Israel says hits Syrian army posts in response to drone incursion

An Israeli soldier stands guard on the Israel-Syria border in the annexed-Golan Heights, where sirens were set off following the shooting down of a drone that crossed into Israeli airspace from Syria. (AFP)
Updated 12 July 2018
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Israel says hits Syrian army posts in response to drone incursion

BEIRUT/JERUSALEM: Israeli forces attacked Syrian military positions near the Golan Heights frontier in the early hours of Thursday, causing limited damage, Syrian state media said.
The Israeli military said in a statement that it hit three targets in retaliation for an incursion on Wednesday of a Syrian drone which was shot down over northern Israel.
“The IDF (Israeli Defense Forces holds the Syrian regime accountable for the actions carried out in its territory and warns it from further action against Israeli forces,” the Israeli statement said.
Israeli-issued black-and-white surveillance footage showed missiles hitting what appeared to be a hut, a two-story structure and a five-story structure amid hilly terrain.
Syrian state media said the positions targeted on Thursday were near Hader village in Quneitra province, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
“The aircraft of the Israeli enemy fired several missiles in the direction of some army positions,” state media cited a Syrian military source as saying. At least some of the missiles were thwarted by Syrian air defenses, they said.
Israel has grown deeply alarmed by the expanding clout of its arch enemy Iran during the seven-year war in Syria. Its air force has struck scores of targets it describes as Iranian deployments or arms transfers to Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russia on Wednesday that Israel would not seek to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad but that Moscow, his key ally, should encourage Iranian forces to quit Syria, a senior Israeli official said.
Israel has been on high alert as Syrian government forces advance on rebels in the vicinity of the Golan, which Israel took from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war. Israel worries Assad could let his Iranian allies entrench near its lines or that Syrian forces may defy a 1974 Golan demilitarization.
Earlier this week, state media said air defense systems struck an Israeli warplane and shot down Israeli missiles targeting the T4 air base in Homs province. Israel neither confirmed nor denied carrying out that strike.
With the help of heavy Russian air power, the Syrian army has seized swathes of Daraa province from insurgents in the south in the past three weeks. The offensive is expected to turn next to rebel parts of Quneitra closer to the Golan.


Palestinian pupils scrap school holidays to save village

Updated 38 min 28 sec ago
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Palestinian pupils scrap school holidays to save village

  • Israel says the Bedouin village was constructed illegally
  • The residents of the village point out that it is nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits from Israeli authorities

KHAN AL-AHMAR, Palestinian Territories: Under the sun’s harsh glare, dozens of students sing the Palestinian national anthem — beginning a new school year early as part of efforts to keep their village from being demolished.
The students of Khan Al-Ahmar went back to their village school in the occupied West Bank on Monday, while Israeli authorities seek to evict them.
“We are starting the school year earlier because the Israelis want to destroy the school,” said Amani Ali, 11.
“So when they come to demolish it, we will be here.”
Israel says the Bedouin village, located in a strategic spot east of Jerusalem near Israeli settlements and on the road to the Dead Sea, was constructed illegally and is seeking to move its 191 residents elsewhere.
The residents of the village point out that it is nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits from Israeli authorities in around 60 percent of the West Bank where they maintain full control.
On May 24, Israel’s supreme court allowed authorities to go ahead with demolition of the small hillside village that sits between a highway, the desert and two Israeli settlements.
Since then, two new court challenges have been filed on behalf of the village, temporarily suspending demolition plans, and the court plans to hold another hearing by August 15 at the latest, activists say.
European countries have rallied to support the villagers, calling for demolition plans to be canceled.
“The fact that the students are at the school can prevent the decision from being carried out because they are going to see that there are classes, life, people,” said Ghadir Darsya, who has taught in Khan Al-Ahmar for three years.
“No one knows what’s going to happen,” she added, while sorting books with her colleagues amid the sound of children’s voices from an adjacent playground.
The school was constructed in 2009 with the support of NGOs and the European Union. Largely built with tires, sand and mud, it serves 170 students from various Bedouin villages, according to the principal.
“There are about 50 families with many children. Where are they going to go?” said Darsya.
The rest of the village is made up of homes of metal sheets, cardboard and wood, as is common in such Bedouin communities.
“We are always afraid. I cannot sleep at night,” said Raya Jahalin, as her grandchildren played on a large carpet behind her that serves as a living room devoid of furniture.
“It is our land. I have lived here for 50 years. I was born here. My children were married here.”
The villagers say Khan Al-Ahmar has been located there since 1952.
It was established after Bedouins from the Jahalin tribe were, according to rights activists, expelled from the Negev desert in the south after the creation of Israel in 1948.
Israeli authorities now want to relocate them to an area near Abu Dis in the West Bank, but the villagers are refusing, saying that the site is near a dump and in an urban environment where their animals cannot graze.
For Eid Abu Khamis, a village spokesman, forced eviction of Bedouins throughout the area would put in peril the possibility of a future Palestinian state.
If they are replaced with Israeli settlers, Khamis and rights groups say the West Bank could be cut in two, dividing the half north of Jerusalem from the southern one.
Israeli rights group B’Tselem says around 180 communities are threatened with eviction in the West Bank.
B’Tselem spokesman Amit Gilutz says Israel has for decades pursued a policy of trying to evict Palestinians from the part of the West Bank where it exerts full control.
It has sought to avoid forced transfers, he said, but applies enough pressure on the villagers in hopes that they finally decide to leave on their own.