Christianity Through Jewish Eyes

Home » Levitt Letter » LLX News

Important articles that didn't make the Levitt Letter

Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Spontaneous Pro-Israel Rally Erupts in Response to Protesters–video

Saturday, August 9th, 2014

posted by Danielle Avel

Western Media Don’t Report When Hamas Executes 30 Innocent Palestinians In Gaza

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

Gaza City execution aftermath

Gaza City execution aftermath

For the various news outlets, and their reporters on the ground in Gaza who are covering the current conflict between Israel and Hamas, life can sometimes be tricky.

Whereas in Israel, the only democracy in the middle east, reporters can report what they want when they want, in Gaza that isn’t the case. Hamas, the fundamental terrorist organisation which runs the Gaza Strip, do so with an iron fist, and that courtesy extends also to foreign reporters.

As a result of this totalitarian situation in Gaza the western media frequently has to report the things that Hamas wants it to report. For example, Hamas uses civilians as human shields as a strategy.

When they get caught in crossfire, or end up as collateral damage due to Hamas positioning them in vulnerable places, Israel gets condemned by the World.

Indeed, the loss of innocent Palestinian life is tragic, but takes on a slightly different essence if you consider the fact that in Palestinian society death and violence are normal, everyday things.

You may be surprised to read that last week 30 Palestinian civilians were brutally executed by Hamas in Gaza city, for allegedly collaborating with Israel.

Of course, western media reporters, from CNN, the BBC and Reuters were too busy looking for schools that the Israeli’s had bombed in their quest for Palestinian blood, and ignored the public Hamas massacre of its own citizens.

The media was too scared to report on the massacre, which wasn’t even hidden from them as it was carried out publicly, as the reporters were afraid of being targeted by Hamas gunmen who patrol the streets and watch carefully what reporters say.

This report from from July 31, as another good illustration, leads with the headline: “Spanish Journalist on Why Hamas Never Photographed in Action: ‘If Ever We Dared Point Our Camera on Them They Would Simply Shoot at Us and Kill Us,’” and offers an insight into what foreign reporters in Gaza often need to put up with.

Gaza execution--a warning to collaborators with Israel

Gaza execution–a warning to collaborators with Israel

To make matters even more absurd, Hamas allowed Palestinian sources to openly report on the massacre of 30 of its own people in cold blood, as a message to other Palestinians not to collaborate with the enemy, Israel.

The execution of 30 Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel was reported on by a number of media sources, including i24 News on July 29 as well as Jta.Org and

So how and why could the western media miss such a vital news story, one full of so much blood and gore?

Taking the cynical view, could it be because Israel wasn’t the one doing the killing?

There is no question that something untoward is going on here as a terrorist organisation in Gaza manipulates public opinion through the media, while exploiting and murdering its own citizens and receiving no flack at all for it.

No doubt, when the dust settles, the numbers of civilians killed by Israel in the current round of conflict will also turn out to be far fewer than currently claimed. This having been the case after every Gaza war so far. (Take Jenin as an example.)

The mere fact that the western media has accepted blindly the figures issued by a body controlled by Hamas, the Palestinian heath authority, is a damning indictment of the media bias so often on display.

The media often focuses on the Palestinian civilian casualties without asking, or seemingly caring, what is the cause of them.

Here is an insightful video clip from NDTV [New Delhi TV, India] showing Hamas operatives setting up a rocket launching site next to a hotel in Gaza, proving that Hamas purposely fires from within densely populated civilian areas, essentially endangering their population:

IFD soldier Hadar Goldin killed in battle

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

Second Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23, became the latest flash point in the conflict. U.S. State Department: Israel has a right to defend itself.

Missing Soldier Killed in Battle, Israel Confirms
By Steven Erlanger and Jodi Rudoren /

JERUSALEM — The Israeli military said early Sunday morning that an officer thought to have been captured by Palestinian militants during a deadly clash Friday morning, which shattered a planned 72-hour cease-fire, was now considered to have been killed in battle.

The announcement came just hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to continue Israel’s military campaign in the Gaza Strip as long as necessary to stop Hamas attacks, while suggesting a de-escalation of the ground war in Gaza may be near.

Israeli soldiers watching Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speak on television at a coffee shop near the border with Gaza. / Credit Uriel Sinai for The New York Times

Israeli soldiers watching Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speak on television at a coffee shop near the border with Gaza. / Credit Uriel Sinai for The New York Times

The case of the missing soldier, Second Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23, became the latest flash point in the conflict, prompting a fierce Israeli bombardment and calls from leaders around the world for his release. His disappearance came after Hamas militants ambushed Israeli soldiers near the southern border town of Rafah, at the start of what was supposed to have been a pause in the fighting.

As the death toll mounted Saturday to more than 1,650 Palestinians, many of them women and children, and images of homes, mosques, and schools smashed into rubble filled the media, Mr. Netanyahu was under considerable international pressure, from Washington and Europe, to end the conflict. The United Nations warned of “an unfolding health disaster” in Gaza with little electricity, bad water, and a lack of medical supplies.

