Israel strikes Gaza after first rocket fire since early May

A barrage of rockets are fired from the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave towards Israel in this May 5, 2019 photo. (AFP file photo)
Updated 13 June 2019
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Israel strikes Gaza after first rocket fire since early May

  • The strike came after Israeli air defenses intercepted a rocket launched from the territory
  • Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008

JERUSALEM: Israeli warplanes bombed bunkers at a Hamas base in Gaza early Thursday following the first rocket fire from the territory since early May, the military said.

Israeli aircraft targeted “underground infrastructure” at the base in the southern Gaza Strip, it said in a statement. A Palestinian security source said there had been no injuries. The airstrike came after Israeli air defenses intercepted a rocket launched from the territory, the first since hundreds were fired in early May in a two-day flare-up which killed four Israelis and 25 Palestinians.

On Wednesday evening, Israel announced it had banned all fishing off Gaza in retaliation for the launching from the enclave of more balloons with incendiary devices attached.

“Due to the continuous launching of incendiary balloons and kites from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, it has been decided tonight (Wednesday) not to allow access to Gaza’s maritime space until further notice,” the Israeli Defense Ministry department responsible for Palestinian civil affairs, COGAT, said.

HIGHLIGHT

On Wednesday evening, Israel announced it had banned all fishing off Gaza in retaliation for the launching from the enclave of more balloons with incendiary devices attached.

The move came after COGAT said on Tuesday it had reduced the extent of the fishing zone to 6 nautical miles offshore from 10 nautical miles, having downscaled it from 15 nautical miles a week ago.

A spokesman for the Israeli fire service said incendiary balloons from Gaza caused seven fires on Tuesday alone. In the past year, Palestinians have succeeded in setting fire to large areas of farmland in southern Israel.

Expanding the fishing zone was seen as a key element of an informal truce agreement reached between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas to restore calm after the May 4-5 flare-up.

Under that agreement, which Israel never publicly confirmed, the Jewish state was expected to ease its crippling blockade of Gaza in exchange for calm.

Bassem Naim, a senior Hamas official, accused Israel in a statement of “evading and retreating from implementing the recent agreements on false pretenses, such as the fires surrounding Gaza.”

Three human rights groups, two Israeli and one Palestinian, also criticized the closure, saying it punished all Gaza’s 2 million people.

“The sanctions imposed by Israel in Gaza’s fishing zone in response to actions over which fishermen in Gaza have no control constitute illegal collective punishment, and must end immediately,” they said.

Israel has fought three wars with Hamas and its allies since 2008.

There are concerns that another flare-up could occur ahead of Israel’s Sept. 17 elections.


 


Iran activists vow to confront Rouhani over ‘medieval’ regime

Updated 21 September 2019
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Iran activists vow to confront Rouhani over ‘medieval’ regime

  • ‘We will continue protesting until Iranian regime is held responsible for its ongoing atrocities against people of Iran’

WASHINGTON: Protesters have vowed to confront Iranian President Hassan Rouhani over the country’s “medieval regime” when he addresses the UN on Wednesday.

People started gathering last week near the UN’s headquarters in New York and their numbers will continue to grow, according to the political director for the Organization of Iranian American Communities (OIAC), which coordinates anti-Tehran activism in the US.

The OIAC’s Dr. Majid Sadeghpour said the international community should not be “fooled” by Iran's representatives. 

“No amount of economic and political concessions can moderate the behavior of this medieval regime,” he said. 

“The mullahs understand only the language of power and firmness. Maximum pressure must be applied to help the Iranian people free themselves from the yoke of the mullahs. We began protesting last week in anticipation of the opening of the UN General Assembly’s 74th Session and the appearance of Iran's officials, and we will continue protesting until the Iranian regime is held responsible for its ongoing atrocities against the people of Iran.”

Protestors were holding daily vigils to remind the world about Iran's history of terror and brutality against its people, he added, and Trump and the UN must “reject the false pretenses of moderation” from Rouhani and his representatives.

Sadeghpour said Rouhani and other Iranian officials should be held accountable for the killing of more than 120,000 Iranian civilians, including the 30,000 murdered during a gruesome nationwide purge in 1988.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has previously addressed protests against the Iranian government, is expected to join former Sen. Joseph Lieberman in speaking to protesters at next week’s rallies.

Trump had previously accused Iran of terrorism and violence, but appeared to soften his stance when he said he would meet Rouhani if he came to the opening session of the UN’s 74th General Assembly.

But a week ago, after a coordinated drone and cruise missile attack targeted Saudi Aramco oil fields in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province, Trump said the US military was “locked and loaded,” suggesting the US was ready to go to war with Iran. 

Trump said he would move to block Rouhani and his team from attending the UN meeting, but he later relented.

On Friday he revealed details of additional sanctions against Iran, which he described as the toughest ever imposed.

The Treasury Department decided to take action against Iran’s central bank after US officials concluded Tehran was responsible for the drone and missile attacks on Saudi oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais.