Israel considers resumption of Gaza assassinations
Israel considers resumption of Gaza assassinations
That Israel might renew a practice that brought it harsh international censure is evidence of the tight spot Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in. With Israeli elections two months away, rocket barrages from Gaza are disrupting the lives of 1 million residents of southern Israel, pressuring the government to come up with an effective response.
In the latest flare-up, Gaza militants have fired more than 100 rockets at Israel in recent days, triggering retaliatory Israeli airstrikes that have killed six people in Gaza.
Some Israelis are demanding a harsh military move, perhaps a repeat of Israel’s bruising incursion into Gaza four years ago. Others believe Israel should target Hamas leaders, a method it used to kill dozens of militants nearly a decade ago.
Advocates say targeted killings are an effective deterrent without the complications associated with a ground operation, chiefly civilian and Israeli troop casualties. Proponents argue they also prevent future attacks by removing their masterminds.
Critics say they invite retaliation by militants and encourage them to try to assassinate Israeli leaders.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday visited the southern city of Beesheba, where he told municipal officials that Israel will strike back against the Palestinian attacks.
“Whoever believes they can harm the daily lives of the residents of the south and not pay a heavy price is mistaken. I am responsible for choosing the right time to collect the highest price and so it shall be,” Netanyahu said.
Defense officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential discussions, said the assassination of Hamas leaders is shaping up as the preferred response to the stepped-up rocket fire.
They have the backing of two former military chiefs with experience in the matter.
Opposition lawmaker Shaul Mofaz served as military chief of staff and defense minister when Israel began a wave of assassinations against Hamas and other militant leaders in the early part of the past decade. He and other former senior defense officials contend these assassinations left the Hamas leadership in disarray and put a halt to the rash of Hamas suicide bombings that killed hundreds of Israelis.
“I’m in favor of targeted killings,” Mofaz told Army Radio on Monday. “It is a policy that led Hamas to understand, during the suicide bombings, that they would pay the price should (the bombings) continue.”
Vice Premier Moshe Yaalon, chief of staff at the time targeted killings surged, is convinced the practice worked.
“Clearly over these past 13 years there has been an ongoing war, but there have also been extended periods of calm,” Yaalon told Army Radio on Monday. “When I was chief of staff, the targeted killings against Hamas led to extended periods of quiet.”
Hamas dismissed the threat of targeted killings as “psychological warfare,” and its political leaders were not in hiding. The group’s military commanders tend to keep a low profile anyway, for fear of Israeli assassination attempts.
Hamas’ prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, visited a Gaza hospital on Tuesday and met with Palestinians wounded in the latest fighting.
“Threats of assassination and killing do not scare us and will not break our morale or our steadfastness,” he told reporters.
Under Yaalon and Mofaz, Israeli aircraft struck at the commander of Hamas’ military wing, Salah Shehadeh, the movement’s spiritual leader, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, his successor, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, and dozens of other senior Hamas military commanders.
Militants retaliated for some of the targeted attacks but eventually replaced the suicide bombings with years of rocket fire that still sends Israeli civilians running for shelters.
Backlash from rights groups and governments was harsh, especially after Shehadeh was killed in a bombing along with 14 other people, most of them children.
The policy of targeted killings, said Israeli opposition lawmaker Zehava Galon, “didn’t prove itself. We killed, and there were more attacks.”
What Israel should do is reach a long-term truce agreement with Hamas with the help of Egypt, said Galon, of the dovish Meretz party. Egypt is now governed by the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’ parent movement.
Israel quelled much of the rocket fire with a devastating, three-week war in Gaza in early 2009, but Hamas and other militant groups in the seaside strip have been stocking their arsenals with more and better weapons.
In recent months, they’ve been emboldened to escalate their barrages. Since Saturday, more than 110 rockets and mortars have struck southern Israel, according to the military’s count.
Netanyahu on Monday told foreign ambassadors during a visit to Ashkelon, a southern city that has been battered by Gaza rockets, that Israel would defend itself.
“I don’t know of any of your governments who could accept such a thing. I don’t know of any of the citizens of your cities, who could find that acceptable and something that could proceed on a normal basis,” Netanyahu said. “We’ll take whatever action is necessary to put a stop to this. This is not merely our right, it’s also our duty.”
