Three Israeli soldiers were killed Wednesday when a tunnel opening they were investigating turned out to be booby-trapped. The tunnel opening was located under a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) clinic, the Times of Israel reports.
The deaths come a day after terrorist rockets were found inside a UNRWA school for the third time this month. The soldiers were in the clinic when the tunnel exploded and were killed when it collapsed. Another 15 soldiers were wounded.
Troops increasingly are encountering improvised explosive devices as they hunt for more Hamas tunnels, Brig. Gen. Micky Edelstein told the newspaper. In a briefing, IDF officials said they destroyed four more tunnels in the past day, and are "days away" from eliminating the tunnel threat.
Meanwhile, the UNRWA reported Tuesday that it found Hamas rockets in one of its Gaza schools for the third time since Israel's Operation Protective Edge began, the Times of Israel reports. The agency is devoted to helping Palestinian refugees, yet their premises are consistently exploited for the purposes of Hamas' terrorist operations.
"We condemn the group or groups who endangered civilians by placing these munitions in our school," said UNRWA Spokesperson Chris Gunness. "This is yet another flagrant violation of the neutrality of our premises. We call on all warring parties to respect the inviolability of UN property."
Hamas was not mentioned explicitly in the statement.
A UNRWA spokesperson stated that the organization gave the rockets to "local authorities," which answer to the Hamas-Palestinian Authority (PA) unity government led by PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
A senior Israeli official told the Times of Israel that the weapons were essentially returned to Hamas. "The rockets were passed onto the government authorities in Gaza, which is Hamas. In other words, UNRWA handed to Hamas rockets that could be shot at Israel."
The former Saudi intelligence head, Turki al Faisal, publicly blames Hamas for Israel's military campaign in Gaza and the resulting casualties.
Al Faisal's comments came in an interview published Sunday by Al-Sharq-al-Awsat that were then reported in English by the website Algemeiner.
"Hamas is responsible for the slaughter in the Gaza Strip following its bad decisions in the past, and the haughtiness it shows by firing useless rockets at Israel, which contribute nothing to the Palestinian interest," Faisal said.
This increasingly anti-Hamas sentiment is shared by various other Arab writers and officials.
Recently, Saudi columnist Nasser Al-Sarami urged people not to be deceived by Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood's intentions. "While the poor, defenseless people... stand exposed to rockets and tanks, the jihadi and Brotherhood leaderships flee to the fortified holes they prepared for themselves. This, in addition to the leaderships that are based in countries outside the conflict zone, hundreds of miles away... This is the [Muslim] Brotherhood, the leaders of Hamas and the savage organizations. Beware of them!"
Hamas has caused more Palestinian suffering than Israel has, Egyptian journalist Kamal Gabriel wrote:
"These Palestinian gangs plunder the cause of the oppressed Palestinian people by repeatedly reenacting the story of Samson, who brought down the [Philistine] temple on his and everyone else's heads. They do this in their own country and in every country that hosts them – in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Kuwait. These organizations have become a curse on the Palestinian people..."
Various writers in Syria and Egypt also blame Hamas' actions for provoking Israeli counter attacks and prioritizing conflict over the safety of Gaza's civilians.
Moreover, Egypt's foreign minister, Sameh Shoukri, blames Hamas for the current escalation of violence, by rejecting Egypt's initial cease-fire proposal.
Israel's Operation Protective Edge uncovered a comprehensive Hamas training manual that features step-by-step instructions on building homemade bombs. The terrorist manual includes detailed techniques concerning the concealing and detonation of various types explosives.
For example, the manual explains how to produce a television-shaped explosive with shrapnel intended to kill and mutilate as many Israeli victims as possible. Israel Defense Forces (IDF) also discovered different types of mines and remotely detonated bombs throughout the Gaza Strip.
The video below shows one example of Israeli forces encountering a Gaza civilian home rigged with explosives located near a United Nations school.
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While the IDF continues to degrade Hamas' capabilities and the Iron Dome missile defense system neutralizes roughly 85 percent of Hamas rockets targeted, the terrorist organization continues to find other ways to target innocent Israeli civilians.
Click here to see IDF forces exposing a Hamas terrorist tunnel built to store weapons and serve as a critical means to stage future attacks and kidnappings of Israelis.
According to the IDF, more than 2,600 Hamas rockets have been fired from Gaza at Israel since the start of Operation Protective Edge. The IDF has responded to the terrorist threat by striking 3,870 Hamas targets including dozens of underground tunnels.
While Hamas targets innocent Israelis, the terrorist organization continues to use its own population as human shields, utilizing civilian structures as military bases of operations. Hamas exploits schools, civilian homes, and mosques as bases to launch rockets at Israel and host weapons and rockets. Hamas even uses hospitals as command and control centers and ambulances as transport vehicles.
