US President Donald Trump’s special envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt released a statement, in which he emphasized Washington’s position saying, “If Hamas wants to play a role in any Palestinian government it must renounce violence and commit to peaceful negotiations with Israel.” Greenblatt stressed that while “All parties agree that it is essential that the Palestinian Authority be able to assume full, genuine, and unhindered civil and security responsibilities in Gaza and that we work together to improve the humanitarian situation for Palestinians living there,” the American envoy underlined that Hamas must meet the international demands to recognize Israel and accept previous agreements with it, so that the Islamist group would become a legitimate partner for negotiations, while pointing to the fact that “Hamas has always refused similar demands in the past.” Responding to Greenblatt’s statement, Hamas official Bassem Naim accused the US of interfering in the matter. Naim declared that the Palestinian people have the right to choose its own government according to their “supreme strategic interests.” Naim further accused the American envoy of contradicting previous statements, which support the Palestinian reconciliation efforts, saying the American position came as a result of immense pressure by the “extreme right-wing Netanyahu government and is in line with the Netanyahu statement” from earlier this week, which declared that Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government that Hamas is a part of, an internationally recognized terror group that openly calls for Israel’s destruction.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warmly welcomed the statement by Jason Greenblatt, stressing that while Israel is truly keen on achieving true peace, it cannot negotiate with a Palestinian government that allows a terror group to infiltrate its ranks. Netanyahu said, “I would like to first of all congratulate the American administration in Washington. I am happy that Jason Greenblatt President Trump’s envoy made it clear that Hamas must disarm, recognize Israel and uphold previous international decisions. They made it clear that any Palestinian government must commit to these principles. We want peace. We want a real peace, and because of that we will not negotiate with a terror organization, disguised as a political entity,” the Israeli leader declared.
Meanwhile in the Gaza Strip, Hamas’ leader Yahya Sinwar declared that his organization’s disarmament was off the table and that it has no intention of recognizing the State of Israel. Sinwar said in an address to Hamas supporters in the Palestinian enclave that Mohammed Deif, the commander of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, informed him several days ago that Hamas’s military wing has recovered its strength, and if Israel thought of carrying out any “foolish act” against the Palestinians, they would “break its army as it was never broken before.” He further asserted that “If the Fatah movement of President Mahmoud Abbas would use the weapons of (the Palestinian) resistance in the negotiations (as a threat to Israel), it will greatly advance the Palestinian cause.”
A mortar exploded on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights security fence, in what defense officials told TV7 was errant fire from ongoing battles raging between the Syrian military and rebel forces. No injuries or damage were reported as the mortar exploded in an open area. In response to the mortar-fire, the IDF launched an attack on a Syrian military outpost, on the outskirts of the border-city of Quneitra. Reports indicated extensive damage to the post, yet no casualties were mentioned. The IDF spokesperson’s unit released a statement following the Israeli attack saying, “The IDF will not tolerate any attempt to undermine the sovereignty of the State of Israel and the security of its citizens.” The statement added that “The IDF views the Syrian regime as responsible to what is happening on the ground.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a ceremony marking 50 years of settlements in the Jordan Valley, commented on the incident declaring that if Israel is attack, it will immediately retaliate, as the Jewish state will not accept trickles of rocket fire toward its territory. Netanyahu said, “We see what is happening a short distance north of here when they take up a position, or try to, over the border. We have a clear policy: Whoever tries to hurt us, we will hurt them. We will not tolerate trickles and if they attack us, we return fire, and this does not take a lot of time,” the Israeli leader warned the country’s enemies.
Meanwhile in Washington, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis welcomed his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman for a work visit, several hours after the top Israeli defense official held a meeting at the White House with National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster. During Lieberman’s meeting with Mattis, the Israeli Minister declared that any attack on Israel’s security would be met with a decisive response and recommended to Israel’s enemies not to test Jerusalem’s patience and red lines. Lieberman further underscored, during the meeting, that Israel would not allow Iran or its proxies to establish a base along the border with Syria in the Golan Heights, and will do whatever is necessary to thwart “these dangerous attempts.”
According to the London-based newspaper Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, Israel conducted an aerial strike against Islamic State targets, in what was said to be a response for two rockets launched from the Egyptian territory toward Israel’s southern communities. The report cited tribal factions from the northern Sinai Peninsula claiming, “Israeli jets were seen flying in the area shortly after the missile launches.” The report further stated that the Israeli fighter-jets conducted retaliation strikes only after the Egyptian air force completed its own sorties in the area of Rafah, which is located adjacent to the Egyptian border with the Gaza Strip.
The Sinai branch of the Islamic State, Willayat Sinai, claimed responsibility for the rocket launches toward Israel’s south, yet made no mention of any Israeli retaliation strikes. Israeli and Egyptian defense officials declined to comment on the matter.
