This is a routine closure, but Israel intends to tighten its measures against the movement of Palestinians under claims of fearing attacks.
Tens of thousands of Palestinian workers cannot reach their workplaces in Israel during the closure, and employees cannot commute from one Palestinian city to another because of the strict measures of Israeli military checkpoints separating Palestinian cities and villages.
As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu celebrated signing landmark accords with two Gulf states in Washington, near the Israeli-Gaza border Tammy Shalev was hunkering down in a bomb shelter.
The latest flare-up with Palestinian militants in the enclave jarred with Netanyahu’s claim that the deals with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain could “end the Arab-Israeli conflict once and for all”
By Wednesday morning, 15 rockets had been fired, according to the military, which said it responded with airstrikes on Hamas targets.
Two people were wounded when a rocket hit the Israeli port city of Ashdod, emergency services said. Nine of the rockets were intercepted by Israeli air defenses, according to the army.
(L-R)Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump, and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan participate in the signing of the Abraham Accords where the countries of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates recognize Israel, at the White House in Washington
The Israeli military said that in response it struck about 10 targets it alleged included a weapons and explosives manufacturing factory, underground infrastructure and a military training compound.
The exchange offered a reminder that the festivities in the US would do little to change the conflict.
Neither US President Donald Trump nor Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mentioned Palestine in the signing ceremony, but both Arab foreign ministers spoke of the importance of a Palestinian state.
The attacks came just after Tel Aviv City Hall lit up with the words for peace in Hebrew, Arabic and English in honour of the recognition agreement.
Tel Aviv, once called Jaffa, was taken violently from the Palestinians in 1949 and residents were forced to flee to the nearby Gaza Strip, taking their keys with them to symbolise the hope to return.
In Jerusalem, authorities projected the flags of the US, Israel, UAE and Bahrain on the walls of the Old City where Palestinians are being illegally evicted from their homes.
The signing of the deal came just ahead of the 38th anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacre in which 460 to 3,500 civilians were killed.
The attack on September 16, 1982 took place in the Sabra neighbourhood and the adjacent Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon.
It was carried out by a militia close to the Kataeb Party, a predominantly Christian Lebanese right-wing party.
‘A black day’
“This is a black day in the history of the official Arab system, and a sad day for the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause,” said Wasel Abu Yousef, a member of the PLO’s Executive Committee and Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Front.
“It is another treacherous stab in the back of the Palestinian people’s struggle, rights, sanctities and sacrifices,” he said, adding that it comes in the wake of the so-called American peace plan known as the deal of the century.
Such deals would enable Israel to escalate atrocities against Palestinians and carry out crimes including “confiscation of lands, the policy of ethnic cleansing and collective punishment in all the occupied Palestinian territories”, said Abu Yousef.
Israel normalisation deals may lead to the division of Al AqsaŚr
Israel formally signed the agreements with representatives for Bahrain, UAE and Israel during a White House ceremony presided over by US President Donald Trump.
Bahrain became the fourth Arab country to establish diplomatic relations with Israel last Friday after Egypt in 1979, Jordan in 1994 and the UAE in August.
Secretary of the Fatah Movement’s Revolutionary Council Majid al Fityani said: “they signed, in their disgrace, agreements of dependency, protection, and obedience with the occupation state.”
“Shame on the foreheads of the rulers of the Emirates and Bahrain. [They] do not represent anything to the Palestinians,” he said.
Palestinians staged a series of rallies Tuesday in the West Bank and Gaza Strip against the controversial agreements.
The Palestinians are opposed to the agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, viewing them as a betrayal of their cause by the Arab countries, which agreed to recognize Israel without securing territorial concessions.
The Israeli military said two rockets were fired from Gaza and one was intercepted by air defenses. Magen David Adom, the Israeli emergency service, said it treated two people for injuries from broken glass.
The military earlier said that rocket sirens sounded in Ashdod and Ashkelon, cities in southern Israel near the Gaza Strip.
The Islamic militant group Hamas has ruled Gaza since 2007, when it seized power from the internationally-backed Palestinian Authority. Israel and Egypt have imposed a crippling blockade on the coastal territory since then.
A number of Palestinian militant groups operate in Gaza, but Israel holds Hamas responsible for all attacks and typically responds to rocket fire with airstrikes on militant targets.
Israelis have embraced the agreements with the UAE and Bahrain, which are only the third and fourth Arab countries — after Egypt and Jordan — to recognize Israel. City Hall in Tel Aviv was lit up with the word “peace” in English, Hebrew and Arabic.
