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Press Conference: PM Netanyahu with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon


Prime Minister Netanyahu:

Mr. Secretary, I appreciate the fact that you came here and that you took time to see what we’ve just shown you. I think it’s clear that Israel is doing what any country would do if terrorists rained down rockets on its cities and towns – hundreds of rockets, day after day, week after week. In addition, as I’ve shown you, Hamas has dug terrorist tunnels under hospitals, mosques, schools, homes, to penetrate our territory, to kidnap and kill Israelis.

Now, in the face of such wanton terrorism, no country could sit idly by. It would exercise its right, inherent and legitimate right of self-defense as we are doing, and act decisively to end the threat to its citizens. This is what Israel is doing. We did not seek this escalation, Mr. Secretary. We accepted the Egyptian ceasefire proposal. I don’t need to remind you it was a proposal that was supported by the UN, by the Arab League, by the United States, by Europe. Hamas rejected it. We accepted the humanitarian ceasefire proposal that the UN proposed afterward. Hamas rejected that. We accepted the ceasefire proposal of the Red Cross in Shejaia. Hamas rejected that, twice. I think the international community must take a clear stand; it must hold Hamas accountable for consistently rejecting the ceasefire proposals and for starting and prolonging this conflict. The international community must hold Hamas accountable for its increasing and indiscriminate attacks on Israeli civilians. And the international community must hold Hamas accountable for using Palestinian civilians as human shields deliberately putting them in harm’s way, deliberately keeping them in harm’s way.

Mr. Secretary, we have made every effort and will continue to make every effort to avoid civilian casualties. We are targeting Hamas terrorist targets. We’ve just shown you these targets, embedded in civilian areas, embedded in mosques, embedded in hospitals, embedded in agricultural schools. Hamas is embedded in there in order to sustain civilian casualties, because they know that we will have to protect our citizens; that we have to act against their targets. So they are committing a double war crime: both targeting our civilians and hiding behind their civilians. And they want, I repeat: They want more civilian casualties, whereas we want no civilian casualties at all, and we’re taking the utmost pain to minimize that. I think the people of Gaza, and that’s become absolutely clear to the world, are the victims of the brutal Hamas regime. They are holding them hostage and they are hiding behind them.
You know, Mr. Secretary, the international community has pressed us to give cement to Gaza to build schools, hospitals, homes. And now we see what has happened to those deliveries of cement. They have been used to dig tunnels next to a kindergarten, not to build a kindergarten but to build a tunnel that penetrates our territory so that Hamas can blow up our kindergartens and murder our children. They’ve used for a long time our willingness to try to keep civilians at a minimum. They’ve been using them to keep on firing at us. We have even opened up a field hospital, Mr. Secretary, to help Hamas civilians, and Hamas is preventing civilians of Gaza from going to our hospital. I believe that you understand this. I believe that you understand that it is the right of every state to defend itself. And Israel will continue to do what it needs to do to defend its people.
Mr. Secretary, this is not only our right; this is our duty.

US Secretary General Ban:

Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister. Shalom, ladies and gentlemen.
Mr. Prime Minister, thank you again for your warm welcome. It’s always a pleasure to visit, for me, Israel. But this time I am standing with a very heavy, heavy heart. As we speak, rockets from Hamas and Islamic Jihad continue to be fired on Israel. I have just seen myself, with the Prime Minister, all kinds of rockets fired by Hamas onto the heads of these people and neighborhoods of where many people are living. This is quite shocking. And I have seen all these photos and videos and evidences myself. The United Nations’ position is clear: we condemn strongly the rocket attacks.
These must stop immediately. We condemn the use of civilian sites, schools, hospitals and other civilian facilities for military purposes. Your country won’t accept rockets raining down on its territory. And all countries and parties have an international obligation to protect civilians. I extend my deep condolences to the Prime Minister and to the people of Israel on the fatalities from the recent escalation. We’ll not forget the killing and abduction of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaer and Naftaly Frankel. I was deeply moved by the words of Rachel Frankel as she buried her own son. I quote: “We will learn to sing without you,” she said. “We will always hear your voice in our hearts.” And she went on to reach out to the family of Muhammad abu Khdeir, the 16-year-old boy burned alive simply because of who he was. Mrs. Frankel said, I quote: “No mother or father should ever have to go through what we are going through, and we share the pain of Muhammad’s parents.” End quote. It is that spirit of shared anguish, humanity and hope that calls me here. Too many Palestinian and Israeli mothers are burying their children. We owe it to their sacrifice and to Israeli and Palestinian aspirations for peace, to intensify efforts to find a solution.

