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Gaza’s Hamas chief calls for renewed ‘resistance’ against Israel

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

Hamas chief Ismail Haniya spoke on the two-year anniversary of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit’s release. (Reuters)

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Al Arabiya

The Gaza Strip’s Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya called on Saturday for an “armed resistance” against the restarted peace talks between Israel and Palestinians, the Associated Press reported.

Haniyeh, who made the remarks in a speech marking two years since captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was exchanged for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, urged all Palestinian factions to reject the talks.

Israel and the West Bank government of President Mahmoud Abbas are currently in negotiations. The Gaza ruling Islamist militant group does not recognize Israel and calls for its destruction.

Israeli officials on Sunday said troops uncovered a tunnel running from Gaza 450 meters into Israel and allegedly intended as a springboard for attacks.

The Hamas chief has also denied reports on Saturday that his group was involved in fighting in the neighboring Egyptian Sinai or in Syria, Agence France-Presse reported.

“We did not interfere in the affairs of any country and are not involved in the events or differences or internal conflicts of any country,” Haniya said.

(With the Associated Press and AFP)

Egypt accuses Hamas of arresting Egyptians in Gaza

Saturday, August 31st, 2013

Saturday, 31 August 2013

AFP, Cairo

Egypt’s foreign ministry accused Gaza’s Hamas rulers Saturday of raiding an Egyptian cultural center in the Palestinian enclave and detaining several Egyptians.

“The foreign ministry strongly condemns and denounces this irresponsible act and demands their release,” it said of the Egyptians it said Hamas arrested on Saturday morning.

Relations between Egypt and the Islamist Hamas movement have sharply deteriorated since the July 3 ouster of president Mohammad Mursi.

The Islamist Mursi is now in detention, accused of colluding with Hamas in staging prison breaks and killing policemen during an early 2011 uprising that overthrew strongman Hosni Mubarak.

The foreign ministry did not specify the number of Egyptians arrested in Gaza, which is under semi-blockade by Israel and Egypt.

In its statement, it expressed it support for Palestinians, but said it would not “forgive” Hamas’s action.

Cornered Hamas looks back at Iran, Hezbollah

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (L) looks on as Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal speaks during an official meeting in Tehran, in this file picture taken February 27, 2010. REUTERS-Khamenei.ir-Handout via Reuters-Files

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (L) looks on as Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal speaks during an official meeting in Tehran, in this file picture taken February 27, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Khamenei.ir/Handout via Reuters/Files

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA | Tue Aug 20, 2013 7:48am EDT

(Reuters) – Stunned by turmoil in neighboring Egypt and starved of funds, the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas is looking to repair damaged ties with its traditional Middle East allies, Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah party.

An off-shoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas celebrated when the Sunni movement’s Mohamed Mursi was elected president of Egypt in 2012, believing the vote would boost its own international standing and its grip on the isolated Gaza Strip.

In the meantime, outraged by the bloody civil war in Syria, the Palestinian group quit its headquarters in Damascus, snapping the Iran-led “axis of resistance” that challenged Israel and the West across the turbulent region.

Shi’ite Muslim Iran, which had for years supplied Hamas with cash and arms, was infuriated by what it saw as a betrayal of its close friend, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and drastically scaled back its support. Tehran’s Shi’ite partner, Hezbollah, also voiced its fierce disapproval.

But following the ousting of Mursi, removed by the Egyptian military on July 3, political sources said Hamas had had direct and indirect contacts with both Iran and Hezbollah — anxious to revitalize old alliances and restore its battered funding.

“Some meetings have taken place … to clear the air. There is no boycott (of Hamas) but at the same time, things have not yet got back to normal,” said a Palestinian official, with knowledge of discussions, who declined to be named.

Moussa Abu Marzouk, former deputy head of Hamas’s political office, saw Hezbollah and Iranian officials in Lebanon last month, with other meetings taking place subsequently.

“It is in the interest of Hamas today to revise its rapport with Iran and Hezbollah for many reasons,” said Hani Habib, a political analyst based in the Gaza Strip. “At the end of the day, all the parties have an interest in this partnership.”

SYRIA ROW

Locked in conflict with arch foe and neighbor Israel, which it refuses to recognize, Hamas has governed the small, densely populated Gaza Strip since 2007 after a brief civil war against its secular rivals.

With the Muslim Brotherhood in control of Egypt, Hamas felt it did not have to worry so much about its ties with Iran.

