German media in the German city of Dusseldorf reported that some ten men of “north African or Mediterranean” appearance pushed the young Jewish man, causing painful injuries.
Wet Gunpowder gathering goes out with a whimper after Egypt reportedly tells Hamas leaders to stay away from the event
A pro-Iranian event held in Gaza on Monday did not go according to plan, after Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, apparently failed to deliver an expected address to the audience, and Egypt reportedly told high-level Hamas officials to stay away from the event.
The shadowy Iranian officer had been expected to speak to the crowd at the Wet Gunpowder Festival via video conference from Tehran. The event was held simultaneously in Gaza and Tehran.
Ahead of the expected remarks by Soleimani, Gholamhossein Gheybparvar, the commander of the Basij, a paramilitary force in the Revolutionary Guards, gave a short speech in which he slammed US President Donald Trump for his fickle behavior.
Shortly after Gheybparvar concluded his remarks, which were largely inaudible due to connectivity issues between Tehran and Gaza, Al-Quds TV, one of a couple of Palestinian media outlets broadcasting the event, cut to the evening news.
It is unclear what happened after Al-Quds TV cut its live stream of the conference, but Gal Berger, correspondent for Israel’s Kan public broadcaster, tweeted that the event had been “stood up” by Soleimani.
The Ynet news site reported that just before Soleimani was due to speak, the connection between Gaza and Tehran cut out and was not restored, suggesting the Iranian commander had been present at the event in the Iranian capital.
The report did not say whether the Iranian commander had addressed festival participants in Iran, or whether the feed was cut deliberately.
Ynet also reported that a number of high-level Hamas officials, including Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar and politburo member Mahmoud al-Zahar, had planned to attend the event but ultimately decided not to come. A source in Gaza, who spoke to the news site, assessed that the top Hamas officials did not attend the conference at the behest of Egypt.
Egypt has long been wary of Iranian influence in the Middle East and is believed to have attempted to deter Hamas from thawing its ties with Tehran.
Asked whether Soleimani had spoken at the event, a senior Hamas official told The Times of Israel that “he was not responsible for what happened,” then hung up the phone. It is unclear what the official meant by “what happened.”
Soleimani, who has been designated as a terrorist by the United States, is in charge of efforts to extend Iran’s influence in the Middle East and has played a key role in arming pro-Iranian groups in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and other countries. He is also believed to have undertaken projects to arm and aid Hamas and Islamic Jihad’s military wings in Gaza.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that Iran is Israel’s “greatest threat” and frequently criticizes Tehran’s activities in the region as well as its anti-Israel rhetoric.
On Monday, ahead of the event, the prime minister’s Arabic-language spokesman, Ofir Gendelman, tweeted about Soleimani’s planned speech.
“The leader of the murderous Quds Forces Qassem Suleimani will deliver a speech today during a joint Hamas—Islamic Jihad—Iran event. This is what he will say: 1)After we destroyed Iraq, Syria and Yemen, Gaza’s turn has come. 2)The fate of the Palestinian does not concern us. They are only a tool.”
Gendelman added: “Oh people of Gaza—wake up! Look at what happened to the Syrians because of Iran.”
Kamil Abu Rokon, the head of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, alluded to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza in a Facebook post criticizing Soleimani’s expected speech.
“Will it be about developing the Gaza Strip? Renovating buildings and homes? Increasing electricity supply? Water? Helping people in need? Shiite Iran is investing funds in the terrorist Hamas organization and not in Gaza or its people.”
The Iranian state-operated Arabic broadcaster Al-Alam mocked the reactions of the Israeli officials.
“Their responses regarding [Soleimani] were as if he is a missile targeting the occupied territories,” stated the article, alluding to the comments by Gendelman and Abu Rokon.
Trump spoke as “we,” which apparently indicated Moscow and Washington both working with Israel and “Israel working with us.”
President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed Israel, Syria and Iran in their meeting in Helsinki and in subsequent comments to the press. The public comments provide some insight into their view of the future of the Middle East. With the Syrian regime conducting a major offensive in the south and the US deeply involved in eastern Syria, while Israel demands the Iranians leave, this was a central topic of concern in Helsinki.
Trump went first with a discussion of Israel. According to a transcript published by NPR he said, “we’ve worked with Israel long and hard for many years.” He pointed out that the US has never been closer to Israel than it is today. “President Putin also is helping Israel and we both spoke with [Prime Minister Benjamin] Bibi Netanyahu and they would like to do certain things with respect to Syria, having to do with the safety of Israel.” He spoke as “we,” which apparently indicated Moscow and Washington both working with Israel and “Israel working with us.” He continued, “I think they’re working with Israel is a great thing and creating safety for Israel is something bother President Putin and I would like to see very much.”