Over the last three days I have met with the leadership in Qatar, Kuwait, Egypt. I met President Abbas in Qatar and US Secretary of State, John Kerry, in Cairo yesterday. This is all part of a concerted international effort for urgent action. My message to Israelis and Palestinians is the same: Stop fighting! Start talking and take on the root causes of the conflict so we are not back to the same situation in another six months or a year. We must address these underline issues, including mutual recognition, occupation, despair and denial of dignity, so people do not feel they have to resort to violence as a means of expressing their grievances. Military actions will not increase Israel’s stability and security in the longer time. I fully share and appreciate the legitimacy, the security concerns and right to defend your country and citizens. Israel is a democratic strong country, and I urge you to demonstrate fortitude by exercising maximum restraint. Recovery and reconstruction work is more needed than ever. Governance issues must be addressed by one legitimate Palestinian government adhering to the PLO commitment – non-violence, recognition of Israel and respect for previous agreements. The United nations will continue to support these efforts.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am always energized to find my visit to Israel and the region. Even in the darkest hours, the people of this country have such a tremendous capacity for generosity and good. I understand that some may feel threatened by negative regional developments and disenchanted with the peace process, but there is no viable alternative to a two-state solution. No closure, no barrier can separate Israelis and Palestinians from a fundamental truth: you share a common future. You have my strongest possible commitment that I will to do all I can for lasting peace and security, freedom and justice for all Israelis and Palestinians.
Thank you, Toda.


Prime Minister Netanyahu:

Mr. Secretary, I’m going to say a few words in Hebrew to the people of Israel, but I do want to say that you spoke about the regional developments. What we’re seeing here with Hamas is another instance of Islamist extremism, violent extremism that has no resolvable grievance. Hamas is like ISIS; Hamas is like al-Qaeda; Hamas is like Hezbollah; Hamas is like Boko Haram. And there are so many other of these Islamist groups that defy modernity, that reject pluralism, that reject respect of human rights. That use their own people as human shields, that attack indiscriminately civilians. This is part of a larger pattern. What grievance can we solve for Hamas. Their grievance is that we exist. They don’t even want a two-state solution. They don’t want any state solution. Some of them say they should open a great movement and dissolve all the regimes around us. And therefore in the face of such extremism, in the face of such violence, in the face of such terror, Israel has no option but to defend itself. This is what we’re doing, as is our right. We have sought to end this from the start with ceasefires, and as I told you, they refused and they continue. So we will do what we need to do to defend ourselves.
[The following is translated from Hebrew]
Citizens of Israel, I have explained to the United Nations Secretary General, who came here in friendship, that we must defend ourselves. It is our right. The IDF will continue to hit Hamas terror targets hard, until we achieve the goal of the operation – restoring a long-term quiet for the citizens of Israel, while dealing the terror infrastructure a harsh blow.

I must tell you that your forbearance has allowed us to run this operation rationally, wisely and in the correct way. Your resilience is a strategic asset to the State of Israel; and Hamas, who thought it could break our home front easily, was taken by surprise.
On behalf of all Israel’s citizens, on your behalf, I send condolences to the families of the fallen, I wish a speedy recovery to those injured and I pray for our soldiers.
We are defending our home, we will protect our home.
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Fallen Soldiers of Operation Protective Edge, May their memory be blessed

Throughout Israel’s history, IDF soldiers have fallen in defense of their country and families. This reality continues as the IDF operates in Gaza to defend Israel from Hamas rocket fire and the threat of terrorist infiltration by tunnels.

The following brave soldiers fell in the fight to protect Israeli civilians. May their memory be blessed.

August 1

Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, 23, from Kfar Saba, killed by Hamas terrorists in the southern Gaza Strip.