Hamas’s leader in exile, Khaled Meshaal abandoned his long-time base in Damascus last year because of the civil war that pitted President Assad’s forces, backed by reinforcements sent by both Iran and Hezbollah, against mainly Sunni rebels.

Shi’ite and Sunni are the main streams of Islam. There are differences in their interpretations of the Koran and some traditions. The majority of the world’s Muslims are Sunni.

One of the veteran leaders of Hamas, Mahmoud Al-Zahar, said there had never been a suspension of relations with Tehran and Hezbollah, suggesting that contacts may have slowed only because of the recent presidential election in Iran.

“We do not yet know the nature of Iran’s new policy, but the information we have received, which is not direct, suggests that the old policy will be endorsed by the new administration,” Zahar, a renowned hardliner, told Reuters in an interview.

Hamas hopes newly installed President Hassan Rouhani will open the financial taps again.

Diplomats estimated that Iran used to give Hamas some $250 million a year, but one Palestinian official reckoned that only 20 percent of that was now being handed over. Ehud Yaari, a Middle East expert from Israel, put the figure at just 15 percent, with no arms being offered up either.

“We have a situation of close to zero arms trafficking through the tunnels into Gaza,” said Yaari.

Very little material, weapons or otherwise, is passing at present through the smuggling tunnels that criss-cross the desert border between Egypt and Gaza, with the new rulers in Cairo ordering a clampdown following Mursi’s removal.

The army-backed government has accused Hamas of interfering in Egyptian affairs and suggested that Palestinians might be helping Islamist militants active in the Sinai peninsula.

The restrictions on the tunnels, which flourished thanks to an Israeli blockade on the coastal enclave, cost Gaza at least $230 million in July alone, said Hamas Economy Minister Ala Al-Rafati. But he rejected any suggestion of a financial crisis.

“There are some problems and they are being overcome,” he told Reuters on Monday, adding that the tunnel trade, which provides Hamas with a crucial source of tax income, had dropped some 60 percent since Mursi’s ousting.

In an additional blow, Hamas’s close ties with Qatar have also been dented this summer.

The emir of the energy-rich Gulf state visited Gaza last October promising millions of dollars of aid, but he abdicated in June and his heir has shown much less interest in Hamas.

PRIORITIES

In reaching out once more to Iran and Hezbollah, Hamas’s dilemma is as much ideological as political — how to balance its Sunni Muslim Brotherhood roots with its vital interests to forge partnerships with fellow enemies of Israel.

Leading a special prayer meeting on Friday for the souls of the “Egyptian martyrs”, the Hamas prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, made clear that the war with Israel took precedence.

“We understand that the priority of our resistance is to liberate the land, regain the rights and return the Palestinian people to the land they were forced out of,” said Haniyeh, the movement’s deputy chief.

“We have no military and no security role in Egypt or in the Sinai. Our military and security role is here, on the land of Palestine and against the Zionist enemy.”

Founded in 1988, Hamas has regularly squared off against Israel, most recently in November last year in an eight-day conflagration that killed at least 170 Palestinians and six Israelis. The truce was brokered by Mursi.

Israeli analyst Yaari thought Iran would exact a price for welcoming Hamas back into the fold. “It will require them to stop opposing Assad and stop any criticism of Hezbollah’s intervention (in Syria) and Iranian support of Assad,” he said.

Zahar, who lost two sons in the conflict against Israel in past years and carries great weight in the movement, has always sought to maintain good ties with Iran.

But he also says the organization, which is estimated to have around 30,000 well-equipped fighters, has survived difficult situations in the past when U.S.-backed strongman Hosni Mubarak ruled Egypt and kept Gaza in a vice.

“We became very strong in an era where the entire surrounding environment was hostile,” he said. “Our resistance relies mainly on God and also on its capabilities. History proved we have always emerged stronger every time.”

(Editing by Crispian Balmer and Anna Willard)

Hamas, Iran Putting Aside their Differences to Fight Israel

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Public dispute over Syrian civil war has not prevented cooperation when it comes to attacking Israel, according to a recent report.

israelnationalnews

By Ari Soffer

First Publish: 8/14/2013, 5:56 PM

Hamas terrorists (illustration)

Hamas terrorists (illustration)
Flash 90

Despite falling out over the Syrian civil war, Iran and Hamas are still apparently cooperating in order to facilitate attacks against Israel, and to challengethe authority of the Fatah party of Mahmoud Abbas in Judea and Samaria.

