IDF Intelligence hails tactical win outside the Temple Walls, can’t say how long calm will last

IDF Intelligence hails tactical win in Gaza, can’t say how long calm will last

Military maintains it exacted a devastating price from the Hamas terror group for its attack on Jerusalem, but recognizes it struggled in preventing rocket fire

By Judah Ari Gross Today, 5:54 pm

In this May 19, 2021, photo, an Israeli artillery unit fires shells toward targets in Gaza. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

Israeli Military Intelligence cannot yet assess how long the ceasefire between Jerusalem and the Hamas terror group will last following this month’s 11-day battle between the two sides.

Though the Israel Defense Forces firmly believes that it dealt a serious blow to Hamas’s military capabilities and undermined its core strategies by attacking its underground tunnel network inside the Gaza Strip, it acknowledges that the terror group still has thousands of rockets in its arsenals and could easily decide to use them again.

Shortly before the ceasefire went into effect, the head of IDF Operations, Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva, said the conflict would be considered a success for Israel if it brought about five years of calm in Gaza.

But intelligence officials on Wednesday clarified that this was not an estimate for how long the ceasefire would hold, just a bar for assessing the outcome of the campaign, known as Operation Guardian of the Walls.

Much in the way the 1967 Six Day War was an overwhelming military success for Israel but nevertheless was followed by a surprise attack six years later, the IDF warns that despite the tactical and strategic victories in Operation Guardian of the Walls, the current bout with Hamas may not have yielded the lasting deterrence that Israel is hoping for.

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Hamas’s leaders have claimed victory in the conflict as they seek to establish a narrative to explain the fighting to their people, and they can be justified in doing so, having accomplished many of the goals the terror group set for itself.

Throughout the fighting, the terror group defined itself as a protector of Jerusalem — launching the initial barrage of rockets at the capital in response to violent clashes between Muslim protesters and Israeli police officers on the Temple Mount — it also managed to exacerbate growing rifts between Jewish and Arab Israelis, inspire attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers in the West Bank, garner international attention for the Palestinian cause, and kill 11 civilians in Israel.

Now Hamas has to determine if the considerable price it paid for those achievements was worth it or if it won a pyrrhic victory. This will only become clear in the coming months and years, according to IDF assessments.

The cost to Hamas was high: During the conflict, Israel killed a number of top operatives, including several key members of its research-and-development wing, and conducted strikes on some three dozen rocket production facilities, which will make it much more difficult for the terror group to replenish its arsenals. The IDF also intercepted every drone — both unmanned aerial vehicles and autonomous submarines — that Hamas launched, as well as several on the ground before they could be deployed.

And, perhaps most significantly, the Israeli military destroyed upwards of 100 kilometers (60 miles) of Hamas tunnels in the Gaza Strip, which Israel dubbed “the metro.” This rendered unusable large swaths of the terror group’s subterranean infrastructure — roughly a third of it, according to IDF assessments — and, more importantly, demonstrated to Hamas’s operatives that they were vulnerable to attack in their underground bunkers.

“Cracking Hamas’s ‘metro,’ Military Intelligence’s ability to map underground infrastructure and provide much-needed information to combat troops in order to take from the terror group its central domain is a strategic shift. This was the work of several years,” a senior Military Intelligence official told reporters this week, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Years of work, outside-the-box thinking and the fusion of Military Intelligence’s power with officials in the field resulted in a breakthrough and a solution to the enigma of the underground,” he said.

Israel’s ability to consistently strike subterranean targets was also noted by Hezbollah in Lebanon, which maintains its own massive underground complexof tunnels and bunkers.

The IDF’s assault on Hamas’s tunnel network kicked off in earnest with a massive round of airstrikes on the fourth night of the conflict, which was accompanied by an elaborate ruse that was meant to convince the terror group that Israel was about to launch a ground invasion of the Strip and that it should therefore send its fighters into the passages beneath northern Gaza.

This included telling IDF infantrymen that they were going into Gaza and positioning troops along the border as though they were preparing to enter the enclave, as well as telling foreign reporters that Israeli troops had indeed entered the Strip, though the IDF officially maintains that this was not a deliberate attempt to mislead the press, but a misunderstanding by one officer.

This ploy was not as successful as the IDF had hoped, and far fewer Hamas operatives entered the tunnels than was initially thought, yet Military Intelligence still largely sees the stratagem as a success, as by that point in the conflict the IDF had already destroyed a number of tunnels and Hamas’s faith in them was therefore wavering — so this was effectively the military’s last chance to destroy the tunnel network while it still had strategic value.

‘The first AI war’

Military Intelligence played a key role in the operation, identifying targets for attack in advance and finding more during the conflict itself. This was done in part by so-called HUMINT, human intelligence, notably Palestinians in Gaza collecting intelligence and passing it along to IDF case officers. But in this round of fighting, machine learning and other advanced computing capabilities played a key role.

Indeed for the first time in battle, much of the effort was assisted by the IDF’s artificial intelligence programs, making this the IDF’s “first AI war,” according to Military Intelligence.

“For the first time, artificial intelligence represented a key factor and force-multiplier in warfare against an enemy,” the senior intelligence official said.

These advanced capabilities were used to sift through the unimaginably massive amounts of data that Military Intelligence intercepts and collects from Gaza — telephone calls, text messages, surveillance camera footage, satellite images and a huge array of various sensors — in order to turn them into usable intelligence information: where will a specific Hamas commander be located at a specific time, for instance.

To give a sense of scale of the amount of data being collected, the IDF said it estimates that any given point in the Gaza Strip was photographed at least 10 times each day during the conflict.

“This is the first war of its kind for the IDF, an actualization of new techniques and technological developments representing… the combination of a wide variety of intelligence sources with artificial intelligence and a deep connection with [troops in] the field, representing a dramatic shift in the connection between intelligence and those on the front,” the official added.

This allowed Military Intelligence to not only kill several dozen top operatives from Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the second-most significant terror group in the Strip, but also to do so with a smaller number of civilian casualties.

In one case, when the IDF killed Islamic Jihad commander Hassan Abu Harbid in the densely populated Shati refugee camp, Military Intelligence determined that the terrorist leader was staying in a detached guest room at his friend’s house. Knowing that Abu Harbid was staying in a separate building, the Israeli Air Force was able to strike only that room, killing him and no other people.