The two also discussed the future of Syria. Trump claimed that the US military was successfully coordinating with Russia in Syria.
“Our militaries do get along very well,” he said. Putin said that Russia was working to establish peace and reconciliation. “Russia and the United States apparently can act proactively and take leadership on this issue.” He emphasized the coordination between the US and Russian militaries in Syria helped avoid “dangerous incidents and unintentional collisions.”
Putin elaborated that the crucial issue now was relating to refugees in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. “If we help them, the migratory pressure upon the European states will drop.” He mentioned that Russia was working closely with Turkey and Iran, “so that we will be able to maximize our fighting change together for ultimate success in the issue of Syria.”
Putin shrugged off a question about the “ball” being in Russia’s court in terms of deciding what’s next in Syria. He said he would hand the ball to Trump, and made a joke about the World Cup. Trump agreed that humanitarian concerns were a key for the people of Syria.
So what was said and unsaid? Both Putin and Trump appeared to understand and to some extent support Israel’s concerns regarding Syria. They were keyed in to Jerusalem’s policy, which has included airstrikes on Iranian threats in Syria over the last six years. The use of the word “us” and “we” to describe Israel’s relationship with Moscow and Washington points to an unprecedented level of understanding between Jerusalem and the two world powers. Probably never before have Moscow and Washington been closer in terms of listening to Israel’s concerns. The fact that both Washington and Moscow have their own agendas in Syria, neither of which always mesh with Israel’s agenda was left unsaid. The fact is that Russia cannot remove Iran from Syria, which is Israel’s main goal. Washington also has not committed to a mission to rollback Iran in Syria, still concentrating resources on defeating ISIS.
Putin sees Iran as an important player in the region and not as an adversary. He would like to work more closely with Turkey as well. Trump meanwhile is adamantly opposed to Iran. Here the two leaders expressed differences. Putin was noticeably tight lipped about his views of Tehran’s policies. This could point to growing daylight between Moscow and Iran but it more likely points to Putin’s tendency towards generalization that allows Russia more room to maneuver. The US prefers clearly stated goals, while Russia prefers the veneer of discussion international law, while the opaque nature of Moscow’s actual policy relating to Iran in places like Syria.
Overall the meeting between the two leaders was weak on substance. Prior to the summit some in Israel had pushed stories about Russia agreeing some sort of concept where Iran leaves Syria when the conflict is done. But after Netanyahu’s meeting with Putin and then after Trump’s meeting it is clear that there will be no clear comment about Iran’s future role in Syria, or about Israel’s continued opposition to any Iranian forces remaining.
Waving white flags, group returned to displaced persons camp near village of Bariqa
Close to 200 Syrians were stopped gathered meters from the Israeli border after they marched on the border, with some waving white flags, in an attempt to flee from an offensive led by Syrian President Bashar Assad to retake rebel-held territory in the Golan Heights.
A spokeswoman for the Israeli military said the IDF was aware of the situation and that there were no exceptional events and the Syrians turned back after Israeli soldiers shouted at them to go back.
The group reportedly returned to a displaced persons camp in the village of Bariqa after they crossed one of the 1974 ceasefire lines west of Tel al-Harra, a strategic hill which overlooks Israel’s Golan Heights.
Dozens of Syrians were stopped some 200 meters from the Israeli border after they marched on the border, with some waving white flags.
Rebels surrender as the Syrian army advances, June 30, 2018 (Reuters)
The Syrian IDPs have been sheltering between the Alpha and Bravo ceasefire lines in an area under observed by the United Nations Disengagement Force (UNDOF).
Syrian regime forces backed by Shi’ite militias and Russian aerial bombing have advanced against rebel groups and retaken territory next to the Israeli border which has been under rebel control for the past four years.
In addition to retaking the main border crossing between Damascus and the Jordanian capital of Amman, the Syrian regime has retaken dozens of villages in the Daraa province. On Sunday the regime took Tel al-Harra, an important hill that dominates the border area and fighting continued near the border area on Monday.
Thousands of Syrians have fled towards the Israeli border on the Golan Heights seeking a safe zone and according to the UN, over 120,000 Syrians have fled their homes due to the offensive. Many have clustered in the Quneitra area along the border, hoping that the border area is a no-fly zone and that they will be protected from air raids or further regime advances.
