After the mourning – the reprisals
Reports from Ma’an and Al Jazeera followed by a thoughtful article by Amos Harel warning of the dangers of a full-scale confrontation with Hamas. Ya’alon’s reponse is a new settlement in the dead boys’ names reports Barak Ravid, 4th.
Israeli soldiers block the northern entrance of the village of Halhul, near the West Bank town of Hebron, on June 30, after the bodies of the three Israeli teenagers were found. Photo by AFP.
July 01, 2014
BETHLEHEM — Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian teenager during a military operation in Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank early Tuesday, locals and medics said.
Palestinian Red Crescent medics told Ma’an 16-year-old Yousef Abu Zagha was shot by Israeli fire in the chest during clashes with troops who raided the camp overnight.
Abu Zagha was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at a public hospital in Jenin.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said that he was a “Hamas operative” about to hurl an explosive device at troops sent to arrest him.
“They opened fire and confirmed a hit,” the spokeswoman said.
The killing came after Israeli forces found the bodies of three Israeli teenagers who had been missing in the West Bank for over two weeks.
Israeli forces have killed six Palestinians in the military operation that followed the disappearance of the teenagers from the Gush Etzion settlement on June 12.
Air raids come hours after Israeli PM blames Hamas for deaths of three missing settlers.
July 01, 2014
The Israeli air force has launched a series of air raids on the Gaza Strip, hours after the bodies of three settlers were found in the occupied West Bank.
The Israeli military said it launched 34 raids in the early hours of Tuesday, in response to 20 rockets fired into Israel from the strip.
A Palestinian was also shot dead on Tuesday in an Israeli operation in Jenin, in the West Bank. The Israeli military said the dead man was a member of Hamas and was attempting to throw a grenade, although this information cannot be independently verified.
The attacks came hours after the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, promised that the Gaza-based group Hamas “will pay” after the discovery of the young settlers’ bodies near the West Bank village of Halhoul on Monday.
They disappeared on June 12 while hitchhiking home from a religious school in Kfar Etzion, an illegal settlement between Bethlehem and Hebron, and were last heard in a brief emergency call to police.
Their disappearance set off the largest military operation in the West Bank since the end of the second Intifada. More than 400 Palestinians were arrested in the 18-day search, thousands of homes raided, and five people killed by Israeli gunfire.
On Monday night it demolished the homes of Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisha, two Hebron-area residents who the Israeli government has named as suspects.
The home of Amer Abu Eisheh goes up in flames during demolition by the IDF in Hebron on July 1,2014. The Israeli army demolished the West Bank homes of two main suspects in the kidnap and killing of three young Israelis, witnesses told AFP. They said the houses of Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Eisheh, Hamas members in the city of Hebron, were blown up, in what a human rights group said was the first punitive demolition since Israel halted the practice in 2005. Photo by Hazem Bader / AFP.
The use of punitive demolitions revived a practice that was almost entirely discontinued in 2005.
The Israeli security cabinet also held an emergency meeting on Monday night, which ended with no major decisions on further actions, according to a government source. The cabinet will reconvene on Tuesday.
Some politicians have called for harsher steps against Hamas, including targeted assassinations. “I don’t know how many leaders of Hamas will remain alive after tonight,” said Tzachi Hanegbi, the deputy foreign minister.
The group dismissed the accusations in a statement, calling them propaganda. “We warn Israel against any stupid action. If Israel wants a war, the price they will pay will be greater than in previous wars,” it said.
The PLO’s Hanan Ashrawi told Al Jazeera that the “Israeli escalation already took place, and now they have an excuse of further escalation.”
Press conference June 30, 2014. Photo by Sebastian Scheiner / AP.
The public demands revenge, but Netanyahu does not want long war with Hamas
Bad blood between Jews and Arabs on rise in territories, Israel proper; ‘price tag’ attacks expected.
By Amos Harel, Haaretz
July 01, 2014
The mystery of the kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers was solved Monday night with the discovery of their dead bodies in the heart of the area where the search took place, west of Hebron. However, the security crisis that the kidnapping set off is still in force.
The Netanyahu government must now navigate between the public’s intense fury over the boys’ murders, the pressure by the right wing within the government for a harsh response, and concern that a violent, escalating confrontation with Hamas will ensue, mainly in the Gaza Strip.
Israelis light candles in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, as they mourn the killing of three abducted teenagers, Monday, June 30, 2014. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90
The prime minister will have to undertake a series of responses to convince public opinion that he, as he claimed in a past election campaign, is still strong against Hamas – without being drawn into a long military entanglement.
