It has been cleared for publication that a veteran Hamas terrorist who was involved in the terror group's tunnel-building efforts has been captured by Israel.
Under interrogation the terrorist has revealed a wealth of information about Hamas's network of attack tunnels into Israel, as well as its massive network of tunnels inside Gaza, in preparation for any future war with Israel.
The news comes on the same day as IDF forces announced yet another breakthrough in the battle against Hamas's terror tunnels, unearthing the second attack tunnel into Israel in a matter of weeks.
Mahmoud Atouna, 29, hails from Jabaliyah in Gaza, and is a 10-year veteran of the Islamist terror group.
He was arrested at the beginning of April, after breaching the Gaza-Israel border armed with two knives, and admitted to security forces that he had planned to kill any Israeli soldiers or civilians he encountered.
Atouna was a member of Hamas's "military wing", the Izz a-Din al-Qassam Brigades, and was extensively involved in the group's terrorist activity, including the planting of explosives targeting IDF forces near Gaza.
Over the past several years, however, most of Atouna's work had been focused on Hamas's terror tunnel network.
He revealed to interrogators a boon of detailed information on the tunnel network within and from northern Gaza, including Hamas's tunnel-building techniques, their locations - including within private civilian homes and public institutions - their uses, and more. He even provided a detailed account of the materials Hamas uses to construct the vast, expensive and in some cases highly-sophisticated tunnels.
He traced the routes and excavation sites of the tunnel network, well as the hidden attack shafts from where Hamas's elite fighters would emerge to stage attacks against IDF forces in the case of any future war with Israel.
Far from the rudimentary, the tunnel networks - meant to shuttle weapons, equipment and fighters throughout Gaza during wartime - even included recreation rooms, bathrooms with showers, and canteens.
Atouna also handed over a long list of names of Hamas operatives who worked together with him in Hamas's northeastern battalion, and pinpointed the locations of multiple weapons storage facilities and other key strategic Hamas sites.
Atouna is one of a number of Gazan Hamas terrorists currently in the custody of Israel's Shin Bet security agency, whose interrogations form an important part of Israel's extensive efforts to locate Hamas infiltration tunnels into Israeli territory.
He was recently indicted on multiple terrorism charges at Beersheva District Court.
It has been cleared for publication that the IDF uncovered a second terror tunnel from Gaza into southern Israel on Thursday morning, mere weeks after a previous tunnel was exposed and destroyed.
The tunnel reached as deep as 30 meters underground, security sources said, and begins in the southern Gaza Strip.
"About four hours ago the IDF exposed a second tunnel in the southern Gaza Strip," army spokesman Lt. Peter Lerner said.
"We understand the tunnel was approximately 28 to 29 meters (100 feet) deep in the southern Gaza Strip, stretching from Gazan territory into Israel."
"Over the past few days, we have worked thoroughly in several locations," a senior IDF officer told Arutz Sheva. Part of the IDF's operations extended within the 100-meter buffer zone between Israel and Hamas-controlled Gaza, he added, as well as in other locations.
He hailed the second terror tunnel's exposure as "a success, both technologically as well as professionally."
The source added that the fire against IDF forces operating along the border in recent days emanated from a number of different military positions belonging to Hamas.
On Tuesday and Wednesday terrorists inside Gaza targeted IDF forces with both small arms and mortar rounds; Israeli forces responded with return fire and airstrikes, amid speculation Hamas was trying in vain to prevent Israel from destroying another tunnel.
Today's revelations confirm that this was indeed the case.
The source added, however, that there is no evidence Hamas is seeking to engage in a wider escalation with Israel. Instead, the attacks were merely a last-ditch attempt by Hamas to halt IDF operations in the area.
The military believes there is another attack tunnel located nearby, and is therefore continuing to operate in the area - albeit under high alert after recent attacks.
Following Operation Protective Edge in 2014, Hamas focused its efforts on rebuilding its massive terror tunnel network into Israel, which the IDF largely destroyed during the summer war.
It's massive rocket arsenal rendered largely obsolete by Israel's Iron Dome defense system, Hamas - along with other terrorist groups in Gaza - refocused its efforts strategically, noting how Israeli forces were sometimes caught off guard by the terror tunnels during the war.
However Israel, too, has learned from the experiences of Protective Edge. In recent years the Israeli defense establishment has invested massively in state-of-the-art tunnel-detection systems, which appear to have given them the edge over Hamas's terror tunnels as well.
"We are in a better place since Protective Edge," the IDF source stated. "We are working around the clock to locate more tunnels."
Today on Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) Israel commemorates the six million Jews who perished during during the Holocaust. The day’s events began at 10 a.m. local time with a two-minute siren heard across the entire country.
Most of the day’s events will take place in the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum and at the Knesset in Jerusalem.