At the same time, Mr. Netanyahu was under political pressure at home to deliver on his promises to crush Hamas, particularly with 64 Israeli soldiers dead. He insisted Saturday that Hamas had been severely hurt and he warned that it would pay “an intolerable price” if it continues to fire rockets at Israel.

His former deputy defense minister, Danny Danon, who was fired by Mr. Netanyahu for public criticism of the government, said in a statement Saturday that “the cabinet is gravely mistaken in its decision to withdraw forces from Gaza. This is a step in the wrong direction.”

But Mr. Netanyahu, in a nationally televised speech with his defense minister beside him, insisted that Israel was achieving its goals and could alter its tactics. “We promised to return the quiet to Israel’s citizens, and we will continue to act until that aim is achieved,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “We will take as much time as necessary, and will exert as much force as needed.”

Israel was not ending its operation unilaterally, he said, adding: “We will deploy in the places most convenient to us to reduce friction on IDF soldiers, because we care about them.” There were Israeli television reports on Saturday that some Israel Defense Forces troops were pulling out of Gaza, and Israel informed Palestinians in Beit Lahiya and al-Atatra, in northern Gaza, that it was now safe to return to their homes. Israeli officials have said that the army’s effort to destroy the elaborate tunnel system from Gaza into Israel would be finished in the next day or two.

Israeli officials suggested that the army would leave built-up areas and some forces would redeploy inside Gaza, closer to the border fence, to respond to attacks if necessary. Other units will return to southern Israel.

Hamas, for its part, vowed to continue fighting. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, told the news agency Maan that “a unilateral withdrawal or redeployment by Israel in the Strip will be answered by a fitting response by the Hamas military arm.” He said that “the forces of occupation must choose between remaining in Gaza and paying the price or retreating and paying the price or holding negotiations and paying the price.”

Mr. Netanyahu thanked the United States, which along with the United Nations appeared to support Israel’s position that Hamas’s actions violated the cease-fire, and he asked for international help to rebuild Gaza on the condition of its “demilitarization.” Israel appears to be hoping that with the support of Egypt and the international community, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority can control Gaza through a unity government agreed upon with Hamas and take responsibility for security there and for the Rafah crossing to Egypt.

Mr. Netanyahu repeated that his goal was to restore “peace and calm” to Israel and that he intended to do so by whatever means — diplomatically or militarily. “All options are on the table,” he said. But he indicated that Israel would not get caught up again in talk about a negotiated cease-fire with Hamas and Islamic Jihad and would act in its own interests, while seeking support from Mr. Abbas and the international community for what Mr. Netanyahu described vaguely as “a new reality” in Gaza.

Israel has decided not to send a delegation to cease-fire talks hosted by Egypt, at least not now, Israeli officials said. In Washington, Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, said: “In the end, this particularly bloody chapter will ultimately require a durable solution so that all the fundamental issues, including Israel’s security, can be negotiated, and we will keep working with Israel and other partners to achieve that goal.” She said that Israel had a right to defend itself.

Hours before the military announced that Lieutenant Goldin had died, his parents called on the prime minister and the army not to leave their son behind.

The circumstances surrounding his death remained cloudy. A military spokeswoman declined to say whether Lieutenant Goldin had been killed along with two comrades by a suicide bomb one of the militants exploded, or later by Israel’s assault on the area to hunt for him; she also refused to answer whether his remains had been recovered.

As word spread on Saturday that Israel’s leaders were considering pulling all ground forces from Gaza, Lieutenant Goldin’s family spoke to journalists outside their home in Kfar Saba, a Tel Aviv suburb. “I demand that the state of Israel not leave Gaza until they bring my son back home,” said his mother, Hedva. His sister, Ayelet, 35, added, “If a captive soldier is left in Gaza, it’s a defeat.”

The family said they were convinced that Lieutenant Goldin was alive.

“I hope and believe in human kindness, that the world will do anything to bring Hadar with a smile back home,” his brother Chemi, 32, said in an interview.

When his mother called him on Friday, Chemi said, he knew something terrible had happened, but did not know whether it involved Lieutenant Goldin or his twin, Tzur, who was also fighting in Gaza. Chemi said the twins, who attended kindergarten in Cambridge, England, did not talk much about their military service. In Gaza, the armed wing of Hamas said early Saturday that it was not holding the Israeli officer. The Qassam Brigades suggested in a statement that the officer might have been killed along with his captors in an Israeli assault that followed a suicide-bomb attack by Palestinian militants, who emerged from a tunnel that Israeli troops were trying to destroy near Rafah.

“Until now, we have no idea about the disappearance of the Israeli soldier,” the statement said. Saying the leadership had lost touch with its “troops deployed in the ambush,” the statement added, “Our account is that the soldier could have been kidnapped and killed together with our fighters.”