On Monday a monitor reported that 8 civilians, including women and children, were killed after a Syrian regime helicopter dropped barrel bombs in a school sheltering IDPs in the village of Ein al-Tena in the southern suburbs of Quneitra.
Also on Monday several dozen IDPs were seen on video approaching the fence north of al-Rafeed.
Dalton Thomas, founder of FAI Relief which is providing aid to the Syrians, said that he thinks the numbers approaching the border fence will grow.
“Right now FAI is the only aid group on the ground. And our resources are being depleted as fast as we can raise the alarm.” Over the weekend the WHO called for greater access to health care for the IDPs.
Despite unconfirmed reports that Israel and the UN have been in talks to set up safe-zones for Syrians along the border, Israel has made it clear that no Syrian refugee would be granted entry into Israel which will continue providing humanitarian aid.
As the offensive comes closer to Israel’s Golan Heights, Jerusalem has stressed for the 1974 separation of forces agreement between Israel and Syria to be upheld and the demilitarized buffer zone along the border be respected.
Despite recent tensions between Jordan and other stakeholders in the Middle East, shifting dynamics across the region have recently led to the formation of a tentative U.S.-backed cooperation between Israel and such Sunni Arab states as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and the Hashemite Kingdom. While this rapprochement may very well prove to be financially and politically beneficial to Jordan, it has nonetheless sparked the ire of many Jordanian citizens. So far, King Abdullah has resisted public pressure and has taken steps to further promote this rapprochement, a strategically wise decision.
The cooperation between the aforementioned partners is largely the result of two factors, the first of which is the threat posed by Iran and the Islamic State (IS): In a 2017 interview with the Washington Post, King Abdullah expressed his fears regarding Iran’s growing influence in the region, stating “the Revolutionary Guard is about 70 kilometers away… If it is bad news for us, you have to put the Israeli equation into this.” Indeed, concerns over Iran’s and IS’s expansionist intentions, as well as a desire to prevent Iran from achieving its nuclear aspirations, have led Israel and the aforementioned Sunni states to recognize that they have mutual interests and has opened the door for security collaboration.
The second factor prompting the formation of this surprising alliance is economic in nature. In recent years, the volume of trade and even joint projects between Israel and these Sunni Arab states has increased significantly. In 2014, for example, the Israeli company Delek Drilling signed a $771 million agreement with Jordanian companies Arab Potash and Jordan Bromine. Two years later, the owners of the Israeli gas field Leviathan signed a $10 billion agreement with the Jordan Electric Power Company.
However, when it comes to crucial topics such as the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, the future of Jerusalem, and the war in Yemen, Jordan does not always see eye to eye with Israel, the United States, or its Sunni counterparts. For example, whereas Amman believes that addressing the Arab-Israeli conflict must remain the top priority, the other parties view Iranian expansion as a more pressing matter. Moreover, issues like the war in Yemen, which Jordan has been reluctant provide military support for, the boycott on Qatar, which Jordan opposes, and Jordan’s purported soft treatment of the Muslim Brotherhood have all strained the Saudi-Jordanian relationship. Of course, moving the United States Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has done nothing to strengthen ties between Amman and Washington, while violence related to Israel’s decision to install metal detectors outside of al-Aqsa Mosque in 2017 led to a temporary closure of the Israeli embassy in Jordan, though it has since reopened.
Nonetheless, despite pressure from civil society and some political institutions to pull out of the unofficial alliance, King Abdullah appears to realize that doing so may be dangerous and would likely hurt Jordan’s long-term interests. Seeking to fortify the relationship with Israel and other Sunni states, King Abdullah received Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the latter’s visit to Amman. The king has also recalled the Jordanian ambassador to Tehran with no intention of sending a replacement and sent Crown Prince Hussein to the United Arab Emirates to meet with his Emirati counterpart, Mohammed bin Zayed. Likewise, the king traveled to Washington, D.C. and participated in Saudi Arabia’s Mecca Summit, where he was able to secure $2.5 billion in aid.
The most serious challenge that the Jordanian monarch now faces is convincing the Jordanian public of the strategic benefits of a Sunni-Israeli alliance. The Jordanian public understands its decision-makers’ limited capacity to influence current events, especially when it comes to Jerusalem and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The King should thus try to convince its subjects that Jordan’s membership in the alliance enables it to fully participate in and preserve its historic role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, as well as protect Jordanian interests in Jerusalem. The public ought to understand as the King has that, as a small country with limited resources, Jordan depends on its allies—even if those allies can sometimes seem less than ideal.
