Daily Archives: July 17, 2014

Breaking news / Israeli military starts ground operation in Gaza

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered the military to start a ground operation in Gaza, his office has announced.

“The prime minister and defence minister have instructed the IDF to begin a ground operation tonight in order to hit the terror tunnels from Gaza into Israel,” the statement said.

A large IDF force has launched a new phase of Operation Protective Edge, starting a ground operation in the Gaza Strip, an IDF spokesperson has confirmed.

As reported by the Associated Press, Israel had originally organized about 48,000 reserve soldiers for the operation, but on Thursday another 18,000 were called up. It’s unclear how many are actually involved in the ongoing ground offensive.

Israel’s chief military spokesman Brig. Gen. Motti Almoz, meanwhile, urged residents in Gaza to evacuate areas in which the military is operating, since it is doing so with “very great force.”

According to the IDF statement, the goal is to target Hamas tunnels that “enable terrorists to infiltrate Israel and carry out attacks.”

“We are now continuing with the ground forces to strike terrorist infrastructure, Hamas infrastructure, in multiple areas throughout the Gaza Strip,” army spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner told reporters.

“Following 10 days of Hamas attacks by land, air and sea, and after repeated rejections of offers to deescalate the situation, the Israel Defence Forces (army) has initiated a ground operation within the Gaza Strip,” the IDF said in a statement, according to AFP.

The IDF also accused Hamas of using civilian deaths to paint Israel’s actions in a negative light.

“In the face of Hamas’ tactics to leverage civilian casualties in pursuit of its terrorist goals, the IDF will continue in its unprecedented efforts to limit civilian harm,” it said.

Hamas, meanwhile, said Israel’s move is “foolish” and will have “dreadful consequences.”

Speaking with CNN, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said, “the beginning of the Israeli ground invasion of Gaza is a dangerous step with unknown consequences. Israel will pay a heavy price for it.”

Witnesses and Gaza residents reported heavy artillery and naval shelling along the Gaza border.

Israel’s latest ground operation comes after attempts to broker a cease-fire with Hamas failed to take hold. The last 10 days have seen both sides exchange rocket fire, resulting in the deaths of more than 220 Palestinians and one Israeli, with some attacks coming under intense scrutiny. Recently, four Palestinian children were killed by an Israeli airstrike while they were playing on a beach in Gaza.

Overall, Israel has struck more than 2,000 targets in Gaza, while Hamas has fired almost 1,500 rockets towards Israel.

Although both Israel and Hamas agreed to observe a brief suspension of hostilities following a request by the United Nations, reports indicated on Wednesday that Israel was considering sending boots on the ground in order to remove rockets and other weapons used by Hamas.

“The IDF’s objective as defined by the Israeli government is to establish a reality in which Israeli residents can live in safety and security without continued indiscriminate terror, while striking a significant blow to Hamas’s terror infrastructure,” the army said in its statement.

The last time Israel launched an extensive ground offensive in Gaza was back in January 2009, following an armed conflict that began the month prior in December. That offensive, known as Operation Cast Lead, began on January 3 and was tasked with a similar objective: to secure areas from which militants were launching rockets. The entire conflict – which ran from December 27, 2008 to January 18, 2009 –resulted in the deaths of up to 1,417 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.

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Who Shot Down the Malaysian Airliner over Ukraine ?

A round-up of the latest facts, speculation and the blame game surrounding the alleged shoot down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine.

Putin : If General Sisi had not taken Egypt in hand, Egypt no doubt would now be wasted and feverish

MOSCOW — Responding to a new round of economic sanctions by the United States, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia lashed out late Wednesday against what he called America’s “aggressive foreign policy,” which he said had caused havoc in the Middle East, and accused the United States of pushing the Ukrainian government to continue fighting rather than encouraging peace.

Mr. Putin, speaking to reporters in Brasília, where he is winding up a trip through central and South America, warned that the American sanctions would backfire.

“I have already said they tend to have a boomerang effect, and without any doubt, in this case they are driving Russian-American relations to an impasse, causing very serious damage,” Mr. Putin said, according to a Kremlin transcript. “And I am convinced that this is harmful to the national long-term strategic interests of the American state, the American people.”

Mr. Putin said that rather than imposing sanctions like those announced in Washington on Wednesday against Russian banks and energy companies in retaliation for Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine, the Obama administration should be working to end the bloodshed in Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists have been fighting the government since early April.

Although there is evidence that Russia has been supporting the insurgents with weapons, tanks and other equipment, and some of the leaders of the insurgency have identified themselves as Russian citizens, Mr. Putin said that the United States should do more to assist Russian efforts to achieve a peace agreement.

“This must be done together — it must be jointly, of course, to encourage all sides in the conflict in Ukraine to an immediate end to hostilities and negotiate,” Mr. Putin said. “Unfortunately, we don’t see this on the side of our partners, especially the American partners, who it seems to me on the contrary are pushing the Ukrainian authorities to the continuation of this fratricidal war and the continuation of this punitive operation. This policy has no prospects.”

Mr. Putin, who has never hidden his disdain for American foreign policy in the Middle East, once again held up the region as evidence of failed interventionism on the part of Washington.

“In general I would say that those who are planning foreign policy actions in the United States — unfortunately we are not seeing it only in recent times, but say, the last 10-15 years — they conduct quite aggressive foreign policy and, in my opinion, very unprofessional,” Mr. Putin said.

“Look: In Afghanistan, problems. Iraq is falling apart, Libya is falling apart. If General Sisi had not taken Egypt in hand, Egypt no doubt would now be wasted and feverish. In Africa, there are problems in many countries. They touched Ukraine, and there are problems.”

Mr. Putin said that he remained open to negotiations with the United States. “It is a pity that our partners are going on this way, but we have not closed the door to negotiations, to resolve this situation,” he said.

While Mr. Putin seemed unbowed, even bellicose, in his response, the Russian financial markets had a different reaction. The benchmark Russian stock index, MICEX, fell 2.5 percent at opening Thursday, while shares in two of the companies targeted by sanctions — the oil giant Rosneft and the energy company Novatek — declined even further.

Analysts said the American sanctions would carry a sharp bite. “This represents a seismic hit to Russia, and to Russian markets,” wrote Timothy Ash, a market analyst with Standard Bank in London, who follows Russia and Ukraine closely. “With such prominent companies sanctioned, questions will now be asked which other Russian companies will next be on the list.”

Mr. Ash said he believed that the Obama administration was hoping to prevent Russia from intervening further in Ukraine and to give President Petro O. Poroshenko’s military operation more time to quash the insurrection. Mr. Ash also played down the importance of the European Union’s decision to not to impose additional sanctions of its own immediately.

“It does not really matter what the E.U. itself does, but the fact that these Russian companies are being sanctioned by the U.S. will force European companies with business interests in the U.S. to comply,” he wrote. “Every Western business is ultimately forced to comply.”