The Israeli Army continued to pound Rafah in its search for Lieutenant Goldin, striking more than 200 targets across Gaza in the 24 hours since the Rafah confrontation, including what it described as a “research and development” lab for weapons manufacturing at the Islamic University, run by Hamas. Five mosques that the military said concealed weapons or Hamas outposts were also hit, the Israelis said.

Around noon, a barrage of rockets flew into southern Israel.

The Gaza-based health ministry, which had reported 70 people killed in Rafah on Friday, said the casualties had continued there overnight, including seven members of one family who died when their home was bombed.

War Crimes a “double-edged sword”

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

By Karin Laub and John Heilprin / Associated Press

Nearly a month into Israel’s fierce assault on Hamas in Gaza, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is facing mounting domestic pressure to seek war crimes charges against Israel at the International Criminal Court.

He has hesitated in the past because such a move would instantly put the Palestinians on a risky collision course with Israel. But with about 1,400 Palestinians killed in Gaza, according to health officials, Abbas has signaled he might move ahead — cautiously.

Palestinian officials said Thursday that Abbas asked all Palestinian political factions, including Hamas and the smaller group Islamic Jihad, to give their written consent to such a move. Different PLO factions signed up in a meeting in the West Bank earlier this week, while Abbas is still waiting for a response from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, they said.

In trying to make a case against Israel, Abbas could also expose Hamas, a bitter rival turned potential political partner, to war crimes prosecution because it has fired thousands of rockets from Gaza at Israeli communities over the years.

“This option is a double-edged sword,” Abbas’s Fatah movement wrote on its official Facebook page Thursday, saying he would only move ahead once he has the approval of Hamas.

In Geneva, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Thursday accused both Israel and Hamas militants of violating the rules of war.

She said Hamas is violating international humanitarian law by “locating rockets within schools and hospitals, or even launching these rockets from densely populated areas.” But she added that this does not absolve Israel from disregarding the same law. Pillay said the Israeli government has defied international law in Gaza by attacking civilian areas such as schools, hospitals, homes, and U.N. facilities.

“None of this appears to me to be accidental,” Pillay said of Israel. “They appear to be defying — deliberate defiance of — obligations that international law imposes on Israel.”

Pillay also took aim at the U.S., Israel’s main ally, for providing financial support for Israel’s “Iron Dome” anti-rocket defense system. “No such protection has been provided to Gazans against the shelling,” she said.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor declined comment on Pillay’s allegations and on the Palestinian deliberations concerning the ICC.

Israeli officials have said Israel is acting in self-defense by targeting Hamas’s military arsenal and rocket-launching sites. They have accused Hamas of using Gaza civilians as human shields.

At the United Nations, Israel’s Ambassador Ron Prosor responded to criticism of his country, saying: “I think the international community should be very vocal in standing with Israel fighting terrorism today because if not, you will see it on your doorstep tomorrow.”

After Israel ...

After Israel …

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. ambassador, told reporters “There is no safe place in the Gaza Strip.”

Hamas has portrayed its rocket fire on Israel as legitimate resistance to Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

The current round of fighting marks the third Israel-Hamas war in just over five years. In each round, mutual war crimes allegations have been raised, but neither side pursued them further.

After the first war in 2009, Abbas — in an apparent effort not to antagonize the U.S. — helped freeze a U.N. report that called on Israel and Hamas to prosecute any war crimes or face scrutiny by the ICC.

Now, Abbas has more tools at his disposal.

In November 2012, the U.N. General Assembly recognized Palestine as a non-member observer state in the West Bank, Gaza, and eastern Jerusalem — lands Israel captured in 1967.

This state remains largely theoretical since Israel retains control of the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, and of Gaza’s border points. However, the U.N. vote improved Palestinian chances to seek admission to the International Criminal Court since the tribunal only has jurisdiction over crimes committed in the territory of a state.

The statehood recognition paved the way for the Palestinians to seek membership in dozens of U.N. agencies and international conventions.

Abbas signed a first batch after nine months of U.S-brokered negotiations with Israel ran aground in April, and Palestinian officials said more membership requests would follow, despite opposition by Israel and the U.S.

Gaining membership to the ICC has been considered the Palestinian “doomsday weapon” because it would likely invite major Israeli retaliation.

But widespread anger in the West Bank over the rising casualties in Gaza has increased pressure on Abbas to act.

“People feel that this tool should be used to stop the Israeli crimes,” said former Palestinian government spokesman Ghassan Khatib.

“When people in the West Bank see these scenes that are occurring now in Gaza, they feel that they should support their brothers in Gaza, and the first thing that comes to their mind is the issue of the ICC because they think that it is possible and thus they are pushing more and more for it now,” he said.

Independent legislator Mustafa Barghouti said Thursday that leaders of political factions in the West Bank have repeatedly urged Abbas to act. “We have been pressing him for a long time,” he said.

