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|Friday, Aug 22 '14, Av 26, 5774|
1. Rockets Barely Miss Packed Israeli Kindergarten
by Tova Dvorin
A salvo of rockets landed close to a packed Israeli kindergarten in the south on Friday, breaking the calm after a relatively quiet night.
A five-rocket salvo saw the Iron Dome intercept two rockets over Ashkelon. Three rockets struck the western Negev; one of them landed just 12 meters (roughly feet) from a packed kindergarten. Luckily, all children and staff are safe; the building was protected from rocket fire and all of the occupants were in safe areas.
Earlier on Friday, a 54 year-old man in Be'er Sheva was moderately wounded by shrapnel from a three-rocket salvo on the southern capital. Local power outages have also been reported in the area and at least one car was hit by shrapnel.
Earlier Friday, an additional salvo was fired at the Ashkelon Regional Council, near the Gaza Belt, and in the Negev, but there are no injuries nor damage reported.
The near-miss follows Education Minister Shai Piron's assertion Thursday that the school year would continue as usual, despite the ongoing rocket fire on civilians.
“The school year will begin as planned. We are prepared for any security-related occurrences,” the MK explained. “During the first two weeks of the school year, the education system will not be occupied with regular teaching, but rather with activities to dissipate the tensions and with discussions surrounding the events of the summer, including the arousal and demonstration of racism and incitement.”
The Ashklelon and Be'er Sheva Regional Councils have all pledged to ignore Piron's statement, according to Walla! News, citing security concerns and potential psychological toll on the area's children.
This is the third time a rocket has struck near a school. The previous rocket strike wounded a 33 year-old man on Thursday, as he heroically was protecting children from the missile with his own body.
Later on Friday, two rockets were intercepted over Sderot.
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2. Double Standard? Syria Death Toll 100 Times Higher Than Gaza
by Ari Yashar
Outgoing UN human rights commissioner Navi Pillay on Thursday condemned the UN Security Council for failing in Syria, as a UN report indicated the death toll there has reached over 191,369 people, spurred by horrific war crimes.
"I firmly believe that greater responsiveness by this council would have saved hundreds of thousands of lives," Pillay told the council in the final briefing of her six-year term, reports Reuters. She will be replaced by Jordan's Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid al-Hussein.
Through April just shy of 200,000 people have been killed in Syria's four-year bloody conflict, according to a UN report released Friday by Pillay's office. That figure is more than double the death toll of a year ago, and likely still falls short of the actual toll according to Pillay, as an extra 51,953 killings were left out due to insufficient data.
Syria's civil war has "dropped off the international radar," lamented Pillay, noting "the killers, destroyers and torturers in Syria have been empowered and emboldened by the international paralysis."
Ironically the UN has been very not paralyzed when it comes to Israel's defensive Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, now in its sixth week, despite that Hamas claimed Monday the death toll there is just over 2,000 - a full 100 times less than the Syrian casualty count.
In fact, 2,000 Syrians, the same number as those killed in Gaza, were killed in the first five months of 2014 by indiscriminate "barrel bombings" on Aleppo, in which cheaply improvised explosives were randomly tossed on civilian centers by the Syrian army.
The UN has been very unconcerned about accuracy in the Gaza death toll, although Israeli reports show that despite Hamas's manipulation of figures and inflation of civilian counts, there is a roughly 1:1 death toll of combatants to civilians, which would be an almost unprecedented achievement in urban warfare.
Nevertheless, Pillay has herself led the charge against Israel, even slamming the Jewish state for not sharing its anti-missile Iron Dome technology with the terrorist organization peppering its civilians with rockets.
Already European nations are pushing for a UN Security Council resolution to stop the fighting in Gaza, and force Israel back into peace talks on the basis of the 1949 Armistice lines.
Likewise, UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has tasked an investigative committee to look into "war crimes" allegations against Israel, headed by anti-Israel Canadian law Professor William Schabas who last Wednesday admitted the UN has "double standards" against Israel.
