Tag Archives: Israel Defense Forces

IDF strikes Gaza in retaliation to rocket fire

An Israeli air force F-15 fighter jet

The Israeli Defense Forces have launched an attack on Gaza allegedly striking a weapons cache near Khan Yunis in retaliation to a rocket fired from Gaza earlier in the day.

There were at least two strikes by the Israeli Air Force, Jerusalem Post reports. Residents reported hearing two explosions in an “area that contains training sites for Palestinian militants,” according to AP. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The attack allegedly comes in retaliation to a rocket fired from Gaza earlier in the day into an open territory near the Eshkol Regional Council.

“The IDF will not permit any attempt to undermine the security and jeopardize the well being of the civilians of Israel. The Hamas terrorist organization is responsible and accountable for today’s attack against Israel,” said the IDF Spokesman, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, cited by Haaretz.

The strike on what the military called a “Hamas terror infrastructure site” is believed to be the first airstrike by the IDF since Israel’s 50-day war with Gaza this summer. Friday’s rocket was the third projectile that hit Israeli territory since Operation Protective Edge in which more than 2,100 Palestinianswere killed,most of them civilians.

“After Protective Edge, the state had a unique opportunity to bring about a long-term settlement,” the head of Eshkol Regional Council Haim Yellin told Haaretz. “But instead we find ourselves with a ticking clock until the next round of escalation, and the next war.”

Nobody has claimed responsibility so far for the rocket attack, but the former deputy defense minister Danny Danon rushed to announce that the incident once again proves that Hamas, ruling Gaza, is a terrorist organization. “If anyone doubted this then they received the answer now with the [rocket] fire,” Danon said.

Earlier this week, the EU General Court ordered that the Palestinian group Hamas be removed from the bloc’s terror blacklist – over four years after Hamas appealed its terror designation before the EU. Later on Thursday, the European Parliament adopted a resolution recognizing Palestinian statehood in “principle” with only 88 MEPs voting against it while 498 supported the symbolic move.

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If the Gaza Truce Holds, What Then? 5 Possible Outcomes

How Operation Protective Edge might end — or carry on interminably

Egypt announced that Palestinian factions declared a 72-hour cease-fire to begin on Tuesday at 8 a.m. Israel sat out of the Cairo talks that produced the humanitarian truce, but said it would hold by the cease-fire, a government spokesman told TIME.Whether or not the parties actually make it through a full three days with no airstrikes or rocket attacks remains to be seen. Every other cease-fire effort undertaken since the escalation in early July has failed. But there is a more pressing question: What now? Who and what can put an end to the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Gaza — with 1,865 Palestinians and 67 Israelis killed so far – and also propose a longer-term solution?Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister, on Monday offered a new idea for solving the Gaza problem: let the United Nations take control of the long-troubled territory. “Everyone is asking, what happens after the operation ends? Suppose Israel defeats Hamas. There are a few options. International control of Gaza, by the UN, should certainly be considered,” Lieberman said in a press conference. This has been tried in other war-torn locales, from Kosovo to East Timor. Why not Gaza?Well, for one thing, it would be an enormous and expensive undertaking for the international community to take responsibility for Gaza. It would also require Hamas and other militant groups to agree to participate in such a scheme, which is difficult to imagine given that they’ve built their entire identities around what they view as legitimate resistance to Israeli occupation. Still, many of the key players here say that almost a month into the bloodiest phase in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the Second Intifada, some significant change must emerge at the end of it. TIME looks at five possibilities for how this could end:

