Author Archives: Elon Perry

Gaza: Hamas militants die in tunnel collapse

Palestinian militant group Hamas says seven of its fighters have died after an attack tunnel they were working on in north-east Gaza collapsed. The tunnel near the Israeli border collapsed after heavy rain, it said. Palestinian militants have used tunnels on Gaza’s borders with Israel and Egypt to launch attacks on Israel, transport weapons or smuggle goods. Israel destroyed dozens of tunnels during the 2014 Gaza conflict, but Hamas has been rebuilding them.

Meanwhile, tunnels on the Egyptian border have been used to smuggle weapons into Gaza, as well as civilian goods. The tunnels have played a vital role in the economy of Gaza, which has been under a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt in 2007.

File photo: Overview of a tunnel built underground by Hamas militants leading from the Gaza Strip into Southern Israel, seen on August 4, 2014 near the Israeli Gaza border, Israel.

The Egyptian military began flooding tunnels on its borders late last year, and says it has eliminated about 90% of them. Israel occupied Gaza in the 1967 Middle East war and pulled its troops and settlers out in 2005. Israel considered this the end of the occupation, but it still exercises control over most of Gaza’s borders, waters and airspace. Egypt controls Gaza’s southern border.

16 November 2014     20.00

76 Main Rd, West Huntspill, Highbridge, TA9 3QU

Phone: 01278 795886

 

22 November 2014     20.00

The Cleve Hotel

Mantle St, Wellington, Taunton, TA21 8SN

Phone: 01823 662033

 

28 November 2014   19.30

Oaktree Arena,

Bristol Road, Edithmead Ln, Highbridge, Somerset TA9 4HA, ghbridge

Phone: 01278 782216

29 November 2014     20.00

Glastonbury

High St, BA6 9DU

Phone: 01458 834677

 

 

4 January   2015 19.30

The Canalside

Marsh Ln, TA6 6L4

Phone: 01278 456545

 

 

6 January 2015 19.30

Bindon Country House

Langford Budville, TA21 0RU

Phone: 01823 400070

 

 

12 January 2015 20.00

Victoria Park Community Centre

Victoria Road, TA6 7AS

Phone: 01278 422255

 

 

19 January 2015 19.30

The Rowan Centre

72 High St, BA6 9DZ

Phone: 01458 831395

 

 

 

5 February   2015 19.30

The Corner House Hotel

Park St, TA1 4DQ

Phone: 01823 284683

 

 

15 February   2015   19.30

The Merry Monk in Taunton

Monkton Heathfield, TA2 8NE

Phone: 01823 412213

 

 

22 March 2015 20.00

LONDON

Ealing City Learning Centre

 

 

24 March 2015     19.30

LONDON

Learning Centre Greenwich

 

 

26 April 2015     20.00

LONDON

Enfield Central City Learning

 

 

28 April 2015     19.30

LONDON

Camden City Learning Centre

 

 

12 May 2015     20.00

LONDON

Wood City Learning Centre

 

22 October   2014 20.00  

LONDON

Ealing City Learning Centre

 

24 October   2014     19.30

LONDON

Learning Centre Greenwich

  

26 October   2014     20.00  

LONDON

Enfield Central City Learning

  

28 October   2014     19.30

LONDON

Camden City Learning Centre

 

12 November 2014       20.00  

LONDON

Wood City Learning Centre

22 October   2014 20.00  

LONDON

Ealing City Learning Centre

 

24 October   2014     19.30

LONDON

Learning Centre Greenwich

 

26 October   2014     20.00  

LONDON

Enfield Central City Learning

  

28 October   2014     19.30

LONDON

Camden City Learning Centre

 

12 November 2014       20.00  

LONDON

Wood City Learning Centre

Why Israelis are rallying behind latest Gaza campaign

Israelis in Jerusalem demonstrate in support of Gaza offensive (14 July 2014) More than two weeks into the campaign, Israelis feel the offensive is justified

Before rocket fire from the Gaza Strip on civilian populations in Israel escalated and three teenagers were abducted and murdered in an incident that Israel attributes to Hamas, the Jewish state was becoming increasingly fragmented.

Peace talks had broken down. Debates over divisive matters of religion and state were intensifying. And right-wing politicians like Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett were openly preparing for the possibility of early elections that could be held if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition fell apart.

Mr Netanyahu was being blamed for failing to prevent the international community from recognising a Palestinian unity deal with Hamas and Islamic Jihad – an endorsement that for Israelis looks grotesque in hindsight.

Then came Hamas and accomplished what had seemed impossible: it unified Israelis.

Dovish Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and the hawkish Bennett gave interviews on Israel’s top-rated nightly news show on successive nights. They sounded remarkably the same.

There have been anti-war demonstrations. In Israel, in times of war and peace, there tend to be demonstrations about something or other every day.