The kidnapping of the yeshiva students elicited a wave of public sympathy with the families, but also calls for revenge, largely among the extreme right. Although there is no direct connection between the acts, in the public’s consciousness the kidnappings in Gush Etzion are of a piece with other events currently in the news: the investigation into the murder of Afula’s Shelly Dadon, whose family wants the state to declare it a terrorist act, even though police have not reached that conclusion; and another murder that police say they solved on Monday – that of Rinat Roas, a 20-year-old woman from Ashdod killed nine years ago, and in which the suspect is an Israeli Arab.
All these incidents heat up the atmosphere between Jews and Arabs, in the territories and also within Israel. It’s no coincidence that police announced on Monday that they were putting units in all regions on high alert. Such an atmosphere can fuel incitement, turbulent demonstrations, violent clashes and attacks on Arabs within Israel proper. Based on past experience, it’s possible to predict with a high degree of assuredness that there will be further arson attempts at mosques and assaults on Palestinian property in the territories, in the context of what are known as “price tag” attacks.
At the political level, Benjamin Netanyahu hears the calls for vengeance and senses the expectations for concrete responses from his government. In recent days he has convened a series of discussions to adopt punitive measures against Hamas. Under consideration were increasing pressure on the flow of money to Hamas, expulsion of the organization’s leaders from the West Bank, and the destruction of terrorists’ homes.
The security establishment announced its intention to destroy the home of the suspect in the murder of police officer Baruch Mizrahi, whose arrest was publicized last week after the lifting of a gag order. It is safe to assume that such steps will continue, in contravention of the policy in force since 2005, when the last house demolitions took place.
The government’s declared purpose is to deter the Palestinians, but its practical goal is more to pacify Israelis. Harsh actions are liable to restrain the fury coming from the home front.
Nevertheless, the political temptation to take showy measures against Hamas in Gaza is great. Even though Israel hasn’t uncovered a smoking gun linking the Hamas operatives from Hebron who perpetrated the kidnapping to the organization’s leadership in Gaza, it assumes the operation was carried out in obedience to the leadership’s general directives. In recent days, tensions between Gaza and Israel have risen and there has been a sharp increase in the number of rockets fired from the Strip at the Negev. The air force has also conducted more air strikes. Sunday night, a Hamas operative was killed in one such strike, which Israel said was aimed at a cell about to launch rockets. But there’s a growing possibility that this was a case of mistaken identity, and the cell actually wasn’t making launch preparations. In any case, there is fertile ground for escalation here.
An Israeli assassination of a single senior Hamas official would be enough to start a larger fire. Such a step would earn Netanyahu plaudits from the right, but it has the potential to be dangerous. Military Intelligence estimates that Hamas has hundreds of rockets in Gaza that are capable of hitting the greater Tel Aviv region. Hamas claims it also has rockets with an even longer range, capable of reaching northern Israel.
Anyone who starts a major operation against Hamas in Gaza must be prepared for a relatively long confrontation that will include intensified attacks on Israel’s home front. Such an operation must have a clearer goal than satisfying the public’s desire for revenge.
In the diplomatic sphere, the finding of the bodies will increase pressure on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to break with Hamas. This has already happened to some extent, since the kidnapping worsened relations between Hamas and Abbas’ Fatah party. But it’s still hard to see Abbas complying with Netanyahu’s demand that he break up the technocratic unity government he formed in cooperation with Hamas.
The principal goal of Operation Brother’s Keeper, finding the kidnapped teens, was achieved last night. The tragic result – the discovery of bodies rather than live kidnap victims – was expected by everyone familiar with the intelligence picture that emerged from the investigation over the past two weeks.
The bullet marks found in the car the kidnappers used, the contents of the tape of the call one teen made to a police hotline and an analysis of the modus operandi of previous kidnappings all led to the conclusion that there was almost no chance any of the kidnapped boys had somehow survived.
The terrible end of the affair must open the conduct of the government and the security establishment for renewed debate. The constant repetition of the working premise that the three are alive (based mostly on lack of evidence as to their death), along with the media frenzy over the families of the teens, may have fostered exaggerated expectations in the public.
Another main question still unanswered pertains to the tracking of the kidnappers. The Shin Bet security service, which failed to prevent their plan beforehand, still managed relatively quickly to identify the two kidnappers and arrest several members of the outer circle of the Hebron terror infrastructure, aided by Palestinian intelligence.
It’s likely that, in the near future, indictments will be filed against several of their accomplices. The final deciphering was made thanks to the analysis of partial findings from the investigation, alongside the extensive IDF searches in the area where the bodies were estimated to be buried.