Major Benaya Sarel, 26, from Kiryat Arba, commander of the Givati Reconnaissance Company, killed by Hamas terrorists in the southern Gaza Strip.

Staff Sergeant Liel Gidoni, 20, from Jerusalem, killed by Hamas terrorists in the southern Gaza Strip.

July 31

Captain (res.) Liran Adir (Edry), 31, from Ezuz, killed operating along the border with the Gaza Strip when a mortar was fired at the forces.

Staff Sergeant Noam Rosenthal, 20, from Meitar, killed operating along the border with the Gaza Strip when a mortar was fired at the forces.

Sergeant First Class (Res.) Daniel Marash, 22, from Rishon LeZion, killed operating along the border with the Gaza Strip when a mortar was fired at the forces.

Captain Omri Tal, 22, from Rishon LeZion, killed operating along the border with the Gaza Strip when a mortar was fired at the forces.

Staff Sergeant Shay Kushnir, 20, from Kiryat Motzkin, killed operating along the border with the Gaza Strip when a mortar was fired at the forces.

July 30

Staff Sergeant Guy Algranati, 20, from Tel Aviv, a soldier from an elite IDF unit, was killed during operational activity in the southern Gaza Strip.

Staff Sergeant Omer Hay, 21, from Savion, a soldier from an elite IDF unit, was killed during operational activity in the southern Gaza Strip.

Staff Sergeant Matan Gotlib, 21, from Rishon LeZion, a soldier from an elite IDF unit, was killed during operational activity in the southern Gaza Strip.

July 28

Sergeant Nadav Raimond, 19, from Shadmot Dvora, killed in combat when terrorists infiltrated Israel via a tunnel from Gaza and attempted to execute an attack.

Sergeant Daniel Kedmi, 18, from Tzofim, killed in combat when terrorists infiltrated Israel via a tunnel from Gaza and attempted to execute an attack.

Sergeant Barkey Ishai Shor, 21, from Jerusalem, killed in combat when terrorists infiltrated Israel via a tunnel from Gaza and attempted to execute an attack.

Sergeant Sagi Erez,19, from Kiryat Ata, killed in combat when terrorists infiltrated Israel via a tunnel from Gaza and attempted to execute an attack.

Sergeant Dor Dery, 18, from Jerusalem, killed in combat when terrorists infiltrated Israel via a tunnel from Gaza and attempted to execute an attack.

Staff Sergeant Eliav Eliyahu Haim Kahlon, 22, from Safed, was killed by mortar fire along the Gaza border.

Corporal Meidan Maymon Biton, 20, from Netivot, was killed by mortar fire along the Gaza border.

Corporal Niran Cohen, 20 from Tiberias, was killed by mortar fire along the Gaza border.

Staff Sergeant Adi Briga, 23, from Beit Shikma, was killed by mortar fire along the Gaza border.

Staff Sergeant Moshe Davino , 20, from Jerusalem , was killed in combat in the southern Gaza Strip.
JULY 26

Sergeant First Class (res.) Barak Refael Degorker, was killed by mortar fire from the Gaza Strip.

Chief Warrant Officer Rami Chalon, 39, from Hadera, an Infantry non-commissioned officer, died from his wounds after being injured on the Gaza border on Tuesday, July 22.

Captain Liad Lavi, an Infantry Corps officer, 20, from Talmei Yosef , died from his wounds after being injured in combat in the southern Gaza Strip on Thursday, July 24.

Staff Sergeant Avraham Grintzvaig, 21, from Petah Tikva, an infantry soldier, killed in combat in the northern Gaza Strip.

Staff Sergeant Gal Bason, 21, Holon., a Combat Engineering Corps soldier, was killed in combat in the northern Gaza Strip.

Second Lieutenant Roy Peles, 21, from Tel Aviv, an infantry officer, was killed in combat in the Gaza strip.

July 25

Staff Sergeant Amit Yeori, 20, from Jerusalem, fell in combat in Gaza.

Staff Sergeant Guy Boyland, 21, from Ginosar, a combat engineer from the 7th Armored Brigade, killed in combat in the Gaza Strip.