A report by Stratfor has outlined how the Iranian regime is making use of Syrian proxies in the region to transfer weapons to Hamas cells in Judea and Samaria. This despite the fact that Hamas has aligned itself with the Sunni opposition to the Iranian-backed regime of Syrian President Bashar el-Assad.

In recent days, Jordanian authorities have intercepted two separategroups of arms smugglers attempting to transfer weapons and drugs from Syria, including anti-tank weapons and surface-to-air missiles. Jordan has become a major supply route for weapons headed to rebels inside Syria - the movement of those particular weapons caught the attention of Jordanian authorities, as the smugglers were heading in the opposite direction, making their way southwards.

Security in Jordan is tight as the jittery kingdom seeks to maintain its delicate balancing act between the Syrian regime on the one hand, and the surrounding Arab states which oppose it on the other – all the while conscious of the threats to its own authority by locally-based Islamist and other opposition groups.

But according to the report, the smugglers were not interested in either the Syrian civil war or the Jordanian government. Intelligence sources claim the men arrested were Palestinian Authority Arabs from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) – a leftist terrorist group closely affiliated  with the Syrian regime, and which has been involved in fighting on the regime’s behalf in Syria.

According to unnamed sources, the weapons were heading towards the Hebron Hills region of Judea, in Israel, where support for Hamas is particularly strong despite the crackdown on Hamas’ network in Judea and Samaria by the dominant Fatah party. These various factions are apparently cooperating in an attempt to help Hamas stockpile weapons in the region to enable them to attack neighboring Israeli military and civilian targets, and challenge the rule of the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority.

The cooperation between Sunni Islamist Hamas, Shia Islamist Iran and the secular Arab nationalist PFLP-GC – at a time of bloody sectarian conflict – underlines how such groups are still willing to cooperate when it comes to attacking Israel, despite their insurmountable ideological differences and regardless of public disputes.

Hamas in particular has been willing to compromise on its ideological solidarity with Iran’s Sunni enemies in Syria and the Gulf (Hamas’ leadership recently aligned itself with chief Muslim Brotherhood patron and nemesis of the Iranian regime, Qatar.) Hamas has received generous Iranian support in the past, although that support was lessened considerably after the two sides fell out over the Syrian civil war. But now more than ever, with the fall of its allies the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hamas is acutely aware of its growing isolation, and has turned to Iran for help.

For their part, the Iranian regime and its Syrian allies are desperately attempting to gain a foothold in the region, which has turned increasingly hostile over the sectarian-fueled conflict in Syria.

In the midst of this sometimes confusing tangle of competing ideologies and alliances of convenience, one thing remains clear: hatred of Israel is still one thing practically all sides can agree upon.

Israeli air force launches raid on Gaza targets after rocket attack

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Smoke billows from a spot targeted by the Israeli military inside the Gaza Strip last year. (Reuters)

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Al Arabiya

The Israeli air force launched a raid targeting rocket launch sites in Gaza on Wednesday, the Israeli army said in a statement.

The raid was in response to rockets fired from the area on Tuesday, according to an army spokesman.

“The raid targeted two rocket launch sites after rockets were fired Tuesday from the Gaza Strip, one of which exploded on Israeli territory (but hurt no one),” the spokesman told AFP news agency.

“Hamas must account for any violation of Israeli sovereignty and the terrorist regime that it has put in place will be held responsible for any terrorist activity coming from the Gaza Strip,” the spokesman added.

The attack came hours before the resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians, which have been put under increased pressure following Israeli officials announcing the expansion of settlement homes.

The Islamist Hamas movement which controls the Gaza Strip is opposed to the resumption of the U.S.-sponsored peace talks.

On Tuesday, Israeli authorities announced the approval of 942 new settler homes in annexed east Jerusalem, provoking Palestinian fury.

In what was seen as a confidence-building gesture, however, the resumption of the fragile peace negotiations came just hours after the release of Palestinian prisoners.

(With AFP)

Hamas supplied Sinai terrorists with Iran-made Fajr-5 missiles for foiled attack on Eilat

Saturday, August 10th, 2013

Iran-made Fajr-5 missiles in Sinai

Iran-made Fajr-5 missiles in Sinai

The missile launcher destroyed by two rockets fired by an Israeli drone at Ajarah in North Sinai Friday, Aug. 9 was capable of firing 4 heavy Iranian-made M-75 missiles known as Fajr-5, which Hamas possesses, but not Sinai Salafists.

