Saturday, July 22, 2017

Escalation: Fatah Says 'Campaign For Jerusalem Has Begun', Family Murdered In West Bank Home, Arab MK Says Third Intifada Has Already Begun

Fatah says 'campaign for Jerusalem has begun'

The Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah party called Saturday for a continued struggle “to take control of the Al-Aqsa mosque.”

In a statement sent to supporters, the movement of PA President Mahmoud Abbas said the “campaign for Jerusalem has effectively begun, and will not stop until a Palestinian victory and the release of the holy sites from Israeli occupation,” the Walla news site reported.

Fatah commended Palestinian protesters who rioted in the streets of Jerusalem on Friday against the deployment of metal detectors at the Temple Mount compound, with three reportedly killed by Israeli security forces in the violence and some 200 others wounded.

The party hailed those demonstrators’ “initifada (or armed struggle) against the enemy,” their “acts for the protection of Al-Aqsa and their struggle against the Israeli plans, while sacrificing souls and blood.”
Th group called for three days of mourning as well as a general strike in honor of the dead protesters.
Abbas said the installation of the metal detectors was “falsely presented as a security measure to take control over Al-Aqsa mosque.”
“The steps taken by Israel are leading to a religious confrontation and an evasion from a diplomatic process,” Abbas was also quoted by Haaretz as saying.
Abbas said he had spoken with several heads of state, including from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Morocco, and asked them to intervene in the Temple Mount conflict.
The PA president said the Palestinian Authority would finance all costs of treating those wounded of Friday’s clashes. “We will spend $25 million supporting the Palestinians of Jerusalem,” he reportedly said.

He also called on Hamas to rally around the cause of the Temple Mount and reconcile with his own party.

Palestinian worshipers run for cover from teargas, fired by Israeli security forces, following prayers outside Jerusalem's Old City in front of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound on July 21, 2017. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

The drastic escalation on Friday came a week after two Israeli Border Police officers were killed by terrorists at the Temple Mount. In the wake of the attack, Israel closed the site for 48 hours as it searched for more weapons, and then installed metal detector gates at entrances to the compound.

Three Israelis were killed and another was seriously wounded in a stabbing attack in the West Bank settlement of Halamish on Friday night when a terrorist broke into their home and began stabbing the family as they ate their Shabbat dinner.
The IDF said a Palestinian assailant killed a man and two of his children, while his wife was badly wounded and taken to hospital. The man’s grandchildren were present but not harmed, the army said.
According to a preliminary investigation, the terrorist, a Palestinian in his late teens from a nearby village, arrived in the settlement on foot armed with a knife, climbed a fence and chose the last house on a street near it.

The perpetrator broke a window and entered the home, surprising a family of about 10 inside as they were finishing their dinner, and launched his stabbing spree.

During the attack, another daughter hid several of the grandchildren in one of the rooms, where she called police and began shouting that a terrorist was inside the home.
Paramedics said the the victims, a father in his 60s, his son in his 40s, and his daughter in her 40s, died of their wounds.
Palestinian media identified the terrorist as Omar al-Abed, 19, from the village of Kaubar, near Ramallah.
An IDF soldier on leave in a nearby home responded to the screams and shot and wounded Abed through his window, according to Magen David Adom rescue service officials. An MDA paramedic at the scene told The Times of Israel the attacker was wounded by the shooting and was evacuated to hospital in moderate condition.
In initial questioning, Abed said he bought the knife two days ago, wanting to commit a terror attack because of events surrounding the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Hamas praised the attack as “heroic,” and said it came after “Israel’s attacks on the rights of our people in Jerusalem and at Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

IDF forces early Saturday morning raided the home of the Palestinian terrorist who murdered three members of an Israeli family the previous evening, and arrested his brother.
Troops were searching the village for weaponry and suspects. They also mapped the family home of the 19-year-old killer in preparation for its likely demolition.
Following Friday’s terror attack, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot had held an emergency meeting of top army brass to discuss events.

Military leadership decided to temporarily enact a closure on terrorist Omar al-Abed’s hometown of Kaubar, north of Ramallah, and to conduct searches in his family’s home.