Islamist militants launched two rockets from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula toward Israel’s southern communities. One of the rockets exploded in an open area in the southern Eshkol regional council, causing no injuries or damage. An Israeli defense official told TV7 that the Islamic State affiliate in the Sinai Peninsula, Willayat Sinai, was responsible for the attack. The rocket fire came after the extreme Muslim group attacked earlier in the day six separate checkpoints of the Egyptian military in the north of the lawless Peninsula, killing six soldiers and wounding 37 others. According to a statement by the Egyptian military, 24 militants were killed during the course of the attack. The military further stated that it is searching the area for additional terrorists, as it continues its battle with the aim of eradicating the Islamic State from Egypt’s territory.
Thousands of Israeli and Palestinian women marched through a biblical desert landscape, converging on the shores of the Jordan River, in what they declared was “a march for peace.” The women, many of them dressed in white, descended through the arid hills leading to the river, where they erected a “peace tent” named for Sarah and Hagar, scriptural mothers of Ishmael and Isaac, the half-brother patriarchs of Muslims and Jews. Huda Abuarquob, a Palestinian participant of the march and the regional director of the Alliance for Mideast Peace Organization said, “I am one of the Palestinian women who are participating here today, we are supported by the president, Mahmoud Abbas, to spread our voice all over the world with the activity organized by Women Wage Peace. It is an Israeli women organization that was established by women who need it because they refuse war, death, and refuse to neglect the other,” she said, while Vivian Silver who is an Israeli participant of the march and a member of the Women Wage Peace organization said, “We are organizing women from all over the country, from every side of the political spectrum, who are saying: “Enough! Maspik (Hebrew for enough)”, in Arabic it’s Makkafi. Enough. We are no longer willing to do this, we must reach a political agreement, we must change the paradigm that we have been taught for seven decades now, when we were told that only war will bring peace. We don’t believe that anymore, it’s been proven that it’s not true,” she declared
Some 5,000 women participated in the march, which began last month at several locations across Israel and culminated in a rally outside the Jerusalem residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman accused the Lebanese military of becoming inextricably-linked to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia, while emphasizing that the reality with which Israel had to deal with in recent years has completely changed because of the chaos raging across the region, including the fact that Lebanon and Syria have become completely-intertwined in their destiny. Minister Lieberman warned, “As I said, we must prepare for any possible scenario and also to the new reality that prepares for us new challenges. If once we talked about the Lebanon Frontier, it doesn’t exist anymore, now we are confronted with a northern Frontier, and any development that will take place we will face one (northern) frontier. Syria and Lebanon together. Hezbollah, Assad’s regime, and all the backers of the Assad regime. Also with regard to Lebanon’s frontier, it isn’t only about Hezbollah, we are talking about Hezbollah and the Lebanese military. Regrettably, this is the reality. Lebanon has become an integral part in Hezbollah’s network, under Hezbollah’s command,” the Israeli to defense official alleged.
In an address to IDF soldiers at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, Lieberman stressed that preparation for the next round of conflict was of paramount importance, because Israel will have to deal with several frontiers at the same time, as was the case in the most challenging conflicts the Jewish State had to deal with during its early history. He said, “During the next conflagration, and it doesn’t matter where it will take place, north or south, it will immediately become a conflict on two frontiers. A conflict on one frontier doesn’t exist anymore. This is our basic belief and for that we are preparing the military,” Lieberman asserted.
In response to the Israeli top defense official, a Lebanese military official rejected the allegations, emphasizing that Lieberman’s comments were totally detached from reality.” The Lebanese official stressed that “The Lebanese Army has full independence and is subject to the decisions of the political government in Beirut.” The Lebanese official further took the opportunity to warn Israel to avoid launching any military adventures in Lebanon, declaring the “Lebanese Army has proven its readiness to defend the eastern border against terror (after defeating the Islamic State in that area) and it is also ready to defend (Lebanon’s) southern border if Israel decides to start a war of any kind.”
Islamist militants launched a rocket from the Gaza Strip last night toward Israel’s southern communities, yet according to an IDF report, the rocket exploded in an open area on the Gazan-side of the border’s security fence. No injuries or damage were reported. In response to the Palestinian rocket-fire, the IDF said it destroyed a Palestinian observation post belonging to the Hamas organization, which Israel views as solely responsible for any attacks emanating from the Palestinian enclave – even if the group was not directly behind the fire directed at Israel.
The rocket fire comes after Hamas announced that its security forces arrested senior Islamic State official Nur Issa, who is perceived by many as the leader of the Islamic State in the Gaza Strip. Three other Islamic State operatives were also arrested along with Issa. The arrest took place in an overnight raid on a house in Rafah city, not far from the Gazan border with Egypt, just one day before a Hamas delegation was expected to travel to Cairo for the Egyptian-brokered reconciliation talks with their Palestinian rivals from President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction. A Palestinian source told TV7 that the arrests by Hamas of the Islamic State operatives, which are also affiliated with the Sinai branch of the extreme Muslim group, ‘Willayat Sinai’, came as part of a series of good-will gestures by Hamas toward the Egyptian leadership. The source further noted that “In response to the arrests, a group that is affiliated with the Islamic State launched the rocket toward Israel, as they know that an Israeli response will be directed at Hamas positions.”