Its 75-kilometer range covers Tel Aviv from Gaza Strip or Eilat from inland Sinai. The five terrorists killed in the drone strike were prevented from launching these rockets against Eilat airport Thursday by a tip-off from Egyptian intelligence to Israel. The Fajr-5 proved its high accuracy by leveling a building in the central Israeli town of Rishon Lezion on Nov. 20,  2012.

Since then, Hamas has upgraded the Fajar-5’s performance with an integrated radar system. It is carried by an Iranian made vehicle. DEBKAfile’s military sources have not yet established whether Hamas handed the Iranian weapon over to the Salafist Bedouin acting in concert with al Qaeda in Sinai before the Egyptian army placed the Gaza Strip under siege in early July, or smuggled it across more recently. Even though Egyptian forces destroyed many of the Sinai-Gaza smuggling tunnels ahead of their counter-terror operation in Sinai, they may have missed a couple.

The Iranian rocket, which is 10 meters long, 333mm diameter and weighs 9 tons, is based on a 302mm Chinese rocket sold to Tehran in the 1990s and reproduced as Fajr-5. To move it through the smuggling tunnels, the missile would have had to be broken down into 8-10 sections and then reassembled at the other end, a function only Hamas is qualified to perform. It is also possible that a terrorist cell managed to infiltrate Sinai in recent days and collected the Fajr missile system from Hamas, which is trained in its operation..

Neither Egypt nor Israel has provided any clues to the identities of the five dead terrorists.

In either case, Hamas cooperation was clearly forthcoming. That the Palestinian terrorist group ruling the Gaza Strip is supplying advanced weapons to Sinai Salafists is a strategic development of the highest order indicating its resolve to fight the military regime headed by Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah al-Sisis in Cairo and an emerging coalition between Hamas, al Qaeda in Sinai, the Muslim Brotherhood ousted from power in Egypt and Iran.

Two years ago, Israel refrained from pointing the finger at Teheran when missiles made in Iran and supplied to terrorists were first launched against Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Rishon Lezion. Israel remains silent when they are pointed at Eilat.
DEBKAfile reported Friday:

Intelligence sharing and military cooperation between Egypt and Israel foiled a terrorist missile attack from Sinai on Eilat Thursday, Aug. 8, say foreign sources. Egyptian security officials reported that an Israeli drone fired a missile in the northern Sinai peninsula, killing five Islamic militants and destroying one or more launchers. Egyptian military helicopters circled over head. The launcher, said the officials, was rigged for firing at targets in Israel from the vicinity of Egyptian Rafah in northern Sinai.

Eilat has come under rocket fire from Sinai in the past.

The Israeli military has refused to comment on the report. DEBKAfile’s military sources note that it is not absolutely clear that the Israeli air force was responsible for the attack on the terrorists’ missile squad. It may have been an Egyptian operation in the course of its counter-terrorism campaign ongoing in Sinai and the Egyptian command preferred not to admit it took place on the Muslim Eid al Fitr festival.

According to those sources, six  terrorists were killed, not five as reported.

The Israeli military has refused to comment on the incident. DEBKAfile’s military sources say it is not absolutely clear that the Israeli air force was responsible for the missile attack on the terrorists’ missile squad. It may have been an Egyptian operation in the course of its counter-terrorism campaign ongoing in Sinai, to which the Egyptian command preferred not to own up because it occurred on the Eid al Fitr festival.

According to those sources, six terrorists were killed, not five as reported, at a point south of Egyptian Rafah not from the Egyptian-Gazan border. The terrorist group was apparently in flight from a part of the Egyptian-Israeli border opposite Eilat from where they had planned to strike Israel’s southernmost airport Thursday night. Their route 230 km north toward the Gaza border indicated they planned to cross over and reach safety in the Palestinian Hamas-ruled enclave.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report further that the military-intelligence cooperation in force between Israel and Egypt in the war against Salafist, al Qaeda and Hamas jihadis broke surface Friday when an Egyptian security official told The Associated Press that intelligence, suggesting terrorists planned to fire missiles Friday at Israel as well as locations in northern Sinai and the Suez Canal, was passed by Egypt to Israel. Eilat airport was closed for two hours Thursday night in response to the tip-off. The official also said that Egyptian authorities planned to start air patrols Thursday night over the Naqab desert in the Egyptian Sinai, where Islamist terrorists have hideouts.