During the fighting, 253 Palestinians were killed, including 66 minors. The IDF maintains that most of the people killed were members of terror groups and that some were hit not by Israeli strikes but by errant rockets from Gaza that failed to clear the border and landed within the Strip; at least eight civilians were reportedly killed in this way.

But the military also acknowledges that civilians were killed by Israeli fire, though it says considerable effort was put into minimizing civilian casualties whenever possible. This included directly contacting people in buildings that were due to be attacked and calling off strikes when too many civilians were seen in the area.

One strike with no casualties that still looms over the IDF’s campaign is the attack on the Jala tower in Gaza City, which was home to the Associated Press, Al-Jazeera and a number of other international media outlets. According to the Israeli military, it also housed a Hamas intelligence unit that operated a number of advanced electronic warfare devices from the building meant to interfere with the military’s GPS reception, potentially affecting the normal operation of IDF weapons.

Military Intelligence maintains that the seriousness of this issue justified the attack on the building, as well as the decision to bring down the entire structure, rather than just a surgical strike on the floors where Hamas was operating, as this might not have destroyed all of the electronic warfare capabilities in the tower.

This view has been heavily questioned, and indeed some Israeli officials involved in the strike told the New York Times that they regretted having approved it, considering the significant international blowback that was prompted by the strike.

The problem is rockets

Where Military Intelligence struggled during the conflict was in locating and destroying Hamas and Islamic Jihad’s arsenals of thousands of rockets and mortar shells. This allowed the terror groups to fire upwards of 4,300 projectiles toward Israel, 680 of which fell short of the border, while another 280 landed out at sea.

In large part, this is because Hamas has found a variety of ways to hide its launchpads, concealing them under tarps or inside buildings with removable roofs.

Though the military had more success in targeting Hamas’s more advanced, multiple-barreled launchers, or multiple launch rocket systems, taking out roughly 40 percent of these batteries, the IDF acknowledges that it only destroyed roughly 10 percent of Hamas’s rocket arsenal in the current round of fighting. This still leaves thousands of rockets, including long-range ones, in Hamas’s possession, though the IDF’s precise estimates for the size of the terror group’s arsenal is classified.

Though terror groups in the Strip successfully conducted at least three anti-tank guided missile attacks this month — one by Islamic Jihad that lightly injured an Israeli civilian, one by Hamas that killed a soldier and wounded two others, and a third by Hamas that hit an empty bus, causing no injuries — the IDF was able to find and destroy large numbers of these precise, deadly weapons, taking the number of launchers from dozens to single digits, according to IDF assessments.

Unlike rockets and mortars, anti-tank guided missiles remain a difficult weapon to produce domestically, leaving Hamas and Islamic Jihad only the option of smuggling them into the Strip, a difficult feat to accomplish as Israel has significantly stepped up its efforts to counter such efforts.

Defensively, Military Intelligence has also improved its ability to predict anti-tank strikes, sending alerts to soldiers in the field when they are at risk of being hit, based in part on assessments by artificial intelligence programs.

Such warnings were sent to the soldiers whose jeep was hit by a missile; the IDF is still investigating the incident to determine why the soldiers hadn’t moved to a safer location, out of the direct line of fire from Gaza.

How Hamas was able to strike outside the temple walls: Revelation 11

Explained: How did Hamas grow its arsenal to strike Israel?

In 2007, when Hamas fighters pushed the Palestinian Authority out of Gaza and took over governing the coastal strip, Israel and Egypt imposed their tight blockade.

In this fourth war between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers, the Islamic militant group has fired more than 4,000 rockets at Israel, some hitting deeper in Israeli territory and with greater accuracy than ever before.

The unprecedented barrages reaching as far north as the seaside metropolis of Tel Aviv, coupled with drone launches and even an attempted submarine attack, have put on vivid display a homegrown arsenal that has only expanded despite the choke hold of a 14-year Israeli-Egyptian blockade.

“The magnitude of (Hamas) bombing is much bigger and the precision is much better in this conflict,” said Mkhaimar Abusada, a professor of political science at Al-Azhar University in Gaza City.

“It’s shocking what they’ve been able to do under siege.”

Israel has argued that the blockade, which has caused severe hardship for more than 2 million Palestinians in Gaza is essential for preventing a Hamas arms build-up and cannot be lifted.

Here’s a look at how, under intense surveillance and tight restrictions, Hamas managed to amass its cache.

FROM CRUDE BOMBS TO LONG-RANGE ROCKETS

Since the founding of Hamas in 1987, the group’s secretive military wing _ which operates alongside a more visible political organization evolved from a small militia into what Israel describes as a “semi-organized military.”

In its early days, the group carried out deadly shootings and kidnappings of Israelis. It killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, which erupted in late 2000.

As violence spread, the group started producing rudimentary “Qassam” rockets. Powered partly by molten sugar, the projectiles reached just a few kilometers (miles), flew wildly and caused little damage, often landing inside Gaza.

After Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, Hamas assembled a secret supply line from longtime patrons Iran and Syria, according to Israel’s military. Longer-range rockets, powerful explosives, metal and machinery flooded Gaza’s southern border with Egypt. Experts say the rockets were shipped to Sudan, trucked across Egypt’s vast desert and smuggled through a warren of narrow tunnels beneath the Sinai Peninsula.

In 2007, when Hamas fighters pushed the Palestinian Authority out of Gaza and took over governing the coastal strip, Israel and Egypt imposed their tight blockade.

According to the Israeli military, the smuggling continued, gaining steam after Mohammed Morsi, an Islamist leader and Hamas ally, was elected president of Egypt in 2012 before being overthrown by the Egyptian army.

Gaza militants stocked up on foreign-made rockets with enhanced ranges, like Katyushas and the Iranian-supplied Fajr-5, which were used during the 2008 and 2012 wars.

A HOMEGROWN INDUSTRY 

After Morsi’s overthrow, Egypt cracked down on and shut hundreds of smuggling tunnels. In response, Gaza’s local weapons industry picked up.

“The Iranian narrative is that they kick-started all the missile production in Gaza and gave them the technical and knowledge base, but now the Palestinians are self-sufficient,” said Fabian Hinz, an independent security analyst focusing on missiles in the Middle East.

