and an executive producer of “Terrorism Close Calls,” which delves into the details of major thwarted attacks across the globe — talked about the episode — titled “The Israel Honey Trap” — and what he learned about the Jewish state’s counter-terror expertise during its making.

A transcript of the interview follows:

Why did you think it was important to include an episode on Israel?

“To many people, including me, it’s clear that Israel is on the front lines of the West’s war on terrorism. It became obvious throughout the production of the series that many other countries law enforcement and intelligence agencies felt the same, and capitalized off of Israel’s decades of experience fighting the same enemies. Many media companies seemed to be afraid of including positive stories about Israel for fear of a backlash of some sort. We are not afraid of speaking the truth.”

What were the top challenges you faced when creating the Israel episode?

“Surprisingly, while we met with some hesitation — I would not call it resistance — from our international buyers, the greatest hurdle was actually getting the Israeli security services to believe that our documentary would be objective, and not just another anti-Israel hit piece. Oddly, I think the Israelis were surprised that a foreign company like ours would remain so objective, and they were almost unclear as to how to cooperate so closely with us.”

Looking at how various countries deal with terror threats, is there anything you would say is unique about Israel‘s approach?

“Israel is operating so close to its enemies, including enemies within, that it became obvious that the Israelis had a very compassionate view on how to fight terrorism. While some Westerners, including me, would wonder why Israel would continue providing electricity to Gaza during a war against Hamas, it was important to the Israelis that they not lose their humanity — even if the rest of the world did not take notice. They were more worried about the ‘one pregnant Gazan who couldn’t get help at a local hospital’ than they were about public opinion.”

In the episode, some of Israel‘s best counter-terror minds speak with you very openly about strategy and specific cases they were involved in. Were you surprised by the frankness?

“Our company has a reputation for being fair and honest, so the people we were interviewing understood they could trust us from the get-go. I think our great experts were happy to have a fair and welcoming environment to really share how they felt. We were very luck to have access to great agents in Israel and so many other countries.”

Israel’s experience in counter-terror operations is so extensive, how did you come to chose the specific instance — involving the first female Hamas suicide bomber — that you centered your attention on?

“We worked very closely with Fauda co-creator Avi Issacharoff on the Israel episode, and after Avi suggested this case it became obvious that we had to choose this one. As a proud American Jew from New York, it gave me great pleasure to simultaneously showcase Israel’s counter-terror proficiency and humiliate Hamas at the same time.[ha ha ha!]

“In the case of the ‘suicide bomb mother,’ it turned out that she was not a ‘selfless martyr’ willing to give up her wonderful motherhood for the cause. She was caught having an affair with her Hamas husband’s commander. The only way the Hamas guys could save face was having her kill herself. There is nothing noble about this and it was important to us as a team that we expose this.”

The ten-part “Terrorism Close Calls” docuseries, including the Israel episode discussed above, is available for viewing on Netflix now.

IDF footage from attack tunnel shows alleged Hezbollah members still inside

December 5, 2018

Go to the article to see the (short) video, plus another video.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/idf-footage-from-attack-tunnel-shows-alleged-hezbollah-members-still-inside/

Israeli military robot films within cross-border tunnel 25 meters below ground, detonates small charge next to suspected terror operative, scaring him away

Hezbollah operatives were working inside a cross-border tunnel when it was exposed by the Israeli military on Tuesday morning, the IDF spokesperson said at a press conference, showing footage he said was filmed mere hours earlier inside the underground passage.

In the video, which was filmed by a small Israeli military robot, two men could be seen walking into the tunnel from the entrance inside Lebanon on Tuesday morning, hours before the army announced that the tunnel had been located and would soon be destroyed.

One of the men can be seen approaching the robot, which sets off a small explosive device, scaring them away.

The Israel Defense Forces said the tunnel, which extended some 40 meters into Israel, was the “first of what are sure to be many” attack tunnels dug by Hezbollah across the border from southern Lebanon discovered as part of a newly launched operation, known as Northern Shield.

According to the Israeli military, the operation is expected to last several weeks and is being led by the head of the IDF Northern Command Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick.

“The operation will continue until the outcome is achieved, however long that may take,” Prime Minsiter Benjamin Netanyahu said at the same press conference addressed by the IDF spokesperson at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv.

Speaking after Netanyahu, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot said Northern Shield was launched before Hezbollah’s tunnels were made operational and “became an immediate and direct threat to northern communities and army bases.”