  1. Send in the UN. This would involve what’s been referred to as mini-Marshall Plan, including a massive rebuilding program that would help Gaza pick up the pieces. The task would be huge: electricity and water supplies have been compromised, and an estimated 10,000 homes have been destroyed or severely damaged. Shaul Mofaz, a former Israeli defense minister and IDF chief, has proposed some specifics. These include having the international community oversee the demilitarization of Gaza – a goal recently endorsed by Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu, but opposed by Hamas – and approximately $50 billion dollars for rebuilding. EU foreign ministers issued a joint statement July 23 backing demilitarization.
  1. Bring the PA back to Gaza: Israel and Hamas will eventually be brought into some kind of proximity talks under an umbrella of Egyptian sponsorship, and the outcome of those discussions would likely involve the return of the Palestinian Authority and its security forces to Gaza, casting them in a key role as guardians of the crossing points into Israel and Egypt – along with international help. The PA, run by the PLO’s secular Fatah faction, was forced out of Gaza in 2007 as part of a violent coup staged by Hamas, whose name is an acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement. Bringing a PA political and security presence back to Gaza would help beef up the legitimacy of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. As part of such an arrangement, Israel would likely demand a joint patrolling mechanism on the Gaza perimeter to prevent infiltrations and renewed attempts to rebuild tunnels, more than 30 of which the IDF says it has destroyed. However, the rockets from Gaza did not start when Israel pulled its troops and 8,000 settlers out of Gaza in 2005, but rather, Israel points out, in 2001. Therefore, Israel is likely to refuse any agreement that doesn’t include a mechanism for preventing Hamas from rebuilding its rocket arsenal. The fact that Hamas and Fatah joined in a “reconciliation” government in April makes this form of cooperation more feasible than it was even a year ago.
  1. A ten-year truce: Almost two weeks ago, Hamas offered Israel a 10-year hudna, or Arabic truce. Its terms include – but are not limited to – the following: (1) the release of approximately 50 Palestinian prisoners who, after being released as part of Gilad Shalit deal in late 2011, were re-arrested by the IDF in June following the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens in the West Bank (2) the opening of the border crossings with both Israel and Egypt (3) international supervision of the Gazan seaport instead of the Israeli naval blockade, as well as extended fishing rights to 10 km off the coast of Gaza, (4) an international airport under UN supervision, and (5) International forces on the borders of Gaza. Even if Israeli officials were prepared to accept all of that — which would be unlikely — they have said that the very concept of a hudna, a concept rooted in Islamic history, is problematic because it suggests Hamas only believes in a limited period of calm with the Jewish state, but refuses a more permanent solution because it seeks its destruction.
  1. Possible reoccupation of the Gaza Strip This is an option that is often mentioned by Israel’s far-right, including some members of Netanyahu’s cabinet. Coalition partner Naftali Bennett, the Minister of Economy, said last week that Israel should continue its military operating until Hamas is completely defeated. Lieberman, the foreign minister, had suggested in late June that Israel reoccupy Gaza, saying only that would stop the rockets. Ultimately, Netanyahu appears to have rejected these calls, realizing that such a move would likely cause far more bloodshed and further rattle Israel’s already compromised international legitimacy.
  1. Indefinite war In this scenario, Israel withdraws its troops and tanks from Gaza, but continues to use air and naval strikes as it sees fit. Hamas stays in power and launches rockets at Israel whenever it pleases, and essentially, nothing substantial changes from how things looked a month ago – other than a great number of destroyed buildings and upwards of 2,000 lives lost. If the parties cannot agree on a cease-fire deal that feels satisfactory, “Operation Protective Edge” could simmer down into a indeterminate cycle of occasional attacks, robbing both Israelis and Palestinians of a return to normal life. Some are hoping that the right cease-fire deal is just around the corner, and some are wishing their leaders will keep holding out for more. But the possibility of a low-level war of attrition, lasting years and costing yet more lives, is not remote.

 TIME.

Hamas’s Civilian Death Strategy – WSJ

Palestinians search for survivors in Gaza's eastern Shijaiyah district on July 20.

Palestinians search for survivors in Gaza‘s eastern Shijaiyah district on July 20.

By –Thane RosenbaumJuly 21, 2014 3:19 p.m. E

Let’s state the obvious: No one likes to see dead children. Well, that’s not completely true: Hamas does. They would prefer those children to be Jewish, but there is greater value to them if they are Palestinian. Outmatched by Israel’s military, handicapped by rocket launchers with the steady hands of Barney Fife, Hamas is playing the long game of moral revulsion.

With this conflict about to enter its third week, winning the PR war is the best Hamas can hope to achieve. Their weapon of choice, however, seems to be the cannon fodder of their own people, performing double duty in also sounding the drumbeat of Israeli condemnation. If you can’t beat Iron Dome, then deploy sacrificial children as human shields.