“Today, most of the rockets we’re seeing are domestically built, often with creative techniques.”

In a September documentary aired by the Al-Jazeera satellite news network, rare footage showed Hamas militants reassembling Iranian rockets with ranges of up to 80 kilometers (50 miles) and warheads packed with 175 kilograms (385 pounds) of explosives. Hamas militants opened unexploded Israeli missiles from previous strikes to extract explosive materials. They even salvaged old water pipes to repurpose as missile bodies.

To produce rockets, Hamas chemists and engineers mix propellant from fertilizer, oxidizer and other ingredients in makeshift factories. Key contraband is still believed to be smuggled into Gaza in a handful of tunnels that remain in operation.

Hamas has publicly praised Iran for its assistance, which experts say now primarily takes the form of blueprints, engineering know-how, motor tests and other technical expertise. The State Department reports that Iran provides $100 million a year to Palestinian armed groups.

THE ARSENAL ON DISPLAY 

The Israeli military estimates that before the current round of fighting, Hamas had an arsenal of 7,000 rockets of varying ranges that can cover nearly all of Israel, as well as 300 anti-tank and 100 anti-aircraft missiles. It also has acquired dozens of unmanned aerial vehicles and has an army of some 30,000 militants, including 400 naval commandos.

In this latest war, Hamas has unveiled new weapons like attack drones, unmanned submarine drones dispatched into the sea and an unguided rocket called “Ayyash” with a 250-kilometer (155-mile) range. Israel claims those new systems have been thwarted or failed to make direct strikes.

The Israeli military says its current operation has dealt a tough blow to Hamas’ weapons research, storage and production facilities. But Israeli officials acknowledge they have been unable to halt the constant barrages of rocket fire.

Unlike guided missiles, the rockets are imprecise and the vast majority have been intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. But by continuing to frustrate Israel’s superior firepower, Hamas may have made its main point.

“Hamas is not aiming for the military destruction of Israel. Ultimately, the rockets are meant to build leverage and rewrite the rules of the game,” Hinz said. “It’s psychological.”The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines

22 Members Of One Family Killed Outside the Temple Walls

22 Members Of One Family Killed In Gaza


By editor • May 23, 2021
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

We’ve heard the numbers this past week – 12 killed in Israel, more than 240 killed in Gaza. A death is agonizing for either side. The kind of losses families in Gaza endured these past two weeks are devastating. Gaza officials say 19 families lost multiple relatives. In two of those cases, entire nuclear families were wiped out. NPR’s Daniel Estrin is in Gaza and met one extended family who lost more than any other, and they are left with questions.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Many people from around Gaza are coming to al-Wahda (ph) street to see the little that remains of the Qalaq (ph) family’s homes.

Laundry machine, mattresses, that’s a purse – a black and white striped purse.

The extended Qalaq family – uncles, aunts, brothers, children – all lived together here in two apartment buildings. It was about 1 a.m. on Sunday. Twenty-two-year-old Zainab (ph) was huddled inside with 16 members of her extended family.

ZAINAB QALAQ: In one room, we all together just hearing bombs everywhere, but we don’t know that it will come to our home. And it’s disaster.

ESTRIN: She saw the floor split open. She felt like she sank. The upper stories came crashing down on top of her.

Z QALAQ: I remember that my mom in my right hand and my sister in my left hand, but both of them passed away. And I hear them that – when they are dying. I can’t do anything.

ESTRIN: She was buried under rubble and could not move. Her cell phone was in her hand. She called her friend at 1:02 a.m. – call an ambulance. Two hours later, her phone battery died, and she was alone. She prayed to stay alive. It was 12 hours before she was pulled out of the rubble.

Z QALAQ: My mom, Aman (ph) – she’s – she says her name hope, hope for everyone she knows. She’s the most kind person you will meet ever. My sister – my only sister, Hanna (ph) – she’s the source of happiness for everyone. She’s still young. She’s a student at school. She has friends. She has hopes. She has dreams. I know all of her dreams, but all of them just go.

ESTRIN: Her 16-year-old sister learned Korean online. She was dreaming to travel to Korea. Now she’s dead. Her big brother, Taher (ph), 24, a civil engineering graduate, her little brother, Ahmad (ph), 17 – both dead. Only her father and brother survived.

Z QALAQ: We are civilians. So we don’t have – just why? Why they are just bombing us? What they want?

ESTRIN: The buzzing sound you hear in the background are Israeli drones somewhere in the sky. The building next door also collapsed. Another branch of the family, her cousins, were killed, accountant Mohammed (ph) and three of his four children, Mohammed’s brother, Izat (ph), a lawyer, his wife and two of their three children. All together, about 22 members of the extended family are gone. No other family in Gaza lost as many relatives in this war.

AZAM QALAQ: (Speaking non-English language).

ESTRIN: A surviving brother struggles to comprehend – Azam (ph), a mechanical electrician. Israel did not call them to warn them of the strike like the military did with many other civilians, allowing them to escape before their homes were bombed. Israel says it was targeting an underground Hamas facility, and the foundations of the homes above it collapsed.

A QALAQ: (Through interpreter) If I’m living above the tunnel, how did we know? We didn’t even know about it. And if it’s there, they should start it by before just striking it – just warning me here before.

ESTRIN: This family says it never suffered any other losses in previous wars. They say they’re unaffiliated with any militant group. In fact, they say they do a lot of import and export with business ties in Israel. Azam says he is for peace. Now he wants Israel to provide evidence there were tunnels under his home. His other brother, Maher (ph).

MAHER QALAQ: (Through interpreter) Once the Israelis give us evidence for their accusations that there was a tunnel under my house – OK? – I’ll start after that – OK? – filing a suit for Hamas and asking them – OK? – why they did that to me.

ESTRIN: Azam says he doesn’t want to seek revenge. He’d want to file a lawsuit with Israel. But in Israel, he says, quote, “The judge and the executioner are one in the same.”

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That’s NPR’s Daniel Estrin, who is on the line with us from Gaza City. Daniel, good morning.

ESTRIN: Good morning.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Has Israel given any explanation why families like this were not warned before the strikes?