Click here to see video footage of Hamas using ambulances to move its terrorist fighters. When ambulances are used for military purposes, they may be targeted according to international law. In this video, the IDF chose not to target the ambulance in this instance to avoid the possibility of non-combatant casualties.
The Wafa hospital in the Shejaia neighborhood was converted into a command center, rocket-launch pad, sniper's position and weapons storage depot. The hospital now serves as a cover for Hamas' underground tunnel system and base for terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and troops.
Click here to watch video confirming Hamas attacks from the Wafa hospital, the Israeli warning calls for civilians to flee the area, the subsequent IDF airstrike and secondary explosions confirming the hospital's use as a weapons storage facility.
Another deadly Hamas mortar attack killed four people on Monday afternoon, targeting the Eshkol Regional Council along the Gaza border, the Jerusalem Post reports.
Click here to watch the repercussions of the attack.
At least nine severely injured people were taken to a medical center in Beersheba. Unlike other projectiles, mortars do not trigger the Code Red rocket siren and tend to strike targets without notice. Thus no warning siren preceded this attack.
While Hamas has repeatedly rejected multiple cease-fires throughout Operation Protective Edge, the terrorist organization continues to fire mortar shells and rockets at Israeli civilians. Today, Hamas rocket fire renewed as scores of missiles targeted the entire country.
Meanwhile, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) prevented a significant terrorist attack by repelling a Hamas infiltration into Kibbutz Nahal Oz. Palestinian terrorists invaded the Israeli civilian community near the border with Gaza when the IDF opened fire and killed one terrorist. A search is underway for other terrorists.
The new Hamas offensive occurred less than 18 hours after President Barack Obama called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, demanding that Israel implement a unilateral ceasefire.
The IDF is now focused primarily on eliminating the underground tunnels and will only retaliate against other terrorist targets in response to any Hamas provocation.
After the infiltration, the IDF proceeded to warn thousands of Gaza residents to evacuate their homes in Shejaia, Zeitoun, and western Jabalia, via voice and text messages. These types of messages routinely precede retaliatory Israeli air strikes in an attempt to minimize innocent Palestinian collateral damage. Targeting terrorists is extremely difficult considering that Hamas utilizes its population as human shields and purposefully hides weapons and rockets in civilian structures, including private residences, mosques, schools, and hospitals.
According to Israeli intelligence, Hamas had been planning for a vicious assault on Israeli civilians during the upcoming Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah. The surprise attack would have included 200 terrorists sent through dozens of Hamas tunnels in order to infiltrate Israeli communities for the purposes of killing and kidnapping civilians on a massive scale.
The latest Kibbutz Nahal Oz infiltration emphasizes Hamas' murderous intentions and proves that the terrorist organization's tunnel network constitutes a severe threat to the Jewish state.
In landmark judgments, the Washington, DC district court issued $8.6 billion in damages against Iran and Sudan for their role in al-Qaida's 1998 bombing of U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam that killed hundreds of people and injured thousands. The judgments covered four separate cases: Monicah Okoba Opati, et al. v. Republic of Sudan, et al.; Milly Mikali Amduso, et al. v. Republic of Sudan, et al.; Mary Onsongo, et al. v. Republic of Sudan, et al.; Winfred Wairimu Wamai, et al. v. Republic of Sudan, et al.
Out of the award, more than $5 billion is for compensatory damages and $3.1 billion for pain and suffering. Other elements bring the total damages to around $8.6 billion.
Victims of the bombings and their families sued the governments of Iran and Sudan under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act ("FSIA") for their roles in funding and supporting the attacks. A November 2011 ruling issued by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates found the defendants complicit in the 1998 embassy bombings. The opinion covered six separate cases that were consolidated for purposes of expediency.
"The government of Iran aided, abetted and conspired with Hezbollah, Osama bin Laden, and al Qaeda to launch large-scale bombing attacks against the United States by utilizing the sophisticated delivery mechanism of powerful suicide truck bombs. Hezbollah, a terrorist organization based principally in Lebanon, had utilized this type of bomb in the devastating 1983 attacks on the U.S. embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. Prior to their meetings with Iranian officials and agents, Bin Laden and al Qaeda did not possess the technical expertise required to carry out the embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam," Judge Bates wrote.
The ruling also revealed the role of the Sudanese government in the attacks: "Sudan harbored and provided sanctuary to terrorists and their operational and logistical supply network. Bin Laden and al Qaeda received the support and protection of the Sudanese intelligence and military from foreign intelligence services and rival militants."
The damages cover hundreds of bombing victims and their families. Bates said elements of the embassy bombing attacks resembled the 1982 Hizballah bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 service members. In that case, $4 billion in compensatory damages and $5 billion in punitive damages were awarded. He structured the damages in these cases accordingly.
