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Netanyahu instructs IDF to end kite, balloon terror

July 15, 2018

During weekly Cabinet remarks, prime minister fails to elaborate on how army is expected to end the phenomenon plaguing south Israel as several fires break out in the region throughout the day; referencing weekend flare-up, Netanyahu says he hopes Hamas ‘got the message; if not, they will get it later.’

Moran Azulay|Published:  07.15.18 , 21:22

https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-5310629,00.html

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the IDF Sunday morning to put an end to the phenomenon of kite and balloon terror from the Gaza Strip that has wreaked havoc on Israeli communities in recent months, scorching acres of farmland and forests and ravaging wildlife in southern Israel.

“I heard it being said that Israel has agreed to a ceasefire that would allow the continuation of terrorism by incendiary kites and balloons; this is incorrect. We are not prepared to accept any attacks against us and we will respond appropriately,” Netanyahu said at the beginning of the Cabinet meeting.

PM Netanyahu (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)

PM Netanyahu (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)

“Over the Sabbath we hit Hamas in a significant way and hard. Our policy is clear: Whoever hurts us, we will hit them with great strength. This is what we did yesterday. The IDF dealt Hamas the harshest blow since Operation Protective Edge. I hope that they got the message; if not, they will get it later,” he warned.

Despite the prime minister’s tough words, he did not elaborate publically on how the IDF is expected to implement the instruction as fires caused by the flaming kites and balloons continued to erupt inside Israel.

Israel says it has lost at least 7,000 acres (2,830 hectares) of farmland and forests to a recent surge in fires started by Gaza terrorists using incendiary balloons and similarly rigged kites.

On Sunday afternoon, a 50-dunam Hummus farm was set ablaze near Kibbutz Alumim after an incendiary kite was launched from the Hamas-ruled strip.

In addition, a fire incinerated portions of the Asaf Simhoni Forest near Nahal Oz. Two other fires were extinguished in open fields near Kibbutz Be’eri.

Farmland blackened in south Israel from incendiary kite

Farmland blackened in south Israel from incendiary kite

In total, firefighters were forced to battle with six fires that broke out as a result of the flaming kites and balloons.

The notable drop in the number of kite-induced fires, which have averaged in recent weeks at around 20 per day, did little to allay the anxiety expressed by the southern residents.

With a major flare-up between Gaza and Israel gripping the border region over the weekend, The Israel Air Force resumed its retaliatory airstrikes Sunday when it attacked three Hamas terror cells launching incendiary balloon from the northern and central Gaza Strip into Israeli territory.

Unlike previous instances, in which the IAF fired near the incendiary balloon cells, this time they were fired at directly after intelligence emerged these cells included Hamas members.

Bennett faces off against IDF chief: Why aren’t you shooting?

July 15, 2018

‘I don’t think shooting children who are launching rockets is right. It is against my operational and ethical position.’

Tzvi Lev, 15/07/18 21:44
http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/248973
TPS , IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot

IDF Chief of Staff and Education Minister Naftali Bennett reportedly faced off during a cabinet meeting regarding the escalating security situation in southern Israel after Bennett demanded that the IDF bomb Gazans who launch flaming kites into Israel.

According to Channel 2, Bennett asked Eizenkot why “Why not shoot anyone who fires an aerial weapon at our towns and against the terror cells? Why shoot next to them and not at them? There is nothing legally preventing this- were are talking about terrorists in every way.”

Eizenkot replied that “I do not think that shooting boys and children who are the ones who launch the balloons and the kites is correct.”

Bennett then asked Eizenkot “what if we are talking about an adult who is identified as an adult?”

“Are you proposing to drop a bomb from an airplane on a squadron of kite and balloon launchers?” asked Eizenkot. After Bennett answered in the affirmative, Eizenkot said that “this contradicts my operational and moral position.”

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz also complained that the media was twisting the coverage of the incendiary kites to make it appear as if Israel was refraining from responding. “They are saying that Israel is burning, Israel is burning. Israel is not burning,” Steinitz contended. Netanyahu agreed. “The media is intensifying the matter presenting things in a distorted way,” he said.