The military deployed reinforcements to northern Israel as a precaution in case the Iran-backed Hezbollah launches retaliatory strikes or raids in response to the operation.

The army also called up a small number of reservists, from combat engineering, air defense, and administrative units.

“This morning we initiated action to thwart Hezbollah’s intrusion into our territory, to improve our security reality in the north… to strike and to continue to strike Iranian entrenchment in the north,” Eisenkot said.

According to the IDF spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, the tunnel that was uncovered on Tuesday originated under an ostensibly civilian building, meters away from a position controlled by the UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL, which is meant to ensure that armed groups other than the Lebanese military stay away from the border zone under UN Resolution 1701.

Israel has long been critical of what it describes as UNIFIL’s failure to rein in the powerful, Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorist group, which the IDF says maintains a large arsenal in the area despite Resolution 1701.

Manelis also presented footage captured by the IDF from above Lebanon, which he said showed Hezbollah using civilian trucks to hide the dirt and rocks from the excavation of the tunnels.

According to the IDF, the tunnel originated in the Lebanese village of Kafr Kila, near the Israeli border, and was approximately 200 meters (650 feet) long. It was dug some 25 meters (80 feet) below ground and was approximately two meters (six feet) tall by two meters (six feet) wide, which would easily make it large enough for heavily armed to pass through it.

The tunnel contained a ventilation system, electricity, and communication lines, the army said.

Eisenkot said that in the wake of the 2014 Gaza war, in which the threat of Hamas tunnels was a major issue, the Israeli military “built a highly advanced operational, technological engineering and intelligence capability to neutralize attack tunnels, both in the north and in the south.”

The army chief said the heads of communities in northern Israel were informed of the operation ahead of time and lauded them for showing “responsibility” by not revealing that it was poised to take place.

He said that the IDF was “in possession of Hezbollah’s offensive tunneling plans” and called on Israelis to “feel safe, to continue their daily routines and to continue traveling to the north.”

Hamas: Israeli special forces posed as medical workers to get into Gaza for raid

December 5, 2018

Apologies for the absence of postings from myself recently, I have been on leave and travelling a bit (weak excuse, I know).

Good to see Joseph and co have been manning the barricades, I am now back into the fray!

In addition to the article copied into this post, also see these other articles related to the commando raid inside Gaza from a little while back.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-claims-idf-officers-installed-spying-equipment-near-secret-gaza-hq/

https://www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-fears-israeli-special-forces-operating-base-inside-gaza-tv/

https://www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-on-hunt-for-collaborators-after-israeli-special-forces-operation-in-gaza/

Hamas: Israeli special forces posed as medical workers to get into Gaza for raid

https://www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-israeli-special-forces-posed-as-medical-workers-to-get-into-gaza-for-raid/

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

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

Terror group tells UK’s Independent daily that IDF soldiers used fake IDs to enter Strip in November, were caught because of their accents

Hamas officials have told a British news outlet that Israeli special forces troops posed as medical workers for a non-governmental organization during a raid inside the Gaza Strip last month that went awry.

On the night of November 11, the Israeli unit was exposed inside the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis following a search at a Hamas checkpoint, resulting in a firefight in which an Israeli lieutenant colonel was killed, along with seven Palestinian gunmen.

After the special forces operation and subsequent gun battle, Hamas and the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group launched the largest-ever bombardment against Israel from the Gaza Strip, lobbing some 500 rockets and mortar shells mostly at Israeli communities surrounding the coastal enclave — pushing Israel and terror groups to the brink of war.

Most details of the operation remain under a strict gag order by the military censor, and all articles about it must be approved, including this one.

According to a report Monday in the Independent newspaper, the Israeli troops used “detailed but fake” identity cards with the names and personal information of Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip.

“Those who the Israelis were posing as were detained but they had no idea their names had been used,” Hazem Qassem, a Hamas spokesman, told the British paper from Gaza City. The Palestinians whose names were found to have been unwittingly used were later released, he said.

According to the Hamas officials, the Israeli troops posed as medical workers, ferrying patients around the area.

“[The Israeli unit] were posing as NGO workers, there were women in the car as well. They used this to justify why they were stealing into Gaza and had a story prepared should they be questioned,” one official said.

Palestinian officials have claimed the Israeli troops were installing surveillance equipment in the Gaza Strip in order to listen in on Hamas’s internal communications.

The Independent acknowledged that it was unable to corroborate much of the information provided by the Hamas officials about the Israeli raid. The Israel Defense Forces has confirmed that special forces soldiers conducted an operation on the night in question but would not provide any details besides that it was of great importance to national security.

During the raid on the night of November 11, the troops were stopped at a Hamas checkpoint and questioned. During their interrogation, the Hamas gunmen noticed that the alleged Israeli soldiers’ accents did not match the addresses listed on their ID cards.

“They told the fighters at the checkpoint that they were delivering patients back from clinics to their homes and had a wheelchair in the back of the van. They presented their ID cards but the [fighters] manning the checkpoint were suspicious as their accents and voices did not match the areas where they said they were from,” a Hamas official said.

According to the Palestinian officials, when a more senior Hamas commander decided to bring in the suspects for additional questioning, the Israeli special forces soldiers opened fire, killing the senior commander, Nour Barakeh, and his deputy.

During the firefight and dash to the border, the Israeli lieutenant colonel — who can only be identified by the first Hebrew letter of his name, “Mem” — was killed and another officer was wounded. Five other Palestinian gunmen were also killed.

A Hamas official said the Gaza-ruling group had significantly tightened security throughout the Strip — a development confirmed by journalists and NGO workers in the coastal enclave.

“We are concerned that we want foreigners to keep coming in. They are helping with the humanitarian situation. We are dedicated to facilitating people coming in and out of Gaza. Any tightened security measures – which are applied to everyone – will be temporary,” said the official, speaking to the British newspaper on condition of anonymity.

The massive flareup that followed last month’s raid ended with an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire that remains in effect some three weeks later.

Members of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad said the groups are prepared to go to war with Israel again, but will for now maintain the calm.

“If the Israelis launch a new attack, the Palestinian [fighters] are ready to deal with this attack,” Walid al-Qottati, a member of Islamic Jihad’s political wing, told The Independent.

“We are not lowering our guard yet,” a Hamas official agreed. “We do think the Israelis might do a sudden strike but for the moment, for now, at least things are moving [in] the right direction.”

Since the raid, Hamas officials have released details about the operation to the public, apparently in an attempt to fish for additional information about the nature of the Israeli operation and potentially in order to embarrass the IDF.

Last month, Hamas published the photographs of eight suspected Israeli special forces soldiers, calling on members of the public to contact its military wing if they had any information about them and their activities.

Though freely available on the internet, the photographs could not be published by Israeli media by order of the military censor.

In a highly irregular public statement, the censor also called on Israelis not to share any information they have about the raid, even if they think it benign.

The IDF has launched two investigations into the raid.

According to the army, one investigation will be conducted within Military Intelligence. The findings will be presented to Military Intelligence head Maj. Gen. Tamir Hyman and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot.

The military said an initial probe was expected to be completed within the coming weeks.

In addition, Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon — the former head of IDF Operations — was charged with a wider investigation into how the army conducts such raids.

Alon was instructed to lead a team to “examine and study the challenges and [make] recommendations at the level of the General Staff, of multiple army branches and of the inter-organizational cooperation between different special forces,” the army said.

 

 

 

 

Documentary: Top Secret – Mossad

October 22, 2018

I thought I’d seen just about all the doco’s on Youtube about the Mossad, then this one popped up in the suggestions generated for me by Youtube…

It focuses on the hunt for this scumbag, Yahya Ayyash aka ‘The Engineer’ (responsible for making the bombs for the suicide bomber attacks on Israeli buses in the 90’s):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yahya_Ayyash

It also references various other cases like Eli Cohen, the capture of Eichmann and so on.

But the doco focuses on the hunt for Ayyash,  and the coverage is quite detailed with lots of archival footage, as well as re-enactments.

The doco has been uploaded via copying from VHS tape (!) and is quite good quality, voiceover is by Johnny Depp.

‘Game change’ coming in Israeli response to Gaza terror, Gallant says

October 22, 2018

I’ll believe it when I see it.

https://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/gaza-news/Game-change-coming-in-Israeli-response-to-Gaza-terror-Gallant-says-569728

Housing Minister and former IDF Southern Commander Yoav Gallant hinted on Thursday that Israel will carry out a stronger response against Hamas in the Gaza strip.

“I do not refer to the content of the cabinet discussions, but I can say one thing very explicitly – The game is about to change. We will no longer accept the fire terror,” Gallant said.