"Scores were murdered, hundreds of families were torn asunder, and thousands of lives were irreparably damaged," Bates wrote Friday in awarding punitive damages. "The need for deterrence here is tremendous."
A Qatari religious leader used his Friday sermon last week to pray to Allah to "kill [the Jews] the very last one."
Sheik Tareq Al-Hawwas' sermon was aired on Qatar TV, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
Al-Hawwas also boasted that Hamas rockets have severely disrupted daily life for Israelis.
"For the first time in the history of the abhorred country, the state of Israel, sirens are heard around the clock and over three million people flee to their hideouts," he said. "Schools, governmental departments, and airports came to a halt. When have we ever heard of such things?"
But then, the radical preacher's sermon transitioned into an anti-Semitic diatribe.
"Oh, Allah increase the pressure You exert upon the plundering Jews. Demonstrate upon them the miracles of Your might, for they are no match to You. Count them one by one, and kill them to the very last one. Do not spare a single one of them. Oh Allah, disperse them. Oh Lord, freeze the blood in their veins. Oh Allah, tear them asunder. Oh Allah, sow discord in their hearts."
Al-Hewwas is a member of the influential International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), which is led by radical Egyptian cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi and which has made repeated calls for Israel's destruction.
This sermon is another example of the radicalism that is prevalent in many Middle Eastern mosques. It also should remind that international community that Israel's most ardent enemies typically avoid differentiating between Israelis and Jews overall in their quest for the destruction of the Jewish state.
Moreover, this sentiment is representative of a global uptick in anti-Semitic incidents and rhetoric in light of the violent escalation between Israel and the terrorist organization Hamas.
Al-Hewwas has made similar anti-Semitic sermons during more peaceful times. During an April 2013 sermon on Lebanese television translated by MEMRI, he described the Jews' treachery and described the Holocaust primarily of being "exaggeration and lies. If only Hitler had finished them off, thus relieving humanity of them."
Enaam Arnaout, who pleaded guilty in 2003 to federal racketeering charges related to using his charity, the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF), to support radical Islamist fighters in Bosnia and Chechnya, was released from prison in 2011.
Arnaout is a Syrian who reportedly became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1993, having initially come to the U.S. in 1989. Court documents from his criminal case identified his criminal activities pre-dating his naturalization to at least 1992, presenting a prima facie case of misrepresentation and fraud in Arnaout's naturalization process presuming he did not disclose those criminal activities to immigration authorities at the time.
On Wednesday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) filed a federal civil complaint against Arnaout in Illinois, seeking to revoke his naturalization. The revocation action is based on the evidence developed during Arnaout's criminal case. In response to the lawsuit, Arnaout's attorney Thomas Durkin said that his client had done his time and has already suffered enough.
Arnaout's revocation case will likely be lengthy and complex. If the government prevails, Arnaout can appeal. But if Arnaout ultimately is stripped of his citizenship, he would revert to the immigration status he held prior to naturalization, which according to the complaint was a resident alien based upon his marriage to a U.S. citizen.
At that point, Arnaout would likely be subject to removal (deportation) as an alien convicted of an aggravated felony and also having been involved in terrorism support activities. Even though he was not criminally convicted of those terrorism support offenses, the evidentiary standard in removal proceedings is less than in criminal prosecutions.
Arnaout may be on his way to joining a notorious list that includes the likes of Fawaz Damra, Abdurahman Alamoudi and Rasmieh Odeh. While federal authorities aggressively pursue these cases in a commendable fashion since the backgrounds of those cases and the evidence support such action, there remain other such cases where the subjects remain inexplicably unscathed in this regard, notwithstanding similar backgrounds and presumably viable evidence that would support such revocation litigation.
Hamas' attempts to minimize attention on its strategy of using civilian areas as a base of operations for rocket fire and other terrorism took a hit Tuesday when a United Nations relief organization found rockets stored in one of their schools for the second time in a week.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement saying he was "alarmed and outraged" by the discovery of rockets in a vacant United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) school. He "calls on all of those who have any influence over militant groups to send an unmistakable message that this is unacceptable."
The UNRWA said it found the rockets "in the course of the regular inspection of its premises" Tuesday. Placing rockets in a UN building is a "flagrant violation of the inviolability of its premises under international law."
UNRWA condemnation of Palestinian groups' actions is extremely rare, emphasizing the severity of the recent incidents.
Speaking with the Times of Israel, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor reacted intensely: "How many more schools will have to be abused by Hamas missile squads before the international community will intervene?"
"How many times can it turn its head the other way and pretend that it just doesn't see?"
Last week, the UNRWA discovered about 20 rockets in one of its schools during an inspection. A spokesperson for the agency said that the rockets were then transferred to "local authorities," which take orders from the ruling Hamas regime.
