Gaza is a small sliver of land between Israel and the Mediterranean Sea, with a tiny slice of land bordering Egypt. It is about the size of New Jersey with more than 1 million people, more than half of them under the age of 18, packed into it. Most are without jobs. The water is undrinkable, food in short supply.
Police and rescue personnel at the scene of a terror attack at the Central Bus Station in Yerushalayim on Monday. (Olivier Fitoussi/FLASH90)YERUSHALAYIM –
Israel’s security forces are raising their alert level across the country following several terror attacks and ahead of a possible escalation in the terror attacks, and possibly another operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The deployment of security forces, including Shin Bet personnel, led to the thwarting of an unidentified “major” terrorist attack on Monday, the details of which were placed under a gag order, reported Channel 12 and 13.
After three nights of rocket attacks from Gaza, the Israeli border with the Strip remained silent on Monday night.
However, the IDF’s Gaza Division is on high alert, and senior officers are quoted as saying that the question about another operation in the Strip is not a question of if, but when.
Meanwhile, IDF forces are still searching for the last two of the six terrorists who escaped from Gilboa Prison over a week ago. Israeli security officials believe that their killing during the pursuit or capture will bring to an escalation of the Islamic Jihad rockets attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip.
Egypt reportedly told Hamas after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi on Monday that if the rocket fire on Israel from Gaza does not stop, Israel will launch another broad operation in the Strip.
MK Ram Ben Barak, Chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, also warned that another clash with Gaza was near.
One last point to take into consideration is the Yamim Tovim season currently. The Yamim Tovim in Tishrei have previously served as an instigation of Muslim religious fervor which has led to violence, chalilah.
“We were on a round [of fighting] four months ago, before my time… Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and here we are at the exact same point,” Bennett told Israel’s Ynet News. “Hamas is a jihadist organisation that has made it its motto to fight us to the end.”
The prime minister explained that he is responsible for the security of the citizens of the State of Israel and the residents of the south in particular. “I can’t ignore [Hamas’s] military build-up for the sake of peace.”
There are four Israelis being held in Gaza, including two captured during the 51-day Israeli military offensive against the besieged enclave in 2014, during which Israel killed 2,260 Palestinians. Bennett said that he would agree to a prisoner swap with Hamas, but on his terms, which include his refusal to release any Palestinian convicted of killing Israelis.
According to rights groups, Israel holds more than 4,650 Palestinians prisoners, including 40 women, 200 minors and 520 under administrative detention, with neither charge nor trial.
Israeli forces launched a third consecutive night of attacks on the Gaza Strip Monday after rockets were fired toward Israel. The Israeli military claimed it had targeted at least four Hamas sites. Meanwhile, Al Jazeera reports a Hamas spokesperson said the assaults were in response to the escape last week of six Palestinians from an Israeli maximum-security prison. Two remain on the run.
The rocket, which was launched from Gaza just before 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system. The launch triggered sirens in Sderot and the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council area.
“The IDF will not accept a situation in which terrorist organizations act against Israeli civilians” and holds Hamas accountable for all attacks emanating from Gaza, the IDF said in a statement.
The Israeli strike was the second in Gaza in as many weeks. On Sept. 7, Israeli warplanes attacked Hamas targets in the Strip in response to the launching of incendiary devices into Israeli territory.
Since the end of 11 days of fighting between Israel and Gaza terror groups, Egypt has been attempting to solidify a fragile cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, which rules the coastal enclave.
However, Hamas has stepped up attacks against Israel, including the launching of rockets, incendiary balloons and renewed riots along the Gaza border, one of which claimed the life of an Israeli Border Police officer.
Palestinian factions vowed to end all talks of a ceasefire with Israel after the re-capture of the Gilboa Prison fugitives they called”heroic”says Palestinian media.
In response to the new arrests of Yakoub Mohammed Qadri and Mohammed Ardah late on On Friday evening, Hamas launched a rocket at the Eshkol . Regional Council in South Israel. The IDF responded by wearing out an air raid in the Gaza Strip.Violent riots in the West Bank were going on all week as hundreds of Palestinians protested in solidarity with escaped from Gilboa prison.
“The catches are the driving force for us and our people in the West Bank to step up protests,” Hamas said.
“As the six prisoners can escape the narrow, busy prison, than the Palestinian people can stop the occupation,” Joint List head MK Ayman Odeh wrote: on facebook.
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Earlier Saturday night, Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired a rocket at southern Israel, raising the specter of renewed conflict. The rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. The attack triggered sirens in the town of Sderot and surrounding communities in southern Israel.
A 29-year-old man sustained a light head wound after he fell while running to a bomb shelter. He was taken to Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center for treatment, medics said.
Shortly after 11 p.m. on Friday, Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired a single rocket towards Israel that was intercepted by the Iron Dome system, the army said. The rocket triggered warning sirens in the Eshkol region and local residents reported hearing several explosions. There were no reports of injuries or damage.
In response to the rocket fire on Friday night, the IDF carried out strikes on terror targets in the Gaza Strip in the early hours of Saturday morning, the military said.
The IDF said that it struck a Hamas position used to carry out machine gun fire, and a storage site located near a school and mosques. There were no further details given on what the IDF believed was stored at the facility.
The IDF also said that it hit a compound used to produce the concrete used to build the terror group’s underground tunnel network, which is said to be located near cultural sites. There were no immediate reports of injuries.Advertisement
In the statement, the IDF reiterated that it holds Hamas responsible for all terror activities in the enclave.
Meanwhile in the West Bank on Saturday evening, several hundred Palestinians clashed with Israel Defense Forces troops in a number of areas. IDF troops responded with riot control means.