In Jerusalem, authorities projected the flags of the U.S., Israel, the UAE and Bahrain on the walls of the Old City.
The Old City, with its holy sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, is part of east Jerusalem, which Israel seized in the 1967 war and later annexed. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state.
In the contested city, opinions were split on the meaning of the pacts.
“I think they represent peace,” said Noga Ivki, an Israeli touring the city with a group of friends.
Toni Abd al-Nour, a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem, disagreed.
“This is nothing,” he said. “You must first make peace with the Palestinians.”
For my family, and for the people of Gaza, August has been horrific. Israel bombed the Stri on an almost daily basis, making us feel like we were stuck at the epicentre of a never-ending earthquake. The explosions, at times barely a kilometre from our home, were so loud, my two-year-old niece could not sleep at night. Every time she heard a loud bang she quickly gathered her toys around her, as if to protect them from Israel’s bombs.
Last month was indeed horrific, but it was not extraordinary in any way. Israel’s soldiers, warplanes, drones and gunships have been harassing, intimidating, and killing the people of Gaza regularly, and with impunity, for decades. Israel’s attacks are part of the daily routine in Gaza. To be able to survive, and to lead something that resembles a normal life, us Gazans have no choice but to accept as normal the violence being inflicted on us.
Growing up in Gaza, I always felt a sense of emergency. My family was always prepared for the worst, because the worst could knock on our door at any time, as it did during the attacks on Gaza in 2008, 2009, 2012 and 2014. As a child, I knew that living in fear every single day was not normal. In my heart, I rejected the normalisation of everyday horrors, because I did not want to lose touch with my humanity. Yet I eventually had to come to terms with the situation I was born into and my surroundings.
Now, my niece and thousands of other children living under Israeli siege in Gaza, are growing up with the same fears and the same sense of constant emergency. As they try to sleep through the sounds of bombs, and protect their toys from the horrors that are just outside the door, they are being forced to accept as normal a violent reality that no child should ever even witness.
In recent years, there has barely been a day in which Israel did not bomb, shoot into, or physically invade what is not only one of the most densely populated areas on the planet, but also a place which has been besieged for more than 13 years, with major shortages of the basics required for normal human life.
Israel’s colonial infrastructure controls the sky above us and the land and sea around us, and is even capable of penetrating into our most intimate spaces to show us its power. In Gaza, wherever you look, you see tools of oppression, occupation and urban warfare – border fences, separation walls, armoured trucks, warplanes and checkpoints shape the landscape we live in. Even when you are at home, the whirring sound of military drones remind you that you are imprisoned, and you can be attacked at any moment. I believe Israel makes a conscious effort to constantly remind Gaza Palestinians of its presence.
By making its occupation so visible, and the power it has over us so obvious, it is sending us a message: We will never allow you to be normal people, and live normal lives. To Israel, Gaza is not a place where two million men, women, and children call home, but an ‘enemy entity’.
Excerpted from: ‘When will the world stopignoring what ishappening in Gaza?’
Bahrain on Friday joined the UAE in agreeing to normalise relations with Israel, a move forged partly through shared fears of Iran but one that could leave the Palestinians further isolated.
The Gaza protest, attended by a few dozen people, was organised by the ruling group Hamas.
“We have to fight the virus of normalisation and block all its paths before it succeeds to prevent it from spreading,” said Hamas official Maher al-Holy.
Demonstrators set fire to images of US President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, and the UAE’s Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
While the United States, Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain hail the diplomatic moves as a significant step towards peace and stability in the Middle East, the Palestinians see it as a betrayal.
They fear a weakening of a long-standing pan-Arab position that calls for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory and acceptance of Palestinian statehood in return for normal relations with Arab countries.
Despite a deep political rift going back to 2007, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Palestinian Authority (PA) has a limited rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and his Hamas rivals have been united against the Gulf states’ move.
In the West Bank, Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Saeb Erekat said the diplomatic push will not achieve peace if the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not resolved first.
“The Bahraini, Israeli, American agreement to normalise relations is now part of a bigger package in the region. It isn’t about peace, it is not about relations between countries. We are witnessing an alliance, a military alliance being created in the region,” Erekat said.
Iran, meanwhile, said on Saturday that Bahrain’s move meant it would be complicit in Israeli policies that threatened regional security, Iranian state television reported. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said Bahrain would face “harsh revenge” from its own people and the Palestinians over the Gulf state’s move.
Turkey also condemned the deal saying it undermined the Palestinian cause and would “further embolden Israel to continue its illegal practices … and attempts to make the occupation of Palestinian territories permanent”.
