Israel destroys Hamas attack tunnel from Gaza

Palestinian demonstrators sit along the border with Israel as Israeli heavy machinery, background, work to search for tunnels in the southern Gaza strip city of Khan Yunis in February 2018. (AFP)
Updated 11 October 2018
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Israel destroys Hamas attack tunnel from Gaza

  • There were no indications of casualties linked to the destruction of the tunnel
  • The destruction of the tunnel comes amid months of protests and clashes along the Gaza border

JERUSALEM: Israel’s military said it destroyed a Hamas-built tunnel extending into its territory from the Gaza Strip on Thursday that was intended for attacks.
Military spokesman Jonathan Conricus said it was the 15th such tunnel discovered and destroyed by Israel in the past year.
There were no indications of casualties linked to the destruction of the tunnel around one kilometer in length (less than a mile) and which originated from the Khan Yunis area of southern Gaza.
It extended around 200 meters (650 feet) into Israeli territory, Conricus said, adding Israel’s army had been monitoring its construction for several months.
He declined to elaborate on how the tunnel was destroyed, but said “combat engineering means” were used.
Conricus called it a “complex tunnel system with various connections and branches.”
Israel has in recent months employed technology to detect and destroy tunnels without bombing them, including by filling them with material to make them unusable.
Israel is also building an underground wall around the blockaded Gaza Strip to stop tunnel digging. Work on the massive project is expected to be completed by the end of 2019, Conricus said.
Conricus alleged Hamas used new methods in building the tunnel destroyed Thursday that seemed intended to evade Israel’s detection methods.
He declined however to provide specifics, but noted it was equipped with electricity and communication hardware.
The destruction of the tunnel comes amid months of protests and clashes along the Gaza border that have raised fears of a fourth war since 2008 between Israel and Hamas, the movement that runs the Palestinian enclave.
At least 198 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza since the protests began on March 30, while one Israeli soldier has been shot dead by a Palestinian sniper in that time.
Israel says its actions during the protests and clashes are necessary to defend the border and stop infiltrations and attacks, which it accuses Hamas of seeking to carry out.
Palestinians and rights groups say protesters have been shot while posing little threat.
The last conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza in 2014 was waged in part over tunnels that were used to carry out attacks within Israel.


Istanbul summit aimed at avoiding new humanitarian disaster in Idlib

Updated 19 min 9 sec ago
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Istanbul summit aimed at avoiding new humanitarian disaster in Idlib

  • The event will focus on ‘harmonizing joint efforts for finding a lasting solution to the conflict’
  • Germany and France welcomed the Turkey-Russia deal on Idlib that had set Oct. 15 as the deadline for removing all radical groups from a demilitarized zone in the province

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Russian President Vladimir Putin are expected to attend a critical four-way summit on Syria in Istanbul next Saturday. 

They will discuss recent developments in the war-torn country as well as projections for a political settlement.

Experts have underlined the importance of this summit in providing a strong push for key EU countries to work together with regional players to end the years-long conflict in Syria as it will gather the four countries’ leaders at the highest level.

The summit will focus on the recent developments in the opposition-held northwestern province of Idlib, and the parameters of a possible political settlement.

The ways for preventing a new refugee inflow from Idlib into Europe via Turkey, which is home to about 3.5 million Syrian residents, following a possible offensive by the Assad regime will also be raised as a topic that mainly concerns France and Germany and pushes them to work more closely with Turkey and Russia.

The summit will also aim at “harmonizing joint efforts for finding a lasting solution to the conflict,” presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin announced on Friday.

Germany and France welcomed the Turkey-Russia deal on Idlib that had set Oct. 15 as the deadline for removing all radical groups from a demilitarized zone in the province. Although the withdrawal of some opposition groups from the zone has not been accomplished in due time, Ankara and Moscow have agreed to extend the deadline for Idlib, which is still a strategic area where the opposition holds out.

“Turkey and Russia want the status quo for Idlib. Although the jihadists have not withdrawn from the demilitarized zone, Russia is turning a blind eye,” said Fabrice Balanche, an associate professor and research director at the University of Lyon II.

“Turkey will make some efforts to save face. Turkish proxies have withdrawn because Turkey pays wages, so they must obey, but for the jihadists it is more complicated,” he told Arab News.

According to Balanche, without the complicity of Turkey, the Syrian regime cannot take over the north of the country.

“In exchange, Turkey wants a buffer zone in the north, all along its border. The main objective is, of course, to eliminate the Syrian Kurdish YPG from the border as it has already done in Afrin. A secondary objective is to protect its opposition allies and the Turkmen minorities, many in the province of Idlib but also between Azaz and Jarablus,” he said.

But the summit also shows that these four countries need each other in the Syrian theater as each of them has stakes regarding the settlement of the crisis.

Emre Ersen, a Syria analyst at Marmara University in Istanbul, said the main goal of the summit is to provide a major diplomatic boost to the ongoing Astana and Sochi peace processes, which have so far been led mainly by Turkey, Russia and Iran.

“A second and maybe even more important goal is to include France and Germany in the reconstruction efforts in Syria once the civil war is over,” he told Arab News.

Considering the cost of the reconstruction, estimated at about $400 billion, Ankara, Moscow and Tehran are not ready to take this enormous financial burden without the financial support of the West, Ersen said.

“Both Paris and Berlin hope that Ankara’s ongoing efforts to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Idlib can be successful. If the settlement in Idlib does not work, everybody is aware that this may lead to a big refugee crisis for both Turkey and Europe once again,” he added.

Martina Fietz, deputy spokeswoman for the German government, told a news conference in Berlin that her country is also hopeful about the forthcoming summit’s potential contribution to the stabilization of Idlib’s de-escalation zone.

“Progress in the UN-led political process, in particular the commencement of the work of the constitutional commission, will be discussed,” she said.

The chief foreign policy advisers of the quartet have met in Istanbul in recent weeks to discuss the agenda of the summit.