Two Israeli citizens are being held in Gaza, at least one probably by the militant Hamas movement, Israel says.
Avraham Mangisto, of Ethiopian origin, went into the Palestinian territory of his own accord last September and has been missing since then, officials say.
An Israeli Arab is also being held in Gaza, the defence ministry says. Hamas has not commented on either case.
An Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, was captured and held by Hamas in Gaza for five years before being freed in 2011.
Israeli defence officials say they have appealed to international and regional bodies to help clarify Mr Mangisto’s situation and are demanding his immediate release.
“According to credible intelligence, Mangisto is being held against his will by Hamas,” a defence ministry statement said.
“Israel will continue to pursue the release and return of the citizen to Israel,” it added.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said it was a “painful situation” and that he was in contact with Mr Mangisto’s family.
“This is a humanitarian issue, and we expect those holding him to behave accordingly and return him in good health,” he said.
The Associated Press quoted an unnamed official as saying it was unclear why the 28-year-old went into Gaza but that he was believed to be mentally unstable.
Israeli media said Mr Mangisto, from Ashkelon, had breached the heavily-guarded security fence between Israel and Gaza.
Local media said the Israeli Arab being held in Gaza was a Bedouin from Israel’s southern Negev desert. His name has not been released.
The defence ministry said he had crossed into Gaza several times before.
The two cases were cleared for publication on Thursday after a court lifted a gagging order.
In 2006, Sgt Shalit was captured in a cross-border raid by Hamas, triggering a crisis which was only resolved years later in a controversial exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.
Avi Dichter returns to Likud after brief hiatus, says he supports peace deal – but also that Israel should defang Gaza.
Former Minister and Israel Security Agency (ISA or Shin Bet) leader Avi Dichter will be returning to politics, Walla! News reports Monday – this time, running in the Likud primaries, to be held on Wednesday.
Dichter returns to politics after leaving Kadima in 2012 to join Likud, and after briefly serving until March 2013 as Home Front Command Minister at Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s request during the 19th Knesset.
Despite Netanyahu’s support, Dichter did not manage to get enough votes from party members to formally join the Likud party during the last elections, falling short by 380 votes for the threshold.
Now, he says, he is taking stock of past experiences in his cautious return to the political scene. He explained that while last time, he launched a six-week campaign to woo members’ support for his Likud candidacy, he has been systematically building support throughout several “headquarters” throughout the country ahead of the 2015 elections.
Dichter explained that he identifies with the Right, but not the “extreme Right,” as he puts it, and believes that Likud must remain “Center-Right” in order to remain the ruling party and to build a coalition for the 20th Knesset.
When asked what “Center-Right” entails, he dodged the question slightly, but did note that, in his view, it includes acceptance of the idea of “Two States for Two Peoples.”
“Any intelligent person realizes that a one-state solution with the six million Jews and seven million non-Jews – mostly Muslims – is irresponsible,” Dichter stated to Walla!. “It is to set for ourselves a reality which is clearly unreasonable.” Dichter added that Netanyahu takes this view as well.
Following the theme of a grand plan for the Middle East, the former Shin Bet leader added that Gaza must be demilitarized – and that if the international community does not step in to do so, Israel must do so itself.
“Gaza is a terrorist entity controlled by Hamas, a terrorist organization, no matter what the European Union says,” he explained. “They have no idea what Hamas is.”
“We will have to disarm Gaza,” he continued. “Destruction of the terrorist infrastructure is something that will have to happen. Either the Egyptians and the Palestinian Authority will do this, or the time will come for Israel’s Operation Defensive Shield in Gaza. This is something you need to plan – it’s not something you do in response to rocket fire. We cannot leave it like it is.”
Dichter added that in his view, the Nation-State or Jewish State Law – the law blamed with bringing down the 19th Knesset – will eventually pass. The former Minister was the first to introduce his own version of the law, with Netanyahu’s blessing, as a Kadima MK during the 18th Knesset.
The Gatestone Institute, an international policy council reported on Sunday that Mahmoud Zahar, the leader of the radical Islamic terrorist group, Hamas, told worshippers on September 5, 2014 that if the West Bank had one quarter of the weapons that the Gaza Strip has, Israel would be eliminated in one day.
