Gaza under fire: Israeli jets strike Hamas targets after Tel Aviv attack

Gaza under fire: Israeli jets strike Hamas targets after Tel Aviv attack
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Fire and smoke below above buildings in Gaza City during reported Israeli strikes on March 25, 2019. (AFP)
Gaza under fire: Israeli jets strike Hamas targets after Tel Aviv attack
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Streaks of light are pictured as rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, as seen from the Israeli side of the border March 25. (Reuters)
Gaza under fire: Israeli jets strike Hamas targets after Tel Aviv attack
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Flame and smoke are seen during an Israeli air strike in Gaza City March 25. (Reuters)
Gaza under fire: Israeli jets strike Hamas targets after Tel Aviv attack
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An Israeli helicopter shoots flares over the Gaza Strip on March 25, 2019. (AFP)
Gaza under fire: Israeli jets strike Hamas targets after Tel Aviv attack
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Smoke rises above buildings in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip during Israeli strikes on March 25, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 26 March 2019

Gaza under fire: Israeli jets strike Hamas targets after Tel Aviv attack

Gaza under fire: Israeli jets strike Hamas targets after Tel Aviv attack
  • Warplanes target office of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, troops on the move toward border
  • Hamas says Egypt had brokered a cease-fire after the flare up

GAZA: Israeli warplanes pounded Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on Monday after an apparent rocket attack near Tel Aviv. One Israeli strike targeted the office of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. He was not thought to have been in the office at the time, as Hamas routinely evacuates its buildings when it expects Israeli attacks.

“If there is any violation of the red lines by the occupation, our people will not surrender and the resistance is able to deter it,” Haniyeh said

Israeli warplanes attacked targets across the coastal enclave. Palestinian radio stations and Hamas TV played patriotic songs calling for “resistance” against Israel.

Another strike destroyed a building in Gaza City that Israel claimed was a secret headquarters for Hamas security and intelligence. Local residents said it housed the offices of the Multasim insurance company. Hamas’s interior security office in Gaza City was also hit. Five Palestinians were injured in the airstrikes.

 

The Israeli military said it was assigning two brigades to the Gaza area and some reservists were being called up. Troops moved toward the border, where the military also closed several roads to civilian traffic.

We are prepared for a wide range of scenarios,” military spokesman Ronen Manelis said.

The airstrikes were retaliation for what Israel claimed was a long-range rocket attack by Hamas early on Monday that destroyed a house near Tel Aviv. Seven people were injured.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was under pressure to deliver a tough response as he faces a strong challenge in next month’s Knesset elections, analysts said. 




Streaks of light are pictured as rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, as seen from the Israeli side of the border March 25. (Reuters)

In comments from Washington, Netanyahu said “Israel is responding forcefully to this wanton aggression,” while Trump spoke of Israel’s “right to defend itself.”

Netanyahu said he would return home after meeting Trump, canceling an address to pro-Israel lobby AIPAC’s annual conference on Tuesday.

One Israeli strike destroyed a building in Gaza City that Israel alleged was a secret headquarters for Hamas security and intelligence.

There was no claim of responsibility for the early morning attack near Tel Aviv. The Israeli military claimed Hamas fired the rocket from about 120km, making it the longest-range attack from Gaza since the 2014 war.
Hamas denied firing the rocket.

“None of the resistance movements, including Hamas, is interested in firing rockets from the Gaza Strip into the enemy,” an official said.

“The same message was handed over to Egypt, which has acted as a mediator between Israel and Hamas.” 

Netanyahu cut short a visit to the US to return home, as did his main election challenger, former military chief Benny Gantz. “Israel will not tolerate this. I will not tolerate this,” Netanyahu said after the rocket strike.

“And as we speak ... Israel is responding forcefully to this wanton aggression.”




An Israeli helicopter shoots flares over the Gaza Strip on March 25, 2019. (AFP)

The Israeli prime minister’s options are limited, analysts told Arab News. “He can go in the direction of a serious understanding with Hamas to end the siege of Gaza, or go in the direction of a large operation, but I do not think that would stop the fall of rockets on Israeli cities, as happened in the past,” the Hamas-affiliated political analyst Ibrahim Madhoun said.