Civilian casualties will continue to mount. The evolving story will focus on the collateral damage of Palestinian lives. Israel’s moral dilemma will receive little attention. Each time the ledgers of relative loss are reported, world public opinion will turn against the Jewish state and box Israel into an even tighter corner of the Middle East.

All the ordinary rules of warfare are upended in Gaza. Everything about this conflict is asymmetrical—Hamas wears no uniforms and they don’t meet Israeli soldiers on battlefields. With the exception of kaffiyeh scarves, it isn’t possible to distinguish a Hamas militant from a noncombatant pharmacist. In Vietnam, the U.S. military learned guerrilla warfare in jungles. In Gaza, the Jewish state has had to adapt to the altogether surreal terrain of apartment complexes and schoolhouses.

There are now reports that Hamas and Islamic Jihad are transporting themselves throughout Gaza in ambulances packed with children. Believe it or not, a donkey laden with explosives detonated just the other day.

The asymmetry is complicated even further by the status of these civilians. Under such maddening circumstances, are the adults, in a legal and moral sense, actual civilians? To qualify as a civilian one has to do more than simply look the part. How you came to find yourself in such a vulnerable state matters. After all, when everyone is wearing casual street clothing, civilian status is shared widely.

The people of Gaza overwhelmingly elected Hamas, a terrorist outfit dedicated to the destruction of Israel, as their designated representatives. Almost instantly Hamas began stockpiling weapons and using them against a more powerful foe with a solid track record of retaliation.

What did Gazans think was going to happen? Surely they must have understood on election night that their lives would now be suspended in a state of utter chaos. Life expectancy would be miserably low; children would be without a future. Staying alive would be a challenge, if staying alive even mattered anymore.

To make matters worse, Gazans sheltered terrorists and their weapons in their homes, right beside ottoman sofas and dirty diapers. When Israel warned them of impending attacks, the inhabitants defiantly refused to leave.

On some basic level, you forfeit your right to be called civilians when you freely elect members of a terrorist organization as statesmen, invite them to dinner with blood on their hands and allow them to set up shop in your living room as their base of operations. At that point you begin to look a lot more like conscripted soldiers than innocent civilians. And you have wittingly made yourself targets.

It also calls your parenting skills into serious question. In the U.S. if a parent is found to have locked his or her child in a parked car on a summer day with the windows closed, a social worker takes the children away from the demonstrably unfit parent. In Gaza, parents who place their children in the direct line of fire are rewarded with an interview on MSNBC where they can call Israel a genocidal murderer.

The absurdity of Israel’s Gaza campaigns requires an entirely new terminology for the conduct of wars. “Enemy combatants,” “theater of war,” “innocent civilians,” “casualties of war” all have ambiguous meaning in Gaza. There is nothing casual about why so many Gazans die; these deaths are tragically predictable and predetermined. Hamas builds tunnels for terrorists and their rockets; bomb shelters for the people of Gaza never entered the Hamas leaders’ minds.

So much innocence is lost in this citizen army, which serves as the armor for demented leaders and their dwindling arsenal of rockets and martyrs. In Gaza the death toll of civilians is an endgame disguised as a tragedy. It is a sideshow—without death, Hamas has nothing to show for its efforts.

Surely there are civilians who have been killed in this conflict who have taken every step to distance themselves from this fast-moving war zone, and children whose parents are not card-carrying Hamas loyalists. These are the true innocents of Gaza. It is they for whom our sympathy should be reserved. The impossibility of identifying them, and saving them, is Israel’s deepest moral dilemma..

Mr. Rosenbaum, a novelist, essayist and professor at the New York University School of Law, is the author, most recently, of “Payback: The Case for Revenge.”

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.

U.S., Israel Team Up for Biannual “Juniper Cobra” Military Exercise

Israel and the United States are joining forces this week for the five-day, ballistic-missile-defense exercise Juniper Cobra. The Juniper Cobra exercises have been held every two years since 2001, and this year it will be the seventh exercise. In 2009, the main scenario of the exercise was an Iranian missile attack against Israel.