Immediately following the siren, the wreath-laying ceremony at the foot of the memorial of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising begins at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Israel’s President the Prime Minister, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, President of the Supreme Court, Chief of Staff, Jerusalem’s mayor and other senior officials will partake in the ceremony.
At 11 a.m. the recitation of names of Holocaust victims, read by members of the general public, will begin. The recitation titled "To every man there is a name," will take place in the Hall of Remembrance as well as in the Knesset under the auspices of the Speaker of the Knesset.
A special program titled "Behind the Scenes" will begin at 12 p.m. for the public. Museum experts will reveal to visitors documents, works, objects and other artifacts that are usually not presented to the public.
At 1 p.m. the main memorial ceremony will begin in the Hall of Remembrance. Later in the evening, at 5:30 p.m., there will be a youth movement rally with the Minister of Education Naftali Bennett and hundreds of members of various youth movements.
Following the rally at 6:30 p.m. the Future Generations Association Conventional will begin in the Cameri Theater. The show "Anna" - about the life of Ann Frank - will also be displayed for the first time. Meanwhile in Poland, the annual March of the Living will begin at 2:30 p.m.
Terrorists inside Gaza fired mortar shells at IDF forces on the Israeli side of the border, hours after the discovery of a Hamas terror tunnel into Israeli sovereign territory.
At least two mortar shells struck close to IDF soldiers, but no injuries were reported.
It follows a string of mortar attacks by Hamas terrorists against Israeli soldiers working to unearth a 30 meter-deep attack tunnel from southern Gaza on Wednesday.
Those attempts to stymie IDF engineers failed, however, and early Thursday afternoon it was announced that they had exposed the second terror tunnel from Gaza into Israel in a matter of weeks.
The IDF has said it will continue to work to locate more terror tunnels dug by Hamas in the area since 2014's Operation Protective Edge, using cutting-edge tunnel-detecting equipment.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke at the Knesset's "Unto Every Person There is a Name" ceremony on Thursday, in honor of Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day.
"My beloved late father-in-law, Shmuel Ben-Artzi, who won the Ka-Tzenik Prize for Holocaust Literature, was the only member of his family who survived the Holocaust," recalled Netanyahu. "He was saved because in 1933, at the age of 18, he came here despite the pleadings of his father Moshe."
"He had studied at the Novardok Yeshiva, was a Hebrew pioneer who worked in orchards and built up the land. He was in both the Etzel and the Haganah. He was also a great Hebrew educator, major Tanakh scholar, an author and a poet."
"He wrote a moving, heartfelt poem about the Holocaust, 'To the Land of Moriah' in 1941, two years after he lost contact with his family but before he knew what happened to them," said Netanyahu of his father-in-law.
He then recited the poem:
To the Land of Moriah
My father –
I did not know what had befallen him.
Was he still alive? In what place
there did he wander, pursued and threatened?
I am here alone going up Mt. Moriah.
Many generations are laid upon my back:
Broken pieces of burnt wood dripping anguish,
And in my eyes lightning-fire of thousands of ovens,
Into which thousands of murderers were not thrown;
a blade dripping blood and anguish in my heart.
G-d, give me a sign!
Do not send an angel and ram,
let no shofar sound my name!
The binding of thousands has not assuaged your wrath,
Even my coming up is for naught –
G-d, give me a sign!
"The sign never came," concluded Netanyahu.
He then read the names of some of his father-in-law Shmuel Ben-Artzi's relatives from Bilgoraj, Poland, who were murdered in the Holocaust.
"The father to whom he wrote the poem, my wife's grandfather, Moshe Hahn, his father's wife Ita, his twin sister Yehudit, who was 24.
"His brothers Meir Hahn .(18), Shimon Tzvi (16) and Aryeh Leib (13), and his little sister Feizele (10).
"His uncle Avraham Tauber, his wife and their son and daughter.
"His aunt Rachel Tauber .and her three sons – Avraham, Yaakov and Shlomo, and their wives and children.
"His aunt Hinda and her husband Yehezkel.
"His aunt Hendel, her husband and their children.
"His aunt Paula and her two daughters.
"His aunt Ma'tel Koenigstein, her son Hillel and her eldest daughter.
"His uncle Mendel Hahn, his wife and their two children.
"May their memories be blessed," concluded the Prime Minister.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) slammed comments by Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Golan in which he appeared to draw comparisons between Israel and pre-war Europe.
“The Deputy Chief of Staff is confused in my opinion. His comments mainly suggest a lack of understanding, not to mention a contempt for the [legacy] of the Holocaust. There is absolutely nothing in the world that needs to be compared to this [the Holocaust],” Shaked told Army Radio on Thursday. Shaked is currently in Poland, where she is set to participate in the annual “March of the Living” to commemorate those killed in the Nazi death camps.