An army official told Ynet the 19-year-old assailant’s parents were known to be affiliated with the Hamas terror group. Hamas hailed the attack late Friday as “heroic.”
Ibrahim al-Abed, an uncle, said troops searched the family home and arrested Omar’s brother Monir, 21. Officials said they suspected Monir had aided his brother in carrying out the attack.
Security forces said they were looking for any additional suspects in the Halamish attack.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman visited the site of Friday’s terror attack in the settlement of Halamish, which claimed the lives of three Israelis, and said Israel was demanding prompt condemnation of the attack by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Abbas, he said, must issue “a clear condemnation of the massacre committed yesterday against an innocent family that posed a danger to no one, a terrible slaughter carried out during the family’s Shabbat dinner.”
Abbas has so far been silent about Friday night’s attack. Before news of the attack broke, Abbas had said he would freeze all contacts with Israel over its actions in Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. Friday saw riots around the Old City and the Jerusalem area in response to Israel’s installation of metal detectors at the Temple Mount compound. Three Palestinians were reported killed and some 200 others were wounded in the confrontations with Israeli security forces.

"The government's brutal actions at the Al-aksa Mosque, changing the status quo by placing metal detectors, will necessarily lead to a third Intifada, that already began today," Joint List Member of Parliament Taleb Abu Arar, said Friday afternoon. The lawmaker warned of a major Palestinian uprising and accused the police of killing three Palestinians in clashes following weekly prayers in Jerusalem.

"Those who initiated the violence and killed three Palestinians were the Israeli police," he said.

MK Ahmad Tibi, also from the Joint List party, said that the responsibility to the clashes to those who died is the government and its head, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Muslim leaders and Palestinian political factions had urged the faithful to gather for a "day of rage" on Friday against the new security policies, which they see as changing delicate agreements that have governed the holy site for decades. 

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein posted on Twitter two screenshots from videos of Arab MKs from Friday and wrote: “This is a shame! It is a shame that the precious time of our security forces is being wasted.”

Protests also broke out in the Gaza Strip.

According to the Israeli military, dozens of Palestians were burning tires and throwing rocks at troops along the border fence. The soldiers returned fire towards the instigators.

"Today we are acting to bring the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem back into the embrace of the the Arab World," Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said during his weekly sermon in Gaza. "We shall not enter the Temple Mount through metal detectors."

The brutal stabbing attack at Halamish, which left a grandfather of 70, his son and daughter dead while still in their 40s and a grandmother of 78 badly injured - when the family was gathered for the Sabbath Eve meal on Friday, July 21 - was no random act of terror. It followed directly and consistently on the murder of two Israeli police guards on Temple Mount exactly one week earlier. 

The planners of the first outrage, perpetrated by three Israeli Arabs, knew exactly that such action would ignite flames which would claim many Israeli and Palestinian lives.

Halamish is a small Orthodox Jewish community of 250 families, not far from Ramallah, which is walled, gated and guarded. Nevertheless, a 19-year old Palestinian from the nearby village of Kubar, was able to scale the wall, burst in on the family and repeatedly slash four of its members. The wife of the murdered son grabbed the five children who were visiting their grandparents, hid with them in another room and phoned the police, while a neighbor, a 19-year old soldier on leave, shot the terrorist through a window and so finally stopped the carnage.
The paramedics, though experienced in terrorist atrocities had to overcome their horror at the bloodbath in which they went to work to save laves. For the grandfather and his son, it was too late. His daughter died under their hands, and the grandmother was removed to hospital in serious condition.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas decided to profit from the high tension around Temple Mount since the July 14 murder of the Israeli policemen. Accusing Israel of declaring a religious war (sic), he announced earlier Friday that he was suspending all Palestinian security cooperation with Israel. This demonstrated extreme hutzpah, considering that it is this cooperation which keeps him in power. He deals directly with American and American parties which support his security forces and serve as go-between for Palestinian ties with their Israeli counterparts.

If the Palestinians choose to continue along the path of violence, their American and European backers will face the dilemma over whether to continue to sponsor terror. Making a public issue of this will effectively put paid to all efforts at diplomacy for ending the dispute – whether local or regional.

 And that is exactly what the three Muslim gunmen were after when they shot dead three Israeli police guards at the Lion’s Gate entrance to Temple Mount.

The Palestinians are consistent in their tactics: First shed Israeli blood, then tell the world they are victims and as martyrs are justified in seeking revenge – especially against “the sons of apes and pigs who defile Al Aqsa.” This was how the Halamish killer Omar al-Abed, 19, a Hamas sympathizer, described the Jews in the “will” he posted on Facebook three hours before the murders. Except that instead of dying with a martyr’s halo, he survived.