ESTRIN: I’m seeking answers on that, particularly on this strike, with the army. A military official says that they had been bombing Hamas tunnels underground and that Israel does not know exactly the route of all these tunnels. And if a tunnel is close to the surface, that the blast can cause a house to collapse. I cannot, of course, independently verify that there were tunnels there. I didn’t see anything like that.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You know, Daniel, as you are in Gaza and you’re talking to people and you’re walking around, I’m wondering what you think rebuilding will look like in an enclave where even without open conflict, life is so hard.

ESTRIN: Yeah, I mean, we’ve seen this in past wars, Lulu. There are homes that need rebuilding – a lot of homes. Roads are bombed. Water sanitation pipes are damaged. And Israel is very strict about what materials go into Gaza to make sure that building materials do not go to Hamas military rebuilding. Right now, shops are open again. You know, Gazans don’t have a choice but to go on with their lives. But there are no answers to the real questions here. Will Hamas continue to rule Gaza? Will Israel keep leading a blockade on Gaza? The Palestinians I’ve met the last few days in Gaza are just focused on bouncing back. And they’re really traumatized.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That’s NPR’s Daniel Estrin in Gaza City. Thank you very much.

ESTRIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Palestinian Children Traumatized Outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

As bombs fall silent over Gaza and Israel, ‘whole generation’ of children face long term trauma

“It’s difficult to convince them that the future is bright,” said education coordinator Asad Ashour.

Bianca Britton is a reporter for NBC News’ Social Newsgathering team based in London.

Mohammed Syed is a reporter for NBC News’ social newsgathering team.

Rima Abdelkader is a senior reporter for Social Newsgathering at NBC News in New York.May 23, 2021, 5:45 AM MDT

The airstrikes may have ended, but the trauma lives on.

As the cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamasholds in the short-term, parents like Randa Yousef are afraid about the long-term effects the latest round of violence will have on their children.

Her daughter Kinda, 5, “used to play and laugh” at their home in Gaza City, but now “she cries and screams and calls for me,” Yousef told NBC News by phone last week.

A video she recorded during the fighting shows Kinda crying on her bed, telling her she is afraid they are going to die and their house will be destroyed.

Now even the slightest noise terrifies her and she is worried it could be another Israeli airstrike, Yousef said.

Elsewhere, in Khan Yunis — a city in the south of the long impoverished and blockaded Gaza Strip — Fadi Ali Abushammala said he used painting as a way to distract his sons — named Ali, 11; Karam, 7; and 3-year-old Adam — from the conflict. Now, they draw pictures of dead bodies.

“I asked my kid, ‘What did you paint?’ He says that ’this is a dead man and his son, his kid, is crying,’” Abushammala said Monday.Fadi Ali Abushammala and his three sons Ali, Karam and Adam at their home in the city of Khan Yunis in July 2020, 10 months before the conflict began. Fadi Ali Abushammala

Among the 243 people who died during the conflict, 66 were children, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health.

Those living in the densely populated Gaza Strip were particularly vulnerable to the bone-rattling airstrikes because there are no bomb shelters and there is nowhere for most of its 2 million people to go.

“Everyone talks about the lack of safe places,” Dr. Samah Jabr, head of the mental health unit at the Palestinian Ministry of Health, said Tuesday. “There are no bunkers. People don’t know where to hide.”

While rocket attacks from Hamas are terrifying, Israel has a comprehensive system in place to protect its citizens. All public buildings — such as malls, hospitals, houses of worship and theaters — are required to have bomb shelters, and some children’s playgrounds in the south of the country do, too.

Modern homes and private buildings are also required to have safe rooms, and cities run public shelters that are opened during times of conflict by the Israel Defense Forces’ Home Front Command.

Many of the thousands of rockets fired by Palestinian militants from Gaza were also brought down by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system. Israelis are also alerted to incoming munitions by sirens and app notifications. Schools send videos on how to talk to kids and explain what is happening to try to relax them.

The Israeli military said that while it pursued its aggressive military campaign, it tried to “minimize civilian casualties.”A Palestinian child stands amidst the rubble of buildings, destroyed by Israeli strikes, in Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday. Emmanuel Dunand / AFP – Getty Images

Nonetheless, Israeli psychologist Mooli Lahad, who has 40 years’ experience working on both sides of the border and around the world, said,“You have a whole generation of kids who don’t know anything but living under these sporadic and sometimes intensive bombardments.”

“We are witnessing a level of trauma and destruction that is beyond belief,” added UNICEF’s special representative to the state of Palestine, Lucia Elmi. “It’s something that we’re going to continue to see for generations to come.”

Before this wave of violence, the United Nations Children’s Fund reported that 1 in 3 children in Gaza required mental health and psychosocial support. Now, it fears the number has increased, Elmi said.

Eleven children were already receiving care for trauma as part of the Norwegian Refugee Council’s psychosocial intervention program,the independent humanitarian organization said Tuesday.

The NRC’s education coordinator in Gaza, Asad Ashour, said the escalation in violence had exacerbated the symptoms the organization was already trying to treat.

“It’s difficult to convince them that the future is bright,” he said last week.

Download the NBC News app for breaking news and politics

Both Ashour and Lahad said children on both sides of the border suffer with poor concentration, nightmares, shifts in personality, agitation and the constant fear death could be imminent for them or their friends and family.

“When you go to a park, you enjoy it. You don’t always think, ‘A missile might fall on my head,’ but for them, it’s always partially on their mind to be on guard. It’s exhausting to the system,” Lahad said.

As a result, he said he found children in Israel and Gaza “regress” by avoiding school and visiting friends, and they are less likely to try new things.

“It takes some time to realize that a sudden noise does not mean a threat,” Lahad said.

President Joe Biden said Friday there has been no shift in his commitment to Israel’s security, but insisted a two-state solution that includes a state for Palestinians remains “the only answer” to the conflict.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who has been in close touch with regional leaders, also plans to travel to the region to meet with Israeli, Palestinian, and other counterparts in the coming days to discuss “recovery efforts and working together to build better futures for Israelis and Palestinians,” Ned Price, a State Department spokesperson also said Friday.

But the unpredictability of the region and the constant threat to safety, has led Jabr of the Palestinian Ministry of Health to believe the trauma experienced by Palestinians cannot be defined as post-traumatic stress disorder.