Egyptian airports in the Sinai operated normally into Thursday night despite the warning, including those in the resort cities of Sharm el-Sheikh and Taba, said Gad el-Karim Nasr, the head of state-owned Egyptian Airports Co. Taba is only 10 kilometers from Eilat.

U.N. chief: Middle East rivals must show ‘courage’ in peace talks

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas discussed a U.S-brokered resumption of peace talks on Thursday. (Reuters)

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Al Arabiya

Israeli and Palestinian leaders must show “courage and responsibility” to maintain peace talks revived by the United States, U.N. leader Ban Ki-moon said Friday.

The remarks, reported by Ban’s spokesman, came after U.S. Secretary of State Kerry announced that an accord had been reached to resume talks between the Middle East rivals, which have been frozen since September 2010.

Ban welcomed the announcement.

“He is encouraged by this positive development and calls on both sides to show leadership, courage, and responsibility to sustain this effort towards achieving the two-state vision,” spokesman Martin Nesirky said, according to AFP.

“The United Nations will support any endeavor towards meaningful negotiations and to the achievement of a comprehensive peace in the region,” he said.

Kerry’s announcement came after he spent four days consulting the Israeli and Palestinian leadership from his base in an Amman hotel.

“I am pleased to announce that we have reached an agreement that establishes a basis for resuming direct final status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis,” he told reporters in Amman just minutes before boarding his plane to fly home.

“This is a significant and welcome step forward,” he added, having doggedly pushed the two sides to agree to resume talks in six intense trips to the region since becoming the top U.S. diplomat in February.

But the top U.S. diplomat cautioned he would remain tight-lipped about the details.

“I think all of us know that candid, private conversations are the very best way to preserve the time and the space for progress and understanding when you face difficult, complicated issues such as Middle East peace,” he said.

“The agreement is still in the process of being formalized, so we are absolutely not going to talk about any of the elements now.”

Kerry added that Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat and his Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni would meet him in Washington “to begin initial talks within the next week or so.”

(With AFP)

Hamas rejects return to Mideast peace talks

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

A picture showing Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal (C) at a meeting earlier in Amman. Islamist Hamas rulers said they reject Kerry’s announcement of a return to talks. (File photo: AFP)

Saturday, 20 July 2013

AFP, Gaza City

The Islamist Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip Friday rejected a return to Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced an imminent resumption of negotiations.

“Hamas rejects Kerry’s announcement of a return to talks and considers the Palestinian Authority’s return to negotiations with the occupation to be at odds with the national consensus,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP.

He said that West Bank-based Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas had no legitimate right to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinian people.

Ihab al-Ghassin, spokesman for the Hamas government, also told AFP that “whoever negotiates on the part of the people who is not chosen by them, represents only himself. The Palestinian people will not accept this.”

Abbas’s spokesman had hailed Kerry’s late Friday announcement that peace talks would resume “in the next week” as “progress,” but said details of the basis for negotiations still needed to be fleshed out.

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Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

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July 10, 2013

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Hamas: Turkey PM to visit Gaza on July 5

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara on June 25, 2013. (AFP)

AFP, Gaza City

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit the Gaza Strip next week, a senior official in the ruling Hamas movement told a newspaper on Thursday, despite opposition from Washington.

“The visit of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan is to take place on July 5,” Abdelsalam Siyyam, secretary general of the Hamas government said in an interview with Falestin, a newspaper considered very close to the Islamist movement.

The Turkish leader has long pledged to push ahead with plans to visit the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, despite opposition from the United States which says it would be a “distraction” from efforts to revive the peace process.

Washington also fears such a visit could damage the rapprochement between Israel and Turkey which was personally brokered by President Barack Obama in March.

“Two Turkish delegations, one governmental and one press, arrived in Gaza two days ago and met with prime minister [Ismail] Haniya and deputy foreign minister Ghazi Hamad to look into the details of the visit,” Siyyam told the paper.

“They informed us about the timing of the visit.”

Last week, Haniya and exiled Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal met with Erdogan in Ankara to discuss the planned visit.

The Turkish leader has previously said his visit to Gaza would be aimed at pushing for an end to Israel’s blockade on the tiny coastal territory which has been in place since 2006.