The whole week, it was dinned into Palestinian and Israeli Muslims by their leaders, including elected members of the Israeli parliament, that the Al Aqsa compound, an artificial mountaintop platform built as the site of the Jewish Temple more than 2,000 years ago, is exclusive Muslim property and no Jew has the right to set foot in the “Noble Sanctuary.”  This claim also applies to Jerusalem, known in Arabic as Al Quds.

The most notorious metal detectors in Middle East history became emblems that objectified their rage that Iover Israeli sovereignty in Temple Mount and the holy city. This has exposed the dispute as being a national rather than a religious dispute.

For Israel, sovereignty over its capital and the site of the Jewish temples, which was won at great cost in a war of defense after millennia of exile, is not in question. The government’s reiterated pledge to preserve the status quo on Temple Mount and the cities holy places is solidly backed up. But it cuts no ice with the Palestinians since the pledge is offered by an entity they consider a usurper.

Nothing less will satisfy them than Israel relinquishing Temple Mount to the full control of the Waqf Muslim Authority.

But this presents another problem. For decades, Israeli governments has provisionally quelled endless outbreaks of violence, by rescinding pieces of control to Muslim authority - the Waqf or Jordan, allowing the Hashemite King to claims custodianship of Al Aqsa. But it was never enough to keep Palestinian violence down for long. The Waqf was even permitted to build an extension to Al Aqsa, which they rewarded by trashing the relics of the Jewish Temples discovered by the builders.

But Israel has now reached the end of its tether. It is obvious that even if the metal detectors installed at Temple Mount gates are removed or replaced, the violence unleashed at Temple Mount on July 14 was just an opener, followed a week later by the Halamish murders.

A surge Palestinian clashes with police across Jerusalem earlier Friday left three Palestinian rioters dead. Israel’s Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkott Saturday ordered a massive call-up of IDF and police reinforcements to try and put a lid on the violence and protect the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria.

During the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, Israeli military actions were limited by the broader diplomatic situation. The expulsion of Syria from Lebanon had taken place a year earlier.

The government of then-prime minister Fuad Siniora in Beirut was considered one of the few successes of the US democracy promotion project in the region. As a result, pressure was placed on Israel to restrict its operations to targets directly related to Hezbollah activity alone.

Ten years is a long time. Today, the view in Israel is that the distinction between Hezbollah and the institutions and authorities of the Lebanese state has disappeared.

But while the government of Lebanon is no longer a particular protégé of the US and the West, the position taken in Western capitals regarding the Lebanese state and, notably, its armed forces remains markedly different from that taken in Jerusalem. The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) continues to be a major beneficiary of US aid.

This gap in perceptions reflects different primary security concerns. For Israel, altering this perception in the West before the next conflict with Hezbollah is a primary strategic task.

So what are the facts of the case? One of the basic expectations of a functioning state is that it exercise a monopoly on the use of violence within its borders.

What has happened in the intervening decade, however, is that Hezbollah and its allies, rather than simply ignoring the wishes of the state, have progressively absorbed its institutions. The events of May/June 2008 in Beirut finally demonstrated the impotence of “official” Lebanon in opposing the will of Hezbollah and its allies.

Then, on the official political level, Hezbollah and its allies prevented the appointment of a Lebanese president for two years, before ensuring the ascendance of their own allied candidate, then-Gen. Michel Aoun, in October 2016. For good measure, the March 8 bloc of which Hezbollah is a part ensured for itself eight portfolios in the 17-person Lebanese cabinet. Of these, two are directly in the hands of Hezbollah.

So at the level of political leadership, it is no longer possible to identify where the Lebanese state begins and Hezbollah ends.

In particular, there is deep disquiet in Israel regarding revelations of an Iranian- supported, homegrown Hezbollah arms industry. This, combined with what may be the beginnings of a slow winding down of the Syrian war, raises the possibility of renewed tensions with Hezbollah.

The intention will be to dismiss any distinction between Hezbollah and the Lebanese state, and to wage a state-to-state war against Lebanon, on the basis that the distinction has become a fiction. This would involve an all-out use of military force that will be intended to force a relatively quick decision.

For this to be conceivable, a diplomatic battle has to first be won. This is the battle to convince the West, or at least the US, that an Iranian proxy militia has today effectively swallowed the Lebanese state, making war against the former, by its very nature, involve war against the latter.