“PTSD best describes the experience of soldiers who go back to the safety of the home and they disconnect completely from the traumatic experience,” she said.

“For Palestinians, traumatic threats are repetitive and ongoing,” she said, adding that there is no “post-trauma” and fears for safety and the feeling of helplessness carry on even after a cease-fire.

In the meantime, all mental health professionals can do is try to heal the generational scars and provide what she calls palliative care through therapy, she said.

Israel’s Netanyahu continues operation outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Israel’s Netanyahu ‘determined’ to continue Gaza operation


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to press ahead with a fierce military offensive in the Gaza Strip

ABC News
By FARES AKRAM and JOSEPH KRAUSS Associated Press

May 19, 2021, 8:07 PM

International pressure to end violence in Israel, Gaza

The Associated Press
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Wednesday to press ahead with a fierce military offensive in the Gaza Strip, pushing back against calls from the United States to wind down the operation that has left hundreds dead.

Netanyahu’s tough comments marked the first public rift between the two close allies since the fighting began last week and could complicate international efforts to reach a cease-fire. His pushback also plunges the pair into a difficult early test of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Israel continued to pound Hamas targets in Gaza with airstrikes, while Palestinian militants bombarded Israel with rocket fire throughout the day. In another sign of potential escalation, militants in Lebanon fired a rocket barrage into northern Israel.

After a visit to military headquarters, Netanyahu said he appreciated “the support of the American president,” but he said Israel would push ahead to return “calm and security” to Israeli citizens.

He said he was “determined to continue this operation until its aim is met.”

He spoke shortly after U.S. President Joe Biden told Netanyahu that he expected “a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire,” the White House said.

Biden had previously avoided pressing Israel more directly and publicly for a cease-fire with Gaza’s Hamas militant rulers. But pressure has been building for Biden to intervene more forcefully as other diplomatic efforts gather strength.

Egyptian negotiators have also been working to halt the fighting, and an Egyptian diplomat said top officials were waiting for Israel’s response to a cease-fire offer. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Moussa Abu Marzouk, a top Hamas official, told the Lebanese station Mayadeen TV that he expected a cease-fire in a day or two.

Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said he would fly to the region Thursday for talks with Israelis and Palestinians.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said the foreign ministers of Slovakia and the Czech Republic would join him after being invited “to express their solidarity and support” for Israel.

Earlier in the day, the Israeli military said it was widening its strikes on militant targets in southern Gaza to blunt continuing rocket fire from Hamas. At least nine people were killed Wednesday in the Gaza Strip.

The current round of fighting between Israel and Hamas began May 10, when the militant group fired long-range rockets toward Jerusalem after days of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a flashpoint site sacred to Jews and Muslims. Heavy-handed police tactics at the compound and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers had inflamed tensions.

Since then, Israel has launched hundreds of airstrikes that it says have targeted Hamas’ infrastructure, and Hamas and other militant groups embedded in residential areas have fired some 4,000 rockets at Israeli cities, with hundreds falling short and most of the rest intercepted or landing in open areas.

At least 227 Palestinians have been killed, including 64 children and 38 women, with 1,620 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not break the numbers down into fighters and civilians. Hamas and Islamic Jihad say at least 20 of their fighters have been killed, while Israel says the number is at least 130. Some 58,000 Palestinians have fled their homes.

Twelve people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy, a 16-year-old girl and a soldier, have been killed.

The rockets fired by militants in Lebanon into northern Israel threatened to open up a new front in the fighting. The rocket attack, which drew Israeli artillery fire in response but did not cause any injuries, raised the possibility of dragging Israel into renewed conflict with the powerful Lebanese militant group Hezbollah to its north.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack, and Hezbollah, which fought a monthlong war against Israel in 2006, has stayed out of the fighting for now. The rockets were widely believed to be fired by Palestinian factions based in south Lebanon.

But they cannot operate without Hezbollah’s tacit consent, and the barrage appears to be carefully calibrated to send a political message that the group, which has tens of thousands of missiles, could join the battle at any time. Israel considers Hezbollah to be its most formidable threat and has threatened widespread destruction in Lebanon if war were to erupt.

In Gaza, one of the Israeli airstrikes destroyed the home of an extended family.

Residents surveyed the piles of bricks, concrete and other debris that had once been the home of 40 members of al-Astal family in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis. They said a warning missile struck the building five minutes before the airstrike, allowing everyone to escape.

Ahmed al-Astal, a university professor, described a scene of panic, with men, women and children racing out of the building.

“We had just gotten down to the street, breathless, when the devastating bombardment came,” he said. “They left nothing but destruction, the children’s cries filling the street. … This is happening, and there is no one to help us.”

Another strike in nearby Deir al-Balah killed a man, his wife and their 2-year-old daughter, witnesses said. Iyad Salha, a brother of the man who was killed, said the family had just sat down for lunch when the missile hit.

Among those killed Wednesday were a reporter for Hamas-run Al-Aqsa radio and two people who died when warning missiles crashed into their apartment.

The Israeli military said it was striking a militant tunnel network in southern Gaza, with 52 aircraft hitting 40 underground targets.

Military officials, meanwhile, said a mysterious explosion that killed eight members of a Palestinian family on the first day of the fighting was caused by a misfired rocket from Gaza. “This wasn’t an Israeli attack,” said Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman.

Since the fighting began, Gaza’s infrastructure, already weakened by a 14-year blockade, has rapidly deteriorated. Medical supplies, water and fuel for electricity are running low in the territory, on which Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade after Hamas seized power in 2007.

Israeli attacks have damaged at least 18 hospitals and clinics and destroyed one health facility, the World Health Organization said. Nearly half of all essential drugs have run out.

Among the buildings leveled by Israeli airstrikes was one housing The Associated Press’ Gaza office and those of other media outlets.

Netanyahu has alleged that Hamas military intelligence was operating in the building. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday that Israel had given the U.S. information about the bombing, without elaborating.

The AP has called for an independent investigation. The news organization’s president, Gary Pruitt, has said the AP had no indication Hamas was present in the building.