At a meeting Tuesday with political leaders and faction chiefs, Abbas asked participants to sign a declaration of support for such a move, said Barghouti, adding that everyone signed.

The final decision would still be up to Abbas, according to other participants who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters about internal deliberation.

They said Abbas also told them he would not move forward without written consent from Hamas and Islamic Jihad because they could expose themselves to possible war crimes charges.

One of the participants expressed concern that this was a stalling tactic by Abbas, arguing that it was unlikely for Hamas to support such a move.

Hamas officials in Gaza were not available for comment.

Editor’s note: The UN’s requirement that both sides in a conflict be equally armed takes war to a level unknown in all of history. This is not a schoolyard sandbox! Should the police hold fire until fugitive cop killers can re-arm and don protective vests? Should the police also be required to provide those vests, and of the same quality as the police wear? Are financial institutions now required to provide bank robbers with the combinations to their vaults?

Memo to authors Karin Laub and John Heilprin: If you want comments from Hamas leaders, try Qatar, not Gaza.

42 killed when cease-fire meant to last 72 hours ends after 2

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

Editor’s Note: Hamas has a lot of Israeli and Gazan suffering to answer for.

By Ibrahim Barzak, The Associated Press
August 1, 2014

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip | A Gaza cease-fire quickly unraveled on Friday as violence erupted in and around a southern town in the war-ravaged strip, with at least 40 Palestinians killed in Israeli shelling while the IDF said two soldiers were killed and an infantry officer was feared captured during fighting there.

Israel and Hamas accused each other of breaking the cease-fire, which had been announced by the U.S. and the U.N. and took effect at 8:00 a.m. Friday. The fighting broke out less than two hours later.

The breakdown of the cease-fire and the apparent capture of the Israeli soldier set the stage for a major escalation of the 25-day-old conflict, which has already devastated large swaths of the impoverished coastal area.

The White House condemned the apparent capture of the soldier near the southern Gaza town of Rafah, describing it as an “absolutely outrageous” action by Hamas. Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken said the soldier must be released immediately.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in a telephone conversation that Palestinian militants had “unilaterally and grossly” violated the cease-fire and attacked Israeli soldiers after 9 a.m.

“Israel will take all necessary steps against those who call for our destruction and perpetrate terrorism against our citizens,” Netanyahu told Kerry, according to a statement from the prime minister’s office.

Mark Regev, Netanyahu’s spokesman, said Hamas had “yet again thrown away a chance for a humanitarian relief for the people of Gaza, by deliberately violating this cease-fire.”

Moussa Abu Marzouk, Hamas’s deputy leader, told Al-Arabiya news channel from Cairo that the movement’s military wing carried out no military operations after 8:00 a.m., when the truce came into force.

If confirmed, the capture of the soldier could dramatically change the trajectory of the conflict. Any cease-fire efforts would likely be put on hold and Israel might instead expand its ground operation. Israel has in the past gone to great lengths to return captured soldiers. In 2011, it traded hundreds of Palestinian prisoners for an Israeli soldier [Gilad Shalit] who had been captured by Hamas-allied militants in 2006.

Israel had already said it would continue demolishing cross-border tunnels behind its own defensive lines during the cease-fire, and the IDF said its troops were attacked during one such operation.

Gunmen emerged from one or more tunnel openings and opened fire, with at least one of the fighters detonating an explosives vest, Israeli army spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said.

He said 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin, a 23-year-old from the central town of Kfar Saba, was apparently captured during the ensuing mayhem and taken into Gaza through a tunnel, while another two soldiers were killed.

“We suspect that he has been kidnapped,” Lerner said, adding that the attack took place an hour and a half after the cease-fire began.

A Hamas spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum, would not confirm or deny Goldin’s capture, saying that it was being used — along with news that two Israeli soldiers were killed in the area of Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip — as a cover for a “massacre” in Rafah that followed the apparent capture.

The Israeli military said the heavy shelling in Rafah was part of operational and intelligence activity designed to locate Goldin.

The shelling sent families fleeing from apartment blocks as pillars of smoke caused by the shelling rose from them. One woman carrying two children rushed toward a parked car. “Quickly, open the car door!” she yelled to a man standing nearby.

Ambulances ferried the wounded to Rafah’s al-Najar hospital, where bloodied bodies on stretchers were carried inside and family members frantically searched for loved ones. Many of the wounded were children, their clothes stained with blood. In one hospital room, four children were treated on a single bed. Others were being examined on the floor.

The shelling killed at least 35 Palestinians and wounded 250 in Rafah, Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said. He said the death toll could rise as rescue workers search for people buried under the rubble. He did not say whether those killed were civilians or militants.

On July 8, Israel launched an aerial campaign against Gaza aimed at halting Palestinian rocket fire and later sent in ground troops to target launch sites and tunnels used by Hamas to carry out attacks inside Israel.