Staff Sergeant Guy Levy, 21, from Kfar Vradim, killed by an anti-tank missile fired at the force from a structure.

Master Sergeant (Res.) Yair Ashkenazy, 36, from Rehovot, killed during operational activity in the northern Gaza Strip.

July 22

Lieutenant Paz Elyahu, 22, from Evron, an IDF paratrooper, killed in combat in the Gaza Strip.

Staff Sergeant Li Mat, 19, from Eilat, an IDF paratrooper, killed in combat in the Gaza Strip.

Staff Sergeant Shahar Dauber, 20, from Ginegar, an IDF paratrooper, killed in combat in the Gaza Strip.

Captain Dmitri Levitas, 26, from Jerusalem and Geshur, killed in combat by sniper fire in the Gaza Strip.

First Lieutenant Natan Cohen, 23, Modi'in, killed in combat in the Gaza Strip.

Staff Sergeant Avitar Moshe Torjamin, 20, from Beit She'an, killed in a fire exchange in the southern Gaza Strip.


July 21

Master Sergeant Ohad Shemesh, killed while fighting Hamas terrorists.

Sergeant First Class Oded Ben Sira, 22, from Nir Etzion, killed by sniper fire.

Lieutenant Colonel Dolev Keidar, Commander of the Geffen Battalion, 38, from Modi'in, killed by an anti-tank missile fired at the force responding to a terrorist infiltration incident.

Sergeant Major Bayhesain Kshaun, 39, from Netivot, killed by an anti-tank missile fired at the force responding to a terrorist infiltration incident.

Second Lieutenant Yuval Haiman, 21, from Efrat, killed by an anti-tank missile fired at the force responding to a terrorist infiltration incident.

Sergeant Nadav Goldmacher, 23, from Be'er Sheba, killed by an anti-tank missile fired at the force responding to a terrorist infiltration incident.

Staff Sergeant Tal Ifrach, 21, from Rishon LeZion, killed in battle in Gaza.

Staff Sergeant Yuval Dagan, 22, from Kfar Saba, killed in battle.

July 20

Sergeant Shon Mondshine, killed protecting the citizens of Israel.

Staff Sergeant Max Steinberg, 24, from Be'er Sheva, killed protecting the citizens of Israel.

Staff Sergeant Shachar Tase, 20, from Pardesiya, killed protecting the citizens of Israel.

Staff Sergeant Daniel Pomerantz, 20, from Kfar Azar, killed protecting the citizens of Israel.

Sergeant Ben Itzhak Oanounou, 19, from Ashdod, killed protecting the citizens of Israel.

Staff Sergeant Oren Simcha Noach, 22, from Hoshaya, killed protecting the citizens of Israel.

Staff Sergeant Jordan Bensemhoun, 22, from Ashkelon, killed by direct fire.

Staff Sergeant Moshe Malko, 20, from Jerusalem, killed protecting the citizens of Israel.

Sgt. Nissim Sean Carmeli, 21, from Ra’anana, killed protecting the citizens of Israel.

Sgt. Oz Mendelovich, 21, from Atzmon, killed protecting the citizens of Israel .

Sgt. Gilad Rozenthal Yacoby, 21, from Kiryat Ono, killed protecting the citizens of Israel.

Cpt. Tsvi Kaplan, 28, from Meirav, killed protecting the citizens of Israel.

Maj. Tzafrir Baror, 32, from Holon, killed protecting the citizens of Israel .

July 19

Staff Sgt. Bnaya Rubel, 20, from Holon, an infantry soldier, was killed in battle with terrorists,.

2nd Lt. Bar Rahav, a combat engineer, 21, from Ramat Yishai, was killed when terrorists fired an anti-tank missile at the vehicle he was operating.

Sgt. Adar Barsano, 20, from Nahariya, was killed by Hamas terrorists who infiltrated Israel in an attempt to carry out an attack on Israeli civilians.

Maj. (res.) Amotz Greenberg, 45, from Hod Hasharon, was killed by Hamas terrorists who infiltrated Israel in an attempt to carry out an attack on Israeli civilians.