For over three months, Hamas has launched burning kites and balloons into Israel. Notoriously hard to spot and extremely potent during Israel’s dry summer months, the kites have burned up large portions of the south and caused hundreds of millions in damage.

The IDF has struggled to find an appropriate response to the kites whose small size make them impervious to radar. When the phenomenon first began, the IDF attempted to down the kites using amateur drone pilots before moving on to a strategy of preemptive drone strikes. Neither doctrine has found success and the military is under increasing pressure to respond forcefully to what has been dubbed ‘kite terror’.

Naftali Bennett has been taking an increasingly hawkish line towards Gaza and has been urging Israel to escalate it’s response towards Hamas. On Saturday night, following reports of a ceasefire between Israel and the Gaza terrorist organizations, Bennett alleged that the move was a “grave mistake” and called on the IDF to strengthen its response.

“Restraint creates escalation,” said Bennett. “Those who refrain to respond to the violation of our sovereignty and refrain from fundamental actions impose on us an ongoing war of attrition. The IDF must be ordered to act with force, sophistication and thoroughness.”

‘Give peace a chance,’ U.N. envoy tells Palestinians

July 15, 2018

“I have to appeal to all parents of children in Gaza today to step back and keep the protests peaceful.”

By Khaled Abu Toameh
July 15, 2018 22:29
https://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Give-peace-a-chance-UN-envoy-tells-Palestinians-562593

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov appealed to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday to halt rocket and mortar attacks on Israel. He also called on Palestinians to stop launching incendiary kites toward Israel.

Mladenov, who played a key role in reaching Saturday’s cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip, made his appeal during a news conference in Gaza City.

“I have to appeal to all Palestinians in Gaza,” Mladenov said. “I have to appeal to all parents of children in Gaza today to step back and keep the protests peaceful.”

The UN representative was referring to the ongoing weekly protests along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, which Palestinians call the “March of Return.”

“I appeal to the Palestinian factions to not provoke incidents at the fence, to stop firing rockets and mortars, to stop the incendiary kites and to give peace a chance,” Mladenov said.

“This is a confrontation that nobody wants, nobody needs – a confrontation from which everybody would lose. Palestinians in Gaza for the last decade have lived in three conflicts. Israelis across the fence have lived with a constant threat of rocket attacks for the last decade. This cycle has to stop. It has to end. We are one step away from another confrontation, and everybody needs to take a step back.”

Mladenov said he was aware that, given the difficult conditions of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, “it’s very difficult to believe the international community or anyone else who comes and tells you that your lives will be improved.”

He also appealed to Israel to display “restraint in its responses to the situation” in Gaza. “I appeal to [Israeli] snipers not to fire at children,” Mladenov said. “I appeal to everybody to step back from the brink.”

The UN representative also appealed to the international community not to forget the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the Palestinians “who have lived for generations without a state.” The Palestinians in the Strip, he added, “have had enough of war.”

“Parents should be able to allow their children to play freely in the streets,” Mladenov said. “We in the international community have a responsibility to move immediately and live up to the expectation of providing not just assistance to the people of Gaza, but also charting a political way forward. Our allies in this are the Palestinian people themselves. Our partners are the Palestinian government and anyone who wants to see an end to this current escalation.”

Mladenov said there was only one way to move forward – “by restoring calm and ending the shelling and firing.” The second step, he said, would be to “solve the humanitarian problems of Gaza, to create jobs for people, provide electricity, fix the healthcare system and provide water.”

THE UN is working, together with its partners, on a specific plan to immediately move on these priorities, in coordination with the Palestinian government, Mladenov stated. He acknowledged, however, that fixing the humanitarian problems of Gaza would not solve the political problems.

“Fixing the political problem means two things,” he explained. “Improving access and movement for the people of Gaza through Israel and Egypt. We will continue working with the Israeli authorities to improve access and movement restrictions for Gaza and to allow for more exports and imports for the people here. Without an economy, without people seeing opportunities, another escalation will come by very quickly.”

The second step, according to the top UN representative, is for Hamas and Fatah to return to the “reconciliation process.” He appealed to the two rival parties to take Egypt’s recent initiatives to end the Palestinian internecine dispute very seriously.