The war has since killed at least 1,500 Palestinians, mainly civilians, according to Palestinian officials. Israel says 63 of its soldiers and three civilians in Israel have been killed.

Four brief humanitarian cease-fires had been announced since the conflict began, but each broke within a few hours. The IDF said Gaza militants had fired eight rockets and mortars at Israel since the 8 a.m. start of cease-fire Friday, one of which was intercepted.

The latest cease-fire, announced by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, was intended to be the first step toward a lasting truce, with Egypt inviting Israeli and Palestinian delegations to Cairo for talks.

Despite the collapse of the latest truce, an Egyptian government official said Egypt had not canceled its invitation for Palestinians and Israelis to hold talks in Cairo. “Invites were delivered already to the delegations,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the press.

Soon after the cease-fire started, Gaza’s residents took advantage of the lull to return to their homes, many of which had been destroyed in the fighting.

In the heavily bombarded Gaza district of Shijaiyah, less than a mile from the Israeli border, residents surveyed the damage.

Bassem Abul Qumbus found his three-story home — in which he had invested tens of thousands of dollars — shattered. Shells had punched a hole in the ceiling of one bedroom and a wall had collapsed into the kitchen.

“The work of all those years is gone,” he said, as he struggled to salvage flour from bags that had been torn apart by shrapnel.

In the southern town of Khan Younis, residents searched for bodies in the rubble of their homes as rescuers and volunteers carried away corpses, some charred, on makeshift stretchers.

Nidal Abu Rjeila found the body of his disabled sister on the ground on the side of the road, her wheelchair flipped upside down. He said her body had been there for five days.

“I tried to reach human rights groups and the Red Cross, but no one was answering me,” he said as he lay down by his sister’s body, overcome by grief.

Israel says it has tried to spare civilians, including by warning people ahead of military strikes, and has said Hamas endangers Gazans by firing rockets from residential areas.

Palestinian militants have fired hundreds of rockets into Israel since the start of the conflict, extending their reach to major cities but causing very few casualties, in part because Israel’s Iron Dome defense system has intercepted many of the projectiles.

Hamas has vowed to keep fighting until Israel and Egypt lift a blockade of Gaza imposed after the Islamic militant group seized power there in 2007, which has devastated the local economy.

Ahead of the cease-fire, Gaza police reported heavy Israeli tank shelling in the northern and eastern part of the strip, and loud exchange of fire could be heard across Gaza City. Tank shells slammed into the city itself, setting homes and shops ablaze.

Hamas fighters hit an Israeli tank with an anti-tank missile, Gaza police said. The militants then attacked Israeli troops who came to evacuate the tank crew. Clashes continued into the early morning hours, police said.

Secret Tunnels Under Israel Reveal Threat From Gaza

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

By Calev Ben-David /

Slipping into a tunnel under Israel’s southern border and heading toward the Gaza Strip, the scorching summer heat suddenly turns cooler and the boom of artillery fire above fades away.

The passage, built by Gaza militants to infiltrate Israel, is just high enough for a person carrying a weapon to walk through upright. Its sides and arched ceiling are made of prefabricated cement slabs. Two metal rails run along a poured concrete floor, to accommodate carts that removed dug-out earth and transported weapons, the Israeli military says.

Israel, which has acted for years against smuggling tunnels Gazans built under their border with Egypt, is now on a campaign against what it says is an unexpectedly intricate network of underground passages militants dug into Israeli territory to carry out attacks. Its three-week-old offensive in Hamas-controlled Gaza has presented an opportunity to demolish these tunnels that didn’t exist in quieter times, analysts say.

“What is surprising is the sheer scope of their entire tunnel-building operation, its sophistication, and how much of it we found in built-up populated areas,” said Israel’s Gaza Brigade’s chief combat engineer officer, who asked to be identified as Lieutenant-Colonel Max out of security concerns.

Israeli soldiers discover the entrance to a tunnel believed to belong to Hamas in southern Israel near the border with Gaza, on July 23, 2014. Photograph: Xinhua/JINI/IDF via Zuma Press

Israeli soldiers discover the entrance to a tunnel believed to belong to Hamas in southern Israel near the border with Gaza, on July 23, 2014. Photograph: Xinhua/JINI/IDF via Zuma Press

The success of the Iron Dome anti-missile system in intercepting rockets fired at Israel from Gaza caused Hamas “to shift much of its strategic effort from above the ground to below it,” Max said. Hamas says Israel’s claims of a “terror tunnel” operation are trumped up.

$30 Million

“We will not end this operation without the neutralization of the tunnels, whose only purpose is destruction,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday in a televised address. “That need was clarified today,” he added, referring to an infiltration attempt by Palestinian militants from Gaza into southern Israel through one of the tunnels.

Israeli forces engaged in a firefight with the militants, the army said in a statement, killing at least one.