Khaled Abu Toameh of the Gatestone Institute translated the worship speech and reported that Zahar, who spent his time in hiding during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, was speaking during the Islamic prayer session at Martyr Abdullah Azzam Mosque in Gaza City.
Toameh also stated that Abdullah Azzam was at one point, a Palestinian scholar, teacher, and mentor of Osama bin Laden. Azzam was killed in Pakistan in 1989.
Zahar declaring the claim that Hamas had scored a huge victory in the war, said, “If only the West Bank had one quarter of what Gaza has of resistance tools, the Israeli entity would end in one day.
Those who were skeptical as to whether Palestine could be liberated are no longer doubtful after the enemy was hit from the Gaza Strip,” said Zahar. “Can you imagine what would happen if the enemy is targeted from the West Bank, which makes up 20% of the size of Palestine?”
Toameh on this development said, “Zahar’s wish to see the West Bank flooded with rockets and mortars and other “tools of resistance” was echoed by other Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders and spokesmen after the recent war in the Gaza Strip. Zahar himself was quoted recently as saying that Hamas’s goal now was to “move the Gaza example of resistance” to the West Bank.”
“Even the Iranians seem to think that the time has come to turn the West Bank into a launching pad for attacks on Israel, “Toameh said. “During the war in the Gaza Strip, a senior Iranian commander of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, Mohamed Reza Naqdi, announced that Tehran had plans to “arm Palestinians in the West Bank” in order to destroy Israel.”
Meanwhile, the terrorist group Hamas has not given up in trying to secretly gain access to Israel and has begun rebuilding tunnels taken out by the Israel defense forces. A senior diplomatic source, as reported by Israel National News, said,
“The terror group is smuggling in materials for restoring its rocket array. Hamas did not wait a single moment after the last round of fighting, and began its rearmament in anticipation of another round of fighting.”
Palestinian leader said to warn that if borders of Palestinian state aren’t outlined soon, he’ll end security coordination, dismantle PA
Shin Bet security service chief Yoram Cohen met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas last month to update him on the foiled Hamas plot to overthrow the West Bank Fatah leadership, Israel Radio reported Monday, citing Lebanese media.
In addition, Abbas threatened to end Palestinian security coordination with Israel in the West Bank, and dismantle the PA if future borders of a Palestinian state are not outlined in the near future.
While Abbas initially told this to Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal during ceasefire negotiations in Qatar, he also conveyed the message to the Shin Bet chief, the report said.
The report was said to have been confirmed by Palestinian sources.
It was the second covert meeting between Palestinian and Israeli leaders reported recently, as last week unconfirmed reports indicated that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas met secretly in Amman,
Jordan, ahead of an agreed ceasefire to halt the fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
On August 18, the Shin Bet said it had thwarted a Hamas plan to topple Abbas and start a third intifada.
The national security agency said it arrested more than 90 Hamas operatives in May and June, confiscated dozens of weapons that had been smuggled into the West Bank, and seized more than $170,000 aimed at funding attacks.
It produced photos of the confiscated weapons and cash and a flowchart of the Hamas operatives who had been questioned, and said they planned a series of massive attacks on Israeli targets, including the Temple Mount, in order to start a widespread conflagration. Indictments are expected to be filed against at least 70 of the suspects.
The Shin Bet said terror cells were set up in dozens of Palestinian West Bank towns and villages — including in and around Jenin, Nablus, East Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Hebron.
Abbas ordered a probe into the coup plot shortly after the revelation, and said it represents “a grave threat to the unity of the Palestinian people and its future,” the Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.
With regard to the reported threats of ending PA cooperation with Israel, Abbas has repeatedly called for Israel to restart peace negotiations based on the 1967 borders.
On Sunday, Abbas told a Fatah conference in Ramallah that if Israel did not agree to negotiate over a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, he would join international bodies, including the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, without having come to an agreement with Israel.
“Is the Palestinian nation so trivial in our eyes?” he asked.
Abbas also repeated his criticism of Hamas for refusing to accept a ceasefire in Gaza, causing the deaths of thousands of Palestinians.
On Friday, the International Criminal Court prosecutor said that Palestine was now eligible to join the Rome Statute and file war crimes charges against Israel.