The Palestinian Red Crescent reported that it treated eight people suffering from injuries from rubber bullets and another 15 cases of tear gas inhalation during clashes at Hawara checkpoint, south of Nablus.
The Saturday night rocket fire came soon after Israel captured two more Islamic Jihad security prisoners who escaped from a high-security prison on Monday, after arresting two others the day before.
This also comes a day after Qatar’s envoy to Gaza said that efforts to send aid from his country to the Gaza Strip, including to employees of the Hamas government, had failed after the Palestinian Authority backed out of the deal.
Qatar pledged $500 million for Gaza following the May 10-21 conflict that saw heavy bombardments in the Strip and intense rocket fire into Israel.Advertisement
The collapse of the deal was expected to further inflame tensions between Israel and Hamas, which has frequently stepped up provocations in a bid to pressure Israel to allow in money.
The rocket was likely fired by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, coming just after Israel announced it had caught two Islamic Jihad fugitives who broke out of the Gilboa prison on Monday along with four other security prisoners.
Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Emadi said that the deal was off because a mechanism agreed earlier in the week where Palestinian Authority banks would transfer the money to Hamas employees was no longer an option.
He said that the banks had refused to take part, fearing they could be targeted by sanctions for transferring money to a terror group.
The issue of the civil servants had been a sticking point in setting up a mechanism to transfer the money. On Monday, al-Emadi said that the issue had been resolved “following an agreement by the different parties.”
The report came as Channel 12 news quotes sources close to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as saying that Israel sees a new round of violence with Hamas as a foregone conclusion — possibly within weeks — and was completing drawing up military plans.
The report said that Israel wanted to deal with Hamas on its own terms and at a time of its choosing, and not be drawn into a conflict that would suit the terror group.
Qatari support is considered a crucial lifeline for impoverished Palestinians living in Gaza, which has been under Israeli blockade since 2007, the year the Hamas terror group took power.
Israel, which still allows many goods into the Strip, views the blockade as a necessary measure to keep terror groups from being able to freely arm themselves and present a much greater threat.Advertisement
Before the latest Gaza conflict between Israel and Hamas-led fighters in May, the flow of funds from Qatar was considered vital to maintaining relative calm between the Jewish state and the Islamists.
“We will not rest until they are free,” said Hamas leader Ismail Radwan on Friday morning, referring to Palestinian inmates in Israeli prisons.
Yesterday, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and other Palestinian factions called for a “day of rage” on Friday in protest of Israel’s decision to transfer security prisoners to other prisons following the escape of six inmates from Gilboa Prison earlier this week.
“We will defend you no matter the cost,” he added.
On Wednesday, the Palestinian Authority, along with several Palestinian factions, warned Israel against punishing these inmates or harming the fugitives or their families.
Five of the inmates who escaped from Gilboa Prison are members of PIJ. The sixth, Zakaria Zubeidi, belongs to Fatah, the ruling faction headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas. The six men hail from the Jenin area.
Israel conducted airstrikes in Gaza on Friday night after Palestinian militants launched a rocket at southern Israel, with no casualties reported. The launch followed Israel’s capture of two Palestinian inmates who escaped from an Israeli prison earlier this week.
The rocket was launched toward the Eshkol area, and was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. According to the military, air force planes struck a Hamas post used as a shooting range, a storage site, and a factory used for making concrete for attack tunnels. Palestinian sources did not report any injuries or deaths from the strikes.
Meanwhile, in the West Bank, about 1,000 Palestinians clashed with Israeli forces in several locations. Shots were fired at soldiers at the Jalamah checkpoint near Jenin. Palestinians also hurled improvised explosives and rocks at military forces, and the military reported that none of its soldiers were harmed.
Hamas spokesman Abdulatif al-Qanua said Friday evening that “the arrest of the two fugitives will not remove the stain from Israel. It’s enough that they have humiliated the Israeli security forces and the occupation regime.” Palestinian factions in Gaza have threatened to attack Israel and called for protests in support of the escaped inmates.
Meanwhile, on Friday, Qatari envoy to Gaza Mohammad al-Ammadi said that the Palestinian Authority had walked back on its deal with the United Nations and Doha to transfer Qatari aid to Hamas officialsthrough Palestinian banks in the West Bank. The PA has expressed concern that its banks will be exposed to lawsuits alleging support for terrorism, as Hamas is designated as a terrorist organization by Israel and Western countries.
Earlier in the day, Palestinian inmates affiliated with the Islamic Jihad terrorist movement clashed with guards and set fire to seven cells at Ktzi’ot Prison in the Negev desert over restrictions imposed following the escape of six inmates on Monday from Gilboa Prison in northern Israel.
Violence was reported Wednesday in other Israeli facilities, including at Ofer Prison near Jerusalem and at Rimon Prison where two cells were set ablaze.
The Israel Prison Services said that they were on high alert and bracing for more clashes.
The fires were reportedly started by Islamic Jihad members who refused to move between sections in protest of the decision to disperse prisoners affiliated with the terrorist group between detention centers to avoid an uprising in the wake of the jailbreak.
The Metzada Unit, the Israel Prison Service hostage rescue and special operations unit, was reportedly headed to Ktzi’ot Prison to deal with the unrest there.
The Hamas terrorist group issued a statement warning of a response if Israel continued the restrictions on Palestinian prisoners.
“We warn the Zionist occupation against the continuation of these repressive and retaliatory measures against the prisoners, and hold it fully responsible for all the results and consequences of these dangerous policies,” the statement said.