Bahrainis opposed to their government’s agreement to establish diplomatic relations with Israel vented their frustration on social media on Saturday, underlining the complexities of the Gulf’s rapprochement with Israel.
The hashtags #Bahrainis_against_normalisation and #NormalizationIsBetrayal were trending on Twitter after Trump announced the deal late on Friday.
Bahrain, a Sunni-ruled kingdom with a large Shia population, shares with Israel a deep enmity towards Iran, and relies on the United States, which stations its Fifth Fleet on the tiny but strategic archipelago.
Palestinians carry placards during a protest in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Saturday [Said Khatib/AFP]
Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani said the deal represented a historic step towards achieving peace in the Middle East, but the PA and the Hamas condemned it as “another stab in the back” by an Arab government.
Unlike the UAE, opposition to normalisation runs deep in Bahrain, which has a history of open politics even if it has been suppressed over the past 10 years.
Former MP Ali Alaswad wrote it was “a black day in the history of Bahrain”.
The kingdom – a small archipelago located between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran – has been hit by waves of unrest since 2011, when security forces crushed Shia-led protests demanding reforms.
Opposition group Al-Wefaq criticised the normalisation deal.
“The agreement between the despotic regime in Bahrain and the Zionist occupation government is a total betrayal of Islam and Arabism and a departure from the Islamic, Arab and national consensus,” it said on Twitter.
Other anti-normalisation groups, based in Bahrain and abroad, expressed their anger in statements sent to media calling the deal “shameful”.
Sari Nusseibeh, a former top PLO official, said the Palestinian leadership was “very upset”.
“But I don’t think they are more upset than in the past about the Arab world in general. Palestinians have always complained that the Arab world has not stood behind them as they should have,” said Nusseibeh.
The Palestinian cause had already become less central as the region has been rocked by the Arab Spring upheavals, the Syria war, and the bloody onslaught by the armed group ISIL (ISIS).
At the same time, hostility has deepened between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
“There have been all kinds of problems in the Arab world – disputes, revolutions, civil wars, tensions between different Arab countries,” said Palestinian analyst Ghassan Khatib. “Palestinians are now paying the price for the deterioration in Arab unity.”
The PA maintains the validity of the so-called “Arab consensus” and rejects the notion that it is isolated. That consensus has long held that Arab states will only normalise ties if Israel meets a number of conditions.
One demand is for Israel to withdraw from the territories it occupied in the Six-Day War of 1967.
Another is to agree to a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, and a third to find a just solution for the millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
“We hope that the Arab countries will remain committed to this consensus,” said Jibril Rajoub, a senior Palestinian official, adding straying from it “will lead to nothing”.
“Those who are violating the Arab consensus … will be isolated” in the long term, he warned.
Palestinians condemn the normalisation of ties between Israel and Bahrain in Gaza [Mahmud Hams/AFP]
One Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, shared the view that at the moment “the Palestinians don’t really have a way out”.
“They are also stuck because of those who want to support their cause, whether it is Turkey or Iran.”
Iran already has relations with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and slightly cooler ties with the PA.
The Palestinian cause has also received backing from Turkey, a regional power increasingly at odds with Israel and that militarily backs a rival faction in the Libya war to the UAE and Egypt.
“Turkey does have an ambition to lead this cause and is pointing to the hypocrisy of both Arab states and the West for not emphasising this issue enough,” said Gallia Lindenstrauss of Israel’s National Institute for Security Research.
Rajoub insisted: “We are not ignoring any country. Turkey is a regional superpower, it’s an Islamic country and we are on good terms. We’ll keep cooperating with everybody.”
But Khatib argued the Palestinians should keep their distance. “It’s not wise for the Palestinians to be caught within the regional tensions and competition between regional superpowers,” he said.
“If you side with Iran, you’ll lose Saudi Arabia. If you side with Turkey, you’ll lose someone else. It’s better for the Palestinians to keep a safe distance from these different regional superpowers.”
Follow us @middleeast for more news on the region.
American soldiers are employing a drone that Israel pioneered to take down flaming kites launched over the border from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, according to the Israeli Defense Ministry.
The Skylord drone, equipped with a system developed by an Israeli civilian drone company and the U.S. and Israeli defense departments, will be deployed in a pilot program to protect American forces against aerial threats, including hostile unmanned aircraft.
Its development is testament to the close cooperation between the Israeli and U.S. militaries. It’s also a reflection of an Israeli drone ecosystem nourished by veterans cycling in and out of the army throughout decades of reserves service and applying lessons learned in the civilian companies where they work.