“No one wants war, but Hamas cannot tolerate much more Israeli procrastination. If Egypt wants to succeed in its efforts to reach a truce, it should apply more pressure on Israel.”

A joint statement from militant groups in Gaza, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, took responsibility for the barrage of rockets fired in response to the Israeli strikes later Monday night.

The rocket from Gaza that hit a house in Israel early Monday was a rare long-distance strike and Israel’s army said it was fired by Hamas.

The Israeli house hit was located in the community of Mishmeret, around 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Tel Aviv, police said.

The rocket would have had to travel some 120 kilometers (75 miles) from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, where Israel said it was fired from.

The hospital treating the wounded said seven Israelis were injured lightly by burns and shrapnel, including three children.

One of the wounded was a six-month-old child and six of them were members of the same British-Israeli family.

The house was destroyed in the wake of the rocket and subsequent fire, with burnt wood, a children’s toy and other debris piled at the site.

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008, and Netanyahu is believed to want to avoid another one with unpredictable results ahead of the elections.

(With AFP)


UK calls on Israel to ensure free Palestinian elections

UK calls on Israel to ensure free Palestinian elections
Updated 5 min 31 sec ago

UK calls on Israel to ensure free Palestinian elections

UK calls on Israel to ensure free Palestinian elections
  • British Consulate in Jerusalem: ‘Recent disruption of meetings in East Jerusalem, arrest of candidates unacceptable’
  • ‘If Israel decides to intervene in elections for other people, there should be consequences,’ expert tells Arab News

LONDON: The British government has called on Israel to ensure free and fair Palestinian elections take place in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“Palestinian voters want free, fair and inclusive elections throughout the West Bank and Gaza,” the British Consulate in Jerusalem tweeted.

“We call on Israel to facilitate elections in line with the Oslo Accords. The recent disruption of meetings in East Jerusalem and arrest of candidates is unacceptable.”

Elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council are expected to be held on May 22. Last week, Israeli police arrested three candidates as they were preparing to hold a news conference.

Two of those arrested were representing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party. The third is a candidate for the Palestinian Democratic Union.

“It’s extremely welcome that the British Consulate in Jerusalem has made this statement that backs Palestinian elections and calls on Israel to facilitate them,” Chris Doyle, chairman of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, told Arab News.

“The actions of the Israeli authorities in harassing and arresting candidates in East Jerusalem was outrageous,” he said.

“We hope that the consulate’s message will be repeated at the highest level — not just by a Twitter account — and that the foreign secretary and the prime minister will vigorously reinforce the message that Palestinians in East Jerusalem must be allowed to vote,” he added.

“East Jerusalem is part of the occupied West Bank and shouldn’t be cut off. To do so is to give informal approval to the illegal Israeli annexation.”

Regarding what more could be done by British authorities to ensure the success of the upcoming elections, Doyle said: “Britain will hopefully be sending election monitors, which will indicate that it’s taking these elections seriously and ensuring they take place in a fair fashion.”

He added: “If Israel decides to intervene in elections for other people, there should be consequences. Israel maintains that it’s a democracy, but here it is once again disrupting and delegitimizing elections for Palestinians.”

He said: “Palestinians can’t vote in Israel’s general elections, and now they’re being prevented from taking part in their own. It’s completely unacceptable.”

Julie Elliott, an MP for the UK’s main opposition Labour Party, tweeted that she totally agrees with the consulate’s message. 

Fatah is currently leading Hamas in the polls. A survey conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in December found that 52 percent of Palestinians do not anticipate that the elections will be held freely.


Israel to buy millions of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses

Israel to buy millions of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses
Updated 24 min ago

Israel to buy millions of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses

Israel to buy millions of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses
  • New vaccinations will be suitable to protect people against different coronavirus variants, said Netanyahu
  • Israeli PM hopes to sign a similar deal to purchase vaccines from Moderna

JERUSALEM: Israel signed a deal to buy millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccinations from Pfizer through 2022, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday.
The new vaccinations will be suitable to protect people against different variants of the coronavirus, Netanyahu said in a statement.
He said he hopes to sign a similar deal to purchase vaccines from Moderna.
“This means that very soon we will have more than enough vaccines, both for adults and children,” he said.
With about 81% of citizens or residents over 16 — the age group eligible for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in Israel — having received both doses, infections and hospitalizations are down sharply.


