Thursday, August 7, 2014

Hamas Rejects Truce Extension, Threatens To Renew Fighting, Minister Warns Of Harsh Response To Rockets, The Next War On Israel's Horizon

Hamas Rejects Truce Extension, Threatens To Renew Fighting

As the end to a three-day ceasefire drew closer on Thursday, Israeli officials said they were willing to unconditionally extend the lull in fighting, only to be rebuffed by Hamas officials, who threatened to renew fire Friday morning if Jerusalem did not accede to their demands.

Palestinian delegations and Israeli officials are currently holding indirect talks in Egypt aimed at putting an end to nearly a month of fighting, but officials say a large gap remains between the sides’ demands.

Egyptian officials spent Wednesday shuttling between the sides to get approval for an extension on the truce.

An unnamed Israeli official was widely reported on Wednesday night as saying that Israel was keen to extend the 72-hour ceasefire “unconditionally.”

However, Hamas officials were quick to say that there was no agreement on an extension and that negotiations in Cairo were still ongoing.
The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s armed wing, said it will start firing as soon as the ceasefire ends on Friday at 8 a.m., Israeli news site Walla reported, citing the Hamas news agency Al-Risala.

Hamas deputy leader Mussa Abu Marzouq, part of the Palestinian delegation holding talks in Cairo, denied overnight there was yet any agreement.
“There is no agreement to extend the ceasefire,” he wrote on Twitter.
“Any news about the extension of the truce is unfounded,” added Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.

Senior Hamas figure Ismail Radwan told Al-Risala that there has been no agreement on extending the ceasefire because Hamas demands have not been met.
Pundits suggested that the threat is an attempt to bully Israel into giving in to some of the demands that Hamas presented at ongoing indirect talks held in Cairo.
Hamas is seeking a lifting of the Israeli blockade, as well as extended fishing rights into the Mediterranean and the opening of a seaport and airport in the Strip, as well as opening the Rafah crossing into Egypt. Israeli officials have indicated they will only agree to lift the blockade in exchange for the Strip being disarmed, and would like the Palestinian Authority to manage the Gaza side of the Rafah border terminal.

The Times of Israel is liveblogging events as they unfold through Thursday, the 31st day since the start of Operation Protective Edge and the third day of a truce intended to lead to a long-term ceasefire. An Israeli delegation is in Cairo to discuss the terms of a long-term ceasefire with Hamas, but Hamas has not accepted a ceasefire extension beyond Friday morning. PM Netanyahu said late Wednesday it would be “a moral mistake” not to hit back at terrorist strongholds in mosques and schools.

Rockets will meet with harsh response — Lapid

Any rockets fired from the Gaza Strip will be answered by Israel with heavy fire, Finance Minister Yair Lapid says this morning.
“They mustn’t try us,” he warns.
“The IDF is prepared and ready, the air force is prepared and ready. Any [rocket] fire will be answered with a heavy blow of fire.”
Lapid adds, “There is no difference between Hamas’s political and military wings. Anyone who sits at the head of a murderous terrorist organization deserves to die. Nobody is safe from us.”

Egypt nixes demand to open Rafah crossing

Egypt has rejected Hamas’s terms for a ceasefire with Israel, Walla reports, citing Hamas sources.
Egypt, which is mediating negotiations for a ceasefire between Israeli and Palestinian representatives in Cairo, reportedly refuses to discuss the possibility of opening the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, as well as the establishment of a seaport and airport as conditions for a permanent truce. Egypt says the issue of the Rafah crossing must be resolved between the Palestinians and Egypt, rather than between the Palestinians and Israel.
With less than a day left before the 72-hour truce between the two sides expires, the report indicates that there are still several outstanding issues preventing a long-term agreement. 

As Operation Protective Edge winds down, there is growing speculation about the next and far more serious military threat that the country may be forced to confront. On its northern border with Lebanon, the Israeli army is faced with the daunting prospect of 100,000 long-range rockets far more accurate and effective than the missiles used by Hamas in its recent confrontation and far more likely to cause damage to life and property than the former offensive.  

It is now known that Hizb’allah possesses the far more advanced  Fajr-3 and Fajr-5, with ranges of 27 and 45 miles; and a huge quantity of simpler 107mm and 122mm rockets with ranges up to 12 miles. These rockets are capable of striking many cities in northern Israel, such as Haifa, Tiberias, Afula, Nahariya, and Safed. In addition, Hizb’allah has a cache of sophisticated antiaircraft and antiship cruise missiles which can significantly impede reconnaissance and deter attack.

This is not to mention the labyrinthine network of tunnels and deep underground bunkers Hizb’allah has been constructing in the eight years since its last encounter with the IDF. The IDF believes it likely that tunnels, extending for several kilometers, have been burrowed deep into Israeli territory allowing a rapid strike force to mimic the planned Hamas Jewish New Year attack on Israeli settlements in the south. The rolling topography of the north is of course of no benefit to a potential large-scale attack, but the capture of even a handful of IDF soldiers or civilians will become a great boon to the Hizb’allah war effort.