07-16-2018 Chris Mitchell
Aerial view of ancient Shiloh, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
The Bible says this is the place where Joshua parceled out the Promised Land to the 12 tribes of Israel. It’s also where the Tabernacle of the Lord stood for more than 300 years
Dr. Scott Stripling directs the excavations at Shiloh. Along with dozens of volunteers, he and his crew are digging into history.
Excavation Director Dr. Scott Stripling, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
“Welcome to ancient Shiloh,” Stripling greeted us. “This is the first capital of ancient Israel and it’s a sacred spot because the Mishkan was here, the Tabernacle, where people came to connect with God.”
Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
“We’re dealing with real people, real places, real events,” he continued. “This is not mythology. The coins that we excavated today – we’re talking about coins of Herod the Great, Pontius Pilate, Thestos, Felix, Agrippa the First, Agrippa the Second. The Bible talks about these people. We’ve got the image right here.”
That ‘image’ includes a fortified wall built by the Canaanites. The team finds a treasure trove of artifacts there, which includes ancient coins and some 2,000 pieces of pottery a day.
Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
“Now, this one was from yesterday,” he said. “It’s been washed already so you see the same form right out of the ground in yesterday and those are those handles from the stone vessels. Remember, Jesus’ first miracle in Cana? There were stone jars full of water. That’s that ritual purity culture of the first century.”
An archaeologist like Dr. Stripling looks at these shards as a fine time piece.
“Just like your great grandmother’s pottery is different from your pottery that you’re using today…once we learn the pottery, then we can use it as our primary means of dating.”
Unearthing ancient pottery, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
Stripling says literally digging into the Bible can change your life.”
“You can read the Bible, you can walk the Bible, but the ultimate is to dig the Bible,” he said. “You know, when we actually get into the swill, like these students from Lea University. They’re literally – it’s under their fingernails and in their nose and in their mouth and their ears and they’re exposing this ancient culture. It becomes one with you. It’s sort of like we came out of the soil and as we dig into the soil, we connect with God and with each other, I think, in a very important way,” he said.
Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
Abigail Leavitt, a student at the University of Pikesville, serves as object registrar.
“I love getting my hands dirty. I love digging in the dirt. It’s my favorite thing,” she told CBN News.
While people of all age volunteer at the dig, the main drivers are students like Abigail.
“It’s tiring and exhausting, but it’s really rewarding,” she said. “It’s exciting to find ancient things – things that have been just waiting for us for thousands of years.”
Abigail Leavitt, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
Leavitt says the Bible comes alive in the dirt.
“I read the Bible totally differently than I did before I came here, and I can see when I read the Bible I know the places, I know what’s going on. I understand it more deeply, especially where previous archaeologists have claimed the archaeology disproves the Bible. But when we dig here, we find that everything matches. You read it in the Bible. You dig in the dirt and there it is,” she said.
Stripling said, “Archaeology doesn’t set out to prove or disprove the Bible. What we want to do is to illuminate the biblical text, the background of the text, so to set it in a real world culture to what we call verisimilitude,” he explained.
“So, we get an ancient literary description. Now, we have a material culture that matches that,” he continued. “Chris, you’re sitting where Samuel and Eli and Hannah and these people that we have read about, they came just like us, needing answers, needing to connect with God, needing forgiveness.”
Stripling says they dig into the past and find lessons for the present.
“One of the faith lessons for us is that God is the potter and we are the clay. And even if our lives are broken like these vessels are, God told Jeremiah after He had told him to go to Shiloh and see what He had done, He told him to go to the potter’s house and look at a flawed vessel and see how the potter puts it back on the wheel and works out the imperfections. So my faith lesson is this: Yes we’re imperfect, but if we will allow God, He wants to put us [on] His potter’s wheel and make us a vessel of honor.”
Stripling often cites Psalm 102.
“O Zion, your servants take delight in its stones and favor its dust.” (Ps. 102:14)
“For me this is sacred soil. This is where the Mishkan was that answers the most basic of all human questions: ‘How do I connect with God?’ And I think that’s their most basic question,” he said.
“I know I messed up. I know that God is holy. How do I bridge that gap when I sin against other people, when I sin against God. Ultimately, Chris, if the Bible is true, then the God of the Bible has a moral claim on our lives. And as we establish the veracity of the biblical text, I hope that everyone watching would just think about that – that God loves us and He has a moral claim on our lives.”
On July 13 and 14, 2018 there was another round of escalation near the Gaza Strip. It began after the IDF carried out extensive aerial attacks in response to the wounding of an IDF officer by a hand grenade thrown during the “return march” on Friday, July 13, 2018. During the escalation Israeli Air Force aircraft carried out three waves of aerial attacks on Hamas military targets, beginning on the night of July 14, 2018, and continuing the following day.