Meanwhile, Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip said on Sunday that their movement gained the upper hand in the latest flare-up of violence. The Palestinians, they added, will continue to hold the weekly protests along the border with Israel.

“The Palestinian resistance groups had the final say,” said Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. He was speaking during the funeral of two Palestinian teenagers, Luay Kheil and Amir al-Nimra, who were killed in an Israel Air Force strike in Gaza City on Saturday. Haniyeh said that Hamas and the rest of the Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip were determined to prevent Israel from “imposing new rules of engagement.”

Haniyeh said that the protests along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel “will continue and intensify until the problems of the people are solved and the blockade is lifted.” He said that he met in Gaza City with Mladenov and told him that the Palestinians no longer believe in promises and want to see tangible results on the ground. “The blockade on the Gaza Strip has to end once and for all,” Haniyeh reportedly told the UN official.

 

Ceasefire Means No Attacks At All, Says Netanyahu – IDF Reinforces Iron Dome Batteries in Central, Southern Israel

July 15, 2018

http://www.jewishpress.com/news/eye-on-palestine/hamas/ceasefire-means-no-attacks-at-all-says-netanyahu-idf-reinforces-iron-dome-batteries-in-central-southern-israel/2018/07/15/

An Iron Dome battery seen near the southern Israeli city of Be’er Sheva.

Contrary to claims by Hamas, Israel made no deal whatsoever to allow any “gradual” lessening of arson attacks by Gaza terrorists against Israel in the ceasefire agreement reached this weekend.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clearly denied in opening remarks to Sunday’s government cabinet meeting that the ceasefire arranged with Gaza’s ruling Hamas terror organization includes an agreement for continuing its arson kite and firebomb balloon attacks flown across the border at Israel.

“I heard it being said that Israel has agreed to a ceasefire that would allow the continuation of terrorism by incendiary kites and balloons; this is incorrect,” the prime minister said.

“We are not prepared to accept any attacks against us and we will respond appropriately.”

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman confirmed Netanyahu’s stance in his remarks, speaking after the prime minister. “There is no intention to ‘contain’ rockets or kites or anything,” he said. “I hope that Hamas will draw conclusions, and if they do not they will have to pay a heavy price.”

Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz likewise added that he is expecting Liberman to present the cabinet with a clear, proposed policy on how to deal with Gaza.

“The collapse of Hamas and the elimination of terror — or separation from all civilian responsibility and the creation of a boundary with full deterrence — as with Syria and Lebanon,” Katz specified. “There is no option of continuing with the current situation. It’s not fair to the Gaza Belt residents and it harms the security of the State of Israel.”

Not unexpectedly, by late afternoon arson attacks against Israel had already resumed; but so did immediate Israeli air strikes against the terror squads launching the arson kites and firebomb balloons across the border into Israel.

Meantime, the IDF has added more Iron Dome anti-missile defense batteries in the Gush Dan region of central Israel in advance of another possible night of rocketfire. Iron Dome batteries have also been reinforced in southern Israel as well.

The military also called up reserves to reinforce the aerial defense array, citing the need “in accordance with the situational assessment.”

Netanyahu also told the cabinet that he had discussed the security and diplomatic situation with U.S. President Donald Trump in a phone conversation on Saturday, along with other issues that included regional developments involving Syria and Iran.

Trump is set to meet Monday in a summit in Helsinki with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

Cabinet: Retaliate for every terror kite launched from Gaza

July 15, 2018

Security Cabinet instructs defense establishment to respond to every incendiary kite and balloon after terrorists launch 100 rockets.

The Political-Security Cabinet on Sunday instructed the defense establishment and the IDF to continue the policy of response that began Saturday in which the IDF responds to every attack on Israeli territory which originates from the Gaza Strip.

The IDF struck a series of Hamas targets Saturday after terrorists fired over 100 rockets at Israel from Gaza.

According to the directive, there will be an identical military response to any attack involving a rocket, an incendiary kite or a Molotov cocktail and will include a direct attack by the launchers rather than near them. However, it was decided not to attack directly if the launchers were identified as children.