July 18

First Sgt. Eitan Barak, was killed overnight fighting Hamas terrorists in Gaza.
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"The Palestinians insist to say the last word, we will consider our response"

Israel, The morning after the rocket attack in the south, senior defense officials will hold evaluation of the situation and discuss possible sanctions on the fire. A security official: considering to extend the closing Kerem Shalom and respond to rocket attack.

A security official referred to this morning rocket lounch at the western Negev, saying that the Palestinians "have a tendency to always insist violent rounds seeks the last word, by shooting a rocket or mortar fire."

Although the rocket exploded in an open area, and the "Iron Dome" that was estimating the rocket route was not activated, the day will be led by evaluation of the situation by Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon at his office. Participate in it, Lt. - Gen. Benny Gantz, the head of Military Intelligence, Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi and other officials. They will discuss among other things the possibility of a response to rocket fire, but mainly on future measures of punishment. On the agenda - considerations of to continue the closure of Kerem Shalom.
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Israeli killed in shooting attack at Gaza fence, he was working on the Israel-Gaza border fence

An Israeli civilian was shot and killed by sniper fire in a shooting attack near the Israel-Gaza border fence. PM Netanyahu: "This is a very severe incident and we will not let it go unanswered."

An Israeli civilian was shot and killed by sniper fire on Tuesday (24 December 2013) in southern Israel in a shooting attack near the Israel-Gaza border fence.

The attack occurred as the man was repairing a part of the security fence damaged by the winter storm last week. He was flown by helicopter to Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba but died of his wounds en route.

Prime Minister Netanyahu: "This is a very severe incident and we will not let it go unanswered. Our policy until now has been to act beforehand and to respond in force and this is how we will act regarding this incident as well."

There have been several attempts to place explosives on the border fence in the past several days. On Monday (December 23) a rocket fired from Gaza landed near a children’s bus stop in the Ashkelon area.
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The rebels in Syria include a few dozen operatives from the Salafist-jihadi organizations in the Gaza Strip

ITIC, Israel, On November 26, 2013, the BBC’s Arabic-language channel broadcast a report covering the phenomenon of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip fighting in Syria against the Assad regime. According to the report, dozens of Salafist-jihadi members of radical Islamic movements in the Gaza Strip have gone to Syria. The BBC correspondent in the Gaza Strip estimates that the phenomenon of joining the rebels stems from persecution of Salafist operatives by the Hamas security forces and from the lull policy of Hamas, which prevents Salafist operatives from attacking Israel (BBC in Arabic, November 26, 2013).

We estimate the number of volunteers from the Gaza Strip who have joined forces with the rebels at several dozen (around 20-23). Seven of them were killed, including three in suicide attacks (Al-Hayat, November 28, 2013). Most of them belong to Salafist-jihadi organizations and some are former Hamas operatives. They enter Syria via Turkey (as do most of the foreign volunteers). Some ostensibly depart for Saudi Arabia (for example, under the guise of going on a Hajj) and from there they enter Syria via Turkey. In Syria, they usually join the Al-Nusra Front and other jihadist organizations.

The number of Palestinian volunteers from the Gaza Strip who join the ranks of the rebels is still relatively low, but it has been on the rise over the past year (like the phenomenon of foreign volunteers in general). In Syria, the Salafist-jihadi volunteers from the Gaza Strip are expected to acquire military experience, ideological training and ties with groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda and the global jihad. Upon their return to the Gaza Strip, they are liable to become a hotbed of terrorism and subversion against Israel, Egypt and even the Hamas de-facto government.

In our estimation, besides the volunteers from the Gaza Strip there are about 10-15 Arabs from Israel in Syria, along with several dozen Palestinians from Lebanon and Syria and a small number of Palestinians from Judea and Samaria. These figures indicate that this is still not a widespread phenomenon among Israeli Arabs and Palestinians. Nevertheless, as aforesaid, once these volunteers return to their countries, they will represent a potential source of terrorism and subversion.

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One Year after Operation Pillar of Defense: PM Netanyahu Visits IDF Gaza Division

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, visited the IDF Gaza Division, to mark one year since Operation Pillar of Defense. During the visit, he received security briefings from Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, Deputy IDF Chief-of-Staff Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot and GOC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Shlomo Turgeman.