- During the round of escalation massive barrages of rockets and mortar shells were fired in three main waves, parallel to Israel’s aerial attacks. A total of about 200 rockets and mortars shells were fired. The Iron Dome aerial defense system intercepted 37 of them. Four members of the same family in the southern city of Sderot were wounded. Property damage was reported. In ITIC assessment, most of the rockets and mortar shells were fired by Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) (no organizational claims of responsibility have been issued).
Rocket and Mortar Shell Fire during the Third Round of Escalation after Hamas Set Its “New Reaction Equation”
Monthly Distribution of Rockets and Mortar Shells, 2018
Updated to July 15, 2018
Annual Distribution of Rocket Fire
- On the evening of July 14, 2018, Hamas and the PIJ announced they would agree to the ceasefire brokered by Egyptian and international mediation. However, they made it clear that the ceasefire does not include the “return marches” or the launching of incendiary kites and balloons. That clearly indicates that Hamas intends to continue the policy of controlled violence towards Israel it has employed for the past three and a half months. During the first stage (March 30 to the end of May 2018) emphasis was put on mass demonstrations and riots against Israel accompanied by violence near the security fence and the launching of incendiary and explosive kites and balloons into Israeli territory (arson terrorism). When the first stage exhausted its propaganda value and the number of participants at the “return marches” dropped, Hamas decided to adopt a new modus operandi, which it currently employs.
- Hamas and the PIJ announced they would protect the launching of kites and balloons with the “new equation” of “an attack in return for an attack and blood in return for blood.” That included rocket and mortar shell attacks against Israel, an increase in number of incendiary kites and balloons, and a rise in the level of violence used against IDF forces near the security fence (with the decline in the number of “return march” participants).
So far, the transition of Hamas and the PIJ to firing rockets and mortar shells in defense of kite terrorism added a new dimension to the Hamas-instigated escalation in the south. So far Hamas has acted carefully and not fired rockets deep into Israeli territory. However, its decision to continue arson terrorism and various other forms of violence within the “marches” indicates that Hamas has taken into account the possibility of a further escalation which does not deter it from continuing its policy.
The Events Leading to the Escalation
- During the demonstrations and riots near the border fence on Friday, July 13, 2018, two IEDs and a number of hand grenades were thrown at IDF forces near the Karni Crossing. One of the hand grenades wounded an IDF officer. In response to the attacks, at around 01:30 on July 14, 2018, Israeli Air Force aircraft attacked a series of Hamas terrorist targets. As the IDF carried out its attacks, massive barrages of rocket and mortar shells were fired into Israeli territory. During the night about 100 rockets and mortar shells were fired at Israel.
- There was quiet until the afternoon of July 14, 2018. At 13:15 Israeli Air Force aircraft carried out extensive attacks against terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip. At the same time, rocket and mortar shell fire from the Gaza Strip was renewed. As the rockets and mortar shells were fired Gazans, continued launching incendiary kites and balloons which caused a number of fires in the communities near the Gaza Strip.
- Following international and Egyptian mediation efforts, a ceasefire went into effect at 19:00 hours. A few rockets and mortar shells were fired after 19:00 (see below).
Rocket and Mortar Shell Fire
- During the IDF attacks massive barrages of rocket and mortar shells were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory in waves parallel to the IDF attacks. Most of the two hundred shells fired were mortar shells, with a smaller number of rockets. The rocket alert siren was sounded no less than 130 times in the communities near the Gaza Strip and in the southern Israeli cities of Ashqelon, Sderot and Netivot. The Iron Dome aerial defense system intercepted 37 rockets. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman reported that 90% of the rockets fell in open areas or were intercepted by the Iron Dome (Ynet, July 15, 2018).
- Two of the rockets hit the southern city of Sderot, one landing near a synagogue. No casualties were reported. The other landed in the yard if a residential home; four family members were wounded by shrapnel. A chicken coop in one of the communities was directly hit.
Rocket hit in the southern Israeli city of Sderot
(Israel Police Force spokesman’s unit, July 14, 2018).
- During the rocket and mortar shell attacks Gazans continued launching incendiary balloons, which caused about 15 fires in communities near the border. All the fires were extinguished but fields and a nature preserve were damaged.
A helium balloon from the Gaza Strip in one of the communities near the
Gaza Strip border (Israel Police Force spokesman’s unit, July 14, 2018).