The fighting, the worst since a 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, has ignited protests around the world and inspired Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories to call a general strike Tuesday. It was a rare collective action that spanned boundaries central to decades of failed peace efforts. Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza in the 1967 Mideast war, territories the Palestinians want for their future state.

———

Krauss reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writers Bassem Mroue and Zeina Karam in Beirut, Isabel DeBre in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Samy Magdy in Cairo and Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report.

Why is violence flaring up in Israel and Gaza? PROPHECY: Revelation 11

Why is violence flaring up in Israel and Gaza?

Updated on: May 16, 2021 / 7:40 PM
By Haley Ott

/ CBS News

As of Sunday, more than 180 Palestinians and eight Israelis have so far been killed in the most severe violence to occur in the region in years. Here’s a look at why it’s happening.

Why is violence flaring up in Israel and Gaza right now?

There were two main triggers that ignited the current crisis.

Protests erupted after attempts were made to evict a number of Palestinians from their homes in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Those specific evictions have been paused by Israel’s Supreme Court, but they’re part of a long-term campaign supported by the Israeli government to move Jewish settlers into Palestinian neighborhoods in the disputed area of east Jerusalem, which was occupied after the 1967 war and later annexed by Israel in a move that has not been recognized by the international community.

There were also restrictions imposed on Palestinians during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which ended on Wednesday. For years, Israeli-Arabs and Palestinians have gathered at the Damascus Gate entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City to celebrate during Ramadan. This year, Israeli police erected barricades in the area and restricted the number of people permitted to enter.

After a series of protests the barricades were removed, but then Israeli police stormed the area around the Al-Aqsa Mosque, also known as the Temple Mount, one of the holiest sites in Islam and Judaism, currently managed by an Islamic endowment called the Waqf. Muslims are allowed to pray there, but Jews and Christians are not. The Israeli police said they were responding to Israeli Arabs having gathered stones to use in a later riot. Palestinian witnesses said fighting began after police entered the compound and fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets.

Hundreds of Palestinians were injured in the raid. The Israeli police said at least 21 officers were also hurt.

One of the two main Palestinian territories, the Gaza Strip, is run by the Hamas group. Considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. and Israel, Hamas issued an ultimatum to Israel to remove its forces from Sheikh Jarrah and Al-Aqsa. It then started firing rockets into Israel, prompting the Israeli military to launch airstrikes. Tanks have also since been used by Israel to target tunnels that run between Gaza and Israel, according to the Israeli Defense Force.

Israel-Gaza Conflict

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Hundreds of Palestinians have demonstrated in the West Bank, and at least 11 have been shot and killed by Israeli police during clashes there, according to The Associated Press.

Why military response won’t stop the Prophecy: Revelation 11

Why military response won’t defuse the Israel crisis — or other multiplying threats

Why military response won’t defuse the Israel crisis — or other multiplying threats
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BY JONATHAN GRANOFF, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR
The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill
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The Biden administration wants to reinvigorate alliances and diplomacy to build a more secure world, but there are howling headwinds, including the pandemic, cyberattacks, climate change, and nuclear tensions. Escalating regional conflicts in Israel and Kashmir – both involving nuclear-armed nations motivated by religious and ethnic passions – are the latest reminders that the threat of nuclear war hangs over us, more ominously than ever.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists recently advanced its Doomsday Clock to 100 seconds to midnight, closer to the zero hour than ever before, warning, “The international security situation is now more dangerous than it has ever been, even at the heart of the Cold War.”

Credible sources report China plans to double its nuclear arsenal. Russia has a massive tactical nuclear stockpile, and is upgrading its strategic arsenal with ultra-powerful nuclear weapons. U.S. Adm. Charles Richard recently warned that Moscow and Beijing have “begun to aggressively challenge international norms” in ways not seen since the height of the Cold War. “There is a real possibility that a regional crisis with Russia or China could escalate quickly to a conflict involving nuclear weapons,” he said.

Meanwhile, climate change is accelerating. New data shows carbon dioxide at its highest level in 3.6 million years, despite the disruptions of the pandemic. At the April climate summit, U.S. Defense Secretary Austin called climate change an “existential threat” which “is making the world unsafe.”

Unfortunately, that’s no exaggeration. Nuclear weapons and climate change are twin, mutually compounding threats that have spiraled into unprecedented territory and actively threaten humanity’s survival. Each one poses security risks that make the other more of a threat.

Climate change is a byproduct of a mania for economic growth beyond the planet’s limits, which also drives scarcity, social inequity and resource conflict, adding up to a steady, grinding threat to our long-term survival. Nuclear weapons codify adversity as avowed state policy – and pose an acute threat to near-term survival.

Our default approach to security is doubling down on adversity, buying more weapons and projecting more power, building military capacity rather than the resilience and well-being of communities and people.

This year the Biden administration requested a 2021 military budget of $753 billion, an increase of $12.6 billion over last year. That increase is more than the entire 2021 budget for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The cost of the nuclear weapons complex over the next 30 years is projected to be around $2 trillion – about as much as the cost of overhauling infrastructure across the U.S.

Other nations are also profligate in their military spending, especially the other nuclear-armed states (Russia, China, UK, France, Israel, Pakistan, North Korea, and India). The world spent nearly $2 trillion in military outlays last year, but less than $50 billion on the United Nations.

This is the wrong bus to be on.

At this dangerous juncture in history, any coherent approach to defusing spiraling existential threats and promoting security means investing in Human Security.

Human Security focuses on how we live our daily lives. It prioritizes the environment and climate, sustainable development, education, jobs, health, food security, thriving cultures and communities, and the flourishing that comes from upholding freedom of worship and conscience, human rights, and the rule of law. As the COVID-19 pandemic reminds us, these personal needs are also global. Human security defuses threats by working cooperatively toward these goals.

Assembling at a world summit in Rome, Nobel Peace laureates declared that “the promotion of global cooperation is distorted by the possession of nuclear weapons by some… We must ensure the elimination of nuclear weapons before they eliminate us.” They framed three critical interconnected questions that world leaders must answer to achieve security, and urged all of us to press for answers:

As tensions rise in Kashmir, India and Pakistan continue to brandish nuclear weapons at each other while COVID-19 rages, and while a third of the children in both countries suffer malnutrition. For most Indians and Pakistanis, real security depends on personal and family health. For the rest of the world, security depends on lowering tensions between the two governments, for if they escalate enough to trigger a nuclear exchange, it would not only cause unthinkable casualties and suffering among their people, it would throw enough soot into the stratosphere to cripple agriculture worldwide.