At the start of the visit, Prime Minister Netanyahu said:

"We are marking one year since Operation Pillar of Defense. The numbers are sharp. There has been a 98% decline in high-trajectory firing. It seems that most of the firing has been ineffective; there have been 35 instances. There is no doubt that significant deterrence has been achieved.

However, we are not deluding ourselves. We know that Hamas and the other terrorist organizations are continuing to arm themselves in various ways. They are also trying to develop the underground track, i.e. tunnels, and we are called upon to find a response to all of these threats and, at the same time, continue the strong deterrence that we have achieved and which we are maintaining.

In the end, this deterrence is achieved by the enemy's knowing that we will not tolerate attacks on our communities and our soldiers, and that we will respond in great strength. This is the foundation of our deterrence. The means serve this sense and this policy but this is the foundation of deterrence.

At the same time, we have worked to close the Sinai border. There, Israel is, in effect, the first country that has succeeded to a large degree, one might say even to an absolute degree, in closing its borders. In the past three months there have been no entries into the State of Israel. This is a very major success on the part of the Government, the IDF and the other intelligence systems that have been established along this barrier.

These two matters – the war against terrorism, including the continuing deterrence and finding answers to new threats, alongside guarding our borders, are among the principal missions that we are committed to carrying out, and not just in this sector."

At the conclusion of his visit, the Prime Minister said:

"Hamas is manufacturing and storing missiles and rockets that are concentrated in residential buildings and aimed at Israeli citizens. Israel will continue to strictly uphold international law but will not sit on its hands in the face of terrorists who perpetrate two war crimes at the same time: They are prepared to fire at Israeli cities and are hiding behind civilians in the Gaza Strip. It is our full legal and moral right to direct fire – that is as precise as possible – at those who fire indiscriminately at our people. The responsibility for any collateral damage that is liable to be caused to the residents of Gaza lies squarely on Hamas's shoulders. I would like to express my appreciation and that of the nation to the IDF and the security forces in the sector."

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Israel Frees Palestinian terrorists Before Peace Talks

WJC, Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators are due to convene Wednesday in Jerusalem after a three-year stand-off ended with a first round preliminary talks in Washington last month. Follow-up meetings are expected every few weeks in venues including Jericho in the West Bank in pursuit of US Secretary of State John Kerry's goal of clinching a peace accord within nine months. On Tuesday, Israel released 26 Palestinian prisoners who served jail sentences for terrorism offenses.

Israel’s announcement to build new houses in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, which the Palestinians claim to be part of their state has caused controversy. However, the release of the 26, the first batch of 104 Palestinians serving long jail terms in Israel, may improve Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's domestic standing despite his having dropped demands to condition peace talks on a halt to settlement building.

Hundreds of their relatives gathered in the presidential compound in Ramallah in the early hours of Wednesday, waving Palestinian flags and greeting their arrival with tears and chants. Abbas greeted each of the eleven prisoners released to the West Bank with kisses on both cheeks. He locked hands with some of the prisoners making victory signs on a high stage and basked in waves of flash photography. "We congratulate ourselves and our families for our brothers who left the darkness of the prisons for the light of the sun of freedom. We say to them and to you that the remainder are on their way, these are just the first," Abbas told the crowd.

In Gaza, when the other fifteen prisoners crossed an Israeli checkpoint into Palestinian territory, their family members fired guns and set off fireworks.
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Gaza: Children trained as Jihadist fighters in summer camp

 

The camp is organized by the Islamic Jihad movement during a summer school vacation in the town of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip

 


WJC, Children between the ages of six and 16 in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip have been photographed doing life-like military training exercises, fire guns and jump over burning tires, according to the news agency AFP. The camp is organized by the Islamic Jihad movement during a summer school vacation in the town of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip.
One of the pictures shows young boys dragging a Khaki-clad doll away from an Israeli flag, in what appears to be a re-enactment of the kidnapping in 2006 of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. He was finally released after more than five years in captivity, as part of a prisoner exchange between Hamas and Israel.
On the photos, boys are also pictured marching and standing to attention as orders were barked at them to instill military discipline. Visitors to the camp, called Generation of Faith, are given AK47s machine guns that are bigger than some of the children holding them. Participants wear black uniforms bearing the camp's slogan in Arabic, with a logo showing two fists, two guns and a map of the Gaza Strip.
AFP reports that the camp organizers expect the participation of up to 10,000 Palestinian children throughout the summer.

