Friday, 1 August 2014

Hamas's shift to tunnel warfare catches Israel by surprise


From the New York Times - JERUSALEM — Israel entered its latest conflict with Hamas armed with a high-tech arsenal, real-time battlefield intelligence and strong domestic support for dealing a heavy blow to Hamas.

But again on Friday, Israeli forces were taken by surprise, this time with two soldiers killed and one taken prisoner when militants once again attacked from a tunnel leading from Gaza into Israel.

As frustration grows in Israel over the military’s inability to neutralize Hamas, the militant Islamic group that governs Gaza, despite hitting 4,300 targets in 24 days of intense bombing, some military experts say it is increasingly evident that the Israel Defense Forces have been operating from an old playbook and are not fully prepared for a more sophisticated, battle-ready adversary. The issue is not specifically the tunnels — which Israel knew about — but the way Hamas fighters trained to use them to create what experts in Israel are calling a “360-degree front.”

Plumes of smoke above a neighborhood in Gaza City after militants fired rockets toward Israel on Thursday after a lull in fighting.From Gaza, an Array of Makeshift Rockets Packs a CounterpunchJULY 17, 2014 “Hamas has changed its doctrine and is using the tunnels as a main method of operation,” said Israel Ziv, a retired general who headed the military’s Gaza division and its operations directorate. “This is something we learned amid the fighting.”

Israeli troops in Gaza described Hamas gunmen who vanished from one house, like magicians, and suddenly popped up to fire at them from another. And while Hamas fighters are able to use the tunnels to surprise the forces from behind and to attack those in the rear, Israeli soldiers find themselves having to improvise. In the Gaza war that began in late 2008, 10 Israeli soldiers were killed, four of them from friendly fire. This time, 61 soldiers have been killed, mostly in combat, and one has now been taken prisoner.more

Israel bombs Gaza ambulance as Friday death toll surpasses 60


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Gaza Strip following the collapse of a ceasefire earlier in the day.

Palestinian medical sources said that paramedic Atef Zamili was killed in an airstrike on his vehicle and that seven passengers were wounded.

Zamili's death brings to 16 the number of health workers who have been killed in Israeli strikes since the beginning of the assault 25 days ago. This is third 13th ambulance to be targeted in an Israeli attack, according to the ministry of health.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces widened their assault across the Gaza Strip on Friday afternoon, launching further ground movements in Shujaiyya in eastern Gaza City, Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, and Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.

The expansion of the invasion comes after Israel said one of its soldiers was captured during an attack on its military position east of Rafah inside the Gaza Strip. more

Take action: Tell Egypt to end Gaza siege, refuse complicity in Israeli genocide


Civil society organizations and public figures are calling on the world to demand the opening of the Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.

The signatories to the following urgent call to action include former Robben Island inmate, anti-apartheid icon, and African National Congress (ANC) leader Ahmed Kathrada, former ANC government minister and freedom fighter Ronnie Kasrils, and former vice president of the European Parliament Luisa Morgantini.

They join dozens of Palestinian and international civil society and solidarity organizations in calling on you to “go to your local Egyptian Embassy or consulate and demand the Egyptian government open Rafah crossing immediately and end its complicity with Israel’s genocide of the people of Gaza.”

Here’s how you can help:

Go to your local Egyptian Embassy or consulate and demand the Egyptian government open Rafah crossing immediately and end its complicity with Israel’s genocide of the people of Gaza.

Flood embassy phone-lines/email with messages of protest. Write letters to print media holding Egypt complicit and similarly deluge radio/TV and Facebook etc.

Raise your concerns with your political representatives.

The full text and list of endorsers of the call to action is included below. For more information email openrafahnow@gmail.com. more

Israel shells Youssef al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israel shelled the Youssef al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah as it carried out a widespread assault on the southern Gaza Strip town on Friday.

Witnesses told Ma'an that Israeli shells hit the hospital, but no injuries were reported.

Israeli forces have struck hospitals repeatedly over the course of the 25-day assault, including al-Wafa Hospital which was completely destroyed.

Five people were killed and dozens injured when Israeli forces shelled Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Hospital. more

Palestinian killed in clashes north of Tulkarem as West Bank erupts


TULKAREM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian on Friday during clashes with Israeli forces in the northern West Bank, witnesses said.

Tamer Faraj Sammur, 22, was shot in the chest by Israeli soldiers in western Tulkarem.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said she was looking into the incident.