- Israeli Air Force aircraft responded with aerial attacks on Hamas targets. The IDF reported it was the most severe response during daylight hours since Operation Protective Edge (July 2014). More than 40 attacks were carried out on military targets in four Hamas military compounds. Among the targets were a training area for urban warfare, warehouses storing weapons, training compounds, operations rooms, offices, sites for the manufacture of weapons and various storage centers (IDF spokesman, July 14, 2018).
IDF aerial attacks in the Gaza Strip, July 14, 2018 (Palinfo Twitter account, July 15, 2018).
- Some of the targets attacked were the following (IDF spokesman, July 14 and 15, 2018):
- A training site for urban warfare: the IDF attacked a five-story building (the al-Katiba building) in Gaza City. It was used by Hamas’ military wing as a training ground for urban warfare. There was a tunnel under the building which was used to train operatives in subterranean fighting. The building was attacked after the inhabitants were warned by the IDF to vacate the premises (IDF spokesman, July 14, 2018).
Right: An aerial photograph of the al-Katiba building in Gaza City, used as a training site. It is located near the Sheikh Zaid mosque (IDF spokesman, July 15, 2018). Left: The al-Katiba building, and to the left, the Sheikh Zaid mosque (Palinfo Twitter account, July 14, 2018).
Pictures from March 2018 of Hamas operatives during urban warfare training in the al-Katiba building. The facility is next to the Sheikh Ziad mosque. A tunnel was dug beneath it (Facebook page in Arabic of Israeli Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories, July 15, 2018).
- The headquarters of the Hamas battalion in Beit Lahia: the IDF spokesman reported the battalion’s entire facility had been destroyed.
Before (right) and after (left) the attack on Hamas battalion headquarters in
Beit Lahia (northern Gaza Strip) (IDF spokesman, July 15, 2018).
- Terrorist tunnels: two terrorist tunnels in the region of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip were destroyed. They tunnels did not extend into Israeli territory.
- Facilities for the manufacture of weapons and two weapons storehouses: one storehouse was used by Hamas’ naval force.
- A squad of mortar shell launchers in the northern Gaza Strip.
- The ministry of health in the Gaza Strip called on all residents not to gather in places where Israel attacked (Twitter account of Ashraf al-Qidra, July 14, 2018). According to reports from the Palestinian ministry of health, two Palestinian youths were killed in Israel’s attacks in the Gaza Strip and 25 people were wounded. The two fatalities and most of the wounded were the result of the attack on the al-Katiba building. The two killed were Amir al-Nimra, 15, and Loua’i Kahil, 16, both from Gaza City (Ma’an, July 14 and 15, 2018).
Throughout the day on July 14, 2018, representatives of Egyptian intelligence and Nikolay Mladenov, the UN envoy to the Middle East, held talks with both sides in an attempt to reach a ceasefire. According to media reports, Egypt exerted pressure on Hamas to cease its fire, reasoning that a continuation was liable to cause Israel to respond more severely and could lead to a general deterioration. In the afternoon Hamas and the PIJ announced they agreed to a ceasefire. Despite their agreement during the night there were four launchings from the Gaza Strip, one of which was intercepted by the Iron Dome.
- Senior PIJ figure Ahmed al-Mudallal said the understandings of the ceasefire did not include the launching of incendiary kites and balloons or the demonstrations at the fence. He said there was no connection between the lull in the fighting based on the understandings of the ceasefire in 2014 [i.e., the ceasefire that ended Operation Protective Edge] and the “return marches” and everything connected to them.
- Israel did not officially confirm the ceasefire and no details were reported of the particulars of the agreement. However, the IDF’s Home Front Command reported the cancellation of the special instructions to Israelis living near the Gaza Strip and the return to routine daily life. Despite the lull, IDF forces are on high alert along the border, and the Iron Dome systems remain deployed (Ynet, July 15, 2018).
- On the morning of July 15, 2018, after the agreement went into effect, several fires were located near the Gaza Strip border, having been caused by incendiary balloons. About an hour later an Israeli Air Force aircraft attacked Hamas operatives launching balloons from the southern Gaza Strip (IDF spokesman, July 15, 2018).
Responses of Hamas and the PIJ
- Most of the senior Hamas figures did not make public statements during the round of escalation. Hamas and PIJ spokesmen blamed Israel and reiterated the equation recently formulated by Hamas and the PIJ of fire in return for fire and quiet in return for quiet.
- Hamas spokesmen made the following comments during the clashes:
- Isma’il Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political bureau, gave a speech at the funeral of the two youths killed in the IDF attack on the al-Katiba building. He emphasized that the “return marches” would continue until their objectives had been achieved, the most important of which was lifting the siege on the Gaza Strip (al-Aqsa TV, July 15, 2018).
- Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum praised the Palestinian “resistance” [i.e., terrorist organizations] which had taken responsibility for responding directly with force to Israel’s escalation. He said the “resistance” would not retreat from the equation of “an attack for an attack.” He added that Hamas placed full responsibility on Israel for the results of the escalation. He said that the “resistance” would continue defending the Palestinian people and coping with [Israel’s] aggression (Hamas website, July 14, 2018).
- Isma’il Radwan, a senior Hamas figure in the Gaza Strip, said he did not expect Israel to attack the Gaza Strip because Israel was aware of its failure. He repeated that as far as Hamas was concerned, the kites were peaceful weapons [sic] (al-Ghad YouTube channel, July 14, 2018).
- Abd al-Latif Qanu’, a Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip, praised the Palestinian organizations in Gaza. They had, he claimed, put an end to the “Zionist escalation,” responded to the attack on their people and kept Israel from forcing a new equation [on the Gaza Strip]. In addition, he said, the organizations had made it clear to Israel that it would lose every battle against the “resistance” and that every attack would be answered with an attack (Palinfo Twitter account, July 15, 2018).
- PIJ spokesman Daud Shehab said the era when Israel could attack the Palestinian people without a response had ended. He said the Palestinians were prepared to deal with any Israeli aggression. He said the “resistance” does not want a military struggle, but would not slacken in its response to Israeli aggression (Filistin al-Yawn, July 14, 2018).
Isma’il Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political bureau, give a speech at the funeral of
the two youths killed in the IDF attack on the al-Katiba building in western Gaza City
(al-Quds TV channel, July 15, 2018).
Previous Rounds of Escalation
First round of escalation (May 29-30, 2018)
- On May 29, 2018, at around 07:00, about 30 mortar shells were fired into Israeli territory. One shell landed in a kindergarten a short time before the children were supposed to arrive. The mortar shells were fired by the PIJ in response to the deaths of three of its operatives on May 27, 2018. Israel responded with Israeli Air Force aerial attacks on Hamas and PIJ targets. The IDF spokesman reported that more than 35 targets had been hit in seven compounds. During the Israeli Air Force attacks another barrage of rockets and mortar shells was fired at Israel. In addition to mortar shells, 107mm rockets were fired. Four Israelis were wounded by shrapnel; three were soldiers. At that point operatives from Hamas’ military wing joined the rocket fire.
- On the night of May 29, 2018, the rocket and mortar shell fire continued. During a heavy barrage at about one in the morning a rocket fell in the stadium of the southern city of Netivot. Another hit a home in the western Negev. No casualties were reported but property damage was reported. Most of the rockets and mortar shells were intercepted by the Iron Dome.
- In response to the continuing attacks, Israeli Air Force aircraft attacked 25 targets in the Gaza Strip. They destroyed military equipment and Hamas and PIJ security facilities. Among the targets hit were stores of drones used for terrorist purposes, a lathe used in the manufacture of rockets, an advanced naval device, military compounds, training camps and sites for the manufacture of weapons (IDF spokesman, May 30, 2018). However, no casualties resulting from the attacks were reported during the first round. It ended with a flimsy, informal agreement for a ceasefire, obtained through Egyptian mediation.
Second round of escalation (June 2-3, 2018)
- The second round of escalation was more limited in scope and occurred three days after the ceasefire that ended the first round. Seven rockets and mortar shells were fired at Israeli territory. In the early evening of June 2, 2018 three mortar shells were fired from the southern Gaza Strip at Israeli communities. One was intercepted by the Iron Dome and two fell inside the Gaza Strip. In response the IDF fired two shells at an observation post in the southern Gaza Strip. Following the IDF fire more mortar shells and rockets were fired at the southern city of Sderot and several nearby communities. Somewhat later rockets were fired at communities in the western Negev near the northern Gaza Strip and the area south of the southern city of Ashqelon.
- In response Israeli Air Force aircraft attacked Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip. Among them were ten targets in three terrorist compounds, including a site for the manufacture of weapons and a military facility. Also attacked from the air were five targets of Hamas’ naval force in the northern Gaza Strip (IDF spokesman, June 3, 2018).
Rocket fire in response to IDF activity (July 17-18, 2018)
- On the night of July 17, 2018, three rockets were fired at the western Negev south of Ashqelon. Two rockets fell in Israeli territory. No casualties or damage to property were reported. The rocket fire was in response to an IDF attack in response to the launching of incendiary kites and balloons and an attempt to sabotage security installations at the Karni Crossing. Israeli Air Force aircraft attacked nine targets in two military compounds and Hamas facilities for the manufacture of weapons in the northern Gaza Strip (IDF spokesman, June 18, 2018).
