- Hamas terrorists killed in another tunnel collapse as massive investment in terror infrastructure continues
At least two Hamas operatives were killed on Sunday when a tunnel collapsed in southern Gaza, making it the 12th tunnel to collapse this year as Hamas continues to rebuild its terror infrastructure in the aftermath of the war it launched against Israel in summer 2014. Last week, Israel Radio reported that Hamas currently pays over 1,000 operatives to build tunnels and that the terror organization “invests hundreds of thousands of dollars each month in digging activities.” According to The Guardian, in December 2014, Hamas "formed a special unit to dig and equip tunnels and train fighters to use them.” The British paper also reported that “they are preparing for another war.” Last summer, an IDF commander warned on Israel Radio that Hamas was rebuilding its network of terror tunnels. In January, Israeli residents near the border with Gaza said that the tunnel digging was “shaking” their floors. Israelis have also reported hearing “renewed construction noises under Israeli territory.”
In January, Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ deputy political bureau chief, vowed to continue digging tunnels in preparation for a future conflict with Israel and stated that the tunnels have become a “strategic weapon.” As reported by Al-Monitor, Haniyeh declared that during the summer 2014 conflict, “[u]nderground tunnels brought death to our enemy and victory and glory to our people and nation.” He continued, “It is from these tunnels that the mujahedeen carried out the Nahal Oz operation. From these tunnels, the mujahedeen went behind enemy lines…and returned safely to their bases.” In an attack on an Israeli military post near the kibbutz Nahal Oz, Hamas terrorists used their tunnel network to infiltrate the base and kill five Israeli soldiers.
After continued Hamas rocket fire in summer 2014, the IDF launched Operation Protective Edge (OPE). The Israeli military explained during OPE that with the tunnels, Hamas “intended to carry out attacks such as abductions of Israeli civilians and soldiers alike; infiltrations into Israeli communities, mass murders and hostage-taking scenarios.” The IDF stated that eliminating the tunnel threat “was a primary objective” of OPE, and during the conflict, the IDF destroyed 32 tunnels. Haaretz’s defense correspondent Amos Harel wrote in January that “Hamas is investing great efforts and huge sums in the tunnel project. It is reasonable to assume that the number of tunnels crossing under the border is close to that on the eve of Protective Edge.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has formed a new constitutional court that will have primacy over lower courts and further entrench his hold on power, Reuters reported on Monday.
The court, which will be run by judges who are affiliated with Abbas’ political party Fatah, “risks deepening Palestinian political divisions,” according to critics. Its rulings would be binding on the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the Palestinian government, potentially bolstering Abbas and further marginalizing his rivals, most notably Hamas. However, Fatah has defended the court, claiming that it will be independent of the Palestinian president.
“Neither the president nor any of the leaders (of Fatah) has a private agenda regarding this issue,” said Fatah spokesman Osama al-Qwasmi. “The prime task of the constitutional court is to monitor laws. By the law, it is a completely independent body and we have full confidence in it.”
Abbas was elected as president in 2005 to a four year term. No elections were held in 2009, and Abbas continues to rule by decree. The speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, which has not been convened since 2007, is a member of Hamas, the Iran-backed terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip. In the event that Abbas resigns or dies, it is the speaker who would be next in line to be president, though Fatah disputes the constitutionality of this succession.
In addition to packing the court with Fatah members and allies, Abbas also circumvented Hamas by appointing two members from Gaza. Hamas would not allow to the Gaza residents attend the swearing-in ceremony on Sunday, and so Abbas instead swore them in via video conference.
Grant Rumley, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, called the court’s establishment “a blatant power grab at a time when [Abbas] knows he can get away with it.” Rumley added, “From Abbas’s standpoint, this is his way of both thwarting his rivals in Hamas and securing his Fatah party’s hold on the Palestinian Authority once he is gone.”
According to Hani al-Masri, a West Bank Palestinian political analyst, “It is as if you are confiscating everything and putting all the institutions in your hands.” Issam Abdeen, a law professor at Birzeit University in the West Bank, similarly warned that the court would have few limits on its power. “It can be a lethal weapon if misused,” Abdeen said, adding that the court could block political challenges from Abbas’s rivals, such as exiled former security chief Mohammed Dahlan.