Militants have poured an estimated 600,000 tons of cement and other materials into the ground at a cost of around $30 million to build the three dozen underground passages found so far, according to army spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner. The human toll of wiping them out has been high: More than 1,050 Palestinians and 45 Israelis have died since the conflict began July 8, the overwhelming majority since ground troops invaded Gaza nine days later with the declared aim of destroying the corridors.

A Palestinian man is lowered into a smuggling tunnel beneath the Gaza-Egypt border, in the southern Gaza Strip, in this Sept. 11, 2013 file photo. Photographer: Mahmud Hams/AFP via Getty Images

A Palestinian man is lowered into a smuggling tunnel beneath the Gaza-Egypt border, in the southern Gaza Strip, in this Sept. 11, 2013 file photo. Photographer: Mahmud Hams/AFP via Getty Images

Max, an assault rifle slung over his shoulder, wears a flak jacket and helmet as he makes his way down a sandy pit 12 meters (40 feet) deep to reach a tunnel Israel says it uncovered before its planned endpoint was built near Kibbutz Nir Am, an Israeli agricultural community.

The passage’s main entrance shaft was hidden 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) inside Gaza under a greenhouse in Khan Yunis, near the territory’s southern tip, Max said.

Black Cable

As the 35-year-old officer leads the way through the dark, narrow corridor, he shines a flashlight on niches he says were dug out to store weapons. A metal rack running along one side is laced with black cable, remnants of an electrical system.

More than 100 entrance shafts to about 30 tunnels have been discovered since the ground incursion was ordered a day after Palestinian gunmen emerged from an underground passage inside Israel and headed for Nir Am, the military says. There have been at least four infiltrations since, including one in which two soldiers died in a shootout with gunmen, according to the army.

Destroying the tunnels, often during a battle, presents no small challenge.

An Israeli soldier during an army organised tour in a tunnel said to be used by Palestinian militants for cross-border attacks, on July 25, 2014. Photographer: Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images

An Israeli soldier during an army organised tour in a tunnel said to be used by Palestinian militants for cross-border attacks, on July 25, 2014. Photographer: Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images

The corridors, often originating in the basements of Gaza homes and other buildings, can be booby-trapped. Max says he was injured in one such incident a few months earlier.

While the quickest and easiest way to demolish a tunnel is to have soldiers enter it and place explosives down its entire length, the army is drilling openings into the tunnels from above to insert the explosives, then detonating them from a distance to avoid putting troops in harm’s way, Max says.

‘Training Facilities’

“You want to reach a point where the entire tunnel from end to end can be destroyed, so the enemy can’t come back and easily rebuild it,” he says, explaining why this one is still intact.

The military wing of Hamas, the Islamist movement that is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union, accuses Israel of fabricating allegations about tunnels.

“The occupation’s claim that it found tunnels and seized it by showing pictures is a complete lie,” the Ezzedeen al-Qassam Brigades said in a statement last week. “All the occupation found were underground corridors dug into a training facility that belongs to our group near the border.”

Hamas knows firsthand the potential benefits the tunnels hold for militants. It won freedom for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israel in 2011 by releasing a single Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, captured five years earlier by Hamas militants who burrowed into Israel underground.

‘Policy Failure’

Israel has known about the tunnels for about two years and had uncovered several, including the one Max displayed, before the current military operation began. Retired Major-General Amos Yadlin, who headed Israeli Military Intelligence from 2006-2010, said Israel had been constrained by diplomatic considerations from acting earlier against the passages.

“We knew very well the tunnels were there,” Yadlin said. “It’s not an intelligence failure. If it’s a failure, it was a policy failure.”

After Israel discovered a concrete-lined tunnel last October, it began limiting the already restricted entry of cement and other building materials into Gaza. That decision drew criticism from the United Nations and human rights groups, which say the restrictions are crippling a Gaza economy reliant on the construction industry. It also leaves thousands of Palestinians without the means to build or repair homes, including those destroyed or damaged by Israeli military operations, they say.

Re-emerging into the harsh sunlight, Max acknowledges that pressure from the international community to cease fighting might curtail his mission.

“If we want to completely destroy all the tunnels, at least all the ones we know about, it would take at least another week,” he says. “We know also how to achieve a maximum impact within a shortened schedule.”

Arab Leaders Praying Israel Will Finally Get Rid of Hamas

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

Atwan: The Arab Leaders Pray That Israel Will Get Rid of the Palestinians Once and for All

(published a week into the 2014 Israeli-Hamas conflict)
The Arab world is holding Hamas responsible for the current conflict with Israel, the Clarion Project reports:

“As Hamas continues putting Israeli and Palestinian lives in jeopardy by rejecting ceasefires and continuing to fire rockets, the Islamist terrorist group must be disappointed at the Muslim world’s reaction. Hamas did not get the usual reflexive support and fiery backlash against Israel. In fact, it appears that the terrorist group’s largest support is coming from protests in Europe. The latest round of fighting is remarkable in what did not happen.

