Israel warns Hamas not to foil its anti-tunnel Gaza wall

A Palestinian woman reacts after her family house was demolished by Israeli troops in the West Bank village of Deir Abu Mashal, near Ramallah, on Thursday. (AFP)
Updated 10 August 2017
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Israel warns Hamas not to foil its anti-tunnel Gaza wall

JERUSALEM: Israel has warned Gaza’s Hamas rulers not to try to foil its construction of a border wall designed to stop tunnels between the two sides.
Israel claimed that it had mapped militant emplacements hidden under civilian sites in the Palestinian enclave that may be attacked in any new war.
The unusually detailed threat followed a rocket launch on Tuesday which caused no damage in Israel and went unclaimed by Gazan groups. Israel responded with an airstrike on a Hamas facility on Wednesday that medics said wounded seven people.
Such flare-ups have been relatively rare since the last Gaza war, in 2014, with Hamas mostly holding fire and reining in smaller militant factions.
But with Gaza’s poverty and political drift deepening, both sides worry another conflict could erupt.
In September, Israel went public with a sensor-equipped underground wall being planted on its side of the 60-km long border, a counter-measure developed after Hamas fighters used tunnels to blindside its troops during the war.
Israeli media published new disclosures by the military on Thursday about the project, costing $1.1 billion and to be completed within two years under an accelerated schedule.
Israel has described it as a territorial counterpart to its Iron Dome short-range rocket interceptor, capable of blunting Hamas’s limited means of challenging its superior armed forces.
“I think the other side will have to re-evaluate the situation in view of the barrier’s construction,” Haaretz newspaper quoted the chief of Israel’s southern command, Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, as saying in the media briefing.
“If Hamas chooses to go to war over the barrier, it will be a worthy reason (for Israel) to go to war over. But the barrier will be built.”
The military also published aerial photographs and coordinates of two Gaza buildings that it said Hamas was using as cover for tunnel networks. One of these, it said, is a Hamas member’s family home, linked to a mosque by a secret passage.
“These two targets, as far as I’m concerned, are legitimate military targets, and in the event that a new war begins, anybody in them is endangering himself, his family, and the responsibility (for their wellbeing) will fall on Hamas,” Zamir said in a separate briefing to foreign journalists.
Hamas did not immediately comment on the Israeli statements.
The Gaza border barrier will cut off any existing tunnels and, with its sensors, detect any fresh digs, Israeli media said.
A new buffer zone within Israel’s territory, dozens of meters in width, will afford it extra time to respond by depriving Hamas tunnelers of targets on the frontier.
Israeli media said on Thursday that the military also planned to build an underwater barrier in the Mediterranean to prevent infiltration from Gaza by sea. Hamas frogmen swam out to raid an Israeli army base up the coast during the 2014 war.
Also on Thursday, the Israeli army said authorities had demolished three homes and sealed off a fourth of Palestinians who carried out attacks that killed a soldier and a policewoman.
Demolitions continue
Israel regularly carries out such demolitions, which it says act as a deterrent, but human rights groups and Palestinians say they punish families for the actions of relatives.
Two houses were demolished in Deir Abu Mashaal, near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, and a third was sealed off, an army spokeswoman said.
Emad Zahran, village mayor, said Israeli soldiers entered the area around 2 a.m. (2300 GMT Wednesday) with bulldozers.
On June 16, three villagers carried out an attack outside Jerusalem’s Old City that killed a policewoman.
According to police, two of the assailants opened fire at a group of officers who returned fire, and a third stabbed the border policewoman a short distance away before being shot.
All three attackers were killed.
A home in the West Bank town of Silwad was also demolished in response to an April 6 car-ramming attack near the Jewish settlement of Ofra that killed an Israeli soldier.
A wave of unrest that broke out in October 2015 has killed 293 Palestinians or Arab Israelis, 47 Israelis, two Americans, two Jordanians, an Eritrean, a Sudanese and a Briton, according to an AFP toll.
The violence had greatly subsided but tension around Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem saw a spike in July.


Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

Updated 21 May 2019
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Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

  • Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Lebanon insists that the area lies within its economic zone and refuses to give up a single part of it

BEIRUT: Lebanon has hinted that progress is being made in efforts to resolve its maritime border dispute with Israel following the return of a US mediator from talks with Israeli officials.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield returned to Lebanon following talks in Israel where he outlined Lebanese demands regarding the disputed area and the mechanism to reach a settlement.

The US mediator has signaled a new push to resolve the dispute after meetings with both Lebanese and Israeli officials.

Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon hopes to begin offshore oil and gas production in the offshore Block 9 as it grapples with an economic crisis.

A source close to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who met with Satterfield on Monday after his return to Lebanon, told Arab News that “there is progress in the efforts, but the discussion is not yet over.” He did not provide further details.

Sources close to the Lebanese presidency confirmed that Lebanon is counting on the US to help solve the demarcation dispute and would like to accelerate the process to allow exploration for oil and gas to begin in the disputed area.

Companies that will handle the exploration require stability in the area before they start working, the sources said.

Previous efforts by Satterfield to end the dispute failed in 2012 and again last year after Lebanon rejected a proposal by US diplomat Frederick Hoff that offered 65 percent of the disputed area to Lebanon and 35 percent to Israel. Lebanon insisted that the area lies within its economic zone and refused to give up a single part of it.

Satterfield has acknowledged Lebanon’s ownership of around 500 sq km of the disputed 850 sq km area.

Lebanon renewed its commitment to a mechanism for setting the negotiations in motion, including the formation of a tripartite committee with representatives of Lebanon, Israel and the UN, in addition to the participation of the US mediator. Beirut also repeated its refusal to negotiate directly with Israel.

Two months ago, Lebanon launched a marine environmental survey in blocks 4 and 9 in Lebanese waters to allow a consortium of French, Italian and Russian companies to begin oil and gas exploration in the area.