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Israel and Gaza: How did we get here?

For months, there has been an escalation of violence along the security fence between Gaza and Israel, including violent riots and the most serious incident since Operation Protective Edge in 2014. In addition to the riots, Hamas operatives began carrying out a new kind of attack, using arson kites and incendiary balloons to set Israeli land ablaze. These incendiary devices heavily impacted Israel’s southern communities, burning more than 8,000 acres of Israeli land and setting about 11 fires each day.

During violent, Hamas-lead riots, a sniper from the Gaza Strip shot and killed IDF Staff Sgt. Aviv Levi. This lead to a wide-scale response, in which IAF fighter jets struck over 60 Hamas terror targets in a strategic campaign to significantly damage Hamas’ combat capabilities.

With tensions rising, it’s leading many to ask how the relationship between Israel and Gaza got to this point.

Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005 after years of attacks on Israeli civilians. All IDF posts were removed and over 9,000 Israeli citizens living in 25 communities were evicted.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who was in office at the time, addressed the United Nations General Assembly, expressing hope for a better future for Gazan civilians. “The end of Israeli control over and responsibility for the Gaza Strip allows the Palestinians, if they so wish, to develop their economy and build a peace-seeking society, which is developed, free, law-abiding, and transparent, and which adheres to democratic principles,” he said.

Prior to being evicted, the Jewish communities in Gaza owned thousands of greenhouses and had a flourishing agricultural economy. Upon their eviction, 3,000 of these greenhouses were left to help kick-start Gaza’s economy. Unfortunately, shortly after Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, the greenhouses were looted and some of the equipment was turned into rockets that were subsequently fired at Israel.

Immediately after Hamas was elected into power in 2007, huge amounts of munitions were illegally smuggled into Gaza. This included 31 tons of military grade explosive materials and 14,000 rifles. Additionally, in the first year of Hamas’ reign, hundreds of rockets were fired at Israel. Israel’s Security Cabinet then declared the Gaza Strip a hostile territory.

In the years to follow, Hamas continued to misuse funds and supplies in Gaza. Over $120 million worth of concrete originally intended to develop civilian infrastructure was used to build terror tunnels to infiltrate Israel. These tunnels were used as early as 2006 in the kidnapping of IDF soldier, Sergeant 1st Class Gilad Shalit.

Since then, Hamas has continued to waste concrete on terror tunnels, and in the construction process, has killed more than 400 Palestinians, including at least 160 children. Attempts were made to smuggle weapons into Gaza via the Mediterranean Sea, which led to the imposition of a legal naval blockade. Additionally, rocket and mortar shell fire continued, inflicting wide-spread damage and trauma on Israel’s southern residents in particular, which lead to the development of the Iron Dome aerial defense system.

Today, the relationship between Israel and Gaza remains tense. Yet Gazan civilians are still allowed to enter Israel to receive medical treatment, pray, study, travel, and work on a daily basis. Israel regularly facilitates the transfer of humanitarian supplies to the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom Crossing, even in times of conflict, including during Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

Hamas remains accountable for controlling the Gaza Strip, and continues to put its terror-based goals above the needs of its people. They insist on inciting violence and wasting vital supplies on terror activity. The IDF will continue to operate as necessary to safeguard the security needs of the State of Israel, and is ready to defend Israeli civilians and sovereignty.


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Israel Under Attack

Hamas began shooting projectiles at Israeli civilians.

In response, IDF fighter jets struck 12 terror targets in Gaza, including a factory used to manufacture parts for terror tunnels and concrete, a maritime terror tunnel shaft along the coast, and several terror sites in military compounds, among them rocket manufacturing facilities and a central logistical military complex.

The factory used to manufacture parts for terror tunnels was intended to be used as a hotel, but was overtaken by the Hamas terror organization in 2012. The factory manufactures parts for terror tunnels under the guise of civilian infrastructure.

In 2012, during Operation Pillar of Defense, senior Hamas members used the building as shelter, believing the IDF would not target a civilian hotel construction site. In this building, Hamas terrorists continued to plan fighting and command rocket launching units. Months later, in 2013, Hamas took over the site entirely, blocked the entrance, and began establishing a concrete factory under the guise of a civilian construction site. The factory manufactured concrete parts designed exclusively for terror tunnels, including reinforcements, flooring, and concrete arches, which have no civilian use.

Hamas operated engineering vehicles in the site, and loaded the parts clandestinely onto trucks covered with tarp, to be delivered to digging sites across the Gaza Strip. The factory stopped producing concrete during Operation Protective Edge (2014), but continued serving Hamas' war efforts – rocket launchers were placed in its vicinity and Hamas operatives resided in the site during the fighting.

