Israeli air strikes kill three in Gaza after rocket fire

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Israeli security forces gather at Israel-Gaza border near the kibbutz of Kfar Aza, as smoke rises from a bus that was reportedly hit by a rocket fired from the Palestinian enclave on Monday. (AFP)
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A picture taken from the Gaza Strip on November 12, 2018 shows missiles being launched toward Israel. A number of rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip toward Israel. (AFP)
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The Hamas-run television station Al-Aqsa TV in Gaza during an Israeli air strike. (AFP)
Updated 13 November 2018
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Israeli air strikes kill three in Gaza after rocket fire

  • Israel's military says it hit militant sites in response to rocket launches from Gaza
  • Hamas said it launched the rockets in revenge for a deadly Israeli military operation late Sunday

GAZA: Israeli warplanes have struck targets throughout the Gaza Strip on Monday, while Hamas has unleashed a barrage of rocket fire into Isreal in deadly clashes that have raised fears of another major war between the foes. 
Three Palestinians and an Israeli have so far been killed, with a number of injuries reported on both sides.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged all sides to exercise maximum restraint as his organization said it was working with Egypt to restore calm. 
The flare-up came after a deadly Israeli special forces operation in the Gaza Strip on Sunday that left Hamas vowing revenge.
Israel's military said it had so far struck more than 70 militant sites in response to over 300 rockets fired from the Hamas-run territory Monday afternoon into the evening.
Missile defences had intercepted dozens of the rockets from Gaza and most others fell in open areas, though some hit houses and other civilian structures, the military said. Medics reported at least 10 Israelis wounded.

A picture taken from the Gaza Strip on November 12, 2018 shows missiles being launched toward Israel. (AFP)

The army said an Israeli bus was hit by an anti-tank missile from the Gaza Strip, causing several injuries. A soldier was severely wounded, it said.
Palestinian militant groups in Gaza, including Hamas, claimed responsibility for the rocket fire and the missile attack on the bus, which they said was being used by Israeli soldiers.
Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus said he could not yet provide further details on the bus or its passengers.
Gaza's health ministry said three Palestinians were killed in the Israeli strikes and nine wounded.
Militant group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said two of those killed were its members, while the third was from Islamic Jihad's armed wing.

A picture taken from the Gaza Strip on November 12, 2018 shows missiles being launched toward Israel. A number of rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip toward Israel. (AFP)

The building for Hamas's Al-Aqsa TV was destroyed in an Israeli strike after a series of warning shots, with Israel's army saying the station "contributes to Hamas's military actions".
No injuries were reported and workers were believed to have evacuated after the warning shots.
Gaza militants threatened a harsh response and, according to police, more rockets hit in the Israeli city of Ashkelon.
Hamas said the initial rocket fire was in revenge for the deadly Israeli operation late Sunday.
On Sunday, a clash erupted during the covert operation in the Gaza Strip that killed seven Palestinian militants, including a local commander for Hamas's armed wing, as well as an Israeli army officer.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut short a trip to Paris and rushed home as tensions rose, and on Monday convened a meeting of security chiefs.
UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov, who along with Egypt has been seeking a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas, called the escalation "extremely dangerous" and said on Twitter that "restraint must be shown by all".

Israel had stressed its covert operation on Sunday was an intelligence-gathering mission and "not an assassination or abduction", but Hamas strongly denounced it and vowed revenge.
Israel signalled that Sunday's mission did not go as planned and resulted in the clash, which Palestinian officials said included Israeli air strikes.
Hamas's armed wing, the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, said the Israeli special forces team had infiltrated near Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip in a civilian car.
An exchange of fire followed in which local Al-Qassam commander Nour Baraka was killed along with another militant, it said.
The car then attempted to flee and Israeli aircraft provided covering fire.
Israel's military declined to comment on the Al-Qassam account "because of the sensitive nature of the operation".
A funeral was held for the seven Palestinian militants on Monday attended by thousands, including masked Al-Qassam members carrying rifles, some firing into the air.
The latest clashes came after months of deadly unrest along the Gaza-Israel border had appeared to be calming.
Recent weeks have seen Israel allow Qatar to provide the Gaza Strip with millions of dollars in aid for salaries as well as fuel to help ease an electricity crisis.
Before the flare-up, Netanyahu had defended his decision to allow Qatar to transfer the cash to Gaza despite criticism from within his own government, saying he wanted to avoid a war if it was not necessary.
Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008, and recent months have raised fears of a fourth.
Deadly clashes have accompanied major protests along the Gaza-Israel border that began on March 30.
At least 231 Palestinians have since been killed by Israeli fire, the majority shot during protests and clashes, while others died in tank fire or air strikes.
Two Israeli soldiers have been killed in that time.

 


Work underway to clear land mines from Jesus baptism site

Updated 10 December 2018
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Work underway to clear land mines from Jesus baptism site

  • Work at the site just north of the Dead Sea is being overseen by Israel’s Defense Ministry
  • Mines and other ordnance have been cleared from Ethiopian and Greek Orthodox monastery sites, organizers said

QASR AL-YAHUD, Palestinian Territories: Efforts to clear thousands of land mines and other ordnance around the site where many believe Jesus was baptized have reached a milestone and officials allowed a rare glimpse Sunday of abandoned churches there.

The church grounds around the site in the occupied West Bank have sat empty and decaying for around 50 years, though pilgrims have been able to visit a nearby restricted area at the traditional baptismal spot on the banks of the River Jordan.

Work at the site just north of the Dead Sea is being overseen by Israel’s Defense Ministry, de-mining charity Halo Trust and Israeli firm 4CI.

According to the ministry, the project covers around 1 square kilometer (250 acres) as well as some 3,000 mines and other explosive remnants.

It is expected to cost 20 million shekels ($5.3 million, €4.7 million).

The work began in March and would require another eight months to a year to complete, said Moshe Hilman of Israel’s Defense Ministry.

Mines and other ordnance have been cleared from Ethiopian and Greek Orthodox monastery sites as well as a Franciscan chapel, organizers said.

Other grounds belonging to Russian, Syrian, Romanian and Coptic Orthodox churches are yet to be cleared.

The plan once complete is to return the plots to the various church denominations and allow visits. At the crumbling, brick-and-concrete Ethiopian monastery on Sunday, a fading fresco of Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist could still be seen inside.

Signs hung on the walls with notifications that the location had been cleared of explosives.

A collection of pieces of mortars and other explosive remnants sat alongside a nearby roadside as a demonstration of some of what had been found.

“The Halo Trust has reached a pivotal point in our work to clear the baptism site of land mines and other remnants of war,” the charity’s CEO James Cowan said in a statement.

He added that “we have completed clearance of the Ethiopian, Greek and Franciscan churches.”

The majority of the mines were laid by Israeli forces after the country seized control of the West Bank in 1967 from Jordanian troops. Other unexploded ordnance from both Israel and Jordan has remained lodged in the ground, including around the churches, which were evacuated by Israel in the 1970s.

Israel’s control of the West Bank has never been recognized by the international community, which considers the land occupied Palestinian territory.