In May 2010, a six-ship flotilla of pro-Palestinian activists, many of them Turkish, tried to reach Gaza by sea in defiance of the blockade.

Israeli commandos tried to stop them, sparking a bloody showdown which left nine Turkish nationals dead and the Jewish state’s once-close ties with Ankara in tatters.

Repeated attempts to bridge the divide between Washington’s two key regional allies went nowhere until March when U.S. intervention brought about an Israeli apology which paved the way for a reconciliation.

Last month, on a trip to Washington, Erdogan said he would also be visiting the West Bank in a step he linked to peace moves.

“It will not be a visit only to Gaza. I will also go to the West Bank,” Erdogan said.

“I place a lot of significance on this visit in terms of peace in the Middle East. I’m hoping that that visit will contribute to unity in Palestine,” he added.

The planned visit will take place as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pushes ahead with a five-month campaign to draw Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table after a hiatus of nearly three years.

It also comes as Erdogan faces the biggest challenge to his decade-plus rule in the form of mass anti-government demonstrations which have prompted a brutal police crackdown.

Israeli air force launches overnight Gaza attack after rocket fire

Monday, June 24th, 2013

The Israeli army blamed the Islamist Hamas rulers of Gaza for the rocket attacks, although no group claimed responsibility. (File Photo: Reuters)

Monday, 24 June 2013

Al Arabiya

The Gaza Strip was targeted by overnight Israeli air force attacks early Monday, following reported rocket fire from the Palestinian territory into southern Israel.

In a statement from the Israeli army, the air force carried out airstrikes on two weapon storage facilities.

“In response to the numerous rockets launched at Israel in the past several the hours, IAF aircraft targeted terrorist infrastructure including two weapon storage facilities in the central Gaza Strip and a rocket launch site in the southern Gaza Strip. IAF pilots reported accurate strikes on the targets,” the army said in a statement cited by AFP.

Palestinian witnesses told the news agency the air raids hit uninhabited areas and had not resulted in any injuries.

Late Sunday two Palestinian rockets landed in southern Israel, without causing any damage or injury, according to Israeli military sources, while another two rockets were intercepted by Israel’s “Iron Dome” defense system, the army said in a statement.

The Israeli army blamed the Islamist Hamas rulers of Gaza for the rocket attacks, although no group claimed responsibility.

The Kerem Shalom goods crossing, reserved for trade between Israel and the Gaza Strip, will be closed until further notice following the attacks, the army said in its statement.

The exchange of fire came as a row erupted between Hamas and the radical Islamic Jihad movement in the Gaza Strip.

Islamic Jihad severed contacts with Hamas after a commander in its military wing died of wounds sustained in a police shooting, a leader of the radical group told AFP.

(With AFP)

Iran is stepping up its preparations for war with Israel

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

telegraph.co.uk

By Con Coughlin, Last updated: May 5th, 2013

An Israeli F-16 I fighter jet takes off from the Negev desert (Photo: AFP)

Confirmation that Israeli warplanes have carried out a series of air strikes in Syria against consignments of missiles being shipped to Hizbollah in southern Lebanon has highlighted Iran’s attempts to reinforce its regional allies in anticipation of military conflict with Israel.

As I revealed last month, recent intelligence reports indicate that Iran has revived its efforts to ship weapons to the radical Hamas movement in Gaza. Following negotiations between members of the Quds force from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Sudanese government officials and Hamas leaders earlier this year, Iran has chartered a number of Boeing 747 cargo planes to smuggle weapons to Hamas via Sudan.

Under the terms of the agreement, weapons are shipped from Tehran to the Syrian capital Damascus, and from Damascus they are sent to Khartoum. Then they are transported by road from Sudan to Gaza travelling through Egypt and the Sinai Desert.

At the same time it now appears that Iran is also trying to send shipments to weapons to Hizbollah, its proxy militia in southern Lebanon. Hizbollah and Israel fought an inconclusive war in 2006, and with Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, a close ally of Hizbollah, involved in a desperate battle for survival, Iran is anxious to ensure that Hizbollah is fully equipped if the conflict results in renewed hostilities with Israel.

Israel and Iran have issues of their own, with the Jewish state repeatedly warning that it will not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. With so much regional tension, Iran has decided that it needs to be fully prepared for conflict with Israel. And what better way to put pressure on the Jewish state than to supply Hamas and Hizbollah, Iran’s allies on Israel’s southern and northern borders respectively, with fresh supplies of arms.

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