Meanwhile in Cairo, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi voiced his belief that the steps taken by his country to help end the division among the Palestinians have paved the way to a just peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, while adding that those steps would help establish an independent Palestinian state. President Sisi further noted, in a meeting with senior officials of his government, that Cairo’s efforts will ultimately allow the Palestinians to have secure, stable, and prosperous lives.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the latest Egyptian-brokered reconciliation efforts, emphasizing that Israel is not interested in what he termed “bogus reconciliation” by the Palestinians. Netanyahu emphasized, “We expect everyone who talks about a peace process first to speak about the need to recognize the State of Israel, the state of the Jewish people. Peace requires recognition of the State of Israel, the nation-state of the Jewish people. We are not interested in a bogus reconciliation in which the Palestinian factions reconcile with each other at the expense of our existence. Therefore, we expect to see three things: one, recognition of the State of Israel, two, the dismantling of the Hamas military arm, and three, the severing of the connection with Iran, which calls for our destruction. These are basic things. We insist on them,” the Israeli leader stressed.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, who earlier in the day toured the West Bank city of Ma’ale Adumim, also vowed to expand Israel’s construction projects across lands he declared “will be part of the Jewish state under any final status agreement’, while promising a ‘development boom’ in the area of Jerusalem, which the Israeli leader emphasized ‘is and always will be the eternal capital of the Israel. Netanyahu stressed following a meeting with the Mayor of Ma’aleh Adumim, “I hereby declare a strong development boom in Maale Adumim. We will build thousands of housing units here. We will add the industrial zones and the necessary expansion in order to enable speedy development of this place. This place will be a part of the state of Israel. I support the bill of Greater Jerusalem which will enable Jerusalem and its surroundings to develop in very many aspects. This is great and important news,” Netanyahu declared.
While most countries view Israeli construction in East Jerusalem and West Bank settlements as illegal under international law, Israel views all of Jerusalem as its “eternal and indivisible capital,” rejecting Palestinian claims on the city, while citing biblical, historical and political connections to the West Banks, which Palestinians demand for their future state, under any final status agreement.
US President Donald Trump’s Special envoy to the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, publish on his Twitter page a call on the Palestinian leadership to immediately commit to nonviolence, accept previous agreements and obligations and fully recognize the State of Israel. The envoy’s tweet read: “The United States stresses that any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognition of the State of Israel, acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties, and peaceful negotiations.” With regard to the ongoing attempt to seek reconciliation between Fattah and Hamas, Trump envoy stated that ” the United States welcomes efforts to create the conditions for the Palestinian Authority to fully assume its responsibilities in Gaza.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared once again, in a special ceremony marking 50 years since the liberation of Judea, Samaria, the Jordan valley and the Golan Heights, that the government of Israel will never again uproot settlements from disputed territories. Netanyahu said, “Ahead of everything else and in a clear manner, there will be no more uprooting of settlements in the country of Israel. It is not just a question of the connection to the homeland, of course it is part of it. First of all, it is not the way to achieve peace. We will not uproot Jews nor Arabs.” The Israeli leader further elaborated on the matter by pointing to the fact that since Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip, instead of peace the Jewish state was faced by a surge of violence and cross-border attacks, which Netanyahu asserted where a preview to what is happening across the Middle East, where Islamist Jihadists continue to wreak havoc in territories they conquer, just as was the case in the Gaza Strip when the Islamist Hamas took over the Palestinian enclave. Netanyahu declared, “We didn’t receive peace when we uprooted settlements, we received missiles and terror, and we will not do that again. That disengagement was a preview of what is happening in the Middle East. Every territory that falls to the hands of the Islamic State is turning into a base of destruction, violence and death. We will not abandon our national home to danger, instead we will strengthen the house with momentum (progress),” the Israeli leader said to thousands of supporters.
Amid international pressure on Israel to halt settlement construction on disputed lands the Palestinians demand for their future state, Prime Minister Netanyahu emphasized the strong links the Jewish people have to their ancient homeland, re-emphasizing that the Jewish state under his leadership will continue its policy of building and progress.
That said, while Prime Minister Netanyahu continues a vocal position with regard to advancing his government’s construction policy on what international law defines as ‘disputed lands’, new reports indicate a change, in which Jerusalem is expected to hold back its construction approach due to growing pressure from Washington. According to senior Israeli sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the Trump administration issued a warning to Prime Minister Netanyahu to hold back on excessive building on lands the Palestinians demand for a future state, a message Netanyahu relayed to the leadership of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, during a meeting in which representatives presented the prime minister with a list of demands for improving infrastructure in settlements and seeking approval for 10,000 new housing units in the area. Netanyahu reportedly stressed that the Trump administration was gearing up to announce plans to restart the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, thus forcing Israel to act with responsibility and discretion. Netanyahu emphasized that his government is not interested in quarreling with a friendly US Administration, thus would heed the demands by Washington to avoid launching new construction programs in the West Bank on large scales. A settler official who attended the meeting revealed that participants left the meeting “extremely concerned” that Netanyahu was effectively preparing the ground for Trump’s political program which will require that Israel relinquish territory in the West Bank to the Palestinians and that the Israeli leader had already reconciled himself with such an eventuality.