Following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, armchair pundits determined that the age of the tank as king of the battlefield had come to an ignominious end. They argued that the introduction of anti-tank guided missiles rendered the tank obsolete. How wrong they were. Several post-war studies of the conflict demonstrated that the tank was still indispensable to modern warfare and when employed in a combined arms manner with artillery and mechanized infantry, still reigned supreme.

Israel learned many lessons from the Yom Kippur War and incorporated those lessons into the development of its own indigenous tank, the Merkava (Chariot). The Merkava 1 entered service with the Israel Defense Forces in 1978 and first saw action in 1982 during Operation Peace for Galilee when it engaged and destroyed no fewer than nine Soviet-made, Syrian T-72 tanks without sustaining a single loss. It also reportedly succeeded in downing a Syrian anti-tank helicopter with its main gun.

Since that time, the Merkava has undergone several modifications and improvements, the latest iteration of which is the Merkava 4. The Merkava 4 is considered by armored warfare experts to be among the finest tanks in the world, and in terms of crew survivability, the safest.

In the summer of 2006, Israel was forced to go to war again, this time with the notorious terrorist organization Hezbollah. On July 12, two Israeli reservists were killed and their bodies snatched during a Hezbollah cross-border attack. Israel could not allow the outrage to go unanswered and decided to launch an offensive against Hezbollah. Nearly 400 Merkava tanks, mostly of the older II and III variants, were haphazardly deployed in the latter stages of the 34-day conflict.

During the course of the war, Hezbollah guerrillas fired thousands of anti-tank missiles – from the first generation Sagger to the highly advanced Kornet – at static Israeli infantry and tanks but only succeeding in damaging some 40 tanks and of these, there were only 20 penetrations. Despite these encouraging numbers, so-called experts began to once again challenge the utility of the tank and its place in modern warfare. 

IDF planners saw things differently. They went back to the drawing board in an effort to draw conclusions from the performance of the Merkava and tactics employed by its crew members.

With at least 1/3 of its fighting force permanently stationed in Syria, the probability of Hezbollah initiating war against Israel in the near future is low. Even in the absence of the Syrian conflict, Hezbollah will soon not forget the thrashing it took at the hands of the IDF during the 2006 campaign. Nevertheless, most experts agree that the next Lebanon war is not a question of if, but when, and when it does begin, Israel’s latest Merkava variant, the vaunted Merkava 4 will be in the thick of it.

The Merkava 4 incorporates many sophisticated design features including advanced electro optics that ensure a 100% first-hit kill capability from its formidable 120mm smooth-bore gun. The Merkava also features an internally operated 60mm mortar to deal with missile-armed infantry. The Merkava is also capable of firing the long-rang, third generation LAHAT laser homing, guided missile from its main gun, an advantage lacking in the Merkava’s contemporaries. Another feature possessed by the Merkava but lacking in its competitors is the ability to accommodate up to eight infantry soldiers or three litter patients.

But among its most outstanding features is its emphasis on crew safety and ability to negate anti-tank missile threats. The tank, whose well-sloped armor is composed of advanced spaced and composite materials, is arguably the best protected in the world. 

Unlike other tank designs, the Merkava’s 1,500hp diesel engine is located in the front, providing the crew with an additional layer of protection from frontal hits. Learning from past experience, the Merkava’s vulnerable underbelly was up-armored to provide additional protection against anti-tank mines and Iranian supplied explosively formed projectiles (EFP), which have been used to devastating effect by Iraqi and Afghan insurgents against American forces, claiming no fewer than 500 American lives. In addition, the Merkava 4’s armor is modular, allowing for quick battlefield repair and tailoring the armor for the tank’s mission-specific purposes.

But perhaps the Merkava’s most outstanding feature is its use of the Trophy active self-protection missile defense system, which acts like the tank’s personal Iron Dome missile defense shield. The system is designed to shoot down incoming missiles before the projectile reaches the tank’s armor. The IDF is the first military to deploy such a platform and all Merkava 4s and Namer (leopard) and Eytan armored personnel carriers (APC) are equipped with it. The United States Army is currently testing the Trophy system for use and adoption in its M1A2 Abrams tanks and other armored fighting vehicles such as the Stryker wheeled APC and the Bradley tracked APC.

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