The Cabinet meeting was attended by Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, ISA Director Nadav Argaman and Head of the Intelligence Directorate Major General Hartzi Halevy.

The ministers mainly wanted to hear the opinion of the heads of the defense establishment regarding the intensification of the response to terrorism by incendiary kites and balloons. The report revealed that the IDF received authorization to intensify its response and has even acted on this authorization,

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman used his right of speech to criticize ministers Naftali Bennett and Yisrael Katz, who were interviewed today by the media and expressed their protest against the IDF’s perceived inaction against the phenomenon of kite terrorism.

He demanded that the two not publicly criticize the army, the government and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Other ministers wondered what the cease-fire achieved on the Gaza border with Hamas was and heard that in the summations related to the creation of the fire, there was talk of a gradual halt that would within days turn to a complete end of the launching of balloons and incendiary missiles into Israeli territory.

IDF deploys Iron Dome in central Israel, reinforces batteries in the south

July 15, 2018

The army also conducted a limited reserve callup to boost manpower for aerial defense.

By Anna Ahronheim
July 15, 2018 18:13
https://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/IDF-strikes-Gaza-terror-cell-after-incendiary-balloons-launched-at-Israel-562551
The IDF deployed Iron Dome aerial defense batteries in Israel’s center and reinforced the batteries in the south of the country, the military announced Sunday evening.
The move, which also saw a limited reserve call-up to boost manpower in the Aerial Defense Division was made following a situational assessment the IDF said.

Throughout the day on Sunday the Israeli Air Force struck three cells of Palestinians terrorists who launched incendiary balloons towards Israel from the northern and central Gaza Strip.

Palestinian media reported that the strikes were carried out by drones,two near Beit Hanoun in the northern part of the Hamas-run coastal enclave which wounded three men and another near Deir al-Balah.
Three fires were caused by incendiary balloons in southern Israel near the communities of Erez, Yad Mordechai and Or HaNer. An emergency official told The Jerusalem Post that Sunday was the “quietest” day in terms of fires since March 30th.
Unlike previous cases where the IAF fired warning shots and then near cells launching aerial incendiary devices into Israel, the strikes on Sunday were directed towards the cell itself after intelligence showed that they included Hamas operatives.
The strikes came a day after some 200 rockets and mortars were fired from the Hamas-run enclave towards southern Israel on Saturday night with 40 of them intercepted by the Iron Dome Missile Defense System and another 73 landing in open territory.
Another 13 landed in communities bordering the Gaza Strip and another two hit the city of Sderot, injuring three residents who were transferred to hospital in light to moderate condition.
In response to the rocket fire Israel carried out several waves of airstrikes in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, dropping 50 tons of explosives on Hamas military targets as well as rocket launchers after the launch sites were identified.

According to a senior Air Force officer the IDF has been preparing for an escalation in the south for several weeks and struck targets which had been chosen in advance.

“We attacked a range of targets, including some surprising ones, after weeks of preparing for this day,” he said, warning nonetheless that “this is not all of the power we can bring. We have a broad list of high-quality targets, and we are prepared to act day and night.”

The senior air force officer said their planes were instructed not to hit Hamas operatives, as well as civilians who are not involved in the launching of incendiary balloons and devices into Israel.

“We acted in a very precise manner, in the most crowded place in the world, without harming those uninvolved in the fighting,” he said.

“The other side is learning. They [Hamas] got used to Israeli jets attacking at night; and military compounds are in populated areas. While we want to destroy their infrastructure, we wanted to do that without hitting civilians or fighters which is more challenging when it happens during the daylight,” the officer said.

“Our intelligence is very precise,” he continued. “If the other side remains quiet so will we. But if not, we are ready and we know what to do in order to return the quiet to the residents of the south.”

One Hamas training facility destroyed by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza on Saturday was known as the “Palestinian national library,” the IDF said Sunday morning.

The “building which was once a civilian residential building became a terror building,” the senior Air Force officer said.

The largely abandoned building in the al-Shati refugee camp was located next to the Sheikh Zayed mosque which sustained light damage from the strike which killed two Palestinian teenagers identified by The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry as 15-year-old Amir al-Nimra and 16-year-old Louay Kahil.