“Rather than reforming his party, preparing for elections, or reactivating the defunct parliament, (Abbas) is creating another judicial body by presidential decree in order to, among other things, approve presidential decrees,” Rumley observed.
The move comes amid flaring tensions between Fatah and Hamas. The Gaza based terrorist group recently denounced the PA, which is ruled by Fatah, for arresting its members in the West Bank.
The reconstruction Gaza in the wake of Hamas’ war against Israel nearly two years ago has been hampered by similar Palestinian infighting.
Revelations from the Panama Papers leak last week shed light on the PA’s shady financial dealings, including Abbas’ domination of the Palestinian Investment Fund, an ostensibly independent body.
Abbas’ failure to establish functioning institutions of government or secure control of Gaza, which would be part of a Palestinian state, undercut claims that Palestinians could create a viable democratic state that would live side by side with Israel, even if a peace agreement was made. (via TheTower.org)
A five-year-old Syrian girl is currently undergoing lifesaving bone-marrow transplant treatments at the Ruth Rappaport Children’s Hospital on the Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa. The young patient has made headlines in Israel this week because of the audacious and clandestine mission undertaken by Israeli health professionals and Secret Service personnel to save her life. Like almost all Syrians to have been treated in Israel since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, this young girl and her mother made their way to the Syrian-Israeli border to seek medical help, a Rambam spokesperson tells ISRAEL21c. The girl was caught in a firefight between rival militias, according to a Channel 10 report. Israel has a policy to treat in its hospitals any wounded Syrians who reached its border seeking help even though the countries are considered enemies. Rambam doctors discovered that their young patient, though suffering light wounds, also had cancer. And they were not about to let her be discharged without proper treatment. The doctors set in motion a search for a suitable bone-marrow donor – and found a match with one of the girl’s relatives, who lives in a nearby country designated as an enemy state. Under Israeli law, residents of enemy states are not allowed to enter the country without special permission. So, the Haifa doctors turned to Israel’s Secret Service to track down the relative and secure his entry into Israel. The mission was successful and the relative arrived in Haifa earlier this week. (via Israel21c)
Alex Chalmers, the co-chair of the Oxford University Labour Club, resigned on February 17, citing widespread anti-Semitism and hostility to Jews among its members. His statement and a subsequent press release by the Oxford University Jewish Society make for sobering reading, not least because this is not an isolated case.
In early March, the British Labour Party was forced to explain why it allowed Gerry Downing, who had written about the need to “address the Jewish Question,” and Vicki Kirbyi, who once tweeted that Adolf Hitler might be the “Zionist God,” to be readmitted to the party following their suspension for anti-Semitism. Kirby had been nothing less than a parliamentary candidate, and upon her return was appointed vice-chair of her local party executive committee.
Over the past few years, a palpable sense of alarm has been quietly growing amongst Jews on the European Left. At the heart of an often-fraught relationship lies the following dilemma: The vast majority of Jews are Zionist, and the vast majority of Left-wing opinion is not.
But the problem goes beyond the question of Israel itself. It also involves a general sense that the Left is unconcerned with Jewish interests and unwilling to take the matter of rising anti-Semitism seriously, preferring instead to dismiss it as a consequence of Israeli policies or a censorious attempt to close down discussion of the same. The horror with which many Jews greeted the election of Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour Party was outstripped only by the realization that his supporters felt that his fondness for the company of anti-Semites was unworthy of their concern.
This is a complex subject, with roots that stretch back to the beginning of the last century. I have attempted to outline in necessarily broad fashion some of the trends of thought that have informed the relationship between Jews and the Left, as well as the shifting attitudes towards Israel in particular. In doing so, I hope to shed some light on their implications.
The key question facing the European Left is whether or not it can change in such a way that Jews can once again feel part of the Left’s political family. Unfortunately, for the foreseeable future the answer to that question appears to be no.
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