Hamas earlier in the day had called on Palestinians in the West Bank to participate in "Day of Anger" demonstrations in cities and villages across the West Bank in solidarity with Gaza.

Israeli forces killed nine Palestinians in the West Bank in a 24-hour period last week as tens of thousands took the streets in solidarity with Gaza in the largest demonstrations since the Second Intifada. more

Israeli officer captured before Gaza truce says Hamas


An Israeli officer was captured and two soldiers were killed ahead of the start of a 72-humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip on Friday, senior Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouq has said.

"There is no justification for Israel to violate the truce as the officer was captured and the two soldiers were killed ahead of the truce," Abu Marzouq told Anadolu Agency.

He said that Palestinian factions were abiding by the truce and were only responding to Israeli "aggression".

"Israel ended the truce unilaterally," Abu Marzouq said. "We are committed to the truce and only respond to aggression."

An Israeli official earlier said on Friday that a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip had collapsed.

At least 40 Palestinians were killed and more than 100 others injured in Israeli shelling of Rafah city in southern Gaza Strip. more

Ceasefire ends amid intense Rafah clashes, report of soldier captured


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Intense clashes erupted Friday morning between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in the southeastern Gaza Strip, as Kerem Shalom was declared a "military zone" amid unconfirmed reports that an Israeli soldier may have been captured.

The clashes came after Israeli forces shelled Gaza multiple times since the commencement of the ceasefire, killing four Palestinians. Before it came into effect at 8 a.m., Israel had already killed 16 Palestinians in strikes and shelling since midnight.

Fighters reportedly emerged on Friday morning from tunnels, firing mortar shells toward the Israeli region of Eshkol across the border.

Dozens of Palestinians had been killed in Israeli shelling on the area in response to the attack, while the number of Israeli casualties was still unclear.

Israel Channel 10 said that Israeli forces were chasing down the armed men east of Rafah and was trying to prevent them from going further into the city.

An Israeli military spokesperson, meanwhile, said that the ceasefire was over and military operations would "resume."

The Islamic Jihad-affiliated Palestine TV reported that the ceasefire had been "interrupted" because an Israeli soldier had gone missing.

Fighting was ongoing between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian fighters southeast of Rafah city near the crossing on Friday noon, Israeli media reported. more

Israel kills 4 despite ceasefire, after 16 killed in hours before


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Four Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip by Israeli forces on Friday, only hours after a 72-hour ceasefire between Israel and Hamas came into effect.

Ahmad Muhammad Hasanein, was shot dead by Israeli soldiers in eastern Gaza City, while the bodies of Bassel Diab al-Bsyuni, 37, and an unidentified man were brought to Kamal Adwan hospital as a result of Israeli fire.

Shadi Muhammad Jumaa Abu Daher, 29, from al-Mughraqa, was also killed by Israeli fire.

A Ma'an correspondent in Gaza said that three were wounded after Israeli artillery fired several shells east of Rafah, in what appears to have been the first violation of the ceasefire by Israeli forces about two hours in.

In the eastern Gaza Strip, meanwhile, Israeli soldiers opened fire on Palestinian civilians who attempted to reach their homes in areas near the border.

After the Israeli attacks, sirens were heard at the Kerem Shalom border crossing with Israel, presumably as Palestinian militants fired rockets in response to the alleged Israeli violation.

Before the 72-hour ceasefire came into effect at 8 a.m., Israeli shelling on the Gaza Strip had already killed 16 Palestinians across the Gaza Strip since midnight.

The deaths brought the total since the beginning of the offensive to 1,461 and more than 8,400 injured, after hopes were raised that the three-day break in fighting could lead to a long-term end to Israel's 24-day assault that has displaced around 400,000 people, or 1 in 4 Gazans. more

Kerry announces 72-hour ceasefire in Gaza


NEW DELHI (AFP) -- Israel and Hamas have agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire in the Gaza conflict, US Secretary of State John Kerry said early Friday.

Kerry said that the two sides would begin the truce at 8:00 a.m. local time and that Israelis and Palestinians would enter talks in Cairo.

The top US diplomat said the ceasefire would last for 72 hours "unless extended."

"During this time the forces on the ground will remain in place," Kerry said.

"This ceasefire is critical to giving innocent civilians a much-needed reprieve from violence," Kerry said in a hastily arranged mid-morning statement on a visit to New Delhi.

Kerry said he was announcing the truce jointly with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who has also invested intense efforts in brokering an end to the bloody conflict. more