UN "losing credibility"
Speaking on Thursday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon claimed that his organization could have an "important" impact if it had full support from the Security Council.
"However, when there is limited consensus - when our actions come late and address only the lowest common denominator - the consequences can be measured in terrible loss of life, grave human suffering and tremendous loss of credibility for this council and our institution," Ban complained.
The question of credibility has indeed been raised recently, after rockets were found in at least three UN schools in Gaza and promptly returned to Hamas terrorists.
A UN clinic was also found to have been booby-trapped in an explosion that killed three IDF soldiers and wounded seven others. The clinic was located on top of several terror tunnels as well, showing the active participation between UN workers and terrorists.
The UN's actions have led Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor to quip recently "to establish an investigative committee headed by Schabas is like inviting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) to arrange the religious tolerance week at the UN."
Nobel laureate Professor Yisrael (Robert) Aumann added that the UNHRC probe against Israel was a simple manifestation of anti-Semitism.
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3. British IS Woman Campaigns for 'Equal Right to Kill'
by Tova Dvorin
A 22 year-old UK citizen campaigned for women's rights in Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) in an odd way on Friday: by asking to have equal rights to murder as a terrorist herself.
“Any links 4 da execution of da journalist plz. Allahu Akbar. UK must b shaking up haha," London native Khadijah Dare, who goes under the name Muhajirah fi Sham (‘Immigrant in Syria’) on Twitter, tweeted earlier this week.
The tweet was posted less than 24 hours after the horrific murder of British journalist James Foley went viral, and stated "I wna b da 1st UK woman 2 kill a UK or US terorrist!”
Dare's tweet quickly went viral as well, after it was picked up by the Metro news outlet. Dare later protected her tweets from new followers, but the message - and its implications - still linger.
Dare is believed to have moved to Syria sometime in 2012, after converting to Islam as a teenager, according to the news outlet. Her Twitter account features a picture of her toddler son holding an AK-47 assault rifle.
The incident has raised questions not only over Twitter's user policy - which bans direct threats of violence “on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, age, or disability" - but also over IS's chokehold on Britain, which has been the focus of Islamists' recruitment efforts for the past several years.
British Islamism: an inevitable trend?
British Prime Minister David Cameron has estimated that at least 400 Britons are among the thousands of European nationals fighting in IS, although several estimates claim that the number could be far higher.
The latest estimate, picked up by Newsweek, stems from Khalid Mahmood, a British MP based in Birmingham. Mahmood estimates that at least 1,500 young British Muslims have been recruited by extremists fighting in Iraq and Syria in the last three years.
The problem has become so well-known that, in June, the CIA sent a special contingent of agents to investigate the extent of Islamic extremism in the UK, in a snub to British intelligence agencies.
In practice, British extremists in Syria and Iraq seem to be taking the spotlight there for their cruelty.
Not only was Foley's killer equipped with a London accent - and has been dubbed "John" - but anecdotal evidence has suggested a trend of particular cruelty among British Islamists.
Three British IS terrorists in Syria, for example, have been dubbed "The Beatles," according to NBC News - for their harshness and British roots, not for their musical talents.
"Whenever the Beatles showed up, there was some kind of physical beating or torture," a source told the daily.
Experts claim the problem may be sociocultural.
“London historically has had Islamist ideology being taught openly without being challenged and there are many people who have grown up knowing and believing that the only way to be Muslims is to create this Islamic state," said Harris Rafiq, head of the anti-terrorist Quilliam Foundation think tank, stated to NBC.
"It's not surprising that jihadis have been able to cherry-pick these people."
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4. Hamas Goes on an 'Israel Collaborator' Killing Spree
by Ari Yashar
The Hamas regime in Gaza continues to execute its own civilians, even while engaged in a bloody war against Israel.