In 2012, the Juniper Cobra was postponed, likely to reduce tensions with Iran. Toward the end of that year there was a similar Israeli-American exercise, called Austere Challenge, in which the Israel Defense Forces and the U.S. Army trained together in intercepting targets.

During this year’s exercise, American troops belonging to EUCOM (U.S. European Command) are being deployed in Israel to strengthen the Israeli anti-missile systems. More than 4,000 American and Israeli troops are involved in the exercise (including over 700 U.S. troops) in Israel.

It will provide training in a variety of areas, including ballistic missile defense, and other areas, along with two U.S. Aegis-class ships in the Mediterranean. The exercise will employ Israel’s entire rocket and ballistic missile architecture, including Iron Dome, Arrow, and David’s Sling: assets that the United States is proud to have helped Israel finance and develop.

The Israeli defense systems are partly financed and supported by the United States.

The Middle East is known to be home of huge quantities of projectiles and Israel is under the threat of thousands of rockets and missiles. One main concern is that many players in the region are arming themselves with precision-guided heavy rockets, and some are likely to acquire GPS-guided ballistic missiles. In the face of this threat Israel continues developing sophisticated systems jointly with the United States, such as the Arrow 3, perhaps the most advanced missile interceptor in the world according to Uzi Rubin, former director of Israel’s Missile Defense Organization.

Iran poses the greatest threat to Israel today with its long-range Shahab-3 missiles, which can be fired from deep inside Iran and fly some 1,200 miles. This is without mentioning Hezbollah’s and Hamas’s arsenals on Israel’s borders. The Tower has learned that Hezbollah has amassed some 60,000 rockets in southern Lebanon, posing a threat to its civilian populations.

As in prior years, this exercise is important for training and laying down the necessary infrastructure and interoperability between Israeli and American missile-defense systems for common U.S.-Israeli challenges and threats in the region.

Going back to 2009, U.S. Admiral John M. Richardson, then deputy commander of U.S. Sixth Fleet, stated that “Israel is a strong ally of the United States” and looked forward working with his Israeli friends.

via  The Tower.

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Hamas, Islamic Jihad praise West Bank terror attack

Militants say attack that killed one Israeli and injured two others was a response to ‘Israeli crimes’

Palestinian militant organizations Hamas and Islamic Jihad praised a shooting attack on Israeli cars near the southern West Bank city of Hebron on Monday, which left one dead and two others wounded.

Stopping short of claiming responsibility for the shooting, the groups linked the attack to recent unrest in the flashpoint Al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem’s Old City.

“We in Hamas welcome the shooting action in the Hebron area, during which shots were fired at several settlers, causing the death of one and wounding of others,” said Hamas spokesman Husam Badran. “We see this action as a natural response to the crimes of the occupation [Israel] against the rights of our people and the repeated assaults on the al-Aqsa Mosque and our prisoners jailed in Israel.”

Islamic Jihad released a similar statement, hailing the attack and linking it to “settlers appropriating the blessed Al-Aqsa mosque.”

The attack took place as the seven-day Jewish Passover holiday began.

“Fire was opened at Israeli civilian vehicles on Route 35, near Hebron, and we’re conducting widespread searches for the perpetrators… An Israeli civilian was killed in the attack,” an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson said.

Israel’s Army Radio radio said the victim was a man, and that his wife and one of their children were those hurt.

A separate army statement said two other Israelis were wounded.

The flashpoint city of Hebron is home to nearly 200,000 Palestinians. Additionally, there are some 80 settler homes in the center of town housing about 700 Jews who live under Israeli army protection.

In September, an Israeli soldier was shot dead by a suspected Palestinian gunman in the center of Hebron during the week-long Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

Temple Mount clashes

Tensions were running high earlier in the week in Jerusalem, after Israeli police arrested five people after Palestinians clashed with security forces at the Temple Mount compound on Sunday.

Police said “stones and Molotov cocktails” were thrown at officers, who responded using stun grenades and entered the compound. An AFP journalist said Hamas members were among the protesters.

The compound, in the walled Old City, houses the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosques, and is the third most sacred site in Islam.