Rocket fire in response to IDF activity against incendiary kite and balloon launchers (June 19-20, 2018)
- Following the increase in arson terrorism the IDF intensified its responses. It attacked targets of Hamas and other terrorist organizations and did not merely fire warning shots at launchers of kites and balloons. Following the IDF attacks Hamas announced it was behind arson terrorism and had set “new rules of engagement” which would prevent strong Israeli responses and protect the kite and balloon launchers. The result was that another round of escalation began on the night of June 19, 2018. Hamas operatives fired about 45 rockets and mortar shells at Israel.
Rocket fire in response to IDF activity (June 27, 2018)
- On the night of June 27, 2018, the IDF, using aircraft and a tank, attacked a vehicle belonging to a Hamas operative who was part of a squad launching explosive and incendiary balloons. Also attacked were two Hamas observation posts in the northern Gaza Strip. In response Hamas fired 13 rockets and mortar shells at communities near the border. Three rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome aerial defense system. No casualties were reported (IDF Facebook page, June 27, 2018).
 Data from the IDF spokesman. The data include the minimum number of rockets and mortar shells. At this stage the ITIC cannot distinguish between rockets and mortar shells. ↑
 For further information see the June 25, 2018 bulletin, “Hamas’ new policy towards Israel: from restraint and calm to controlled violence, creating escalation.” ↑
Hamas official Ismail Radwan urged all Palestinian “resistance groups” to coordinate their moves to “foil American-Zionist schemes.”
President Donald Trump’s threats against Iran and Palestinian resistance groups don’t scare us,” a senior Iranian general told leaders of Palestinian terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip on Monday via a video conference during a meeting organized simultaneously in Gaza City and Tehran, according to a report by the Turkish news agency Anadoul.
Brig.-Gen. Gholamhossein Gheybparvar, a senior officer in the Revolutionary Guards who heads the Basij forces – Iran’s “Mobilization Resistance Force,” said the “Wet Gunpowder/Resistance is not Terrorism conference” reflected the state of “cohesion and concordance among Arabs and Muslims in confronting their enemies.”
Maj.-Gen. Qassem Soleimani of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards and commander of its Quds Force, was originally scheduled to address the conference in Arabic. However, it was unclear why he was replaced by Gheybparvar.
Some of the organizers of the conference claimed that Israel had used technological means to disrupt Gheybparvar’s speech.
Speakers at the conference said that Palestinian terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip see themselves as being part of the “axis of resistance” against Israel and the US. They also praised Iran for its financial and military support for the Palestinians.
The Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are not afraid of death and will continue to protest along the border with Israel in spite of the Jewish State’s threats, Khaled al-Batsh, a senior Islamic Jihad leader, said in a speech at the conference, which was held in a hotel in Gaza City.
“Our people will not leave the areas of the confrontations until they [Israel] restore their stolen rights,” he said. The protests will not stop until they achieve their goal of ending the blockade [on the Gaza Strip].”
Batsh said that he expected similar protests to take place in the West Bank, Jerusalem and other parts of Israel.
The protests, which the Palestinians have been holding in the context of the so-called March of Return, are also aimed at thwarting Trump’s yet-to-be-announced plan for peace in the Middle East, he added.
“Trump’s deal won’t pass and it is domed to failure,” Batsh said. He also praised Iran for its “support for the Palestinian cause.” Iran, he said, “stands today with its leaders, army and fighters with Palestine and the Palestinian resistance.”
Jamil Mazhar, a senior representative of the Palestine Front for the Liberation of Palestine, one of several PLO factions, also thanked Iran for its “unlimited” support for the Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip. He called for the establishment of a “unified Islamic-Arabic front” to support the Palestinian groups that are “facing Israeli-American aggression.”
Speaking at the conference, Hamas official Ismail Radwan urged all Palestinian “resistance groups” in the region to coordinate their moves to “foil American-Zionist schemes.” Israel, he said, needs to know that the Gaza Strip will not be alone in facing any new “aggression.”
Radwan condemned Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the city. “By doing so, the US has placed itself in an anti-Arab and anti-Islamic trench,” he charged. “Trump’s decisions will not change the historical, political and legal facts. Jerusalem is ours and there is no status for Zionists on the land of Palestine.” He too stressed that the protests along the border with Israel would continue until they achieve all their goals.