Hamas pledges Gaza rocket fire probe as calm returns

Hamas Chief Ismail Haniyeh shakes hands with Egyptian senior security official Ayman Badie during their meeting in Gaza City October 18, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 18 October 2018
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Hamas pledges Gaza rocket fire probe as calm returns

  • Hamas, which has ruled Gaza for a decade, issued a joint statement with its ally Islamic Jihad publicly disavowing the rocket fire
  • The risk of a new war, whether through miscalculation or design, remained

GAZA: Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas on Thursday pledged to launch an investigation into rocket fire at Israel the previous day, in an apparent bid to calm fears of a new war.
Israeli children returned to schools near the border with the Palestinian territory that had been closed on Wednesday after the pre-dawn rocket fire from Gaza badly damaged a family home in the southern city of Beersheba.
But the risk of a new war, whether through miscalculation or design, remained.
Three children had a narrow escape after their mother moved them into the safe room, as much of the rest of the house was destroyed, the army said.
Hamas, which has ruled Gaza for a decade, issued a joint statement with its ally Islamic Jihad publicly disavowing the rocket fire.
But Israel rejected their denial, saying they were the only groups armed with rockets of a range sufficient to reach Beersheba — 40 kilometers (25 miles) away — and the sea off Tel Aviv — 70 kilometers (45 miles).
Israel in any case holds Hamas responsible, as Gaza’s de factor ruler, for all fire from the territory regardless of who launches it.
“There are security service investigations in Gaza to uncover who is behind the rocket fire and there will be harsh measures against those (found guilty),” senior Hamas official Bassem Naim told AFP.
He said the rocket fire “aimed to sabotage Egyptian efforts” to broker a long-term truce between Hamas and Israel, which have fought three wars since 2008.
A video published by Hamas’s military wing on Thursday showed militants preparing rockets for launch, with the caption: “Read us correctly, a mistake would not benefit,” written in Hebrew.
Near daily protests along the border since March 30 against Israel’s crippling 11-year blockade of the impoverished enclave have sparked repeated clashes with the army.
More than 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, while one Israeli soldier has been shot dead.
Wednesday’s rocket fire triggered retaliatory Israeli air strikes that killed one suspected militant and raised fears of a new escalation.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chaired a meeting of the security cabinet lasting several hours on Wednesday evening.
But no statement was released afterwards and Israeli media reported that ministers had failed to agree on how to respond to the rocket fire and the persistent protests.
The mass circulation Yediot Aharonot newspaper said the swift action of the mother in Beersheba to protect her family had probably prevented a new war.
“If the rocket attack had resulted in casualties, the political echelon’s manoeuvring room would have been reduced to zero, and Israel would have launched, just like it did four years ago, a military operation that it neither wants nor which it believes will be effective.”
Hamas seized control of Gaza from loyalists of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in a near civil war in 2007 and the split has made peace negotiations with Israel harder.
Egypt and the UN have been seeking to broker an agreement that would see Israel relax its blockade of Gaza in exchange for a prolonged period of calm from Hamas.
Abbas’s Fatah movement opposes any such deal, saying it amounts to a recognition of Islamist control in Gaza.
Egyptian Intelligence Minister Abbas Kamel had been expected in Gaza on Thursday for his first visit since taking up the post in January, fueling talk of a deal.
Hamas official Naim said the minister was forced to postpone because of a timetabling problem.
But an Egyptian delegation led by senior intelligence official Ayman Badea did travel to Gaza and met with Hamas leader Ismail Haniya.
An Egyptian official told AFP they were still hopeful of achieving a long-term deal to restore calm.
Egypt is one of only two Arab states to have official relations with Israel and plays a key role in indirect negotiations between the Jewish state and Hamas.
Mukhaimer Abu Saada, a political analyst in Gaza, said those who fired the rockets wanted to prevent the Egyptian minister’s visit and “stop reconciliation and a truce.”
Fringe Islamist groups opposed to Hamas have previously fired rockets. Suspicion could also fall on factions within Hamas and Islamic Jihad opposed to a truce deal.


Gunmen kill nine in Iraq’s Anbar province -security sources

Iraqi Shiite fighters of the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force secure the border in al-Qaim in the Anbar province, opposite Albu Kamal in Syria's Deir Ezzor region on November 12, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 42 min 17 sec ago
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Gunmen kill nine in Iraq’s Anbar province -security sources

  • Iraq declared victory over Daesh in December 2017 but security officials say the militants are likely to wage an insurgency after they were dislodged from all the territory they held

FALLUJA, Iraq: At least nine people were killed in Iraq’s Anbar province on Monday when gunmen attacked the home of a Sunni tribal militia officer, security sources said.
Captain Misha’an Hazemawi and eight other people were killed when gunmen stormed Hazemawi’s house near the Karma district, some 16 km (10 miles) northeast of Falluja.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack but two security sources said Daesh militants were behind it.
A small number of militants are still operating in the area and are capable of launching sporadic attacks, Iraqi security officials say.
The officer was a member of the Tribal Mobilization Forces, a network of Sunni militias that backed the government in its fight against Daesh, the security sources said.
Daesh, which had seized control of much of northern Iraq in 2014, lost most of Anbar province to US-backed Iraqi security forces supported by Sunni tribal fighters in 2016.
Iraq declared victory over Daesh in December 2017 but security officials say the militants are likely to wage an insurgency after they were dislodged from all the territory they held.
Its fighters have kept up a campaign of kidnap and killing, mainly in the provinces of Kirkuk, Diyala and Salahuddin.