It is also the holiest place in Judaism, venerated as the site where King Herod’s temple stood before it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

Clashes frequently break out there between Palestinians and Israeli security forces. Muslims are intensely sensitive to any perceived threat to the status of the compound and many believe Jews are determined to build a new temple on the wide esplanade. Jews are not allowed to pray on the Temple Mount, but often try to enter the compound.

 

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Tensions Rise on Gaza Border as IDF Thwarts Terror Attack

Coming after terrorists launched rockets into Israel late last week and Israel retaliated, Monday, IDF soldiers prevented an attack at Israel’s border with Gaza. The Times of Israel reported:

The soldiers spotted two suspects carrying a suspicious object near the fence, and chased them away by firing warning shots, according to a statement from the army. As they fled, the suspects dropped the object, which exploded moments later.

Soldiers guarding Israel’s border with Hamas ruled Gaza are regularly under threat from snipers as well as improvised, explosive devices (IED’s).

Monday’s incident at the Gaza border came on the heels of cross border attacks during the past week. Thursday and Friday last week, terrorists fired 5 rockets into Israel. The IDF retaliated hitting five sites inside Gaza.

IDF spokesman, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, said:

“The retaliation this evening at Gaza terrorist aggression was precision, and intelligence based. It is our obligation to seek out those that wish to attack us, eliminate their capabilities and pursue them wherever they hide. Hamas rocket terrorism is an intolerable reality Israelis should not have to accept.”

Four Hamas members were reported injured.

Last month Israel intercepted an Iranian sponsored arms shipment heading to Gaza. The rockets intercepted suggested that Hamas was trying replenish its arsenal that had been degraded during 2012′s Operation Pillar of Defense.

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Israel Air Force hits five Gaza targets following rocket fire

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Israel Air Force jets struck five suspected terrorist locations in northern and central areas of the Gaza Strip on Thursday, according to the Israel Defense Forces. Israel Radio cited Palestinian sources who reported that two of the sites belonged to Hamas’ military forces.

The strikes came after four rockets were fired from Palestinian territory into southern Israel. The rockets led to a Code Red alert in the Sderot area, according to The Jerusalem Post.

The Palestinian rockets landed in open territory near the border with Gaza, according to Israeli media. No injuries or damage were reported on the Israeli side of the border.

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Israel airstrike on Golan Heights leaves 1 dead, 7 wounded – Syrian army

Retaliatory air strikes carried out by Israel against Syrian army positions killed one person and injured seven, according to Syria’s armed forces said. The strike came just hours after four IDF soldiers were wounded by a bomb attack in the Golan Heights.

A Syrian armed forces statement said the strikes targeted three sites near the ruined city of Quneitra in southwestern Syria, including an army training facility, a military headquarters and artillery batteries. Damascus warned the strikes could further destabilize the already strife-torn region.

The statement also warns Israel against escalating the situation by repeating such “hostile acts.” It says they “endanger the security and stability of the region.”

Israeli Military sources confirmed that the Israeli Air Force had carried out four strikes at around 3:00 am local time, AFP reports.

“The [IOF] targeted several Syrian army positions which aided and abetted the attack against [IOF] personnel yesterday,” a military statement said, with a spokeswoman confirming the bombing raids included targets on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights plateau.

The air raids took place 12 hours after four Israeli soldiers were wounded by a roadside bomb – one of them seriously – while patrolling along the ceasefire line in the occupied Golan. It was the third such incident in a fortnight along Israel’s northern frontier. Israeli brass has regularly blamed the Syrian military for being complicit in such attacks.

On top of the airstrikes, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon warned Syrian President Bashar Assad that if he persisted in a course of action that caused harm to Israel, he would “regret his actions.”

Syria said the air raids were intended “boost the morale of the terrorist gangs that are falling apart under the blows of the army.”

On Tuesday Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned the Jewish State would act “forcefully” to defend itself.

“We will act forcefully to preserve Israel’s security,” he said in remarks broadcast on army radio, warning that jihadists and operatives from Lebanon’s Hezbollah were increasingly active in the area.

