Israeli Defence Minister Lieberman Resigns, Hamas Responds

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced his resignation early Wednesday after a disagreement over the Gaza ceasefire deal, reports AP. 

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced early Wednesday that he was resigning from the conservative coalition government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after a disagreement over the Gaza ceasefire deal, reports AP.

RELATED: Israel and Hamas Agree to Ceasefire in the Besieged Gaza Strip

Announcing his decision, which takes effect 48 hours after he puts it in writing, Lieberman deemed Tuesday’s Egyptian-mediated deal with the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas “a capitulation to terror.”

In a statement, Lieberman said, "I didn't look for reasons to quit. I tried to remain a loyal government member, in the cabinet, keep differences internal even at an electoral cost."

The two turning points, he said, were the millions of dollars in cash delivered from Qatar to Gaza, and the cease-fire Israel reached with Hamas on Tuesday, reports Israeil news agency Haaretz.

In a press release sent out immediately after Lieberman's decision, Hamas celebrated, saying they rejoice at Lieberman's resignation, "This is a political victory for Gaza, which has succeeded in causing a political earthquake for the occupation."

Elhanan Miller @ElhananMiller

Hamas rejoices at Lieberman resignation: "This is a political victory for , which has succeeded in causing a political earthquake for the occupation."

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Israeli fighter jets striking Gaza after massive mortar fire from the strip - IDF

Israeli fighter jets have pounded the Gaza strip, after mortar fire from inside the Palestinian-controlled strip hit a bus in the Israeli side of the border, the Israel Defense Forces have said.

The airstrikes are the latest escalation in several days of reciprocal attacks between Israel and the Palestinian territories. Earlier on Monday, a barrage of mortar fire from Gaza hit an Israeli bus, wounding at least one person, Reuters reported.

Video from the scene showed Israel’s Iron Dome rocket defense system intercepting some of the incoming projectiles.

@AmichaiStein1 : IDF: 80 launches in 40 minutes; Hamae claims over a 100 https://twitter.com/AmichaiStein1/status/1062000239207428102 

@AmichaiStein1 : More then 20 morters launched from Gaza towards Israel; Direct hit at an Israeli bus (Credit: Rotternik network)

That attack was itself a response to an Israeli special forces raid in the Gaza strip on Sunday night that saw at least two Hamas commanders and four other Palestinians killed. One Israeli soldier was also killed, and another wounded. Israeli warplanes reportedly lobbed missiles at the area after the raid, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut his visit to Paris short to return, in light of the “security incidents.”

The IDF claims 80 mortars were fired into Israel in less than 40 minutes on Monday, while Hamas claims to have launched 100. Sirens wailed across southern Israel as the Iron Dome struggled to intercept the incoming firestorm.

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Top Palestinian body suspends Israel recognition until it recognizes Palestine

The Palestine Liberation Organization’s decision-making body has ruled to suspend its recognition of the state of Israel until Tel Aviv formally recognizes a Palestinian state along 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Noting Israel’s continued disregard of signed international agreements, the Palestinian Central Council (PCC) on Monday has decided to “suspend recognition of the State of Israel until its recognition of the State of Palestine on the June 4, 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

Following a two day meeting in Ramallah, the PCC also agreed to “end security coordination in all its forms” with Israel, and “disengage economically” from its neighbor, WAFA news agency reports, citing the final communiqué.

 
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during the meeting of the Palestinian Central Council in the West Bank city of Ramallah January 14, 2018 © Mohamad Torokman

Furthermore, the decision-making body established the PLO to be the sole “legitimate representative” of all the Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, slamming Hamas for failing to implement the agreements it signed with Fatah over the last decade, ever since the Sunni organization assumed control of Gaza in 2007.

Urging Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to implement the Council's non-binding decisions, the PCC stressed that it continues to remain opposed to Donald Trump’s so-called “deal of the century” aimed at solving the decades-old animosity between the neighboring nations. In wake of Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, the Council called on the Arab states to “sever all diplomatic relations” with the US and any state that follows its example.

The recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a controversial issue, as Palestinians continue to claim East Jerusalem as their capital. Abbas repeatedly vowed to oppose any purported peace initiatives by Trump, whose relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem and recognition of the city as Israel’s capital marked the first time the president of the US has departed from established policy, which saw the issue of Jerusalem kept off the table.

Speaking to PCC delegates on Sunday, the 82-year-old leader reiterated that Palestine and Jerusalem are “not for sale or bargaining.”

READ MORE: Paraguay cancels embassy move to Jerusalem, Israel responds by closing its embassy in Paraguay

“East Jerusalem is the capital of our state. We will not accept a capital in Jerusalem or the capital of two states because they are fooling us,” Abbas said on Sunday. “Jerusalem, which was occupied in 1967, is our capital, every meter and centimeter of it.”

 

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Palestinian groups vow response to Israeli airstrikes

Resistance groups in Palestine won't remain silent to Israel's killing of civilians, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement said early Saturday.

The movement said resistance groups had warned Israel not to kill innocents, but occupation forces continue to do so under the Gaza Strip’s blockade.

It added that the groups' hands “won't be tied” over the killings.

Israel launched airstrikes early Saturday against several targets in the Gaza Strip in response to over a dozen rockets it said were fired toward the country.

Fighter jets and helicopters pounded targets in Gaza for more than two hours, including Hamas sites, the Israeli army said in a press release.

The army said on its Twitter account that 14 rockets had been fired from Gaza towards Israel since late Friday, but eight were intercepted by its Iron Dome missile defense system.

There have been no deaths from the airstrikes, according to Palestinian medical sources in Gaza.

The latest developments come after five Palestinians were killed and 85 others injured by Israeli army gunfire during demonstrations Friday along the Gaza-Israel buffer zone, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.

Hundreds of Palestinians had converged along the zone as part of ongoing demonstrations against Israel’s decades-long occupation.

More than 200 Palestinians have been killed and thousands more injured by Israeli troops deployed near the buffer zone since such rallies began on March 30.

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5 times Israel ‘had no choice’ and went to war

Israel has no other option but to launch a "war" against Hamas, the Israeli defense minister has recently claimed, calling it the last resort. Modern history shows, however, that Israel has resorted to force quite frequently.

"Wars are only conducted when there is no choice, and now there is no choice," Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told the Israeli Parliament on Tuesday. But it looks like Israel believed many times that it severely lacked options throughout the last two decades, as it has launched more than half a dozen major military operations since the beginning of the 21st century.

Largest incursion into West Bank since the Six-Day War

In 2002, a suicide bombing carried out by the Hamas militant group over the course of the Second Intifada, which resulted in the deaths of 30 Israelis, provoked an IDF operation called 'Defensive Shield'. It's the largest one in the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day War.

Between March and May 2002, tens of thousands of Israeli troops invaded the six largest cities of the West Bank and imposed strict curfews and restrictions on locals as well as foreigners working in the area.

The Israeli measures resulted in a partial ban on humanitarian aid and medical personnel entering the West Bank. Thirty Israelis and almost 500 Palestinians were killed, while 7,000 Palestinians were detained, according to the UN.

2004 invasions of Gaza

In 2004, the Israeli forces conducted two major operations in Gaza. The first, called 'Operation Rainbow', was carried out in May and was in response to Palestinian attacks in which 11 IDF soldiers were killed. Israel invaded Gaza's southern city of Rafah, razed around 300 homes and expanded the buffer zone between Gaza and Egypt in what it called a push to destroy Palestinian smuggling tunnels. Almost 60 Palestinians, including 11 minors, were killed in less than two weeks of the military campaign, according to Human Rights Watch.

Four months later, Israel invaded Gaza again after two children were killed as a Palestinian-launched rocket hit the Israeli town of Sderot. The Israeli operation, called 'Days of Penitence', targeted northern Gaza to prevent further rocket launches and claimed 129 Palestinian lives, including between 50 and 87 militants, and one Israeli soldier, according to the Israeli media.