Another 25 people were injured in the strike despite the IDF stating that it had warned residents in advance of the strike which was in response to repeated mortar and rocket barrages from the coastal enclave towards southern Israel communities.

According to the army the building was targeted because it was being used by Hamas as an urban warfare training facility and had a tunnel underneath it for underground warfare training connected to a network of other Hamas tunnels in Gaza.

“Hamas continues using civilian infrastructure for military purposes, and in doing so endangers the civilians under its charge,” the IDF said in a statement.

“The building’s five floors were supposed to be used for residents of the Strip, for public and government services or at least for housing. Instead, for the past few years, the large building has been used as a training facility for Hamas’s fighting battalions for urban warfare, exercises in conquering buildings and recently as a facility for surviving inside tunnels — thanks to an attack tunnel that was dug underneath the building,” the statement continued.

The IDF holds the terror group which has ruled Gaza since 2007 “is responsible for the events transpiring in the Gaza Strip and emanating from it and will bear the consequences for its actions against Israeli civilians and Israeli sovereignty. The IDF views Hamas’ terror activity with great severity and is prepared for a wide variety of scenarios,” the army said.

Germany warns Trump against ‘unilateral deals’ with Russia ahead of talks with Putin

July 15, 2018

Published time: 15 Jul, 2018 10:58

https://www.rt.com/news/433150-trump-putin-unilateral-deals/

Russian Matryoshka dolls depicting t Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump are seen on sale at flea market in Moscow / AFP

The German foreign minister has joined a number of anxious Western politicians in offering advice to Donald Trump ahead of the US president’s summit with Vladimir Putin, warning him against making “unilateral deals” with Russia.

“Unilateral deals at the expense of allies will harm the United States, too. The one who hits his partners risks losing eventually,” Heiko Maas told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag in an interview released on Sunday.

However, the German foreign minister did acknowledge that the high-level talks between the US and Russia is a good sign, adding that the meeting can be “a step forward towards” nuclear disarmament.

Maas has recently accused the US leader of putting the entire architecture of European security at risk. On Saturday, he censured Trump, saying that the increased defense spending championed by the president during a recent NATO summit would not make the world any safer. Maas insisted that more weapons do not automatically mean more security, adding that Trump’s demands “have nothing to do with serious security policy.”  

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© Leonhard Foeger

All eyes now are on the much-anticipated summit between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, which is scheduled for Monday in Helsinki on the final leg of Trump’s European tour. A number of German politicians have long feared that the US president could take actions that are not in line with NATO.
The transatlantic coordinator for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition, Peter Beyer, said “there are great concerns in the alliance about what agreements Trump and Putin could reach” during the summit.

Christian Lindner, the head of Germany’s Free Democrats, echoed Beyer’s concerns, saying that he did not trust Trump, and that his actions in the areas of trade and security were not in Washington’s long-term interest.

The UK establishment also fears that Trump will undermine NATO by striking a “peace deal” with Putin during the meeting. The politicians worry that the Russian president could persuade Trump to downgrade US military commitments in Europe, thus compromising NATO countries’ defense against so-called “Russian aggression.”  

READ MORE: US needs nothing from Russia, says McFaul. But who else will be your boogeyman?

In the meantime, Alexander Bartosh, a former Russian diplomat and military expert, told RT that the meeting between the two leaders will merely include trying to find a “unifying agenda for the US and Russia because the relations of the two countries affect not only their own wellbeing, but international security as a whole.” “None of the sides will be aiming to undermine the integrity of NATO,” he added.

Trump has repeatedly called his Russian counterpart a “competitor,” suggesting that Putin may become a friend over time. The US president insists that he doesn’t believe his counterpart’s policies are a threat to the US or Europe.

Moscow has noted that the goal of the meeting is to finally start changing the negative situation in relations between the US and Russia for the better. When asked what the Kremlin thinks about Donald Trump calling Vladimir Putin a ‘competitor,’ Yury Ushakov, the Russian president’s adviser, said that Moscow considers the US president to be a ‘partner.’