Like Kashmir, the crisis in Israel is not amenable to military solutions. Both require a different approach that addresses how people can live their daily lives securely. Military expenditures don’t do that, but the Human Security approach does. Its object is protecting ordinary people and the natural world.

The more the world perfects sophisticated high-tech weaponry, the less secure its people are. State power is not an end in itself, and it is irrational to promote it with weapons that can kill us all. The state is a means to serve human needs, and a construct which now needs reorienting toward that mission.

Today we face many threats which cannot be solved except by international cooperation. To address them, world leaders must work together. The April climate summit was an example of this, but we need a more integral approach cutting across today’s multiple, pressing, intertwined threats. We need a world summit on Human Security.

Jonathan Granoff is president of the Global Security Institute and representative to the United Nations of the Permanent Secretariat of the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates. He chairs the Task Force on Nuclear Nonproliferation of the International Law Section of the American Bar Association, and he is a fellow of the World Academy of Arts and Science. He has testified as an expert before the U.S. Congress, United Nations, Canadian Parliament and U.K. Parliament. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.

Israel strikes Hamas military post after rocket launch from outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Israel strikes Hamas military post after rocket launch from Gaza


“Terror has consequences,” stresses the Israel Defense Forces, as riots continued along the southern border fence and in Jerusalem.

(May 9, 2021 / JNS)
The Israeli Air Force struck a Hamas military post in southern Gaza early Sunday morning, in response to a rocket fired into Israel from the Strip late Saturday night, the Israel Defense Forces reported.

“Terror has consequences,” the IDF later tweeted.

The rocket, which the IDF said landed in an open field, was launched as riots continued along the border fence, as well as in Jerusalem.

The above incidents came on the heels of the resumption on Thursday of incendiary balloon attacks from Gaza into Israeli communities along the border, with Israeli firefighters having to battle the blazes in fields surrounding Kibbutz Kissufim.

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Gaza-based terrorists fired multiple projectiles at Israel late last month, a day after launching a 36-rocket barrage at the Jewish state in the worst flareup in months.

Rockets fired at Sderot and Kibbutz Nirim in southern Israel triggered sirens, sending residents scrambling for bomb shelters. Israel’s Iron Dome air-defense system intercepted the rocket headed for Sderot; the second one landed in an open area near the security fence, according to the IDF. A third projectile failed to cross the border, detonating inside the Gaza Strip.

Increasing Violence Outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Israeli police use a water cannon to disperse Palestinian protesters from the area near the Damascus Gate to the Old City of Jerusalem after clashes at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Friday, May 7, 2021. Palestinian worshippers clashed with Israeli police late Friday at the holy site sacred to Muslims… (Associated Press)
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JERUSALEM (AP) — A night of heavy clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound and elsewhere in Jerusalem left more than 200 Palestinians wounded, medics said Saturday, as the city braced for even more violence after weeks of unrest.

Nightly protests broke out at the start of the holy month of Ramadan over police restrictions at a popular gathering place and have reignited in recent days over threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinians from their homes in east Jerusalem, which is claimed by both sides in the decades-old conflict.

It was unclear what set off the violence at Al-Aqsa, which erupted when Israeli police in riot gear deployed in large numbers as thousands of Muslim worshippers were holding evening prayers at the sprawling hilltop esplanade.

Throughout the night large groups of protesters could be seen hurling rocks as Israeli police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades. At one point, the police entered one of the buildings in the complex, which includes the Al-Aqsa mosque and the iconic golden Dome of the Rock.

The Palestinian Red Crescent emergency service said 88 of the wounded were hospitalized. The Palestinian Health Ministry said 83 people were wounded by rubber-coated bullets, including three who were shot in the eye, two with serious head injuries and two with broken jaws.

The Israeli police said protesters hurled stones, fireworks and other objects at them, wounding 17 officers, half of whom were hospitalized. “We will respond with a heavy hand to all violent disturbances, riots and attacks on our forces,” it said in a statement late Friday.

The Al-Aqsa mosque compound is the third holiest site in Islam. It is also the holiest site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount because it was the location of the biblical temples. It has long been a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and was the epicenter of the 2000 Palestinian intifada, or uprising.

Some 70,000 worshippers had attended the final midday Friday prayers of Ramadan at Al-Aqsa, the Islamic endowment that oversees the site said. Thousands protested afterwards, waving the green flags of the Islamic militant group Hamas and chanting pro-Hamas slogans.

At the beginning of Ramadan in mid-April, Israel blocked off a popular gathering spot where Palestinians traditionally socialize at the end of their daylong fast. The move set off two weeks of clashes before Israel lifted the restrictions.

But in recent days, protests have grown over Israel’s threatened eviction in Sheikh Jarrah in east Jerusalem of dozens of Palestinians embroiled in a long legal battle with Israeli settlers trying to acquire property in the neighborhood.

The United States said it was “deeply concerned” about both the violence and the threatened evictions, and was in contact with leaders on both sides to try and de-escalate tensions.

“It is critical to avoid steps that exacerbate tensions or take us farther away from peace,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement. “This includes evictions in East Jerusalem, settlement activity, home demolitions, and acts of terrorism.”

The European Union also urged calm. It said the potential evictions were of “serious concern,” adding that such actions are “illegal under international humanitarian law and only serve to fuel tensions on the ground.

Neighboring Jordan, which made peace with Israel in 1994 and is the custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, has also condemned Israel’s actions, as has the Gulf kingdom of Bahrain, which normalized relations with Israel last year in a U.S.-brokered deal.

Israelis and Palestinians are bracing for more unrest in the coming days.

Saturday night is “Laylat al-Qadr” or the “Night of Destiny,” the most sacred in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Worshippers will gather for intense nighttime prayers at Al-Aqsa.

Sunday night is the start of Jerusalem Day, a national holiday in which Israel celebrates its annexation of east Jerusalem and religious nationalists hold parades and other celebrations in the city. On Monday, an Israeli court is expected to issue a verdict on the evictions.

