Deadly Gaza flare-up threatens to derail peace efforts

Smoke billows from a building during Israeli air strikes on the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave on Monday night, November 12. (AFP)
Updated 13 November 2018
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Deadly Gaza flare-up threatens to derail peace efforts

  • The flare-up came after a deadly Israeli special forces operation in the Gaza Strip
  • At least 231 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since March 30 along the Gaza-Israel border

GAZA CITY: Renewed violence in Gaza threatened to thwart efforts to end months of unrest as Israeli air strikes killed three Palestinians and destroyed a Hamas TV building while a barrage of rocket fire from the enclave left one dead on Tuesday.
The flare-up came after a deadly Israeli special forces operation in the Gaza Strip on Sunday that led Hamas to vow 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 night.
Missile defenses intercepted dozens of rockets from Gaza and most others fell in open areas, though some hit houses and other civilian structures, the military said.
One man was pulled dead from the ruins of a building in southern Israel, emergency services organization United Hatzalah said, adding that a woman recovered from the same building in the city of Ashkelon was in a critical state.
Medics had earlier reported around 20 Israelis wounded, while Gaza’s health ministry said three Palestinians were killed and nine wounded in the Israeli strikes.
Militant group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said two of those killed were its members and the third was from Islamic Jihad’s armed wing.
The outbreak of violence 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, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had defended his decision to allow Doha to transfer the cash 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 deadly clashes in recent months have raised fears of a fourth.
The army said Monday an Israeli bus was hit by an anti-tank missile from the Gaza Strip, causing several injuries. A soldier was severely wounded, it added.
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.
The building for Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV was destroyed in an Israeli strike after a series of warning shots, with the Israeli 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.
A former hotel in Gaza City used by Hamas as an internal security office was also hit in an Israeli strike, AFP journalists reported.
Gaza militants threatened another harsh response after the strike on the TV building and, according to police, more rockets landed in Ashkelon.
Hamas said the initial rocket fire was in revenge for the deadly Israeli operation late Sunday in the Gaza Strip.
On Sunday, a clash erupted during the covert operation that killed seven Palestinian militants, including a local commander for Hamas’s armed wing, as well as an Israeli army officer.
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’s military signaled 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.
Violent 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.


Retired Lebanese soldiers in tense standoff with army during benefit cuts protest

Updated 19 July 2019
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Retired Lebanese soldiers in tense standoff with army during benefit cuts protest

  • Dressed in military uniforms, large numbers of veterans attempted to force their way through barricades set up to stop demonstrators reaching the city’s parliament building where a final vote on a controversial draft austerity budget was taking place
  • The meeting to vote on the 2019 draft budget came after a marathon three days of discussions

BEIRUT: Retired Lebanese soldiers on Friday came close to clashing with the country’s army when weeks of protests over planned benefit cuts reached boiling point in the capital Beirut.
Dressed in military uniforms, large numbers of veterans attempted to force their way through barricades set up to stop demonstrators reaching the city’s parliament building where a final vote on a controversial draft austerity budget was taking place.
A military source told Arab News that the Lebanese army leadership had decided to block access to Najma Square, in Beirut’s Central District, where Parliament members were sitting.
But former soldiers, joined by the parents of army martyrs and activists from the Sabaa and Communist parties, surrounded the building in nearby streets before attempting to push through barbed wire, concrete and metal barriers erected by the Lebanese army and the Internal Security Forces.
The protesters, waving Lebanese and army flags, got as far as the entrance to Maarad Street, on which Parliament is located, putting them in direct confrontation with the Lebanese troops.
Ten brigades of reinforcements were drafted in to help push back the veterans before protest leaders eased tensions by calling for a retreat to a nearby square to avoid any further clashes.
The meeting to vote on the 2019 draft budget came after a marathon three days of discussions. Before entering the parliamentary session, Lebanese Minister of Defense Elias Bou Saab said that “misleading the retired soldiers” would be “harmful to the image and demands of the protesters” and called on them to carry out “peaceful demonstrations.” He added that there had been mixed and confused messages regarding benefit cuts.
However, retired Brig. Gen. Georges Nader had vowed that protesters would not back off until the vote on their benefits was dropped.
Discussing the protests in Parliament, Samy Gemayel, president of the Phalange party, objected to the reduction in the army budget, to which Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said: “This has been concluded on the bases of an understanding with the army and the military establishment.”
MP Paula Yacoubian said that “retired soldiers are trying to storm Parliament,” to which Berri said: “Those who want to storm Parliament have not yet been born.”
The row had centered on a controversial article concerning amendments to the country’s income tax act, and Lebanese Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil insisted on defending it. He said: “It does not cost the retired soldiers, for instance, more than 3,000 Lebanese pounds ($2) per month. This amount rises to 400,000 pounds for brigadiers.” He added: “Which country in the world gives a retiree 85 percent of his salary?”
After a meeting between the minister and Nader in Parliament, the retired brigadier general went out to reassure the veterans that cuts from their salaries in respect of medicine and income tax would be reduced. Less intense protests continued for more than three hours before Parliament approved the relevant article in the budget.
Meanwhile, Berri had started the Parliament session by reading a resignation submitted by Hezbollah MP Nawaf Musawi.