The latest Israeli airstrikes have killed six Palestinians, including four civilians, but the rocket attacks persist. Mediation efforts by the United Nations and Egypt have been unsuccessful so far.
Some defense officials believe Hamas will not be so easily subdued as before. Militants who once relied on crude rockets they manufactured themselves can draw now on sophisticated rockets and missiles smuggled in from Iran, Libya and other Mideast countries.
Lawmaker Amir Peretz, a former Israeli defense minister, concludes that if Israel launched another incursion into Gaza, it would have to stay there for at least six months and take control of civilian installations and lives of the coastal strip’s 1.6 million people.
Israel, which governed Gaza from 1967 until it withdrew 8,500 settlers and its soldiers in 2005, has other options before it reaches that point, Peretz said.
“Targeted killings are definitely an effective policy,” Peretz said, adding that he supports the targeted killings of military leaders like Hamas military wing commander Ahmed Jabari, but killing political leaders Haniyeh may not be in Israel’s interest.
“They’ll find a replacement for Haniyeh very fast,” he said. “But a replacement for Jabari is very hard to find,” he told Army Radio.
Prince William visits Jerash, meets students during Jordan visit
- Britain’s Prince William visited the Roman ruins of Jerash in northern Jordan, accompanied by his host Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah
- The two princes met children from Jordan and neighboring war-torn Syria during their visit to the site
AMMAN: Britain’s Prince William ended a two-day tour of Jordan on Monday that included a visit to the archaeological Roman city of Jerash. The visit also included meetings with young Jordanian and Syrian students.
Ziad Guneimat, head of the Jordanian Ministry of Tourism and Archaeology in Jerash, told Arab News that the visit was very successful. “The prince toured the entire facility and expressed amazement at the location and its history,” he said.
Guneimat said that the British prince was accompanied by Jordan’s Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah, who said that this was his first official visit to the important archaeological site since becoming crown prince and regent.
Prince William posed for a photo in the same location where his wife Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, was photographed as a two-year-old when her father was director of the British Airways office in Amman.
The Duke of Cambridge visits Jerash, the same site that The Duchess of Cambridge visited, aged 4, with her sister and father when the family lived in Jordan. pic.twitter.com/PMoFrr4Snt— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) June 25, 2018
The Duke of Cambridge told a crowd of Jordanian and internationals at a reception that his wife, who had recently given birth, was sorry she could not make the trip to Jordan.
Osama Salameh, a spokesman for the Royal Court in Amman, told Arab News that Prince William and the Jordanian crown prince spoke with Jordanian and Syrian students on the sidelines of the visit to the archaeological site.
A spokesperson for UNICEF said that Prince William met with younger Syrian refugees benefiting from UNICEF’s Makani program, which offers psychological support for Syrian refugee parents and children.
The British prince was unable to watch his country’s World Cup game live on Sunday, so the UK embassy recorded the game and he was seen watching the recorded version of Britain’s 6-1 victory over Panama along with Jordan’s crown prince.
At an event sponsored by the UK Embassy in Amman on Sunday to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s official birthday, Prince William read out a message in which the queen looked back warmly on her 1984 visit to Jordan and spoke of the country as “a staunch and long-held friend.”
“The way in which you opened your doors to hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria, not to mention your longstanding commitments to Palestinian refugees, is remarkable,” the prince told Jordanians. The event was attended by Jordanians, members of the diplomatic corps as well as the newly sworn-in Prime Minister Omar Razzaz and members of his Cabinet.
Prince William arrived in Israel on Monday for the first-ever official visit of a member of the British royal family to the tumultuous region London once ruled.
Arriving from neighboring Jordan, the Duke of Cambridge landed at Israel’s Ben-Gurion International Airport and then departed to Jerusalem, where he will stay at the elegant King David Hotel, site of the former administrative headquarters of the British mandate.
Israeli daily Haaretz reported that Prince William will be staying at the Hotel, which was the main administrative building of officials during the British Mandate from 1920-1948. The hotel was also the site of a terrorist attack by a Zionist underground organization in July 1946, which killed 91 people.