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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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Israel under fire

Families in southern Israel awoke to the sounds of red alert sirens calling them into their bomb shelters
Men, women, and children, had 15 seconds to run and seek shelter in the middle of the night. These rockets were continuously launched at these communities and have remained ongoing.
Hamas has launched more than 100 rockets and mortar shells at Israeli civilians.

The IDF carried out the largest wave of daytime strikes since Operation Protective Edge in summer 2014. The IDF struck more than 40 terror targets in the Gaza Strip, including 2 terror tunnels, 2 large logistic centers, and a Hamas Battalion HQ in Beit Lahia in northern Gaza.

“All the Iron Dome batteries and other elements were deployed in the last few weeks and prepared for this situation and we are ready for all possible scenarios,” said Chief of the Aerial Defense Array Brigadier General, Zvika Haimovich.

Before the strikes began, the IDF Arabic Spokesperson, Maj. Avichay Adraee sent out warnings to the civilians in the Gaza Strip in Arabic, warning them to stay away from areas where they know that terror activity is taking place. So far, there are no known casualties on the Gazan side.

“A combination of terror along the security fence, arson terror, and rockets are what eventually caused us to retaliate against Hamas,” said Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus, Head of the International and Social Media Branch. “The purpose of the strikes was to stop the terror against Israeli civilians, stop the terror on the fence, and to stop the arson terror.”

Since March 2018, the State of Israel has endured Hamas terror in the form of weekly violent riots, arson kites, incendiary balloons, and most recently, rockets. For months Hamas has targeted Israeli civilians on a weekly basis. The riots on the fence are becoming more violent, as an IDF officer was injured yesterday when an explosive device was thrown at him. He was wounded in the chest and is currently recovering and stable. This officer’s injury represents the increasingly violent nature of the riots along the security fence and Hamas’ true intentions behind the “Great Return March.”

The IDF holds Hamas responsible for everything occurring in and emanating from the Gaza Strip. The IDF will continue to defend Israeli civilians and sovereignty against those who seek to harm either.

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Two days of Terror - In Jerusalem, Jaffa and Petah Tikva

Today March 9, 2016, In Jerusalem a resident of Beit Hanina was seriously wounded when two terrorists tried to run over policemen and civilians and open fire near the light rail stop opposite Damascus Gate. They were shot and killed by police.

Yesterday March 8, 2016: In Jerusalem at the Old City: A Palestinian woman approached Border Police officers on Hagai Street, drew a knife from her back, and tried to stab them. The assailant was shot and killed.

In Jerusalem two Border Police officers were wounded, one critically, when a terrorist on a motorcycle opened fire with an automatic weapon on Salah a-Din Street, near Damascus Gate. The assailant was shot and killed.

In Petah Tikva: One Israeli was moderately wounded in a terror stabbing. The victim removed the knife from his neck and killed his assailant.

In Jaffa a 29-year-old American student Taylor Force was killed and 10 others wounded in a stabbing attack which began near the Jaffa port. The assailant fled on foot along the Tel Aviv beach promenade, stabbing passersby and motorists before he was shot and killed by police.

Hamas Spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri praised the attacks: "Hamas congratulates the three heroic operations this evening, in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Jaffa, and considers this proof of the failure for all these theories to abort the Intifada, which will continue until the realization of its goals. Hamas celebrates the martyrs that have ascended through these operations, and confirms that their pure blood will, God willing, be the fuel for escalating the Intifada."
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Parents of Slain Israeli Teens Spoke in NY

Parents of two of three Israeli teens whose killings by Hamas last summer sparked Gaza conflict joined Jerusalem Mayor Barkat and Rabbi Lord Sacks at UJA-Federation of New York event

NEW YORK, The parents of two of the three Israeli teens who were murdered by Hamas last summer preceding Operation Protective Edge spoke at a UJA-Federation of New York event on Thursday celebrating the Jerusalem Unity Prize.

Racheli Fraenkel, the mother of Naftali Fraenkel, z”l, and Ofir Shaer, the father of Gilad Shaer, z”l, joined Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Emeritus Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, in a discussion, moderated by The Forward’s Jane Eisner, to discuss how the tragedy led to the creation of the Jerusalem Unity Prize.

The prize was conceived in partnership with the families of the three boys and the Jerusalem-based organization Gesher as a way to perpetuate the spirit of unity across Israel and around the world during the days following the boys’ kidnapping.

