Robbing the poor. Two Palestinian men have been charged with funneling funds from Turkish charities earmarked for Gaza reconstruction to the terrorist group Hamas, Israel’s internal security service announced on Tuesday.
The Shin Bet said that Muhammad Murtaja, the Gaza coordinator of the Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TİKA), was arrested in February as he attempted to travel from Gaza to Turkey, The Times of Israel reported. Another suspect, Mehmet Kaya, the head of the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), has not yet been apprehended.
“The egotistical Hamas terror organization has robbed funds that are meant for the needy of Gaza from international organizations,” said Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, coordinator of government activities in the territories. “Hamas prospers at the expense of the residents of the Strip and uses donations meant for them to finance terror.”
According to the Shin Bet, Hamas recruited Murtaja in 2008 in order to siphon charitable funds meant for “meaningful humanitarian projects.” He is believed to have diverted “millions of shekels” in aid for needy Gazans, and instead arranged for individuals who “were apparently Hamas military operatives and their families” to receive the funds.
Murtaja carried out the embezzlement with the knowledge of Hamas’s leadership, “with Ismail Haniyeh at its head,” the Shin Bet said. Following his recruitment, Murtaja also participated in “training and military exercises, manufacturing weapons and improvised explosive devices and digging terror tunnels,” the agency added.
During his interrogation, Murtaja gave the Shin Bet “operational information” about Hamas’ network of terror tunnels, as well as its future war plans.
No separation. The Israel Defense Forces chief of staff declared Sunday that in the event there is a war with Hezbollah, Lebanon will bear the brunt of it. Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said at a military ceremony Sunday, “The recent declarations from Beirut make it clear that in a future war, the targets will be clear: Lebanon and the organizations operating under its authority and its approval.”
Eisenkot was referring to statements made by Lebanese President Michel Aoun last month that legitimized Hezbollah’s armaments in Lebanon. “As long as the Lebanese army lacks sufficient power to face Israel, we feel the need for (Hezbollah’s) arsenal because it complements the army’s role,” Aoun said.
Hezbollah and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) share a close relationship. In a military parade in Qusayr, Syria last November, the Iranian-backed group showed off a variety of arms and vehicles, including American M113 armored personnel carriers. The United States provides military aid to the LAF, so there is concern among Israel’s security establishment that American weapons and vehicles will continue to end up in the hands of Hezbollah. This undoing of “the separation between Hizbullah’s military power and the Lebanese army” means that Israel will face “a single force, [which] will enable Israel to operate freely against the Lebanese state, including its army and civilian infrastructures, at any time that Hizbullah acts against Israel,” wrote Brig. Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, a senior research associate at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
In The Times of Israel last month, journalist Avi Issacharoff explained that the Israeli military is increasingly concerned about the Hezbollah-LAF relationship and will take it into consideration in the next war against Hezbollah, which was the thrust of Eisenkot’s remarks on Sunday.
“In the next few weeks we will finish a long process of testing a new weapons system that will join the air force,” said Lt.-Col. Kobi Regev, the David’s Sling battalion commander.
Brig. Gen. Tzvika Haimovitch, head of the army’s Aerial Defense Command, suggested that David’s Sling could be deployed as soon as two weeks’ time. He said that the missile system will provide “more capabilities and more effectiveness” for Israel’s missile defense. However, he noted that these systems are never enough, “not hermetic.”
Once operational, David’s Sling will join Iron Dome, Arrow 2, and Arrow 3 as part of Israel’s layered aerial defense system, which has been developed in coordination with the U.S.
The Iron Dome, which was successfully deployed during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, provides protection from short-range weapons while the Arrow system is designed to counter the threat of longer range weapons, such as the Iranian Shihab-3 missiles. David’s Sling will combat medium-range threats.
Brig. Gen. Haimovitch also revealed on Monday that a Syrian anti-aircraft missile, which was intercepted by an Arrow missile last Friday, contained a significant warhead. “The Syrian missile had a 200kg warhead that threatened the security of the State of Israel and its citizens,” he said.
Maariv describes it as “the most dangerous missile since the Gulf War” to be fired at Israel.
The skirmish was one of several incidents in recent days, which have increased tensions on the Israeli-Syrian border.
On Monday, an Israeli unmanned drone was shot down near Quneitra in the Syrian part of the Golan Heights. The Syrian Defense Ministry said that its air defense unit had downed the Skylark vehicle over its territory, but the IDF would not confirm whether it had been shot down or not. (via BICOM)