Israel captured east Jerusalem, along with the West Bank and Gaza — territories the Palestinians want for their future state — in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel annexed east Jerusalem in a move not recognized internationally and views the entire city as its capital.

The Palestinians view east Jerusalem — which includes major holy sites for Jews, Christians and Muslims — as their capital, and its fate is one of the most sensitive issues in the conflict. In a call to Palestine TV late Friday, President Mahmoud Abbas praised the “courageous stand” of the protesters and said Israel bore full responsibility for the violence.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry had earlier accused the Palestinians of seizing on the threatened evictions, which it described as a “real-estate dispute between private parties,” in order to incite violence.

Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and opposes Israel’s existence, has called for a new intifada.

Protest groups affiliated with Hamas said they would resume demonstrations and the launching of incendiary balloons along the heavily-guarded Gaza frontier. Hamas has largely curtailed such actions over the past two years as part of an informal cease-fire that now appears to be fraying.

In an interview with a Hamas-run TV station, the group’s top leader Ismail Haniyeh addressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by name, warning him not to “play with fire.”

“Neither you, nor your army and police, can win this battle,” he said. “What’s happening in Jerusalem is an intifada that must not stop.”


Akram reported from Gaza City, Gaza Strip.

Palestinian election delayed due to Israel: Revelation 11

Palestinian election delayed due to dispute on east Jerusalem voting

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said early Friday that the main factions have agreed to delay the first elections planned in 15 years, citing a dispute with Israel over voting in east Jerusalem.

The decision spares Abbas’ fractured Fatah party from what was widely expected to be another embarrassing defeat to the Islamic militant group Hamas, which slammed the move as a “coup.” It will be quietly welcomed by Israel and Western countries, which view Hamas as a terrorist group and are concerned about its growing strength.

But it leaves a political leadership in place that has failed to advance Palestinian hopes for statehood and is seen as increasingly corrupt and authoritarian.

Speaking at the start of the meeting, Abbas focused his remarks on east Jerusalem, where Israel has yet to say whether it would allow voting by mail as in past elections and has enforced a ban on Palestinian Authority activities, including campaign events.

“We will take the proper decision to preserve all our rights in east Jerusalem, our eternal capital, including the right to hold parliamentary elections there,” Abbas said in a lengthy speech before the closed-door part of the gathering.

He announced the decision shortly after midnight Thursday.Video appears to show Israeli missiles intercept rockets fired from Gaza Strip – Feb 23, 2020

Postponing the vote over Jerusalem could be seen as a pretext, as only a small number of voters in the city would actually require Israel’s permission and several candidates have suggested workarounds.

Abbas said the Palestinian Authority has repeatedly sought assurances from Israel and called on the European Union to exert pressure, to no avail. He said it received a letter from Israel on Thursday saying it could not take a position on the elections because it does not yet have a government of its own following last month’s elections.

The Islamic militant group Hamas, which stands to gain influence in the elections, condemned the decision, saying it “doesn’t agree with the national consensus and popular support and is a coup.”

Prior to the announcement, Hamas had issued a statement saying the Palestinians should explore ways of “forcing the elections in Jerusalem without the permission of or co-ordination with the occupation.”

The group also issued a veiled warning to Abbas without mentioning him by name, saying Hamas “will not be party to any postponement or cancellation and will not provide cover.”

The responsibility for any such decision “will rest with those who take it in response to the veto of the occupation,” it said.

Hamas was expected to perform well in the May 22 parliamentary elections because of widening divisions within Fatah, which has split into three rival lists.

Israel has not said whether it will allow voting in east Jerusalem but has expressed concern about Hamas’ growing strength. Israel and Western countries view Hamas as a terrorist group and would likely boycott any Palestinian government that includes it.President Abbas: U.S. plan offers Palestinians ‘Swiss cheese’ state – Feb 11, 2020

The day after U.S. President Joe Biden exhorted Americans to “prove that democracy still works” in an address to Congress, his State Department distanced itself from the Palestinian vote.

“The exercise of democratic elections is a matter for the Palestinian people and for the Palestinian leadership to determine,” spokesman Ned Price told reporters in Washington. “We believe in an inclusive political process.”

Israel captured east Jerusalem, along with the West Bank and Gaza, in the 1967 war, territories the Palestinians want for their future state. Israel annexed east Jerusalem in a move not recognized internationally and views the entire city as its capital, barring the Palestinian Authority from operating there. The Palestinians consider east Jerusalem their capital.

According to interim peace agreements reached in the 1990s, which were rejected by Hamas, some 6,000 Palestinians in east Jerusalem submit their ballots through Israeli post offices. The other 150,000 can vote with or without Israel’s permission.

Fatah has said the elections cannot be held without Israel giving express permission for east Jerusalem residents to vote. Its opponents have called for creative solutions, such as setting up ballot boxes in schools or religious sites.

But Abbas appeared to rule that out on Thursday, joking that the Palestinians would not vote in “the Hungarian Embassy.”

The dispute has taken on greater import since the start of the holy month of Ramadan, as Muslim protesters have clashed with Israeli police over restrictions on gatherings.

The elections, and a presidential vote planned for July 31, offered a rare opportunity for the Palestinians to empower a new leadership and potentially chart a different course in their stalled, decades-long struggle for independence.Arab League rejects Trump’s peace plan – Feb 1, 2020

The 85-year-old Abbas and his inner circle of Fatah figures, now in their 60s and 70s, have dominated the Palestinian Authority for nearly two decades. They have failed to advance Palestinian hopes for statehood, heal a 13-year internal rift with Hamas, lift the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza or empower a new generation of leaders.

The last elections, held in 2006, saw Hamas win a landslide victory after campaigning as a scrappy underdog untainted by corruption. That sparked an internal crisis culminating in Hamas’ seizure of Gaza the following year, which confined Abbas’ authority to parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Hamas’ popularity has fallen in the years since, as conditions in Gaza have steadily deteriorated. But it has remained unified and disciplined even as Fatah has split into three rival parliamentary lists.

Hamas does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and has fought three wars with it since seizing control of Gaza. It has also carried out scores of attacks over the past three decades that have killed hundreds of Israeli civilians.

© 2021 The Canadian Press