Netanyahu demands ‘total’ Gaza cease-fire

Netanyahu has come under political pressure to act more strongly against Hamas. (Jim Hollander/Pool via Reuters)
Updated 12 August 2018
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Netanyahu demands ‘total’ Gaza cease-fire

  • There have been efforts by UN officials and Egypt to secure a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas
  • Since July, there have been three major flare-ups of violence

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday demanded a “total” cease-fire from Gaza’s Hamas rulers in his first public comments on another deadly flare-up between the two sides.
There have been efforts by UN officials and Egypt to secure a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas, though Israeli officials have not commented on them.
Since July, there have been three major flare-ups of violence.
“We are in the midst of a campaign against terror in Gaza,” Netanyahu said at the start of a cabinet meeting. “It will not end with one blow.
“Our demand is clear: a total cease-fire. We shall not be satisfied with less than that,” he added.
“Until now we have destroyed hundreds of Hamas military targets and with every round of attacks the Israel Defense Forces exact another heavy price from Hamas.”
Netanyahu has come under political pressure to act more strongly against Hamas, though both sides are reluctant to start a fourth war between them since 2008.
Israel has also sought an end to kites and balloons carrying firebombs over the Gaza border fence to burn Israeli farmland.
An informal truce reached on Thursday night has largely held despite the deaths of three Palestinians since then from Israeli army fire during border protests and clashes.
Thursday saw extensive Israeli air strikes in retaliation for the launching of more than 180 rockets and mortar rounds by Hamas and its allies beginning on Wednesday night.
Three Palestinians were killed in the Israeli strikes, including a mother and her 18-month-old daughter, while seven Israelis were wounded by Palestinian rocket fire as hundreds took refuge in bomb shelters.
It was one of the most serious escalations since the 2014 Gaza war and followed months of rising tensions.
At least 168 Palestinians have been killed since Gaza border protests and clashes began on March 30, with most succumbing to Israeli fire during demonstrations. Others have died in air strikes.
Over the same period, one Israeli soldier has been shot dead by a Palestinian sniper.


Macron and Merkel warn of ‘humanitarian risks’ in Idlib

Russian military support has helped Syrian regime troops to regain control of key cities such as Aleppo. (File/AFP)
Updated 19 August 2018
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Macron and Merkel warn of ‘humanitarian risks’ in Idlib

  • US-backed forces had repelled a raid by Daesh targeting barracks housing American and French troops in eastern Syria
  • Daesh overran large swaths of Syria and Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a “caliphate” in territory it controlled

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced concern Friday about the humanitarian situation in the opposition-held Syrian region of Idlib, which is shaping up be the country’s next big battleground.
In a telephone call the two leaders described the “humanitarian risks” in Idlib, where regime forces have stepped up their bombardments of opposition positions in recent days, as “very high,” according to the French presidency.
They also called for an “inclusive political process to allow lasting peace in the region.”
President Bashar Assad has set his sights on retaking control of the northwestern province of Idlib — the biggest area still in opposition hands after seven years of war.
Last week, regime helicopters dropped leaflets over towns in Idlib’s east, urging people to surrender.
Idlib, which sits between Syria’s Mediterranean coast and the second city Aleppo, has been a landing point for thousands of civilians and rebel fighters and their families as part of deals struck with the regime following successive regime victories.
The UN has called for talks to avert “a civilian bloodbath” in the northern province, which borders Turkey.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said US-backed forces had repelled a raid by Daesh targeting barracks housing American and French troops in eastern Syria.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the US-led coalition supporting them were on high alert after the raid late on Friday at the Omar oil field in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, the Britain-based war monitor said.
“The attack targeted the oil field’s housing, where US-led coalition forces and leaders of the Syrian Democratic Forces are present,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.
Seven terrorists were killed in the attack, which ended at dawn after clashes near the barracks, he added.
Contacted by AFP, neither the US-led coalition nor the Kurdish-led SDF were immediately available for comment.
In October last year, the SDF took control of the Omar oil field, one of the largest in Syria, which according to The Syria Report economic weekly had a pre-war output of 30,000 barrels per day. “It’s the largest attack of its kind since the oil field was turned into a coalition base” following its capture by the SDF, Abdel Rahman said.
Daesh overran large swaths of Syria and Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a “caliphate” in territory it controlled.
But the terrorist group has since lost nearly all of it to multiple offensives in both countries.
In Syria, two separate campaigns — by the US-backed SDF and by the Russia-supported regime — have reduced Daesh’s presence to pockets in Deir Ezzor and in the vast desert that lies between it and the capital.