Abbas has made various statements in the past week about new initiatives and the consequences if they fail. During an interview with Egyptian television, Abbas said he would soon propose an unconventional diplomatic resolution to the Palestinian conflict, one that is likely to make the US unhappy.
He said the plan would be presented to US Secretary of State John Kerry during an upcoming visit to the region, and added that Kerry was unlikely to accept it, according to a Haaretz translation.
Palestinian sources close to Abbas told Haaretz that the plan would involve handing over responsibility for a resolution to the conflict to international forces.
During another interview with Palestinian TV, Abbas said he intends to demand that Israel and the US outline specific borders for a Palestinian state. If Israel does not respond, “we have what to do,” he said in an apparent veiled threat to take Palestinian demands to the international community.
Netanyahu rejected negotiations on the basis of the pre-1967 lines when Kerry launched his unsuccessful effort at peace talks last year. In recent weeks, the prime minister has said the conflict with Hamas underlines his concern with the need to maintain security control of the West Bank to ensure that the area not turn into another Gaza.
Israel and Hamas said they accepted an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire plan to end a seven-week conflict in the Gaza Strip that has killed more than 2,100 Palestinians and about 70 Israelis.
The cease-fire, announced in a statement by Egypt’s Foreign Ministry, started at 7 p.m. local time yesterday and was hailed from mosque loudspeakers in Gaza City as thousands of Palestinians poured into the streets. Rifle-toting militants fired in the air, cheering, “Long live Hamas!”
Under the deal, Gaza’s border crossings with Israel are being opened to let in reconstruction materials and foreign aid, while fishing zones off the coast have been extended, Egypt said. The two sides will resume indirect talks on “other issues” in the coming month, it said.
“We’ve come to an arrangement,” Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz told Channel 2 television, confirming that Prime MinisterBenjamin Netanyahu accepted the cease-fire. “We didn’t win in a knock-out,” he said.
Hamas, the militant group that rules Gaza, had demanded an end to the blockade on Gaza initiated in 2006 after the group won Palestinian elections. Israel wants the transit points supervised by a third party to prevent arms smuggling. It has called for the disarming of Hamas and other militants groups, which were also involved in the truce talks.
While the cease-fire halts the violence, it may weaken Netanyahu politically because the war was “too long and too costly,” said Shlomo Brom, a retired general and senior fellow at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies. Hamas will probably benefit because “they had been pretty much dismissed before the fighting and now they’re a player again.”
Israel’s benchmark TA-25 Index (TA-25) for stocks rose 0.4 percent in Tel Aviv yesterday. Several previous Egyptian-brokered cease-fire agreements have collapsed since violence between Israel and Hamas escalated last month.
As Gazans thronged main streets covered in rubble from Israeli air strikes, Hamas leaders including Mahmoud Zahar appeared publicly for the first time since going into hiding when the fighting began in July.
“This is a great victory for the Palestinian people,” said Nabila Salem, a mother of six children, who went into the street to celebrate. “I know the destruction was huge and the pain is difficult, but we’ve gotten used to pain, and it’s the only way to win.”
Shortly before the agreement went into effect, attacks from both sides intensified. Three Palestinians were killed in an Israeli airstrike at about 6 p.m. local time yesterday, the Gaza health ministry said. Two Israelis were killed by a mortar attack, according to the army, which said rockets also landed in open areas near Tel Aviv. Israel, the U.S. and the European Union consider Hamas a terrorist organization.
Hundreds of the Palestinians killed during 50 days of fighting were women and children, according to Gaza officials. About 70 Israelis, almost all of them soldiers, were killed.
The conflict also has hurt the Israeli economy, prompting the central bank to cut its benchmark interest rate this week for the second consecutive month, to a record 0.25 percent.
Egypt, which has been mediating the talks, has joined Israel in imposing a blockade on Gaza. The Egyptian statement didn’t say whether that would be eased.
The U.S. strongly supports the cease-fire and urges “all parties to fully and completely comply with its terms,” Secretary of State John Kerry, who was involved in earlier attempts to broker a truce, said in an e-mailed statement. He said the U.S. is “prepared to work with our international partners on a major reconstruction initiative” in Gaza.
