Aron Heller / Associated Press & Al Jazeera – 2018-07-15 00:28:19
Israel Exchanges Intense Fire
with Hamas Militants in Gaza
Aron Heller / Associated Press & Siouxland Proud.com
Gaza marks more than 100 days since mass protests began. Al Jazeera English (July 13, 2018)
JERUSALEM (July 14, 2018) — The Israeli military carried out its largest airstrike campaign in Gaza since the 2014 war Saturday as Hamas militants fired dozens of rockets into Israel throughout the day, threatening to trigger an all-out war after weeks of growing tensions along the volatile border.
Two Palestinian teenagers were killed in an airstrike in Gaza City, while three Israelis were wounded from a rocket that landed on a residential home.
Israel said it was focused on hitting militant targets and was warning Gaza civilians to keep their distance from certain sites. But even before the report of casualties the intense tit-for-tat airstrikes and rocket barrages still marked a significant flare-up after a long period of a generally low-level, simmering conflict.
“The Israeli army delivered its most painful strike against Hamas since the 2014 war and we will increase the strength of our attacks as much as necessary,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
Late Saturday, Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza announced that they had agreed to a cease-fire brokered by Egypt, but sirens warning of incoming rockets still wailed in southern Israel early Sunday and it was unclear if the cease-fire was holding.
Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said the latest Israeli sortie, the third of the day, struck some 40 Hamas targets including tunnels, logistical centers and a Hamas battalion headquarters. He said the escalation was the result of the sustained Hamas rocket attacks, its fomenting of violence along the border and its campaign of launching incendiary kites and balloons that have devastated Israeli farmlands and nature reserves.
“Our message to Hamas is that we can and will enhance the intensity of our effort if needed,” he said. “What Hamas is doing is pushing them ever closer to the edge of the abyss . . . Hamas will have to understand that there is a price to be paid.”
Later, witnesses reported that Israeli warplanes dropped four bombs on an unfinished building near a Hamas police and security compound in Gaza City, reducing the old structure to rubble. The four-story building is adjacent to a public park. Gaza’s Health ministry said two teenagers were killed in the strike and ten others injured.
It marked the first casualties of the day. Striking in the heart of Gaza City is typically only seen during full-blown conflicts like the 2014 war and could signal that a further escalation may be in store.
The Israeli military had no immediate reaction to that strike but said it had targeted a separate high-rise building in the northern Gaza Strip that was used as a Hamas urban warfare training facility. It said a tunnel was dug under the building.
Shortly after, Israeli medical officials said three Israelis were wounded from a rocket that landed on a house in southern Israel. It said paramedics in the southern city of Sderot were treating a 52-year-old man with a chest wound, a 17-year-old girl with a face wound and a 20-year-old woman with injuries to her limbs.
Sirens wailed overnight and throughout most of the day Saturday in southern Israel as waves of rockets and mortars were launched from Gaza amid the airstrikes. The military said it identified about 60 launches of rockets and mortars from Gaza toward Israeli territory, of which about 10 were intercepted by the Iron Dome aerial defense system.
As a precaution, the military shut down a popular beach in southern Israel and placed limitations on gatherings of large crowds. Israeli police says four of the projectiles caused damage.
Israel has been warning Hamas in recent weeks that while it has no interest in engaging in the kind of conflict that led to the sides fighting three wars over the past decade, it will not tolerate Gaza militants’ continued efforts to breach the border and its campaign to devastate Israeli border communities with incendiary attacks.
With Israel focused on rising tension along its northern border in its efforts to prevent Iran from establishing a permanent military foothold in post-civil war Syria, it has been wary of escalating hostilities in Gaza. But Netanyahu has also come under pressure to act from southern Israeli communities, who have once again found themselves under rocket fire from Gaza in addition to contending with the daily field fires.
“We are ready to operate simultaneously in different theaters,” Conricus said, referring to the dual threats from Syria and Gaza. “It will be challenging to fight on more than one border but it is something we can do and are prepared to do.”
Israel’s military chief visited the border area for briefings and the Security Cabinet, Israel’s top decision-making body, is expected to convene Sunday to discuss further actions.
On Friday, thousands of Palestinians gathered near the Gaza border for their near-weekly protest. A 15-year-old Palestinian who tried to climb over the fence into Israel was shot dead. Later the military said an Israeli officer was moderately wounded by a grenade thrown at him.
Gaza’s health ministry said Saturday that a 20-year-old struck by gunfire Friday during the protests in the southern Gaza Strip had also died of his wounds.
The Islamic militant group Hamas that rules Gaza has led border protests aimed in part at drawing attention to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007. The demonstrations have been fueled in large part by pervasive despair caused by the blockade, which has caused widespread economic hardship.
Over 130, mostly unarmed, Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since protests began on March 30.