In a central venue in Gaza City on Friday morning, 11 local Arab residents who were charged with "collaborating with Israel" were publicly executed by Hamas, according to the Arabic-language Al-Rai news agency.
However, Hamas TV reported that the number of those executed was actually as high as 18 men. Six of those executed were shot dead in front of a mosque by men in Hamas military uniforms, witnesses told AFP.
The public killing comes in the midst of a rising wave of "collaborator" executions in the terrorist stronghold of Gaza.
Majd, a website close to Hamas, just on Thursday reported that Hamas's "military wing," the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, executed three Gaza residents and arrested seven others for "collaborating" with Israel during Operation Protective Edge.
No date was given for the executions or arrests, but the Hamas security official quoted in the report said the three were killed after "revolutionary procedures" were completed against them.
The same website reported on August 6 that "a number" of Arab collaborators had been killed, again without giving a date.
In the last week of July, Palestinian sources reported that over 30 Gazans were executed by Hamas, most of them in the Shejaiya neighborhood. In that case too, Hamas claimed that they were collaborators with Israel.
A Hamas spokesperson recently told Al Jazeera that since Operation Pillar of Defense ended in 2012, "hundreds of our men were martyred digging the tunnels during the previous lull period."
Many of those who survived digging the terror tunnels did not meet a better end than their "martyred" companions; according to reports, in recent weeks Hamas has executed dozens of the diggers to make absolutely certain they would not reveal information about the locations in which they were digging.
Of the hundreds who died in the digging, "at least 160 children have been killed in the tunnels" according to the Journal of Palestine Studies in 2012, indicating how Hamas had no qualms about lethally manipulating child labor.
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5. Israel Considering a Truce with Hamas to 'Strengthen' Egypt
by Tova Dvorin
The US has joined the European push for a UN resolution to end the fighting in Gaza, Channel 10 reports Friday - and Israel might be considering accepting the terms of a potential proposal.
Political sources in Jerusalem, who asked to remain anonymous, told the news outlet that officials prefer to end fighting using Egyptian mediation - despite the fact that both the Israeli and Palestinian Arab delegations pulled out of Cairo talks after Hamas breached the ceasefire on Tuesday.
Israel is keen to advance the standing of current Egyptian president Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi, due to his fight against the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoot Hamas, officials said.
Israel's interests are allegedly to see Egypt emerge again as a strong and influential power in the Middle East; therefore, talks are still on the agenda, despite a "significant decrease" in the chance of their success.
Meanwhile, the sources added, the possibility of Israel accepting the UN Security Council's new resolution being drafted on Gaza has not been entirely rejected, and diplomatic efforts are currently being conducted to influence the text of the resolution according to Israel's security needs.
A workable proposal?
According to AFP, the initial stages of the UN resolution call for an immediate and sustainable ceasefire that would put an end to the firing of rockets and military operations in Gaza.
It also calls for a lifting of the Israeli blockade and the institution of a monitoring mechanism to report on ceasefire violations and verify the flow of goods into Gaza.
Likewise, it reportedly specifies giving control of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority (PA), and most significantly, a resumption of peace talks based on the 1949 Armistice lines.
Diplomats said the measure was aimed at advancing efforts to reach agreement within the 15-member Security Council on a resolution after Jordan's draft met with resistance, notably from the United States.
The new resolution draft instructs UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to immediately come up with proposals to "implement the relevant provisions of this resolution" in a move that could jump start the peace negotiations, with pre-defined borders as noted above.
The main issue, however, is the fact that "no effective party exists" to deter Hamas from using humanitarian aid to build terror tunnels and other weapons - even the UN, the official said.
The backlash indicated by the official's cryptic remarks corroborates with earlier responses from Israeli politicians several weeks ago, after Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) suggested that Gaza be handed over to the UN to appease the international community.
This is the third time in a two-week period that the idea has been raised; earlier this week, UN envoy to the Middle East Robert Serry suggested that the UN 'monitor' imports into Gaza, despite ample evidence that the same humanitarian aid materials are used to manufacture weapons and terror tunnels.