According to the Israeli news sources, the implementation of how Israel will deal with the demonstrations by the Gaza Strip fence will begin on Friday.

The security cabinet met in the early hours of Thursday morning in Jerusalem to discuss the latest developments in the south after a rocket hit and damaged a residential home in Beersheba.

Hamas denied responsibility for the attack, but IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis stated that “Only Hamas and Islamic Jihad have these type of rockets.”

Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Herzl Halevy said that “Hamas claims to control the Gaza Strip and tells Gazans that it is trying to improve their situation. In truth, the lack of restraint at the fence, the launching of explosive devices, incendiary balloons and rockets, are making the situation for Gaza residents worse.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman traveled to the South to hold security assessments at the IDF’s Gaza Division on Wednesday. They spoke with Deputy IDF Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, National Security Council Director Meir Ben-Shabbat, ISA Director Nadav Argaman and senior security establishment officials.

Gallant was the only minister to make a statement after the security cabinet meeting.

Israel, US send secret delegation to Ukraine to train against S-300 – report

October 17, 2018

Doesn’t surprise me one bit.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-us-send-secret-delegation-to-ukraine-to-train-against-s-300-report/

In this illustrative photo taken on August 27, 2013, a Russian S-300 air defense system is on display at the opening of the MAKS Air Show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, Russia (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, File)

Russian, Syrian outlets say the teams got instruction from their Ukrainian counterparts on capabilities of advanced missile defense system that Putin just gave Assad

Israel and the United States sent a secret military delegation to Ukraine to test the Russian-made S-300 missile defense system, which Moscow recently provided to Syria, Hadashot TV news reported Monday, citing Syrian and Russian news outlets.

There was no comment on the reports from either Israel or the US.

According to the reports, members of the Ukrainian military instructed their US and Israeli counterparts on the capabilities of the system, as well as running through various possible scenarios.

One Russian report said that F-15 planes are training in Ukraine against the S-300 as part of an international exercise that includes Israeli pilots. It wasn’t immediately clear if the Israeli pilots were flying or merely observing from the ground.

Tensions remain high between Russia and Ukraine since Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and the subsequent conflict in eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin has been known to direct misinformation as a tool in the conflict.

It has been widely reported that the Israeli Air Force has been training against the S-300 in exercises in Greece, perhaps since 2007. Israel and the US are both thought to be using stealth aircraft in Syrian maneuvers.

The IAF returned its fleet of F-35 stealth fighters to full service on Sunday, after grounding it last week in light of the state-of-the-art aircraft’s first-ever crash, which took place in the United States, the army said. The pilot ejected safely.

Israeli planes have carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria against what it says are Iranian and Hezbollah targets, but there have been no reports of suspected Israeli airstrikes since the accidental Syrian downing of a Russian plane during an Israeli airstrike in Syria, an incident that raised tensions between Israel and Russia.

Fifteen Russians were killed in the September 17 incident, which Moscow blamed on Israel, accusing its pilots of using the larger Russian plane as cover.

Israel disputes the Russian findings and says its jets were back in Israeli airspace when the plane was downed.

In response, Moscow announced new measures to protect its military in Syria, including equipping Damascus with S-300 air defense systems.

Russia and Israel set up a hotline in 2015 to avoid accidental clashes in Syria, but the new measures have led to concern among Israelis that their strikes will now be limited there.

At the opening of the Knesset’s winter session on Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed ties with Russia, saying he is in “direct, frequent contact with Russian President Vladimir Putin” to confront the “complex, very difficult challenges in our region.”

Netanyahu said his personal relationship with Putin has enabled unprecedented “trust” between the two countries.

“This is very important for Israel’s security,” he said.

The prime minister said last week that he had told Russia’s vice premier that Israel must continue to hit hostile targets in neighboring Syria despite Moscow’s decision to equip Damascus with the S-300.

Netanyahu said at a press conference that he told Maxim Akimov in talks in Jerusalem that Israel would continue to fight what it says are Iranian attempts to entrench itself militarily in Syria and channel advanced weaponry to its Lebanese ally, the Hezbollah terror group.

Despite the delivery of the S-300 air defense systems to the Syrian military, Israel was committed as a matter of self-defense to continue its “legitimate activity in Syria against Iran and its proxies, which state their intention to destroy us,” Netanyahu said.