“The Islamists were unable to whip up the masses with the ease of flicking a light switch. Instead, flickers of the truth are penetrating minds saturated with anti-Western propaganda.

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas even publicly criticized Hamas on Palestinian television, accusing the group of provoking ‘unnecessary deaths’ and ‘trading in Palestinian blood’ by firing rockets at Israel.”

Israeli military foils attack from Gaza tunnel–video

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) releases footage showing how it thwarted an attempt by 13 Hamas militants to infiltrate Israel from a tunnel in Gaza

By Camilla Turner /

The Israeli military has released footage showing how it successfully foiled an attack by 13 Hamas militants attempting to infiltrate Israel through a tunnel from Gaza.

An Israeli aircraft struck the fighters at the mouth of the tunnel some 250 metres (820 feet) inside Israel, near a kibbutz.

The showdown took place just hours before the two sides halted fire for a five-hour humanitarian truce.

Peter Lerner, an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman, said that the truce would go ahead despite the incident.

“The IDF intercepted 13 Hamas terrorists intercepting [infiltrating] Israel near kibbutz Sufa on the southern Gaza Strip,” said. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman.

“This was an attempted attack to kill, murder, and maim — perhaps abduct — Israelis on the southern border.

“This is the type of threat we have been talking about over the last 10 days that can emerge from this area. We were successful in intercepting them.

“Our surveillance capabilities picked up on them and then we engaged and prevented this attack against Israel.”

The military footage showed a number of individuals creeping around what appeared to be a hole in the ground. Another shot showed an explosion from an airstrike at the entrance to the tunnel.

Hamas’s military wing claimed responsibility for the infiltration, saying in a statement that “during the withdrawal after the completion of its mission”, the militants were struck by “jet fighters”. It said the group returned safely, however, and that no one was killed.

Mr Lerner said the IDF believed that at least one militant was killed in the strike and that the remaining fighters appeared to have returned to Gaza through the tunnel.

This is the second time militants have attempted to infiltrate Israeli territory during the recent exchange of hostilities. Last week, four fighters were killed when they attempted to gain entry to Israel from the sea.

Is Hamas Trying to Get Gazans Killed?

Sunday, July 13th, 2014
There is no doubt that Hamas could protect Gazan lives by ceasing its current campaign to end Israeli lives. Photographer: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

There is no doubt that Hamas could protect Gazan lives by ceasing its current campaign to end Israeli lives. Photographer: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

By Jeffrey Goldberg /

Mahmoud Abbas, the sometimes moderate, often ineffectual leader of the Palestinian Authority, just asked his rivals in Hamas a question that other bewildered people are also asking: “What are you trying to achieve by sending rockets?”

The Gaza-based Hamas has recently fired more than 500 rockets at Israeli towns and cities. This has terrorized the citizenry, though caused few casualties, in large part because Israel is protected by the Iron Dome anti-rocket system.

In reaction to these indiscriminately fired missiles, Israel has bombarded targets across Gaza, killing roughly 100 people so far. Compared with violent death rates in other parts of the Middle East, the number is small. (More than 170,000 people have been killed in the Syrian civil war to date.) But it is large enough to suggest an answer to Abbas’s question: Hamas is trying to get Israel to kill as many Palestinians as possible.

Dead Palestinians represent a crucial propaganda victory for the nihilists of Hamas. It is perverse, but true. It is also the best possible explanation for Hamas’s behavior, because Hamas has no other plausible strategic goal here.

The men who run Hamas, engineers and doctors and lawyers by training, are smart enough to understand that though they wish to bring about the annihilation of the Jewish state and to replace it with a Muslim Brotherhood state (Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Brotherhood), they are in no position to do so. Hamas is a militarily weak group, mostly friendless, that is firing rockets at the civilians of a powerful neighboring state.

The Israeli military has the operational capability to level the entire Gaza Strip in a day, if it so chooses. It is constrained by international pressure, by its own morality and by the understanding that the deaths of innocent Palestinians are not in its best political interest. The men who run Hamas — the ones hiding in bunkers deep underground, the ones who send other people’s children to their deaths as suicide bombers — also understand that their current campaign will not bring the end of Israel’s legitimacy as a state.

I’ve been struck, over the last few days, by the world’s indifference to Gaza’s fate. Perhaps this conflict has been demoted to the status of a Middle East sideshow by the cataclysms in Iraq and Syria. Perhaps even the most accommodationist European governments know that Israel is within its right to hunt down the people trying to kill its citizens. Regardless of the cause, Israel seems under less pressure than usual to curb its campaign.

There is no doubt that Hamas could protect Palestinian lives by ceasing its current campaign to end Israeli lives. The decision is Hamas’s. As the secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, said yesterday, “We face the risk of an all-out escalation in Israel and Gaza, with the threat of a ground offensive still palpable — and preventable only if Hamas stops rocket firing.”