State media reports out of Tehran on Sunday said that the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard had shot down an Israeli drone near the Natanz uranium enrichment site, home to Iran’s nuclear program.
The downed aircraft was reportedly a stealth long-range surveillance drone designed to avoid radar detection.
The Iranian defense minister, brigadier general Hossein Dehghan, was quoted in the official Islamic Republic News Agency saying that shooting down the Israeli drone at Natanz, where an estimated 16,000 centrifuges are located, was proof that the country would offer a “crushing response” to any aggression.
The Israeli military, following usual protocol, did not comment on the reports.
If Iran can access the unmanned aerial vehicle’s sensors, which are highly sophisticated and crucial for determining mission accuracy, it’s possible that they will be able to re-engineer a model of their own with long-range capabilities that could conduct missions over Israel.
In recent years, Iran has reported that it shot down other foreign drones over its airspace, including an American-made RQ-170 Sentinel unarmed surveillance drone in 2011.
At the time, the US denied the reports, but it later said that a CIA drone had not been shot down but crashed due to “technical malfunction” over Iranian airspace. In an official ceremony in May, Iran displayed a copy of the aircraft, manufactured by Lockheed Martin.
In a press conference today, Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi, commander of the country’s volunteer Basij forces, said that the Iranian armed forces have additionally seized a “large number” of foreign spy drones in recent years but would not specify where they had come from, according to local reports.
Drones have become an especially important component of Tehran’s military arsenal in recent years. Last November, Iran unveiled its first predator drone, the Shahed 129, which was largely based on an Israeli Elbit Hermes 450 model. The drone shot down yesterday is believed to have also been an Hermes.
David Cenciotti, the founder of the blog The Aviationist, tells Quartz that Iran has been quite adept at implementing the technologies captured from these downed drones into manufacturing their own UAVs. The country, he says, now has a small but fairly robust domestic drone program.
“With access to foreign technology restricted by a long-lasting embargo, Iran has developed several domestic drones,” said Cenciotti. “Some of them are similar to the Israeli model Hermes 450 model. Others are based on US models captured after they were shot down or crash landed during spy missions over Iranian airspace.”
Iran’s domestic drone industry, Cenciotti explains, now exports to its allies. Iranian-made UAVs have been spotted in Syria, Venezuela and in the Gaza Strip, where they have been operated by Hamas.
Iran alleges an Israeli drone was trying to spy on the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards claimed on Sunday they had downed an Israeli drone that was allegedly trying to spy on a major nuclear site.
A statement by the guards said the drone was shot down with a ground-to-air missile before the unmanned aerial vehicle could “penetrate the off-limits nuclear space of Natanz”, the country’s main nuclear enrichment facility, located 300km south of Tehran.
The statement did not say when the incident took place and the guards have not published any images of the drone, which was described as “of the stealth, radar-evasive type”.
“This evil move further illustrated the adventurist manner of the Zionist regime and added another black page to this warmongering and fake regime’s records which are full of crimes and viciousness,” the statement said. “The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps along with other armed forces of the Islamic Republic are fully and firmly prepared to defend the nation and the Islamic lands of Iran while reserving their right to respond and retaliate.”
Israel’s government, which is deeply sceptical of the interim agreement between Tehran and world powers to limit Iran’s nuclear programme, has in the past accused Tehran of deceiving the international community and defying the UN in regard to its nuclear-related activities, including in its enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordow. The latter is an underground nuclear site which is said to be immune from any military aggression.
An Israeli military spokeswoman declined to comment on what she called “foreign reports”.
Israeli military experts were surprised by the report because Israel does its visual surveillance of Iranian nuclear facilities via satellite and also because the country’s military establishment is currently primarily focused on the war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
“A drone operation over Iran doesn’t happen just like that,” said Yiftah Shapir, director of the project on military balance at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. “I don’t see anyone in the Israeli defence establishment paying attention to anything other than Gaza – it hardly makes any sense.”
The downing of drones is not unprecedented in Iran. The guards captured a US Lockheed Martin Sentinel RQ-170 drone in 2011 and then claimed to have determined how it functioned, reverse-engineered it and showcased a functioning copy.
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