On Friday, Israel shelled a Hezbollah target inside eastern Lebanon in response to a blast targeting its troops along the border. In a separate attack on 5 March, Israel said it hit two Hezbollah members while a group of operatives were reportedly trying to plant a bomb near the Israeli-Syrian ceasefire line.

“This aggression won’t stand without a response,” the Jerusalem Post cites the group as saying in a statement.

Wednesday’s air strikes represent the most serious escalation along the ceasefire line with Syria since the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Israel first captured the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 war. The country agreed to return the land to Syria in return for a peace agreement that was rejected by the Arab world.

In 1973, Syrian forces crossed the ceasefire line into the Golan Heights in an attempt to retake the territory. Syria’s troops were repelled by Israeli forces.

Israel annexed the Golan in 1981, though they returned about 5 percent of the territory to Syria. The land was merged into a demilitarized zone which has been the scene of periodic attacks over the past several decades.

UN peacekeeping forces, which have been in the Golan Heights since 1974, have also found themselves the targets of militants operating in the region. In March and May last year, Syrian rebels abducted UN peacekeepers monitoring the ceasefire line.

 

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Israel fires on 29 ‘terror sites’ after rockets from Gaza hit towns – CNN

(CNN) — Israel responded with heavy fire after five rockets from Gaza landed Wednesday in populated areas of southern Israel, marking “the most substantial attack” in two years against the country, the Israeli military said.

The military wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, called the Al-Quds Brigade, claimed responsibility for firing dozens of missiles on what it called “Israeli settlements.”

In response, Israel launched airstrikes on three areas in Gaza — Rafah, Khan Younis and Jabalia — that are believed to belong to Islamic Jihad, according to security sources in Gaza. A Hamas spokesman texted CNN to say they counted six airstrikes, but claimed they were against bases that were empty.

In all, the Israeli military targeted “29 terror sites” in Gaza, the military said on its Twitter page.

“Direct hits were confirmed,” the military tweeted.

“In today’s attack, 41 rockets struck in Israel, five hit populated areas and three were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system,” the military said in another statement. “This is the most substantial rocket attack from the Gaza Strip since Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012.”

Islamic Jihad and Hamas, which is the Palestinian movement running Gaza, evacuated their military and civilian institutions on expectation of Israeli reprisals, the security sources in Gaza said.

Israel intercepts ship with weapons headed to Gaza

In the wake of the attack, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman told Israeli army radio that “the position of my party Israel Beitanyu is that we support the full occupation of the whole of Gaza in any possible future action.”

Liberman opposed a response short of full occupation. “I am against a limited operation,” he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was later asked for his reaction to Liberman’s comments at a joint news conference with Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron Wednesday evening in Jerusalem.

“If it is not quiet in southern Israel, it will be very noisy in Gaza,” Netanyahu said in Hebrew.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has called upon Israel to stop the “military escalation on the besieged Gaza Strip, considering that this escalation will put the isolated residents in the danger of the war and destruction,” presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said through the official Wafa news agency.

“The Gaza Strip is constantly being targeted by Israeli airstrikes that targeted many areas,” Rudeineh said.

Hamas-run Al-Aqsa TV flashed a banner stating: “The occupation bares the full responsibility regarding this wave of aggression and the ongoing escalation.”

Abu Ahmad, spokesman for the Al-Quds Brigades, said the rocket fire came “after a long series of violations to the truce with the Palestinian resistance since November 2012.”

“This operation, dubbed ‘Breaking the Silence,’ comes as a response to the ongoing and continued Zionist Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza,” Ahmad said.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon ordered a halt to the shipment of goods to Gaza through a crossing on the Gaza-Israel-Egypt border until security assessments are made, the military said in statement.

However, another crossing will be open for humanitarian movements, the military said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the multiple rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel and urged maximum restraint by all parties to prevent an escalation of violence and destabilization to the region, a spokesman said.

Israeli Apache helicopters flew over Gaza City on Wednesday after several rockets were reportedly fired from the Palestinian territory at the Israeli town of Sderot, officials said.

The Al-Quds Brigade claimed responsibility on its website for firing a total of 34 rockets and 14 mortar rounds at “Zionist targets.”

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