Israel says it is defending its sovereign border and accuses Hamas of using the protests as cover for attempts to breach the border fence and attack civilians and soldiers. Most recently, it has been struggling to cope with the widespread fires caused by the incendiary kites and balloons floating over the border.
In a statement, the military said Hamas’ activities “violate Israeli sovereignty, endanger Israeli civilians and sabotage Israel’s humanitarian efforts that aim to help Gazan civilians.”
In a relatively rare admission, Hamas said it fired the rockets to deter Israel from further action. Most of the recent rockets from Gaza have been fired by smaller factions but Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said it was an “immediate response” that was meant to “deliver the message.”
The military said its jets targeted two Hamas tunnels as well as other military compounds, including those involved in the production of the kites and balloons. It said the Hamas battalion headquarters in northern Gaza was completely destroyed and footage it released showed a series of large explosions that left a gaping hole in the ground.
Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
Israeli Air Raids Kill Two Palestinian Teens in Gaza
Hamas says it launched rockets and mortars in response
to Israeli air strikes, which wounded 14 Palestinians
Israel launches fresh airstrikes on Gaza. Al Jazeera (July 14, 2018)
(July 14, 2018) — At least two teenagers in the Gaza Strip have been killed by Israeli air raids, according to Palestinian health officials, as Israel carried out the largest daylight attack on the besieged enclave since the 2014 war.
Amir al-Nimri, 15, and Luay Kaheel, 16, died of their wounds on Saturday shortly after an air strike targeted al-Kutaiba, an area in western Gaza, the health ministry said. Twelve others were wounded by the attack.
The al-Kutaiba square is adjacent to a park frequently visited by families over the weekend, especially during the summer months, witnesses told Al Jazeera. “That’s why so many civilians have been hurt in the latest strike,” Maram Humaid, a journalist in Gaza, said.
In a Twitter post, the Israeli military confirmed it targeted a “high-rise building” and said it had “warned” residents to evacuate prior to the attack.
Witnesses told Al Jazeera that the two teenagers who lost their lives were playing on the roof of the semi-abandoned building and described a scene where “there was glass everywhere”.
Two other people were wounded in earlier Israeli air raids, which targeted several neighbourhoods in Gaza, raising the total figure of those hurt to 14.
Israel destroys Hamas base in Gaza. Arutz Sheva TV. (July 14, 2018)
Following the attack on al-Kutaiba, a ceasefire agreement was reached through international and regional mediation efforts, Palestinian officials said on Saturday.
In a Twitter post, Hamas, the group governing the Gaza Strip, said the efforts of “several parties” including neighbouring Egypt succeeded in implementing a lasting ceasefire.
There has been no immediate confirmation from the Israeli side.
Earlier in the day, it said it attacked several Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip, as dozens rockets and mortars were fired towards Israel from the besieged enclave.
“The Israeli army says over 90 mortars and rockets have been fired over the last 24 hours, most of them causing no damage. Some rockets hit a synagogue, also a car and we understand four Israelis were lightly injured,” said Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker, reporting from Jerusalem.
“This does show you how severe this escalation has been, certainly the most severe since 2014.”
The Israeli army said its fighter jets targeted “complexes used to prepare arson terror attacks and a Hamas terror training facility”. It also said it struck two Hamas tunnels, one in southern Gaza and one in the north, as well as other infrastructure across the besieged coastal territory.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the group was responsible for the mortar fire on Israel and that they were carried out “in response to the Israeli air strikes”.
“The protection and the defence of our people is a national duty and a strategic choice,” Barhoum said.
Incendiary kites from Gaza that have burned large tracts of farmland in Israeli border areas have increased public pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a stronger armed response.
Great March of Return
The escalation came just hours after a 15-year-old Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli forces at protests in the Gaza Strip near the fence with Israel and scores were wounded.
A 20-year-old died on Saturday of gunshot wounds.
Hundreds of protesters had amassed near the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip on Friday to commemorate more than 100 days since the start of the Great March of Return mass rallies.
Since the protests began on March 30, at least 138 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and more than 160,000 have been wounded.
Its main message is to call for the right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants who were violently expelled from their homes in the territories taken over by Israel during the 1948 war, known to Arabs as the Nakba.
The Gaza Strip is but one of the focal points in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
More than two million Palestinians are packed into the Gaza Strip, a territory the size of the US city of Detroit — about 360sq km — which has been described as “the world’s largest open-air prison”.
Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005 but, citing security concerns, maintains tight control of its land and sea borders, which has reduced its economy to a state of collapse.
Egypt also restricts movement in and out of Gaza on its border.
Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been stalled since 2014 and Israeli settlements have expanded in occupied territory Palestinians intended to become part of their eventual state.
Gaza experienced its most significant conflict in 2014, when at least 2,251 Palestinians, most of whom were civilians, were killed. At least 66 Israeli soldiers and six civilians were also killed.
Additional reporting by Hosam Salem in Gaza
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