The launch sites were dug adjacent to the structure, again believing it would not be an IDF target due to its civilian appearance. During the operation, four rockets were launched at Israel. Immediately after this, the factory resumed its regular activity and has continued to be a source of concrete parts for Hamas' terror tunnels. The open areas around the factory were also considered a "closed military zone" and Hamas used them to practice short and medium range rocket launching and briefly operated a tunnel digging workshop there.

The IDF strike was conducted in response to the shots fired at civilian engineering vehicles earlier today, and the multiple rockets launched from the Gaza Strip at Israeli territory this evening. The Hamas terror organization continues to target IDF troops, security infrastructure, and Israeli civilians.

Early Thursday morning, IDF fighter jets targeted over 100 of Hamas’ strategic military sites. The strikes took place in ten of Hamas' military compounds throughout the Gaza Strip, and included manufacturing facilities, training complexes and advanced weapons and capability sites.

Among the targets were:

- Hamas headquarters in Jabalia, including dozens of military sites

- A military compound used by the commander of northern Gaza City, which included a maritime tunnel

- A Hamas outpost used by the Jabalia Battalion for urban warfare and underwater training

- A military compound of the Zaytun battalion used to store weapons and for terror tunnel digging

- A military compound of the East Jabalia Battalion used for training in urban warfare, and the site of a shaft leading to an terror tunnel complex

- A Hamas base in the northern Gaza Strip used for urban warfare training and rocket launching

- A compound of the Jabalia Battalion used for training and meetings of senior battalion commanders

- A military compound used by Hamas to store weapons and explosives. The site used to be home to rocket launching dugouts.

- Hamas military compound used by the Deir al-Balah Battalion, which is the site of a current tunnel digging operation

These strikes were conducted in response to the rockets launched from the Gaza Strip at Israel over the course of the evening and into the early morning hours.

“The important part is the decision making on the Gazan side, on Hamas’ side, and what they will try to achieve by firing rockets at Israeli civilians. I think that they are not furthering or promoting their own interest or the civilian interest in Gaza by escalating the situation, and by firing at Israeli civilians,” said Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus, Head of the International Press and Social Media Branch.

Hamas is responsible for the events transpiring in the Gaza Strip and emanating from it and will bear the consequences for its actions against Israeli civilians and sovereignty. The IDF condemns terror activity and is prepared for a wide variety of scenarios while continuing to fulfill its mission to defend Israeli civilians.
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Sniper in Gaza Kills IDF Staff Sergeant Aviv Levi

Once again, violent riots broke out on Friday, July 20th in the Gaza Strip, during which explosive devices were thrown and shots were fired at IDF troops. A platoon sergeant in the Givati Brigade, Staff Sergeant Aviv Levi, was severely injured when he was shot in the chest during a violent riot near the southern Gaza Strip. He later succumbed to his wounds. He was only 21 years old.

In response to the death of the soldier and the violence along the security fence, Israeli Air Force fighter jets conducted a wide-scale strike on Hamas terror targets throughout the Gaza Strip. This operation included airstrikes on 60 sites in three Hamas battalion headquarters located in Khan Yunis, al-Bureij, and Zaytun.

The IDF’s targets included weapon manufacturing sites, an entrance to a tunnel network, a factory used to produce materials for underground infrastructure, a UAV warehouse, military operations rooms, training facilities, and observation posts.

In addition to the violence near the security fence, three rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip, setting off sirens in the Sha'ar Hanegev and Sdot Negev Regional Councils. While a ceasefire was agreed upon early Saturday morning, Hamas violated it when terrorists infiltrated Israel on Saturday at noon.

Since March 2018, Hamas has sent Gazan civilians to violently riot at the security fence, and the IDF has operated within the rules of engagement and done everything in its power to defend Israeli civilians and sovereignty. The IDF will continue to fulfil its duty to the Israeli people and will not allow Hamas to murder Israeli soldiers, fire rockets towards Israeli cities, throw explosives, or burn Israel’s forests and farmland.


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Tell United Nations To Condemn Hamas’ Environmental War Crimes!

We call upon Mr. Erik Solheim, Executive Director of the UN Environmental Programme, to condemn Hamas and other terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip for causing severe environmental damage to southern Israel.

Over the course of the past three months, Hamas operatives and other terrorists have burned thousands of tires and launched hundreds of incendiary devices into Israeli territory. The combined effect of these heinous acts has not only led to the release of toxic materials into the fragile ecosystem, but has resulted in the destruction of more than 7,400 acres of land, hundreds of acres of wheat fields, and 2,700 acres of protected nature reserves.