But so far, the demonstrations have been a dramatic failure. Only Israeli Arab citizens and Jews on the fringe far-Left have participated in them.

There have been funerals of soldiers that have attracted far more people – in one case more than 30,000 – indicating overwhelming support for the Israel Defense Forces.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog from the Labour Party – who will face off against Mr Netanyahu whenever Israel will have its next election – has praised the ground offensive in the Gaza Strip as strongly as the prime minister’s closest supporters.

Unifying effect

The reason why Hamas has been so effective in unifying Israelis is that they attacked the Israeli consensus.

They didn’t attack the West Bank, whose fate divides Israelis. They attacked Tel Aviv and close to Ben-Gurion International Airport with rockets, targeted left-wing agricultural communities on Israel’s side of the border with Gaza from what Israel calls terror tunnels, and allegedly kidnapped boys on the way home from school in a society that is obsessed with children.

Palestinian mother (left) reacts to death of her son who medics said was killed by Israeli shelling (23 July 2014) Many more Palestinians have been killed than Israelis, but Israelis put the blame on Hamas

By doing so, Hamas built up the stamina of an Israeli population that was more impatient in previous standoffs in Gaza.

Polls have shown that support for the ground offensive is sky-high and that Mr Netanyahu’s backing of a proposed Egyptian cease fire was extremely unpopular.

A Panels poll taken on the eve of the invasion for the Knesset Channel, which broadcasts the Israeli parliament’s proceedings, found that 63% of respondents wanted to enter the Gaza Strip and only 27% did not. Ten per cent did not answer or had no opinion in the poll, which surveyed a representative sample of the Israeli population, including Arabs.

Israelis are just as empathetic to the tragic Palestinian death toll in Gaza as other people around the world. They just blame it on Hamas firing from among civilian populations, rather than on the Israeli army’s air strikes.

The death toll on the Israeli side is now rising after it was initially small. Some 2,000 rockets fired over the past three weeks have killed only one Israeli, who happened to be a Bedouin.

An Israeli volunteer who tried to deliver food in a dangerous location close to the Gaza border was killed by a mortar. And an Israeli Arab woman in Haifa died from a heart attack en route to a bomb shelter after being shocked by a siren.

But since the ground invasion last Thursday night, 29 soldiers have been killed and more than 100 wounded. For Israelis, such numbers are difficult to accept.

Israel is rare in that the deaths of its soldiers are often portrayed as more tragic than those of its civilians. The IDF is a symbol of the Jewish Israeli consensus, and its soldiers are seen as “everyone’s children”.

By contrast, civilians killed by rockets have been mocked for ignoring warning sirens and going out on their porches to film the Iron Dome missile defence system with their iPhones.

Sense of purpose

If soldiers continue to die, more doubts about the ground operation will undoubtedly be raised. If a soldier or civilian is proven to be kidnapped, that would also have a demoralising effect.

Israelis mourn at funeral of Sgt Max Steinberg (23 July 2014) All Israelis identify with losses in the military

Hamas’ repeated attempts to kidnap soldiers and its celebration of unsubstantiated and highly doubted reports that a kidnapping had taken place show that its leaders understand the potential impact of a successful abduction.

It is clear to Hamas that all it takes to change Israeli public opinion dramatically is for one rocket to be missed by Iron Dome over a Tel Aviv skyscraper or for a group of gunmen to enter a kibbutz cafeteria through a tunnel and open fire.

But while such incidents would demoralise Israelis and harm their leaders’ popularity, they would not add opposition to the ground offensive.

Israelis know that had it not been for the ground offensive, the tunnels would have remained undiscovered and they would have been in great danger.

That explains why there is no overwhelming sense of urgency on the part of Israelis to end the operation before the achievement of its objectives of restoring quiet to southern Israel, destroying the tunnels, weakening Hamas significantly, and most importantly, avoiding future war.

Gaza conflict: 12-hour truce as deaths top 900

Residents in Gaza are using a 12-hour humanitarian truce to return to their homes, gather essential supplies and search for those trapped in the rubble. At least 85 bodies have been pulled from the rubble during the truce, a Palestinian health official says, the spokesman said. Thirty-nine Israelis have died. International talks on a longer truce have resumed in Paris.

Israel said it would continue to “locate and neutralise” Hamas tunnels during the pause, which began at 08:00 local time (05:00 GMT).

So far 31 tunnels have been discovered, with about half destroyed, Israeli’s military says.

Two Israeli soldiers were also killed overnight, Israel’s military confirmed.

The Iron Dome defence system intercepted three rockets fired towards the southern Israeli town of Ashkelon overnight.

line

View over part of Shejaiya (26 July 2014) In the district of Shejaiya, residents started flooding back from 08:00, despite warnings not to do so.

