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.