When these devices touch down in Israel they leave a deadly path in their wake. Local wildlife are either killed or forced to flee their native habitats. Forests and farmland have been ravaged. And the livelihood of the thousands of farmers who have committed their lives to turning what was once desert into an oasis has been shattered.
Thus far, 900 incendiary devices were sent across the border, leading to more than 750 fires –an average of eleven per day. Not only has the cost of damage exceeded $3 million, but it will take years to reverse the ecological damage caused by Hamas.

Both the United Nations Resolutions and International Humanitarian Law expressly prohibit the destruction of the natural environment in armed conflict, and yet the international community has remained silent as Hamas wages environmental warfare that endangers civilians, wildlife, and ravages the natural beauty and resources of Israel's southern region.

In May 2016, the Environment Assembly of the United Nations Environment Programme reaffirmed UN General Assembly resolution 47/37 entitled “Protection of the environment in armed conflict” which stressed “that destruction of the environment, not justified by military necessity and carried out wantonly, is clearly contrary to existing international law”.
Article 35 (3) of the Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions states: “It is prohibited to employ methods or means of warfare which are intended, or may be expected, to cause widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross regards these obligations as customary international law. Based on the texts of these statutes, it is evident that Hamas has intentionally committed environmental damage, amounting to environmental war crimes.

Therefore, the World Jewish Congress calls on the UN Environmental Programme and Director Solheim to condemn these acts and use all necessary measures at their disposal to ensure that these illegal actions cease immediately.
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Major attempt to smuggle contraband to Gaza foiled


​Concealed in a supposedly innocent supply of textiles and jewelry, the cargo was intended for use in various fortification tasks and in the construction of Hamas' underground tunnel network.

An attempt to smuggle a large consignment of pipes for the production of mortars and dozens of electric motors for use in the Hamas underground tunnel system in the Gaza Strip has been foiled.

The security personnel from the Defense Ministry Crossings Authority and the ISA stopped a large consignment of goods suspected of being intended for Hamas terrorist elements in Gaza at the Tarqumiya Crossing near Hebron.

The cargo was concealed in a supposedly innocent supply of textiles and jewelry. It included hundreds of 4 inch metal tubes, with special drill fittings used to manufacture mortars and rockets and dozens of electric motors used in various fortification tasks, including the construction of Hamas' underground tunnel network.

The consignment was intended for Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing. The shipment was confiscated and an investigation has been launched to find those involved in the smuggling.
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Cross-border attack from Gaza

​In response to the unprovoked attack, in which an IDF combat soldier from the Bedouin Reconnaissance Battalion was severely wounded, the IDF targeted Hamas positions in Gaza with tank fire and an airstrike.

​Following is a summary of events near the Gaza border earlier today (Wednesday, 24 December) according to media reports:

Today's events began with Palestinian sniper fire, including machine gun fire, on IDF troops protecting construction workers on the Israeli side of the border with the southern Gaza Strip. The laborers were working on the border fence near Kibbutz Kissufim.

As a result of the attack, an IDF combat soldier from the Bedouin Reconnaissance Battalion suffered a severe chest injury and was evacuated to hospital for further medical treatment. The soldier's family has been notified.

In response to the unprovoked attack, the IDF targeted Hamas positions in Gaza with tank fire and an airstrike. According to Palestinian sources, the commander of the Hamas al-Qassam Brigades' observation unit was killed in the exchange of fire.

This morning's attack follows the launch of a rocket from Gaza into southern Israel on Friday (19 December). In response to that attack, the Israel Air Force struck a Hamas installation in the Gaza Strip, the first Israeli retaliatory strike since the summer's conflict with Hamas.

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, IDF Spokesman: "This attack, the second this week, is a lethal violation of the relative quiet along the Gaza border and is a blatant breach of Israel's sovereignty. The IDF will continue to use all necessary means in order to maintain the safety of the citizens of southern Israel and will not hesitate to respond to any attempt to harm IDF soldiers."
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President Rivlin meets with Norwegian FM Brende

​President Rivlin: The rehabilitation and reconstruction of Gaza should be linked to the demilitarization of Gaza, because otherwise Hamas will use the financial aid to further military aims and enhance their ability to attack Israel once again. 