The scene here is just astonishing – the most widespread destruction: buildings completely pulverised, cars thrown 50m (160ft) into the air on top of buildings, the facades of some block of flats completely ripped off.

The air is pretty thick with the stench of death as people try to recover bodies and belongings.

In the background I can hear a crackle of gunfire. Although a humanitarian ceasefire is in place, clearly people are still shooting. There is an Israeli drone flying overhead, and we’ve heard the sound of fighter jets.

 

line

‘Confident of ceasefire’

US Secretary of State John Kerry met the foreign ministers of Turkey, Qatar and some European countries in Paris on Saturday in the hopes of agreeing a longer ceasefire.

“We all call on parties to extend the humanitarian ceasefire,” France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters.

“We all want to obtain a lasting ceasefire as quickly as possible that addresses both Israeli requirements in terms of security and Palestinian requirements in terms of socio-economic development.”

Mr Kerry spent a week in the Middle East attempting to broker a deal before leaving Egypt on Friday.

John Kerry on the phone to Israeli PM Netanyahu, Cairo, 25 July 2014 US Secretary of State John Kerry has been leading efforts to secure a ceasefire

Government spokesman Mark Regev said Israel was ultimately seeking “peace and quiet”

Hamas insists that any ceasefire should include a lifting of the blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel and Egypt since 2007.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said Israel “appreciated” Mr Kerry’s continued efforts, and that Israel wanted “peace and quiet”.

“The people of Gaza are not our enemy, our enemy are the people shooting those rockets into Israeli cities,” Mr Regev told the BBC.

Israel is reported to want to continue operations against Hamas infiltration tunnels once direct conflict ends.

The 12-hour truce was agreed overnight, although the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) vowed to respond if attacked.

The truce came shortly after Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon warned that ground operations in Gaza could soon be broadened “significantly”.

Israeli air strikes target Syria after Golan death

Israeli air strikes target Syria after Golan death

Israeli soldiers load shells in their tank in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, 22 June 2014 Israel said it attacked nine Syrian targets and direct hits were confirmed

Israel says it has carried out air strikes on military targets in Syria.

The military said it had attacked nine targets in response to the killing of a 15-year-old boy in a strike in the occupied Golan Heights on the border between the two countries on Sunday.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry said the Israeli air strikes had killed four people and wounded nine others.

Israel called the boy’s death the most substantial incident in the Golan since the Syrian conflict began in 2011.

Two others, including the boy’s father, an Israeli defence contractor, were injured in Sunday’s blast, which struck their vehicle.

It is unclear whether Syrian rebels or government forces were behind the incident.

‘Everyone loved him’

Israeli military spokesman, Lt Col Peter Lerner, told the Associated Press news agency the attack from Syria was “clearly intentional” but it was unclear whether the blast in the area of Tel Hazeka near the Quneitra crossing was the result of mortar fire, a roadside bomb or shelling.

He described it as “an unprovoked act of aggression against Israel and a direct continuation to recent attacks that occurred in the area”.

Map

The Israeli military said its air strikes targeted Syrian army positions, including a military headquarters, in response and that “direct hits were confirmed”.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry has condemned the Israeli air strikes, calling them a “flagrant violation” of its sovereignty.

In a statement, it said the strikes were a sign of the “direct and continuous support” that Israel is giving to rebels fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and urged the UN to condemn the attacks.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights had earlier said that at least 10 Syrian soldiers were killed during the Israeli raids.

The teenager killed in Sunday’s attack, an Arab Israeli, has been named as Mohammed Qaraqara.

“He was an excellent student; everyone loved him,” his cousin Salah Qaraqara told Reuters.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “Our enemies don’t differentiate between Jews and non-Jews, adults and children.”

The Golan Heights, a rocky plateau in south-western Syria, was seized by Israel from Syria in the closing stages of the 1967 Middle East War.

The two countries remain technically in a state of war, and UN observers are deployed to monitor a 70km-long (45-mile) demilitarised zone.

Firing linked to the Syrian conflict occasionally reaches the Israeli side of the border fence – some unintentional, some said to be deliberate.

An Israeli soldier prays on a Merkava tank on the Israeli-Syrian border near Quneitra in the Golan Heights, 22 June 2014 The Golan Heights were taken by Israel from Syria in the 1967 Middle East War

In March, Israel conducted air strikes against several Syrian military targets after a bombing that injured four of its soldiers in the Golan Heights.

Israel had accused the Syrian army of “aiding and abetting” the attack on a patrol near the ceasefire line.

Syria said one of its soldiers was killed in the Israeli military response.

Some of Israeli’s recent air strikes are believed to have prevented the transfer of stockpiles of rockets from the Syrian government to Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia Islamist movement that supports President Bashar al-Assad.