To state that the recent military confrontations between Israel and the terrorist groups who occupy territory adjacent to it are mere proxy wars between Iran and the Jewish State is to underline the obvious but still bears repeating. Iran's geopolitical interests lie in establishing a military hegemony of the region, intimidating much lesser military powers -- Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Jordan -- into effective neutrality, so as to free itself to deal with its only serious challenger to its regional supremacy. The ongoing development of Iran's nuclear arsenal  -- essentially unimpeded by negotiations with the West -- acts as a clever strategic wedge for the theocratic regime which allows it to build its deterrent capabilities while intimidating its neighbors into quiescence. Seen in this light, Hamas' recent confrontation with Israel may have been guided by Iran as a means of deflecting attention from its drive for status as a nuclear power and avoiding an eventual showdown with Israel. After all, Israel will be in no mood for another military confrontation so soon after its recent engagement with Gaza.

But if Hizb’allah, the far greater asset, remains so useful to the Iranians, why wasn't it then unleashed to wreak havoc on Israel's northern border while hostilities ensued in the south?

The answer may lie in the prospect of an imminent direct military confrontation between Israel and Iran. While Israel's plans to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities are cloaked in ambiguity, most Israeli leaders are resigned to the fact that they will have to act unilaterally and decisively to severely retard, if not eliminate, Iran's emerging nuclear clout. In the event of a strike against Iran, and threat to their own power, the mullahs may come to rely on Hizb’allah's arsenal's retaliatory capabilities and perhaps even believe it acts as a significant deterrent against such an eventual attack.

Signs of a strange realignment of interests and forces in the Middle East are therefore evident. It should surprise no one that the Israelis have been engaged in secret negotiations with the Saudis for years over use of Saudi airspace in the event of an Israeli strike on Iran; Additionally, the palpable failure of any of the moderate Arab states to rise in support of Hamas's recent actions (in fact there were outright condemnations  in both the Egyptian and Saudi press) is another signal of a growing rapprochement between Israel and some of its former enemies.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid warned Hamas Thursday not to test Israel's mettle by renewing rocket attacks on the Jewish state.

"Fifty-one hours into the ceasefire, Hamas is threatening that it will go back to firing missiles if we do not surrender to its demands,” Lapid said in a press conference. “I say here: let them not try us. The IDF is ready and prepared, the Israel Air Force is ready and prepared. Any fire will be met with a heave volley of fire.”

Earlier Thursday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman told US Secretary of State John Kerry that the announcement by the Palestinian negotiating team in Cairo, that it cannot commit to continuing the ceasefire, is an act of “blackmail.” Israel is taking this into account, he said, and is prepared for all possibilities.

Senior Hamas terrorist Ismail Radwan said Wednesday that no agreement has been reached regarding the extension of the 72-hour ceasefire that is to expire Friday morning.

"We will not let up, until the enemy agrees to the terms we have laid down,” he said, and threatened to renew the fire.

"Our demands have been relayed to the Egyptian side and it has relayed them to the Israeli side,” Radwan said. “Until this moment, no response has been received to these demands. The hand of the military wing and the Resistance is still on the trigger,” Radwan told an Egyptian TV station.

In a moment of political correctness meant to appease the enemies of its single most trustworthy ally in the entire Middle East, the United States chose to blacken the eye of Israel regarding the attack on the UNRWA school which took place on Sunday.

“Political correctness” is an oft-used method of taking the easy route by doing nothing more than what is popular. This is precisely what the U.S. did. If however they had chosen to do something which is actually appropriate instead of politically correct, their statement would have been  entirely different. For example:

“Israel faces an enemy which has consistently violated virtually every humanitarian law known to mankind. Hamas has fired a combined total of over 15,000 rockets at Israel since 2001, which are designed to murder civilians. They place their rocket launching infrastructure in civilian facilities and residential neighborhoods intentionally to increase the chances of homes being destroyed which causes hatred toward Israel. This also ensures there will be civilian deaths. They require their civilians to be human shields.  These are internationally recognized crimes against humanity.

Their goal is to ensure civilian casualties, so no matter how careful Israel is, there will be some who are in harm’s way and get killed. 

But instead of being the leader in seeking truth and standing up for what is right, the U.S. took a spineless approach and joined in with the chorus of Israel’s critics. It’s yet another example of the U.S. following, instead of what it’s been known for, which is leading the way.

By criticizing Israel, the U.S. played right into the hands of Hamas, proving that its strategy worked. Hamas saw Israel heavily criticized by its most significant ally. Congratulations, America! You have given Hamas a chance to give itself high fives.
Has the U.S. forgotten how this most recent war in Gaza got started? It was Hamas that abducted and murdered three Jewish teenagers for doing nothing other than being Jews. It was this heinous crime that lead up to the war in Gaza. How was Hamas punished for this crime? It wasn’t.

Moreover, UNRWA has proven itself to be less than honest about their endeavors in Gaza. For example, they have been accused of vilifying Israel in the various schools they run. Evidence has been made public they actually teach school children to promote jihad. This “education” goes on in the public schools as well as the summer camps they run in Gaza.

Plus, whenever an UNRWA representative is interviewed by the media, they focus exclusively on the “humanitarian crisis” going on in Gaza. Their statements are full of accusations against Israel, while not containing a single word about the atrocious tactics of Hamas. Israel is portrayed as a vicious bully that is recklessly killing innocent people.
What country would tolerate a single rocket, yet alone thousands? Yet there is no mention of Hamas firing rockets at Israeli civilians. Then again we shouldn’t expect them to criticize an organization which demands civilians stand in between them and Israeli weapons. No doubt any criticism of Hamas would likely be met with a swift execution. The fact than UNRWA capitulates rather than tell the truth is shameful and discredits them from being a trustworthy voice.

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