The IDF announced the discovery of a second Hamas tunnel in three weeks leading into Israel from southern Gaza. Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, former director-general of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, explained on Thursday in a TIP conference call that the tunnels were part of Hamas’ “ongoing effort to be better prepared to launch a new attack and to fight again against Israel in the time that is considered to be right from their point of view.” He stressed that Hamas has made significant investments in the “necessary preparations so that in the next round, when they decide to start it, they will be able to inflict the heaviest damage on Israel, including through those tunnels.” In a statement, the IDF said that it “considers above and below-ground terror activity a violation of the State of Israel’s sovereignty and a threat to its citizens and deems Hamas solely responsible.” IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner asserted, “Hamas is continuing to try to carry out and build this infrastructure into Israel and it's something we are not prepared to tolerate."
The news of the tunnel’s discovery comes amidst an increase in tensions along the Gaza border. Israeli troops have been searching along the border for tunnels, and on Wednesday, for the first time since Operation Protective Edge (OPE) in summer 2014, Palestinian militants fired mortar shells at IDF troops. On Thursday, Hamas fired additional mortar shells at soldiers, and in response, the Israeli Air Force carried out strikes against Hamas military targets. Since Israel launched OPE, in response to Hamas’ continued rocket fire, the Gaza-based terror group has continued to expand and build its network of terror tunnels. During the operation, Hamas used the tunnels to launch attacks against Israel, and the IDF destroyed at least 34 tunnels. The IDF explained during OPE that Hamas intended to use the tunnels “to carry out attacks such as abductions of Israeli civilians and soldiers alike; infiltrations into Israeli communities, mass murders and hostage-taking scenarios.”
Additionally, the Shin Bet intelligence agency on Thursday made public that it obtained valuable information on Hamas’ tunnel network from a captured Hamas operative in its custody. In April, the terrorist attempted to sneak into Israel to murder Israelis but was discovered and arrested. The operative, Mahmoud Atauna, according to the Shin Bet, revealed details on Hamas’ techniques and the terror group’s “use of private homes and institutions…from which it digs the tunnels. He also provided information on the means and materials Hamas uses."
The deputy commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said on state television Wednesday that his nation would close the strategic Strait of Hormuz to the United States and its allies if they “threaten” Iran.
“If the Americans and their regional allies want to pass through the Strait of Hormuz and threaten us, we will not allow any entry,” Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami said. He did not specify what would constitute a threat.
“Americans should learn from recent historical truths,” Salami said, in a possible reference to the capture of ten American sailors by IRGC forces in January. He later added that “Americans cannot make safe any part of the world.” Salami cited the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as a justification to “decisively confront” any threat through the Strait of Hormuz. The text of the Law of the Sea also codifies sovereign immunity, which Iran violated when it seized the ships.
Lt. Rick Chernitzer, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, said in a statement to the Associate Press that American forces “remain thoughtful, vigilant and responsible mariners as we conduct our operations here. We do, however, reserve the inherent right to self-defense.”
Salami’s threats followed similar comments by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini, who said earlier this week that “The Persian Gulf coast and much of the coasts of the Sea of Oman belong to this powerful [Iranian] nation, therefore we have to be present in this region, [stage] maneuvers and show off our power.”
Khamenei also accused the United States of warning Iran not to hold military exercises in the Persian Gulf, a claim that has not been corroborated in Western media. Khamenei may have been responding to the U.S.-led multinational military exercise in the Persian Gulf last month. More than 30 nations participated in the International Mine Countermeasures Exercise in the Strait of Hormuz, the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, and the Suez Canal to ensure the safe passage of commercial traffic through major transport chokepoints.
Iran has stated that it plans to hold 20 naval exercises in the Persian Gulf by next March.
Iran has been criticized for its provocative behavior in the Persian Gulf over the past year. Vice Admiral Kevin Donegan, the commander of the Fifth Fleet, said when he was installed in his position in November that Iran’s “malign behavior” in the region had not changed despite last year’s nuclear deal. The following month, an Iranian ship fired rockets close to the USS Harry S Truman in a maneuver that U.S. Central Command called “highly provocative.
In January, IRGC naval forces captured ten American sailors and two boats that were reported to have strayed into Iranian territorial waters. Iran awarded medals to the captors and broadcasted their images being held at gunpoint on state television. Khamenei called the capture “God’s deed,” and the country is planning to construct a monument to commemorate the capture.
Iranian officials have also been provocative towards the United States on other issues recently. Last week, Khameni called the United States Iran’s main enemy and mocked President Barack Obama’s Nowruz holiday greeting to the Iranian people. The governor of Iran’s central bank, Valiollah Seif, threatened last month that if the United States does not facilitate Iran’s reintegration into the international financial system, the nuclear deal will “[break] up under its own terms.” Similarly, in an interview with The New Yorker last week, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that “if one side does not comply with the agreement then the agreement will start to falter.” (via TheTower.org)
United Hatzalah sent a delegation of EMTs, paramedics, doctors and logistics personnel to Panama to train their counterparts in providing the proper response for a Mass Casualty Incident (MCI). “We put a lot of emphasis on dealing with a terror attack due to the current worldwide political situation, but we also drilled responses to natural disasters like the one that took place in Ecuador,” said Dovy Maisel, Vice President of United Hatzalah and the Director of International Operations from the Israel office of United Hatzalah and who himself is a medic, was on hand during the drill. The recent training took place in April and culminated with an MCI drill that saw 30 mock casualties with a variety of injuries receive treatment from 20 EMS personnel from United Hatzalah of Panama. “It is due to the Israeli team’s instruction and expertise that the Panamanian team knows how to deal with an MCI so well,” said Ramon Gateno, Director of United Hatzalah in Panama. The Israeli team set out to Panama specifically to train the Panamanian medics, who mainly work out of Panama City. “We drilled the Panama team using the experience and regulations that the Israeli teams have built up over the years in responding to countless attacks,” said Maisel. United Hatzalah is the national volunteer EMS service in Israel. (via Israel21c)