President Reuven Rivlin, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, met with Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende and told him at the start of their meeting, "I would like to welcome you once again to our state and to the region. We appreciate very much your concern and your idea to come to us once again and the appreciation goes with the understanding that you are very much worried about the situation with the people of Gaza."
President Rivlin added that, "The reconstruction of Gaza is one of our interests as much as it is of the all the free world. The rehabilitation and reconstruction of Gaza should go along with the demilitarization of Gaza because otherwise we can see the next round in no time because the Hamas people once again will spend all the money that the whole world is trying to help them with in order to reconstruct Gaza, and will put it into military aims and the ability to attack Israel once again. We can come to a dead-end once again and we could find ourselves in a very, very serious situation." The President concluded his remarks by saying, "I very much appreciate the idea that you are trying to help all those people who need humanitarian help."
Norwegian Foreign Minister Brende thanked President Rivlin for his kind words and said, "I know that this has been a very difficult summer for Israel. I was here in July and I saw this. It has been tough on Israel and tough on the Palestinian people." He added, "I know now that there are important negotiations on a more permanent ceasefire and the conditions in Gaza under Egyptian leadership and I think that this is important." The Norwegian Foreign Minister also said, "We cannot discuss the Israel and Palestinian situations without looking at in a broader context," and referred to ISIS and the situation in Iraq.
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Two Hamas commanders killed in air strike

Senior Hamas commanders Mohammed Abu Shamaleh and Raed Al-Attar were killed in an Israeli air strike near Rafah in the Gaza Strip early this morning.

Mohammed Abu Shamaleh was the senior Hamas commander in the southern Gaza Strip and oversaw and commanded the terror campaign in the southern Gaza Strip. Born in 1974, he joined Hamas in the early 1990's along with Muhammad Deif and Raed Al-Attar.

Most notably, Abu Shameleh and Al-Attar orchestrated the 2006 attack on the Kerem Shalom crossing in which two IDF soldiers were killed and IDF soldier Gilad Shalit was captured.

Abu Shameleh was most recently involved in the July 17 infiltration of 13 Hamas operatives through an offensive tunnel into southern Israel, near Sufa. He was also involved in killing an Israeli soldier in 1994 in Rafah and for several tunnel attacks in 2004 in which six soldiers were killed and ten wounded. In May 2008, he directed an attack on the Kerem Shalom crossing, using booby-trapped jeeps and wounding 13 soldiers.

Raed Al-Attar, the Hamas commander in Rafah, was one of the architects of the construction of cross-border assault tunnels into Israeli territory, both in the Rafah area and throughout the Gaza Strip. Attar was responsible for overseeing all terror activity in the Rafah region; orchestrating complex attacks, constructing offensive terror tunnels which infiltrated into Israeli territory and designing terror attacks via the Sinai Peninsula. His role in the Hamas terror apparatus was to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip and oversee the terrorist capabilities recruiting and arming in the Rafah region.

Attar was also responsible for the murder and abduction of Lt. Hadar Goldin during Operation Protective Edge, and the Rafah brigade under his command was involved in other incidents during the campaign in which IDF soldiers were wounded.

In 1994, Attar was involved in a shooting which killed an Israeli soldier on the Egyptian border. In 2002, he planned a deadly attack on an Israeli post near Kerem Shalom in which four IDF soldiers of the Bedouin desert patrol unit were killed.
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Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper: Hamas responsible for civilian deaths in Gaza

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper accused Hamas for the deaths of civilians in Gaza. In a television interview conducted last night Harper said: "Obviously, no one likes to see the suffering and loss of human life., But we see the Hamas terrorist organization responsible for it." Harper added that "Hamas is initiated to continue the conflict, and will continue to strive for the destruction of Israel."
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FM Liberman meets with German parliamentarians

What is important for the future is the creation of a control mechanism that will ensure that the funds and building materials that enter Gaza will be used solely for the building of civilian infrastructures - such as schools and health clinics - and not to produce rockets or to dig new tunnels.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman met at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem with a delegation of German parliamentarians who came to show solidarity and to express support for Israel. FM Liberman thanked them for their support and voiced his appreciation of the positions adopted by Germany in the European Union and other international forums with regard to Israel.

FM Liberman said that what is happening today in the Middle East is a colliding of civilizations between the free world and radical Islam, and what is happening in Gaza is only one manifestation of this - one of a long list of conflicts: in Libya, in Iraq, and elsewhere. This struggle is the greatest challenge facing the free world since World War II, and Europe must be committed to supporting Israel. Beyond the moral aspects of the issue, Israel is the vanguard on this front, because it represents Western values. This is why Islamic extremists are fighting Israel, said Liberman, and added that he is not sure that everyone in Europe understands this.

FM Liberman stressed that, with regard to Gaza, Israel has done what the international community and Europe advocated for years, dismantling all the Israeli communities there. In return, instead of peace and stability, we received radical Islam, which has been attacking Israel from Gaza with rockets and other terrorist activities, virtually since the day Israel disengaged from Gaza.

Hamas does not advocate the establishment of a Palestinian state or a two-state solution, but the establishment of a single, large Islamic state, said Liberman.

What is important for the future is the creation of a control mechanism that will ensure that the funds and building materials that enter Gaza will be used solely for the building of civilian infrastructures - such as schools and health clinics - and not to produce rockets or to dig new tunnels.
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