I understand that this latest round in the never-ending Israel-Gaza war was, in many ways, a mistake. Israel was uninterested in an all-out confrontation with Hamas at the moment, and Hamas, which is trying to manage a threat to its control of Gaza from — believe it or not — groups even more radical and nihilistic than it is, is particularly ill-prepared to confront Israel.

The politics of the moment are fascinating and dreadful, but what really interests me currently is a counterfactual: What if, nine years ago, when Israel withdrew its soldiers and settlers from Gaza, the Palestinians had made a different choice. What if they chose to build the nucleus of a state, rather than a series of subterranean rocket factories?

This thought is prompted by something a pair of Iraqi Kurdish leaders once told me. Iraqi Kurdistan is today on the cusp of independence. Like the Palestinians, the Kurds deserve a state. Unlike most of the Palestinian leadership, the Kurds have played a long and clever game to bring them to freedom.

This is what Barham Salih, the former prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, told me years ago: “Compare us to other liberation movements around the world. We are very mature. We don’t engage in terror. We don’t condone extremist nationalist notions that can only burden our people. Please compare what we have achieved in the Kurdistan national-authority areas to the Palestinian national authority. … We have spent the last 10 years building a secular, democratic society, a civil society.” What, he asked, have the Palestinians built?

So too, Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, once told me this: “We had the opportunity to use terrorism against Baghdad. We chose not to.”

In 2005, the Palestinians of Gaza, free from their Israeli occupiers, could have taken a lesson from the Kurds — and from David Ben-Gurion, the principal Israeli state-builder — and created the necessary infrastructure for eventual freedom. Gaza is centrally located between two large economies, those of Israel and Egypt. Europe is just across the Mediterranean. Gaza could have easily attracted untold billions in economic aid.

The Israelis did not impose a blockade on Gaza right away. That came later, when it became clear that Palestinian groups were considering using their newly liberated territory as a launching pad for attacks. In the days after withdrawal, the Israelis encouraged Gaza’s development. A group of American Jewish donors paid $14 million for 3,000 greenhouses left behind by expelled Jewish settlers and donated them to the Palestinian Authority. The greenhouses were soon looted and destroyed, serving, until today, as a perfect metaphor for Gaza’s wasted opportunity.

If Gaza had, despite all the difficulties, despite all the handicaps imposed on it by Israel and Egypt, taken practical steps toward creating the nucleus of a state, I believe Israel would have soon moved to evacuate large sections of the West Bank as well. But what Hamas wants most is not a state in a part of Palestine. What it wants is the elimination of Israel. It will not achieve the latter, and it is actively thwarting the former.

Hamas Plays the Death Card

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

New York Daily News editorial 7-12-2014

Playing the Death Card

This much we know: Israel lives under constant threat from terrorists who would like nothing better than to exterminate the Jewish state that they consider an outright abomination.

This much we have also come to understand: In polite society, it is increasingly fashionable to roll one’s eyes or outright indict Israel for daring to defend itself against those who aim to indiscriminately kill its people and undermine its right to exist.

The cycle continues as Hamas fires hundreds of rockets at Israeli cities, and Israel responds with far more precise and effective salvos at terrorists. All too predictably, international condemnation is starting to come Israel’s way.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, warned Friday that Israel’s air campaign in Gaza, one of the most focused in the history of war, may violate international law.

Citing “deeply disturbing reports that many of the civilian casualties, including of children, occurred as a result of strikes on homes,” Pillay said “such reports raise serious doubt about whether the Israeli strikes have been in accordance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law.”

Nonsense. A nation has the right to defend itself from a fusillade of rockets. A nation has the right to attack those who war against it.

Some Israeli salvos have killed innocent Palestinians. This is a fact all should mourn — and that the vast majority of Israelis do mourn. A civilian casualty is a tragedy, no matter the victim’s religion, nationality or background.

Only the radical fringe that dominates Palestinian leadership does not mourn. Hamas purposely houses its operations in civilian neighborhoods and near mosques, launching rockets from there to batter Israeli cities.

These rockets are not an act of self-defense, nor are they a retaliatory answer to any violence. They are simply an attempt to force Israel to live in constant fear — one that even Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has disavowed.

“What are you trying to achieve by sending rockets?” asked Abbas in a televised address, signalling that, perhaps, the Palestinian terrorists have finally gone too far for their more moderate partner in government.

Israel’s good-faith efforts to make its necessary war more humane — and to stay within the rules of war — include warning Palestinians to vacate buildings that have been targeted as sites from which Hamas is warring.

Perversely, Hamas’s Interior Ministry reportedly ordered residents of the Gaza Strip to remain inside, preferring to boost the civilian body county in hope of turning world opinion against Israel and winning sympathy — sympathy for the devils.

Zola Levitt Presents
Levitt Letter