The core of the system being put to the test by the American military was developed by Israeli startup Xtend, whose chief technology officer, Rubi Liani, took on the Gaza threat as a navy officer with a passion for drone racing.
The Israeli military initially was blindsided when Gaza militants began sending hundreds of incendiary balloons and kites over Israel’s southern border, setting thousands of acres of Israeli farmland and nature reserves on fire. Then Liani showed a top commander how recreational drones could take out these threats in less than 20 seconds. Xtend was born of that 2018 experience.
Global spending on drone technology is expected to grow as an overall percentage of military budgets as armies search for ways to optimize resources and minimize forces’ exposure to danger. It’s already more than doubled since 2014 to about $9 billion annually, according to the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College in New York, which estimates 95 countries possess military drone technology, up from 60 a decade ago.
At the same time, the expanded use of drones has generated criticism that they encourage human rights abuses by mitigating the political cost of keeping wars simmering.
Israeli security forces arrested large numbers of suspected Hamas members in predawn raids in the Hebron area on Tuesday, in an apparent show of strength to the terror group amid an uptick in Palestinian violence in recent weeks.
Palestinian media reported that upwards of 45 people were arrested in the flashpoint city and surrounding towns, including Bayt Umar, Dura and Yatta.
The Israel Defense Forces confirmed conducting the raids, but said only 21 people — all suspected Hamas members — were arrested. It was not immediately clear what accounted for the discrepancy, but it appeared to derive from the military’s policy of counting only those placed under arrest, excluding those detained for a short period of time and then released.
According to the official Palestinian Authority news site Wafa, many of those arrested were former security prisoners who had been released from Israeli prisons.
An IDF spokesperson said the mass arrests were not tied to a specific Hamas plot, but were motivated by the “usual” reasons of suspected involvement in terrorist activities; low-level violence like rock throwing; and taking part in violent protests against Israeli security forces.
Hamas parliamentarian Nayef Rajoub, who Israeli forces have detained numerous times, accused Israel of “drilling for a major and violent attack” on West Bank Palestinians.
“This is merely training for a widespread arrest operation… Israeli soldiers struck down the doors of homes, entered without permission and gathered detainees in two buses before taking them to a tent built for their detention in the Hebron area,” Rajoub said.
Some of the detainees had been freed as of Tuesday afternoon, while others remained in Israeli custody, according to Rajoub.
The raids came amid an uptick in Palestinian violence emanating from the West Bank in recent weeks, with a deadly stabbing inside Israel by a Palestinian worker, a car-ramming at Tapuah Junction that injured a police officer and a soldier, and several failed attempted attacks, according to Israeli security forces.
BEIRUT — The leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas on Sunday warned Israel that his organization has missiles capable of striking the city of Tel Aviv, Israel’s commercial and cultural center, and areas beyond it.
Ismail Haniyeh’s comments during a visit to Lebanon followed an escalation in recent weeks in which Hamas-affiliated groups fired rockets into Israel and Israeli warplanes struck areas in the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by Hamas.
Hamas announced last week that international mediators had brokered a new set of “understandings” with Israel, halting the latest round of fighting for the time being in exchange for an easing of Israeli restrictions on the Gaza Strip.
Haniyeh gave a speech in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ein el-Hilweh near the southern port city of Sidon, where he received a hero’s welcome by armed men who carried him on their shoulders.
Haniyeh and a Hamas delegation met earlier with the leader of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, during which they discussed the situation in the Middle East and the recent normalization of relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, a Hezbollah statement said.
Hamas rockets have reached Tel Aviv and beyond in previous rounds of fighting, but such launches are rare and considered a serious escalation by Israel. The seaside metropolis is located some 70 kilometers (45 miles) north of Gaza.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars and several smaller battles over the last 13 years. Neither side is believed to be seeking war, but any casualties could ignite a wider conflict.
In recent weeks, groups affiliated with Hamas launched incendiary balloons into Israel, igniting farmland in a bid to pressure Israel to ease the blockade it imposed on Gaza when Hamas seized power in 2007. The group had also fired rockets into Israel in recent weeks, which was seen as a significant escalation.
Haniyeh was criticized during his visit by some in Lebanon on social media. One post sarcastically asked whether it would be better for him to threaten Israel from the West Bank, which is ruled by the Palestinian Authority and with whom Hamas has a longstanding feud. Another post said Lebanon has enough problems at the moment, and doesn’t need Hamas on top of that.