2006 Lebanon War

In 2006, a cross-border raid by the Hezbollah militants has led to a 34-day war between Israel and its neighbor, Lebanon. Hezbollah launched rocket strikes against Israeli border towns and ambushed a military patrol, killing three soldiers. Two more were abducted, as militants sought to exchange them for Lebanese prisoners held by Israel. Tel Aviv responded with air strikes and artillery fire, targeting Hezbollah positions and Lebanese civilian infrastructure alike.

Israel imposed an air and naval blockade and invaded southern Lebanon. The conflict led to the deaths of more than 1,100 Lebanese people and 165 Israelis, including soldiers. It also displaced about a million Lebanese and over 300,000 Israelis.

Operation Cast Lead

In December 2008, Israel once again invaded Gaza with the stated goal of stopping indiscriminate rocket fire into Israeli territory. The Palestinian Hamas group said at the time that the rocket launches were a response to Israel's violation of an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire reached six months earlier.

During the operation, called 'Cast Lead', the IDF struck the densely populated cities of Gaza, Khan Yunis, and Rafah. The military campaign, which lasted until January 18, 2009, claimed the lives of more than 1,400 Palestinians, most of whom were civilians, according to Palestinian sources. An Israeli NGO put the number of civilian deaths at 759, while the IDF put it at 295.

The operation became known as the Gaza War, and is sometimes even referred to as the Gaza Massacre. Israel lost 10 soldiers and three civilians during the campaign. 

Operation Protective Edge

The latest large-scale IDF military campaign in Gaza – 'Operation Protective Edge' – took place in 2014. It was carried out in response to the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers by alleged members of Hamas' military wing.

READ MORE: We come in peace, really: ‘Operation Olive Branch’ and other ridiculously named military campaigns

After Israel conducted an operation to arrest Hamas military leaders, Hamas responded with rocket attacks. The Israeli airstrikes and ground campaign to put an end to Palestinian rocket attacks resulted in the deaths of thousands of people, the vast majority of them Gazans. During the 51-day assault, over 2,100 Palestinians were killed, with another 10,000 injured. The Israeli actions provoked worldwide protests and were slammed by human rights groups over the disproportionate use of force.

Israel lost 66 of its soldiers and five civilians from Hamas rocket fire. Another 469 IDF soldiers and 261 Israeli civilians were injured.

Even though Israel has not conducted any major military operations against Palestinians since 2014, its violent crackdown on Palestinian protesters in Gaza continues to take its toll. Over 200 Palestinians have been killed, including medics and journalists, and more than 22,000 injured since border protests – the Great March of Return – began in March.

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US John Bolton: Palestine Not a State

Bolton referred to Palestine a "so-called state,” adding that denying Palestine’s statehood does not undermine the Trump Administration’s plans for peace in the Middle East.

United States National Security Adviser John Bolton, on Wednesday, reiterated that Palestine was “not a state,” during an address at the White House.

RELATED: Chemistry Nobel Prize Winner is Supporter of BDS, Palestine

"It's not a state now. It does not meet the customary international law test of statehood," he said. "It doesn't control defined boundaries. It doesn't fulfill normal functions of government. There are a whole host of reasons why it's not a state," the security adviser said.

Bolton was resolute in referring to Palestine a "so-called state,” also adding that refusing to acknowledge Palestine’s statehood does not undermine U.S. President Donald Trump Administration’s plans for peace in the Middle East. Last week, the U.S. president said his administration will offer a Mideast peace plan within the next two to four months.

"It could become a state, as the president said, but that requires diplomatic negotiations with Israel and others," Bolton added, doubling down on his remarks, saying there was nothing historically remarkable about U.S. officials denying that Palestine is a state.

"Calling it the so-called state of Palestine defines exactly what it has been, a position that the United States government has pursued uniformly since 1988 when the Palestinian authority declared itself to be the State of Palestine," he continued. "We don't recognize it as the State of Palestine, we have consistently across Democratic and Republican administrations opposed the admission of Palestine to the United Nations as a state because it's not a state."