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WJC ANALYSIS - The choice between two evils: the PLO and UNESCO and the crisis in Gaza

While Gaza presents Israel with a military and security challenge, the government in Ramallah is challenging Israel's very legitimacy and identity

 


By Pinhas Inbari
WJC, Last week Israel was twice tested by the Palestinian leadership. On the one hand, its territory was bombarded by missiles out of Gaza, while on the other, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was admitted to UNESCO as a permanent member of the organization. These events illustrate the challenges Israel is facing with regard to Hamas and the Fatah, Gaza and Ramallah, and the decisions and choices it must make.
While Gaza presents Israel with a military and security challenge, the government in Ramallah is challenging Israel's very legitimacy and identity. Immediately after the vote in UNESCO, the PLO announced its plans to question Israel's connection to the holy land in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and on the entirety of Israel’s territory. It also announced its plans to pursue legal action against Israel for the "identity-stealing" of the Arab character of Palestine, Judaizing the legacy of Jerusalem and antiquities theft. The PLO will task UNESCO with the mission of reconstructing the genuine Arab character of the land, allegedly distorted by Israel.
It has been suggested that Israel's government actually prefers dealing with Hamas instead of the Fatah, as it does not essentially confront the Hamas government in Gaza, but its rival – the Islamic Jihad. Moreover, Hamas – through Egypt – is cooperating with Israel by calming down the tensions and stopping the missiles attacks on Israel, in contrast to Ramallah, who is directly confronting Israel in UNESCO and other international bodies.
Surprisingly, Israel's neighbor Jordan also prefers Hamas over the government in Ramallah. It was reported that the new prime minister of Jordan, Awn al-Khassawneh, declared that closing down Hamas’ headquarters in Amman in 1999 was a mistake. It was even reported that a visit by Khaled Mash'al in the royal palace would be welcomed by king Abdallah in the near future.
The PLO's success with UNESCO is thus clouded by Hamas communication with Israel via Egypt and the looming possibility of the return to their headquarters in Amman. Jordan is troubled by the PLO joining UNESCO because until now Jordan represented Jerusalem at the organization. The Palestinians are now asking it to step aside and relinquish custody of the al-Aqsa mosque. This matter is not taken lightly in Amman, which may be more amenable to improving relations with Hamas as a way to get back at the PLO.
On his part, PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas still plans to retire. Abbas has tried to arrange a meeting with Hamas' Khaleed Mashal to coordinate early elections that will end his tenure in office, but so far to no avail. For Hamas, elections do not constitute a priority. Nor does the organization trust Fatah to run a fair election in the West Bank, claiming that the Palestinian Legislative Council could go another ten years without an election, as it has under Fatah. In addition, Hamas is demanding that Fayyad's government be ended and the US-trained Dayton forces be dispersed.
However, in contrast to the PLO, Hamas is against the dismantling of the Palestinian Authority because it provides legitimacy and power to an organization that would otherwise be considered as a mere militia.
Hamas is faced with its own challenges in Gaza. While trying to improve its status as a regional player, it is besieged by internal trouble in the form of Iran-supported Islamic Jihad, unhappy about the Schalit deal. It is telling that the commander of the Qassam Brigades, the military arm of Hamas, Ahmad Ja'bari, has come out of hiding and now moves about freely in Gaza, unafraid of being targeted by Israel. The Palestine Resistance Committees and Fatah believe this new development is a direct consequence of the Schalit deal, which has given Hamas further opportunities to steer away from the 'resistance' policy in Gaza.
The choice between running a government or pursuing a policy of resistance is the real test Hamas is facing — not only with regard to Israel, but also in its relations with Jordan and Egypt. Time will tell if Hamas is as able at running a government as it is at running the 'resistance'.

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