Syrian opposition’s Michel Kilo dies in exile

Syrian opposition’s Michel Kilo dies in exile
Updated 19 April 2021

Syrian opposition’s Michel Kilo dies in exile

Syrian opposition’s Michel Kilo dies in exile
  • Michel Kilo, who turned 80 last year, was a key player in efforts to form a credible non-violent alternative to President Bashar Assad’s regime
  • Kilo often spoke out against the internal rifts weakening Syria’s opposition and in 2015 he said the conflict’s foreign brokers have made matters worse

BEIRUT: Prominent exiled opposition figure Michel Kilo died of Covid-19 on Monday in Paris after a lifetime of peaceful struggle against Baath party rule in Syria, colleagues said.
Kilo, who turned 80 last year, was a key player in efforts to form a credible non-violent alternative to President Bashar Assad’s regime during the early stages of the conflict that erupted a decade ago.
“A great loss. Michel Kilo departed today after he was infected with Covid-19,” senior opposition figure Nasr Hariri wrote in a statement.
“Michel was an intellectual and patriotic powerhouse and his dream was to see a free and democratic Syria. God willing, the Syrian people will carry on this dream and see it through,” he said.
Kilo, who was also a writer, was born in 1940 to a Christian family in Syria’s Mediterranean town of Latakia, a bastion of the Assad family’s Alawite minority.
He had opposed the ruling Baath party since it came to power in 1963.
He was jailed in Syria from 1980 to 1983 under Hafez Assad, and then again from 2006 to 2009 under Bashar.
In September 2000, he was one of around 100 intellectuals who called for reforms including public freedoms, political pluralism, and the lifting of the state of emergency in what became known as the Damascus Spring.
He also belonged to a group of prominent Syrian opposition figures who in 2005 signed the “Damascus Declaration” calling for democratic reform in the autocratic Arab nation.
When mass anti-regime demonstrations swept Syria in 2011, he advocated peaceful protest but warned that armed resistance would lead to civil war.
“From the very beginning, the regime has followed a plan — push the protesters to extreme options, to take up arms. A peaceful civil movement is not what it wants at all,” Kilo told AFP in Damascus before the onset of a conflict that has since killed more than 388,000 people and displaced millions.
In 2013, he joined the opposition alliance, known as the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) before quitting over internal divisions.
In a tribute on Monday, the SNC said Kilo had “dedicated his life to Syria and fought against tyranny for more than fifty years.”
Kilo often spoke out against the internal rifts weakening Syria’s opposition and in 2015 he said the conflict’s foreign brokers have made matters worse.
“We are hostages to meticulous political and diplomatic games” by states that each hold a “Syria card” they want to play, he said.
Fellow exiled opposition figure Alia Mansour mourned Kilo on Twitter.
“Michel Kilo spent his life opposing the Assad regime, fighting for freedom and democracy for Syria and its people,” she said.
“How misfortunate that you left before witnessing the downfall of the tyrant.”


Egypt: 3 militants involved in Christian's slaying killed

Egypt: 3 militants involved in Christian's slaying killed
Updated 19 April 2021

Egypt: 3 militants involved in Christian's slaying killed

Egypt: 3 militants involved in Christian's slaying killed
  • Militants were involved in killing of Nabil Habashi, a 62-year-old Coptic Christian kidnapped five months ago
  • Security forces exchanged fire with Daesh militants while chasing them in the Abtal area of North Sinai

CAIRO: Egypt police killed three suspected militants allegedly involved in the slaying of a Coptic Christian man kidnapped more than five months ago in a restive part of Sinai Peninsula, the Interior Ministry said Monday.
Security forces exchanged fire with Daesh militants while chasing them in the Abtal area of North Sinai province, the ministry said in a statement. Three of the militants were killed and police were chasing three others. The statement did not say when they fighting took place.
The ministry, which oversees the police, said an explosives belt detonated during the shootout. It was unclear whether the bomber was one of the three militants the ministry said were killed. No casualties were reported among the security forces.
The details provided by the ministry could not be independently verified and media access to northern Sinai is heavily restricted.
The ministry said the dead militants were involved in the killing of Nabil Habashi, a 62-year-old Coptic Christian from the town of Bir al-Abd. Nabashi had built the sole church in the area.
Militants kidnapped Habashi, a jewelry dealer, in November from Bir Al-Abd, and demanded a ransom of 2 million Egyptian pounds ($127,550 million), said a church official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief media.
The local Daesh affiliate in Sinai Peninsula released a 13-minute video showing Habashi kneeling, with three men dressed in black standing behind him. One of the men appears to shoot Habashi in the back of his head. It was not clear when Habashi was killed.
Egypt is battling an Daesh-led insurgency in Sinai Peninsula that intensified after the military overthrew an elected Islamist president in 2013. The military had intervened after mass protests against the president's divisive, one-year rule. The insurgents have carried out scores of attacks, mainly targeting the security forces and minority Christians.