“The support the world has shown us has been incredible,” said Fraenkel. “During those tense days I felt a sense of unity that transcended my anxiety and the desperation of the search for my son. People called from all over Israel and, then, from all corners of the world.”

“After our son’s tragic murder, the most important decision my family made was to open our hearts,” said Shaer. “We feel an obligation to ensure that the personal pain that we have experienced be channeled for the betterment of people all over the world and this is what we all hope this prize will accomplish.”

“The unity that has developed from this tragedy is one of the most important and empowering things I’ve seen in the last decade,” added Barkat, who has been one of the driving forces behind the Unity Prize. “If Hamas had known how its act of terror would bring us together, they wouldn’t have dared kidnap our boys. Unity is a central value in our identity as a people and this prize will afford us the chance to advance these ideals across Israel and around the world.”

The Jerusalem Unity Prize will be presented in three separate categories, each with a prize of up to 100,000 NIS ($25,000). A committee chaired by Barkat, the parents of the three boys, and dignitaries from Israel and the Diaspora will choose the winners.

Eric. S. Goldstein, CEO, UJA-Federation of New York said: “These past months have shown us how well we bear each other up in the worst of times. The Jerusalem Unity Prize, which was developed by the families of the three boys— together with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Gesher, and with support from UJA-Federation and others, reminds us to find common ground and raise each other up, not just in crisis — but always.”

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FM Liberman meets US Secretary Kerry in Washington

FM Liberman: Ultimately, the aim of all Islamic terror is one and the same: the destruction of Western civilization. Hence, just as we cannot negotiate with ISIS, we cannot negotiate with Hamas.


Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman met in Washington D.C. with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Minister Liberman told Secretary Kerry that Israel deeply appreciates America's support during Operation Protective Edge and that the Israeli leadership and people know that the United States is Israel's greatest friend. FM Liberman asked Secretary Kerry to have the State Department's travel warning to Israel changed in the wake of the end of Operation Protective Edge, so that American citizens will know that there is no reason not to visit Israel, and they will not be in any danger.

FM Liberman told Secretary Kerry that Israel supports the United States in its efforts to form a broad international front against ISIS, and stands ready to help in this task should it be asked, taking into consideration the sensitivities of the states taking part and the needs of the United States.

Minister Liberman noted that the war against terror, in all its forms, is the most important taks of the free world today. We cannot differentiate one form of terror from another. The Hamas terrorist activities against Israel and against the people of Gaza are no different from the terror of ISIS. The difference is only semantic and in the media approach adopted by the organizations. Ultimately, the aim of all Islamic terror is one and the same: the destruction of Western civilization. Hence, just as we cannot negotiate with ISIS, we cannot negotiate with Hamas. As long as Hamas rules in Gaza, there will not be peace or security. Anyone who seeks to advance an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians must bring an end to the rule of terror within the Palestinian Authority.

FM Liberman also told Secretary Kerry that the need to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear state is part of the same struggle, because Iran is the number one exporter of terror in the world. If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, the world will be a much more dangerous place and the Middle East will enter a nuclear arms race that will convulse the region even more than today. The world powers must stand firm in their negotiations with Iran and continue the sanctions, because there can be no compromise with terrorism.
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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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Operation Protective Edge: Egyptian FM announces ceasefire

On Tuesday evening, August 26, the Egyptian Foreign Minister announced a ceasefire, which entered into effect at 7 pm.​ Israel has agreed to Egyptian proposal for ceasefire that will be unlimited in time.

Since the start of Operation Protective Edge, 4,562 rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza - 1,042 since the violation of the ceasefire on August 19 - killing six civilians and wounding 127.

A rocket hit an Ashkelon home Tuesday morning, wounding over 20 people, including six young children.Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack. In the afternoon, a rocket exploded in the playground of a kindergarten in Ashdod.
Shortly before 6:00 pm, Ze'ev Etzion, 55, and Shahar Melamed, 43, of Kibbutz Nirim were killed and four wounded in a mortar attack on the Eshkol region.

On Tuesday evening, the Egyptian Foreign Minister announced a ceasefire, which entered into effect at 7 pm. Until then, rocket alerts sounded throughout Israel's south. Hamas claimed responsibility for a rocket fired towards Tel Aviv.


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