During a speech in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, on Wednesday Golan suggested parallels between pre-Holocaust Europe and modern-day Israel.
“If there is something that scares me about the memory of the Holocaust, it is the identification of horrifying processes that occurred in Europe in general and Germany in particular - 70, 80 and 90 years ago - and finding evidence of them here among us, today, in 2016,” he said.
Jewish Home MKs Naftali Bennett and Bezalel Smotrich lambasted Golan for his Wednesday night address, decrying the apparent comparison of Israel with Nazi Germany.
But some center-left MKs defended Golan, suggesting that while his phrasing was imperfect, his message was valid.
“Let’s not get confused, Yair Golan is a great officer – very professional and high caliber. Unfortunately in recent years we’ve tried to spin what army officers [say], in what are usually failed attempt to score some political points.”
Zionist Union chief Isaac Herzog also offered support for Golan, ridiculing his detractors for shouting “obscenities”.
“The Deputy Chief of Staff is a brave commander. Those disturbed people who are about to start screaming at him need to know: That’s how ethics and responsibility sound. We will not be afraid of shouting and of obscenities and will continue to back the IDF and its commanders. Always.”
On Thursday Golan himself appeared to backtrack, clarifying that he did not mean to draw comparisons to Nazi Germany.
“The comparison is absurd and totally baseless,” he said, “and it was never my intention to make such a comparison or to make criticisms of the political leadership. The IDF is a moral army that maintains a purity of arms and respects human dignity.”
One day after real estate mogul Donald Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee, a haredi magazine published an interview with the Manhattan billionaire in which the GOP standard-bearer discussed Iran, Israel, the rise of anti-Semitism around the world, and Jewish support for the Democratic Party.
The interview, which appeared in Wednesday’s Mishpacha magazine, continued along the lines of his recent staunchly pro-Israel comments earlier this week, in which he urged Israel to keep building in Judea and Samaria.
Again contradicting prior statements he made in February, promising to be neutral vis-à-vis Israel and the Palestinian Authority, now Trump says he would stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel.
“[V]iolence towards Israel is also violence towards us,” Trump said to Mishpacha.
“I believe that an American President should clarify that we appreciate our friends and that violence towards Israel is also violence towards us and it transfers a reverberating message. Throughout the entire world, they will get the message: This won’t stand.”
Trump also issued his harshest criticisms to date of the Obama administration’s handling of the US-Israeli relationship, as well as the Iranian nuclear deal.
“Obama strengthened Iran and weakened you,” Trump said.
“I think that Obama has strengthened Iran and made them wealthy,” said Trump, referring to the unfreezing of Iranian assets as part of last year’s nuclear deal. “He weakened Israel in this sense. It’s dangerous.”
Trump also argued that Obama’s Middle East policy and rhetoric regarding Israel had serious repercussions for Jews around the globe, suggesting that the president had emboldened anti-Semites and was partially to blame for the rise in European anti-Semitism.
“Look, they see that you are a haredi Jew,” Trump said. “They see you. They also learned that they can do whatever they want without paying a price. Obama taught them that.”
Turning to American Jewry, the New York billionaire expressed his amazement at Jewish support for the Democratic Party, noting with incredulity that most Jews had backed Obama and would likely back Hillary Clinton.
“I do not understand why the Jewish community supported Obama or why they like Hillary Clinton. Maybe it’s out of habit. The truth? I think that he loves Iran more than he loves Israel.”
Events held in honor of the Six Million began Wednesday evening, as Israelis across the country marked Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaZikaron laShoah vela’G'vurah). The official state ceremony began at nightfall at the Warsaw Ghetto Square in the Yad VaShem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu were in attendance alongside Holocaust survivors and their families. As part of the annual ceremony, six torches were lit in memory of the six million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust.
The theme of this year’s ceremony is: “Everything is Forbidden to US, and Yet We Do Everything – The Struggle to Maintain the Human Spirit During the Holocaust”.
President Rivlin opened his address with a story from the Bergen Belsen concentration camp during the first night of Passover in 1944.
"In barrack 18, a group of Jewish prisoners gathered, determined not to eat leavened bread. Rabbi Aharon Bernard (Yisachar) Davids, the rabbi of Rotterdam and a leader in the religious Zionist movement, who decided not to escape with his family but rather was sent with his community to Bergen Belsen, explained to them that it was their obligation to do what was necessary to stay alive.”