J Street conference energizes push for two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict

J Street conference energizes push for two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Updated 19 April 2021

J Street conference energizes push for two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict

J Street conference energizes push for two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict
  • Palestinian president tells delegates he would return to peace table if talks were based on 1967 borders, shared East Jerusalem
  • Former Israeli PM says deal could ‘still be done’ with the right attitude from both sides

CHICAGO: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has told the annual conference of the progressive American Jewish lobby, J Street, that he would return to the peace table to negotiate over a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

During his presentation on Sunday, Abbas accused the current Israeli government of being an obstacle to peace by refusing to talk and he joined a succession of other speakers in reinforcing support for the two-state solution.

In 2008, Abbas met 35 times with then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Madrid and came close to reaching an agreement, but the discussions were aborted when Olmert was ousted from office and Benjamin Netanyahu was elected premier.

“We believe in the two-state solution based on the 1967 borders … and a sharing of East Jerusalem. We are ready to resume negotiations,” Abbas told conference delegates.

The virtual J Street meeting was held in response to the continuing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and attracted nearly 5,000 registered attendees online.

In his address, Olmert said he believed that peace based on the two-state solution was not only possible but viable if Israel had the right government leadership to engage in direct negotiations with the Palestinians and if the Palestinians were to embrace the concept openly.

“There is no other way to resolve the historic conflict between Israelis and Palestinians … on the basis of the 1967 borders – there will be some changes in the border, but the total size will be as it was in 1967.

“If we sit together with the Palestinians on that basis, I am sure it can be resolved,” he added.

The former PM detailed the discussions he had with Abbas and said that the Palestinian state would be based on the 1967 borders with land adjustments. He pointed out that settlements would be consolidated into three zones in the West Bank and that land swaps would be made to compensate the Palestinians for the settlement lands that remained.

Olmert noted that East Jerusalem would serve as the capital for both Israel and Palestine, and that it would include the support of nations including the US, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan.

He told the J Street conference that it would require “a change in the attitude in the government of Israel. But the present government of Israel is unwilling to do it. But I think the Palestinians have to adopt themselves to this framework, also. It still can be done.”

Both Olmert and Abbas said that the goal of establishing peace between Palestinians and Israelis had been “omitted from the Israeli discourse in politics” since Netanyahu was first elected in 2009 but agreed it could be revived “with some effort.”

J Street president and founder, Jeremy Ben-Ami, said that the two-state solution was “the only solution,” and that the priorities must be to stop the “creeping annexation” of the West Bank and expansion of the settlements.

He added that he did not believe that negotiations could start under the current political climate in Israel.

Ayman Odeh, leader of the Arab Hadash party and member of the Joint List in the Knesset, told conference attendees that “laws can be undone,” and that a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders “can be done.”

But similar to Olmert and Abbas, Odeh said he did not expect much progress while Netanyahu continued to offer limited equality to Palestinian Arab citizens.

Odeh urged Israeli society to “topple Netanyahu’s corrupt reign and build democracy that works for all of us.”

He added: “We are the hope … the wrench that will stop the machinery of division and fear. We are the Arabs and the Jews who refuse to be enemies.”

The Israeli administration remains in turmoil having held four elections since April 2019, all of which have resulted in weak and indecisive governments led by Netanyahu.

Speakers at the J Street conference said that if Netanyahu failed to form a ruling coalition to run the country, the person most likely to take his place was Naftali Bennett, who embraces many of Netanyahu’s extremist anti-peace platforms but was more willing to form coalitions with centrist political organizations.