To illustrate this, the IDF revealed during the course of Operation Protective Edge last month that 4,680 trucks carrying 181 thousand tons of gravel, iron, cement, wood and other supplies have passed through the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza since January 2014 - much of it directly from Israel to fund civilian projects.
Instead, however, a network of over 30 tunnels was found during the ground offensive - with each tunnel costing roughly $3 million to build. For every Hamas terror tunnel, the IDF stated, there was enough building materials to build either 86 homes, seven mosques, six schools, or 19 medical clinics.
The statistics beg the question of why Hamas needs over ten times the building materials required for the buildings above, as Gaza is not big enough to house an additional 190 medical clinics, for example.
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6. 'The IDF Has Technology to End the Operation in Hours'
by Benny Toker, Ari Yashar
Arutz Sheva spoke about Operation Protective Edge with Dr. Yehuda David, a key figure in exposing the libel against the IDF over false charges of killing 12-year-old Mohammed al-Dura in Gaza during the 2000 Second Intifada.
David, who recently ran for Israeli president, took part in the ongoing Gaza operation.
"I'm still recuperating and couldn't take part in the actual fighting, but I was in the Gaza Belt in the regimental medical operation," noted David, who in late 2012 underwent bone marrow transplants in Boston to treat his cancer, to Arutz Sheva on Friday.
"We have a nation of heroes and an army of lions, the soldiers and the commanders simply fought like lions. We saw a Nahal Infantry battalion fight a battalion of terrorists; unfortunately we lost a soldier, but their battalion was completely wiped out," said the doctor.
IDF soldiers are being hampered by an unwillingness to give orders for decisive action against Hamas, David told Arutz Sheva, referencing the previous Gaza operations: Pillar of Defense in 2012 and Cast Lead in 2008-2009.
"What happened here again is that the army was ready to go in to the end and bring a crushing victory against the enemy, and it was once again stopped by the political echelon," argued David. "Perhaps we don't see here what they (politicians) see there, but there's a feeling that the work isn't over - a feeling of missing an opportunity."
According to the doctor, Hamas can be completely liquidated - without endangering IDF soldiers in a complicated ground entry and close-quarters urban warfare.
"A repeat entry is on the one hand essential, but very problematic. In my estimation, the IDF has all the technological measures to end this campaign in several hours; I don't understand why the political echelon doesn't use those means," questioned David.
"If they conduct another ground entry it will endanger the lives of many soldiers," said David. "I don't want to go into the details, but I know things, and there are extraordinary means, technological measures that would not be accompanied by losses."
David's appraisal of the dangers of a ground entry come as the commander of the IAF special reconnaissance Flying Camel Squadron said this week that having to abort airstrikes due to civilian presence often "sabotaged" the operation. It has been argued that the hesitancy to wage all-out-war has caused IDF deaths.
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7. Commander: Aborted Airstrikes 'Sabotage' IDF Operation
by Ari Yashar
Senior members of the IAF special reconnaissance Flying Camel Squadron discussed their role in gathering intelligence from the air during Operation Protective Edge, and noted frustration at having to abort airstrikes due to Hamas's use of civilian cover.
"We don’t have bombs on our planes; we have cameras that do intelligence work, and our job is to make sure that the bombs hit the right targets and only the right targets," said Lt. Col. Y, commander of the squadron, as reported by the IDF Blog this Monday.
The commander admitted "sometimes it’s very frustrating because you actually see rockets being launched from mosques, schoolyards - from places you can’t attack. And a lot of the time, it’s from the vicinity of these facilities. When it’s nearby, we try to clear the place."
"If the situation is unclear, the attack will be aborted. Maybe we would return to strike the target at a different time, or maybe not hit the site at all," added Lt. Col. Y, noting how Hamas's callous use of the Gaza populace is harming the IDF's ability to defend Israel.