“In order to convince them, he picked up a piece of bread, and before eating it on that Seder night, he read a special prayer which he had penned together with Rabbi Simon Dasberg, and other Rabbis from Holland, which read; 'Our Father in Heaven! It is known to You that we desire to fulfill Your will and observe the Passover holiday by eating Matzah and safeguarding against bread. But our hearts are pained at the captivity which prevents us, and we find ourselves in danger of our lives. We are hereby ready to fulfill Your commandments “And you shall live by them (the commandments)” and not die by them, and to observe the caution of “guard yourself and watch your life greatly.” Therefore our prayer to You is that You keep us alive, and sustain us, and redeem us speedily." The President noted that, tragically, Rabbi Davids perished just months before the camp was liberated.
"I stand here, amid the mountains of the Israeli city of Jerusalem," said Rivlin, "on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day 2016, between the days of Passover 'the festival of freedom', and Israel's Independence Day, and give thanks in the name of Rabbi Davids and his community who did not merit to see this moment, and in the name of all our brothers and sisters, our loved ones who perished in the Holocaust, I give thanks to He who brought us to this moment, to these days of revival. Am Yisrael Chai, the people of Israel lives."
Rivlin highlighted the importance of the remembering the Holocaust, noting that this would be the last generation to meet with survivors.
"In another generation, there will not be anyone left living among us who survived that hell, and who could say, 'I was there, I saw the horror with my own eyes'. The Holocaust survivors living among us become fewer and fewer.”
“It is time to conduct some soul-searching before you. We must admit that we were wrong. Holocaust survivors have never received the respect they deserved. Even to the present day, the State of Israel does not take every measure it can in order to take care of the Holocaust survivors. My brothers and sisters, survivors, the heroes of Israel's revival, I came here today on my behalf, and on behalf of the people of Israel, on behalf of the State of Israel, and I ask each one of you, before it is too late, for forgiveness. We did not understand, we did not want to understand, and we have not done enough. Our brothers and sisters, Holocaust survivors. These are the years in which we should take the opportunity to try to clarify along with you, how you want to shape the memory of the Holocaust and its lessons for future generations. How do you wish to charge the torch of remembrance, which will be passed from generation to generation? The number which was tattooed onto your flesh is etched into the hearts of this nation for generations, and has become the living will of the Jewish people."
Rivlin added, "The Holocaust whether we like it or not has become a factor in shaping the standards of our understanding of ourselves, of understanding our relationship with other nations, and our role in the world. The Holocaust places the Jewish people in front of the basic principles, as a people and as a nation gazing inward at ourselves and outward toward all of humanity. It is these basic principles that should unite us all, regardless of our political outlooks, ideologies, or ethnic origin.”
"I believe that the memory of the Holocaust for future generations, should meet three basic principles. Firstly, we should always be able to defend ourselves – we should not privatize our security. The State of Israel is not, under any circumstances, compensation of the Holocaust. However, the Holocaust put into perspective the necessity and crucial need of the Jewish people to return to its historical roots, as a nation that takes its fate in its hands.”
“Anti-Semitism and the persecution of the Jews are not a fad, or one that can be taken lightly. It is a difficult chronic disease that penetrates deep into the heart and history of nations. We find it today in the voices that can be heard in the heart of a different Europe – from the British left and the extreme right in Eastern Europe and in Europe as a whole, and in areas across of the Arab world. The State of Israel will deal with this anti-Semitism by ensuring, first and foremost, a national home and a Jewish army that protects the nation of survival. We will never be ashamed that we are willing to fight.”
“The second point is the shared Jewish fate. In Auschwitz and Babi Yar, in the darkness and in great fear, an alliance was forged - the Covenant of the Pieces. Our Jewishness descended upon us all equally and culminated, as Jean Amery said harshly, in the realities and the possibilities inherent in the number engraved on our arms.”
“All of us, the Jewish people, those of faith, and those without, those who believe in Zionism and those who don’t believe in Zionism, from the East and from the West, and anywhere in the world are as one number.”
“We will forever pursue the blood of our brothers and sisters, individuals and communities, which screams at us from within the earth. We will continue to pursue the deniers, those who want to forget and those who want to blur history. In the present and the future, whatever our faith, above and beyond any estrangement or divisions within us – we will always recognize the invisible thread that connects us to the Jewish people as one.”
“The third point, beloved is man created in God's image. This is a Jewish truth, the most fundamental human truth and the deepest antibody to the horrors of the Holocaust, where our people and all of us were turned to dust, to ants, to un-human beings. Beloved is man created in God's image. Whether we want or not, the Holocaust imposes a hard and terrible duty on the Jewish nation and its conduct. The Holocaust will forever place us, the Jewish people, as eternal prosecutors on the stage of humanity, prosecutor against anti-Semitism, racism and ultra-nationalism. Prosecutors against pacts with the devil that trade human dignity and life for interests. Prosecutors against indifference, against the relativism of evil. Beloved is man, every person, created in the image of God. This is a holy duty from which the Jewish people cannot and should not want to escape at any time, under any circumstances."