Israel is infuriated by the fact that a UN agency purportedly dedicated to humanitarian issues in Gaza transferred to a terrorist organization rockets which would likely be used to fire on Israeli civilians.
The UNRWA has a history of allowing Hamas use its facilities for its terrorist activities. "Time and again, over the years, UNRWA has been abused by gunmen from different terrorist factions who are using UN facilities to stockpile weapons, to fire rockets from, to steal UNRWA humanitarian equipment and to cause damage and fire in UNRWA's hangars," an unnamed senior foreign ministry official told the Times of Israel. "Against all evidence, UNRWA refuses to acknowledge reality and pathetically attempts to ingratiate itself with Hamas, pretending that nothing serious has happened."
As Israel continues its counterterrorism operation against Hamas, radical Islamist organizations around the world are making anti-Semitic statements and calling for Israel's destruction.
Hizb ut Tahrir Britain, a radical Islamist group, held a protest outside the Egyptian Embassy in London on Sunday. The group's media spokesperson outlined various extremist positions on its website regarding the conflict.
For example, Hizb ut Tahrir calls on the militaries of various Islamic countries to invade and destroy Israel:
"The solution to this ongoing slaughter lies in the hands of the Muslim armies in the region. The only way such massacres will end is when the armed forces, which have more than enough capability to defend the people of Gaza and liberate all of Palestine, move to do this."
The organization's website calls for the overthrow of Arab regimes in the region for "sincere Islamic leadership that defends Muslims" referring to the establishment of a real "Khalifah Rashidah" or pan-Islamic caliphate in order to "liberate" Palestine.
It is also calling for all the United Kingdom's Muslim population to flood the country's mosques and Islamic institutions with its radical agenda:
"To this end a special dua [Islamic call] has been prepared by Hizb ut Tahrir Britain [available on hizb.org.uk] to be read-out in the masaajid [Mosque] during these last ten nights of Ramadhan. All Muslims are asked to take a copy to their local mosque and arrange for its recital."
Meanwhile, The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the terrorist organization that controls large swaths of Syrian and Iraqi territory has released a YouTube video full of anti-Semitic vitriol. The group is exploiting Israel's counterterrorism operations in Gaza to promote its anti-Israel agenda and justify attacks against the Jewish state. According to an IPT translation, the video includes this violent warning to Israel and its supporters:
"We are the descendants of [slain Iraqi terrorist leader] Abu Musab Al Zarqawi. We are sending a message to the brothers of apes and pigs, the Jews, and to everyone who assists them – the Arab tyrants who claim to be Muslims:
We swear in God that we did not emigrate and leave our wealth or our children, but to grant victory to this religion, and to defend the honor of our Muslim sisters. By God, we are coming to you with blood, bombs, fuses and explosives. By God, you are not going to enjoy your life as long as our brothers in Palestine are being slaughtered."
As Israel's military operation escalates, Hamas continues to fire rockets into Israeli civilian areas. On Tuesday, a rocket landed in the town of Yehud, a few miles from the Ben-Gurion International Airport.
As a result, the Federal Aviation Administration suspended all flights to Israel by American carriers for at least 24 hours.
The attack came as diplomats from the United States and United Nations visited Israel in hopes of negotiating a ceasefire. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Israel's efforts to stop Hamas rocket fire were entirely justified, adding that no country would accept a similar situation.
"We condemn strongly the rocket attacks, and these must stop immediately," Ban said during a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"We condemn the use of civilian sites, schools, hospitals and other civilian facilities for military purposes," added Ban. He also insisted that Israel "exercise maximum restraint" in its counterterrorism operations.
Perhaps more surprising was a similar statement from European Union foreign ministers. They called the Hamas rocket fire aimed at Israeli civilians "criminal and unjustifiable acts." In addition, they called on Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other Gaza terrorists to "disarm. The EU strongly condemns calls on the civilian population of Gaza to provide themselves as human shields."
An Israeli government official called the statement "dramatic," the Jerusalem Post reported. And while the EU statement repeated calls for Israel to respond "proportionately," it did not say Israel had overreacted, something the Post described as "an important matter of diplomatic nuance."
Appearing with Ban, Netanyahu said that Hamas' grievance "is that we exist. They don't want a two state solution. They don't want any solution." He vows to continue the operation until Hamas ceases firing rockets into Israel.
That could take another two weeks, a senior military official told Israeli Channel 2. On Sunday, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon assured that the majority of Hamas' tunnels would be "destroyed in the next two or three days."
So far, Israeli troops have found 23 tunnels with 66 openings. The IDF released this video showing the chain reaction when an explosive-laden tunnel is targeted.
Normally politically-fragmented Israel seems united in its resolve. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, considered the most dovish member of Israel's cabinet, dismissed the idea of an immediate ceasefire.
"There is no real option for a cease-fire now. This operation is unavoidable," Livni said.