Noting on the effect of the strike abortions, Lt. Col. Y added "it's not easy during battle, because you sabotage your operational achievement. Nevertheless, we do it because we believe its important."
MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud) has blamed Israel's "misplaced pity" for Gaza residents as being responsible for the deaths of IDF soldiers. In one case, reports indicated that a strike was called off on a booby-trapped UN clinic, forcing soldiers to go in without air cover; three soldiers were killed as the building exploded, and seven more were wounded.
An example of an airstrike on July 10 aborted after the Flying Camel Squadron gathered real-time intelligence of children entering the terror target site can be seen here:
Speaking about the operation, Lt. Col. Y stated "a lot of Hamas infrastructure is underground. They fire from pits and tunnels. We know this because after we’d hit the coordinate, we would see the underground infrastructure; we saw the tunnels, we saw the openings, the hidden ammunition etc."
Conferring with his squadron commander, Cpt. O, an operations officer and pilot for the Flying Camels, said "we face an enemy who puts its civilians in the middle of the conflict. ...Hamas targets indiscriminately - they fire rockets wherever they can. We pinpoint targets as much as we can and we bomb areas where we know for a fact they are used to attack Israeli civilians."
Cpt. O added that "as a person, hearing about children being killed is heartbreaking and that’s understandable for everyone. The IDF puts a lot of time, money and effort into training us to prevent civilian casualties.”
The Flying Camels Squadron, which has operated in all of Israel's wars, uses only Israeli optical equipment consisting of the most advanced cutting edge technology.
The capabilities are needed because sometimes terror targets "can be very close to a house, so the attack needs to be very accurate," noted Lt. Col. Y.
An example of a pinpoint strike on a weapons cache and terrorist gathering point within the house of a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander in Khan Yunis on July 9 can been seen below.
It is worth noting that the home, located as close as 18 meters from an adjacent civilian home, is described by the IDF video as a gathering point for "militants," using a term popular in the international media to sanitize terrorists. In this context, many have lamented Israel's shortcomings in the global PR war.
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8. Phone Call from Mashaal Exposed Deif's Location?
by Gil Ronen
According to Lebanese news outlets quoted by Israel Hayom Thursday, a telephone call from Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal to military wing chief Mohammed Deif inadvertently gave away the latter's location in a home at the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood in northwest Gaza, and enabled the home's bombing by the IAF last night.
The reports say that the phone conversation took place shortly after a meeting in Doha, Qatar, between Mashaal and Palestinian Authority (PA) head Mahmoud Abbas. A senior Palestinian source said that Mashaal was under pressure to accept the Egyptian ceasefire proposal and wanted to consult with Deif.
Possibly due to the pressure he was under, Mashaal broke the rules of secrecy that help keep Deif's location secret and called him, thus making it possible for Israeli intelligence to pinpoint Deif's whereabouts and bomb the building he was in.
While an Israeli official has been quoted by Fox News as saying Deif was dead, Hamas insists he is unhurt.
Hard hit by the IDF, Hamas's military wing in Gaza has reportedly been pressing the political leadership to accept a ceasefire, but Mashaal, who operates from Qatar, has been refusing to do so.
A senior member of Palestnian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction said Wednesday Hamas's choice to forego the Egyptian truce proposal and return to its rocket war on Israel was due to Qatari pressure.
The Fatah source, quoted in the Arabic Al-Hayat and cited by Yedioth Aharonoth, noted that Egypt refused to allow Qatar to play a role in the Cairo ceasefire talks, stipulating that Qatar apologize for its policies towards the Nile State since Muslim Brotherhood member and former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi was deposed last July 3. Qatar is the leading sponsor of the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is the Palestinian offshoot.
The Fatah source added that Qatar threatened to expel Mashaal, saying it would "force him to leave," if Hamas agreed to the Egyptian truce proposal in its current structure.
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