Israel accuses Hezbollah of Golan shelling to spark war with Syria

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, left, delivers brief remarks before a lunch meeting with US Defense Secretary James Mattis and other officials at the Pentagon on October 19, 2017. (File photo by AFP)
Updated 23 October 2017
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Israel accuses Hezbollah of Golan shelling to spark war with Syria

JERUSALEM: Israel accused Hezbollah on Monday of orchestrating shelling across the Golan Heights frontier in order to stoke Israeli-Syrian fighting, and called on Syrian President Bashar Assad and his big-power ally Russia to curb the Lebanese guerrillas.
Twice last week, mortar rounds or rockets launched from Syria hit areas of the Golan that Israel has held since the 1967 Middle East war, causing no casualties but drawing retaliatory artillery fire against Syrian army posts.
Israel has largely stayed out of the six-year civil war in the neighboring enemy state but has threatened to step up strikes if attacked from the Golan or to prevent Assad’s Iranian and Hezbollah reinforcements setting up Syrian garrisons.
Addressing his parliamentary faction, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the Golan shelling was carried out by a Syrian cell on Hezbollah’s orders, without Damascus having been informed.
He did not elaborate on the source of the information.
“There was a personal instruction by (Hezbollah leader Hassan) Nasrallah to compartmentalize Assad and his regime from the execution of this shooting ... with the goal of dragging us into the Syrian mire,” Lieberman said in the televised remarks.
“Therefore I call here both on the Assad regime ... and also on the Russian forces that are present there, to restrain Hezbollah. And this is another example of why they should be kicked out of Syria as fast as possible.”
In what appeared to be a reference to Israel’s efforts to coordinate its actions in Syria with Moscow, Lieberman said Russian military commanders in Syria “have received all the (information) that they need on this matter.”
Syria’s Foreign Ministry said on Saturday, after projectiles fired from Syria drew an Israeli attack on three Syrian artillery guns, that Israeli strikes would have “grave consequences.”
Israel has also carried out targeted air strikes in Syria during the civil war, alarmed by the expanding influence of Iran. The Israeli air force says it has struck arms convoys of the Syrian military and Hezbollah nearly 100 times in recent years. Israel and Hezbollah last fought a war in 2006.


Palestinian pupils scrap school holidays to save village

Updated 39 min 52 sec ago
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Palestinian pupils scrap school holidays to save village

  • Israel says the Bedouin village was constructed illegally
  • The residents of the village point out that it is nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits from Israeli authorities

KHAN AL-AHMAR, Palestinian Territories: Under the sun’s harsh glare, dozens of students sing the Palestinian national anthem — beginning a new school year early as part of efforts to keep their village from being demolished.
The students of Khan Al-Ahmar went back to their village school in the occupied West Bank on Monday, while Israeli authorities seek to evict them.
“We are starting the school year earlier because the Israelis want to destroy the school,” said Amani Ali, 11.
“So when they come to demolish it, we will be here.”
Israel says the Bedouin village, located in a strategic spot east of Jerusalem near Israeli settlements and on the road to the Dead Sea, was constructed illegally and is seeking to move its 191 residents elsewhere.
The residents of the village point out that it is nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits from Israeli authorities in around 60 percent of the West Bank where they maintain full control.
On May 24, Israel’s supreme court allowed authorities to go ahead with demolition of the small hillside village that sits between a highway, the desert and two Israeli settlements.
Since then, two new court challenges have been filed on behalf of the village, temporarily suspending demolition plans, and the court plans to hold another hearing by August 15 at the latest, activists say.
European countries have rallied to support the villagers, calling for demolition plans to be canceled.
“The fact that the students are at the school can prevent the decision from being carried out because they are going to see that there are classes, life, people,” said Ghadir Darsya, who has taught in Khan Al-Ahmar for three years.
“No one knows what’s going to happen,” she added, while sorting books with her colleagues amid the sound of children’s voices from an adjacent playground.
The school was constructed in 2009 with the support of NGOs and the European Union. Largely built with tires, sand and mud, it serves 170 students from various Bedouin villages, according to the principal.
“There are about 50 families with many children. Where are they going to go?” said Darsya.
The rest of the village is made up of homes of metal sheets, cardboard and wood, as is common in such Bedouin communities.
“We are always afraid. I cannot sleep at night,” said Raya Jahalin, as her grandchildren played on a large carpet behind her that serves as a living room devoid of furniture.
“It is our land. I have lived here for 50 years. I was born here. My children were married here.”
The villagers say Khan Al-Ahmar has been located there since 1952.
It was established after Bedouins from the Jahalin tribe were, according to rights activists, expelled from the Negev desert in the south after the creation of Israel in 1948.
Israeli authorities now want to relocate them to an area near Abu Dis in the West Bank, but the villagers are refusing, saying that the site is near a dump and in an urban environment where their animals cannot graze.
For Eid Abu Khamis, a village spokesman, forced eviction of Bedouins throughout the area would put in peril the possibility of a future Palestinian state.
If they are replaced with Israeli settlers, Khamis and rights groups say the West Bank could be cut in two, dividing the half north of Jerusalem from the southern one.
Israeli rights group B’Tselem says around 180 communities are threatened with eviction in the West Bank.
B’Tselem spokesman Amit Gilutz says Israel has for decades pursued a policy of trying to evict Palestinians from the part of the West Bank where it exerts full control.
It has sought to avoid forced transfers, he said, but applies enough pressure on the villagers in hopes that they finally decide to leave on their own.