The Trump administration, in a controversial decision, moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem - Palestine’s capital - from Tel-Aviv in May.

The Palestinian Authority filed a complaint with the International Court of Justice (ICJ), a United Nations tribunal, to contest the United States’ action.

The Palestine Liberation Organization declared independence in 1988 and 137 United Nations member states recognizes the declaration.

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Gaza: Scores of Palestinians Injured During Protest Against Israeli Naval Blockade

The surge of protests in Gaza began in March with a series of protests along the border, which is known as the “March of Return.”

Over a hundred Palestinians were injured near Gaza's northern border Monday during a protest against Israel's 12-year naval blockade. 93 protestors suffered injuries and 37 people were shot with live ammunition by Israeli occupational forces. the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza confirmed Tuesday.

RELATED:Ahed Tamimi Honored by Real Madrid Soccer Club in Spain

Israeli forces also opened fire on medical crews and ambulances that attempted to reach the area to provide medical aid to the injured.

Ma’an News Agency reports the tensions escalated during the march when protesters began to set tires on fire to obstruct Israeli snipers deployed at the northern Gaza border. Israeli forces then started to open fire with rubber-coated steel bullets on the crowd.

The northern border of Gaza has seen various attempts over the course of the last few months to draw attention to, and break the siege of, the Gaza strip, sometimes via ships attempting to sail into Gaza or from the Strip itself. Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip in 2006 after Hamas gained a majority in the Palestinian parliamentary election.

Since March, over 170 people have been killed and thousands injured by Israeli occupation forces during a series of protest in the region, which has sought to highlight the naval blockades destruction of the territories' economies and other acts by the Israeli government that have denied the population basic commodities.

There were other protests Monday including in Khan al-Ahmar where thousands of Palestinians converged to thwart Israel’s demolition of the Bedouin village of the Jahalin tribe in the occupied West Bank. Israel temporally postponed plans to begin demolition due to the holiday of Simchat Torah Tuesday.

Gaza saw another protest Monday by UNRWA employees in front of a hotel where agency officials were conducting a meeting. This prompted the agency, which aids almost three million Palestinian refugees to take most of their foreign staff out of Gaza over “security concerns.” Only six out of 19 foreign officials have remained in Gaza.

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Palestine Sues United States Over Embassy Move to Jerusalem

The International Court of Justice said it received a complaint from Palestine of violation of international law.

Palestine has filed a complaint against the United States at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague over Washington’s illegal decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, reports the Ramallah-based foreign ministry.

RELATED: Palestinian President Slams Israeli Colonial Expansion at UNGA

The ICJ reported in a statement on Friday that Palestine was appealing on the grounds of the 1961 Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations, which states that a host country must locate foreign embassies in their territory.

Even though Israel controls Jerusalem militarily, after occupying the eastern part of the city during the 1967 war, it officially enjoys international special status and ownership is disputed.

Palestine requested the court declare the move illegal and “order the United States of America to withdraw (its) diplomatic mission from the Holy City of Jerusalem.”

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Malki told news agency Wafa the complaint aims to preserve the holy city character of Jerusalem, with its spiritual, religious and cultural dimensions, in line with foreign policy.

“We defend our rights and our people,” said Malki, “and reject all forms of political and financial extortion.”

In order to proceed, the ICJ first has to rule if Palestine is considered a nation-state, even though it’s been recognized by the UN General Assembly as a non-member state since 2012.

Rulings by the ICJ are legally binding, but it has no means to enforce its decisions. Countries such as the United States, for example, are known for ignoring it.

In a controversial decision that sparked international rejection, U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the embassy to be moved to Jerusalem. Guatemala and Paraguay followed the decision shortly after, but the latter then moved back to Tel Aviv after a change of government.

Trials at the ICJ can last for years and no hearing has yet been scheduled.

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