It’s rare for bodies to be found before the murderers are arrested. Despite the failures so far, it’s safe to assume that sooner or later the murderers will be found. Several kilometers away from where the bodies were found, in 1998 Israeli security forces killed the brothers Imad and Adel Awadallah, heads of Hamas’ military arm in the West Bank, after a long manhunt. It’s likely that Marwan Kawasameh and Amar Abu Aisha, suspected of kidnapping and killing the teens, will meet with a similar fate.
Defense minister’s proposal part of larger plan to expand settlement construction; Livni threatened to vote against, says it would turn national tragedy into political issue.
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz
July 1, 2014
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed Monday night that Israel’s response to the murder of the three teenagers in the West Bank should include a wave of settlement construction and the establishment of a new settlement in memory of Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel, a senior Israeli official told Haaretz.
During Monday’s cabinet meeting, Ya’alon presented a plan prepared by the Civil Administration with various operations aimed at strengthening the Israeli settlement enterprise. The suggestions include promotion of planning procedures and the publication of construction tenders for thousands of new units in the settlement blocs. The plan also includes a proposal for a new settlement on state lands inside one of the blocs, to be named after the three victims.
Establishment of a new settlement conflicts with the commitment the Israeli government made to the U.S. government, under both President Bush and President Obama.
According to the senior official, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni opposed the move and threatened to vote against the cabinet decision. Livni said that if Israel presents settlement construction as a sanction or punishment in response to the murder, it will hurt the little bit of legitimacy Israel has from the international community to retain the settlements blocs in any future deal with the Palestinians.
Livni evoked the many condemnations of the murders expressed by a slew of world leaders, and argued that settlement construction would damage Israel’s international backing and hurt the national consensus surrounding kidnapping.
“It is wrong to split the nation along ideological lines of construction that the entire nation is not behind,” Livni said. “Such a move could also hurt our international legitimacy for a military operation against Hamas. Settlement construction at this stage would minimize the murders and transform it from a national issue to a political one.”
Bennett expressed a certain amount of support for Livni’s stance, stating that he objects to an Israeli response limited to settlement construction that does not include a comprehensive military operation against Hamas.
A heated debate erupted at the cabinet meeting
Netanyahu decided to postpone the vote and schedule another meeting Tuesday night, after Economy Minister Bennett erupted, calling the proposed actions “weak and disgraceful” and threatened to vote against them.
According to a source present at the meeting who preferred to remain nameless, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and Israel Defense Forces officers suggested a strike on several Hamas facilities in the Gaza Strip, most of which have already been abandoned due to Hamas’ anticipation of an Israeli raid.
The source added that a draft of the cabinet’s decision, which includes eight or nine clauses, was comprised primarily of plans for future operations. “It said that efforts to expel Hamas members to Gaza will continue, even though the attorney general said at the meeting that the issue is stuck due to legal hurdles.”
According to the source, there were “proposals, like continued operations against Hamas’ civilian infrastructure in the West Bank and the search for the kidnappers, but nothing of significance.”
At one point in the meeting, the source said, Bennett burst out with a list of eight possible actions, some of them quite extreme. He suggested large-scale operations against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, confiscating Hamas money in banks in the West Bank, and to begin instating the death penalty on terrorists convicted of murder in military courts.
“The response we are discussing here is weak and borders on disgraceful,” Bennett said. “This was a severe instance of the kidnapping of three kids and their murder in cold blood. A weak response to such a grave incident guarantees the next kidnapping.”
Ya’alon criticized Bennett during the meeting and warned that his suggestions were dangerous. “If we implement what you propose, it will lead to an escalation we won’t know how to control, to the point of a war in Gaza.” Ya’alon said. “Do we really want a war in Gaza now?” Bennett responded: “We will ultimately be at war in Gaza. It’s better that we be the ones to start it.”
Livni also rejected Bennett’s proposal. “We’ve had harsh terror attacks in the past, but you don’t start a war because of it,” she said. Minister Gilad Erdan agreed with Bennett that the defense establishment’s proposals were inadequate, but opposed an operation in the Gaza Strip for fear of an escalation.
Erdan censured Gantz after he complimented the ministers for their “sane and moderate actions,” arguing that his statement was “inappropriate.” “Your job is not to give us grades,” Erdan exclaimed.
Before the meeting ended, Bennett turned to Netanyahu and said that he intends to vote against the cabinet decision as it currently stands. Netanyahu, who during the meeting expressed that he wanted to hear additional proposals for actions against Hamas, said he wanted a unanimous decision, and as a result, postponed the vote.
Another cabinet meeting will be held Tuesday night, following the funerals of the three teenagers.