Tension builds in Gaza after Israeli airstrikes kill commander

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An image grab from footage taken from a CCTV camera shows the moment when a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit a highway narrowly missing several speeding vehicles near Israel's Gan Yavne. (AFP)
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Residents inspect the damaged house of Islamic Jihad leader Baha Abu Al-Ata after an Israeli attack in Gaza city on Tuesday, November 12, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 12 November 2019

Tension builds in Gaza after Israeli airstrikes kill commander

  • Israeli airstrike kills Bahaa Abu Al-Atta, his wife and wounds two of his sons
  • Al-Quds brigades responded by firing rockets towards Israeli towns, some threatening the city of Tel Aviv

GAZA CITY: Israel killed a senior commander of Islamic Jihad’s armed wing, Bahaa Abu Al-Atta, in an airstrike on his home on Tuesday, also killing his wife and wounding two of his sons.

Al-Quds brigades responded by firing rockets towards Israeli towns, some threatening the city of Tel Aviv.

Israeli warplanes also bombed a number of Islamic Jihad military sites, killing at least two and wounding 16 others.

Islamic Jihad, in a press statement, threatened revenge for the assassination, saying that Israel would not go unpunished.

“We affirm that the response to this crime will have no limits and will be the size of the crime committed by the enemy and that the occupation will bear the consequences of this aggression.”

Islamic Jihad said Al-Atta was the commander of the northern Al-Quds brigade and a member of its military council, which Israel accuses of being behind rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into Israel in recent months.

Hamas issued a press statement condemning the Israeli attack and threatening it would not allow Israel to “change the rules.”

The statement said: “This aggression will backfire in the face of Israeli occupation and its criminal leaders. Israel started this attack and thus will pay a price for it.”

Hamas accused the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, of trying to escape an internal political crisis by escalating the situation in Gaza.

“Palestinian blood is a red line, so we will not let the Israeli occupation shed it or turn Gaza into an arena to export its internal crises,” the statement continued.

Israel closed the Erez crossing in northern Gaza, as well as the commercial crossing of Karam Abu Salem in the southern Gaza Strip until further notice, and reduced the area of fishing in the sea to 6 miles after previously expanding it to 15 miles.

A military escalation between Israel and Gaza could evolve into a fourth war, but assuming it may happen would be premature, and would depend on Hamas’s response to the assassination of Al-Atta.

Hamas has more political clout than Islamic Jihad as it is responsible for governing the Gaza Strip and providing services. At the same time, it does not want to help Netanyahu.

Mokhaimer Abu Seada, a professor of political science at Al-Azhar University, said: “Hamas does not seem to be interested in reaching an open confrontation with Israel at this stage due to the difficult humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and the political crisis in Israel.”

Although the assassination of Al-Atta is the first of a military leader since the 2014 war, Hamas does not see conditions could lead to further attempts on senior Palestinian figures.

Ibrahim Al-Madhoun, a columnist for the Hamas-affiliated Al-Risala newspaper, said: “I believe Hamas will try to avoid war and only respond to Islamic Jihad to rein in the occupation.

“Hamas realizes that Netanyahu wants to escape his internal predicament and … drag the region to a violent military confrontation.”

But the question remains whether Hamas will be able to control Islamic Jihad. That will depend on “the ability of Egyptian mediators to put pressure on the leadership of Islamic Jihad in Gaza and help Hamas,” said Abu Saeda.


Iran’s threat to destroy Tel Aviv from Lebanon condemned

Updated 44 min 33 sec ago

Iran’s threat to destroy Tel Aviv from Lebanon condemned

  • Lebanon is not an arena for external use by any country, says information minister

BEIRUT: A statement by a senior commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has triggered a series of condemnations in Lebanon, after he claimed the country could be used for military strikes.

Maj. Gen. Morteza Qorbani told Mizan News: “If the Zionist regime makes the smallest mistake toward Iran, we will reduce Tel Aviv to ashes from Lebanon,” according to Russia Today, adding he claimed his words were “a response to Israeli statements about launching military action against Tehran.”

“Iran is not seeking to acquire nuclear weapons and Israel is too small to make any mistake toward Iran. If the Supreme Leader orders a missile attack against Israel, all Zionists will raise their hands and surrender. 

“The hearts and souls of the people of Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq are with Iran, and the recent events in Lebanon, Iraq, and Iran aim to strike the unity of the resistance front, including the Islamic Republic.”

In response to the statement, Lebanon’s Defense Minister Elias Bou Saab said: “If what is attributed to (Qorbani) is correct, it is unacceptable and it is a violation of the sovereignty of Lebanon, which has a relationship of friendship with Iran.”

The minister, who belongs to the Free Patriotic Movement allied to Hezbollah, stressed: “The independence of the Lebanese must not be affected in any way.”

Farid Al-Bustani, a member of the parliamentary bloc affiliated with the Free Patriotic Movement, said: “If this is true, it is a violation of the sovereignty of Lebanon on the one hand and the status and immunity of the resistance on the other.”

FASTFACTS

● Iran’s Gen. Morteza Qorbani told Mizan News: ‘If the Zionist regime makes the smallest mistake toward Iran, we will reduce Tel Aviv to ashes from Lebanon.’

● Lebanon’s Minister of Information Jamal Al-Jarrah described the words as ‘irresponsible and arrogant, constituting an affront to the sovereignty of Lebanon, the people and the state.’

Minister of Information Jamal Al-Jarrah described the words as “irresponsible and arrogant, constituting an affront to the sovereignty of Lebanon, the people and the state.

“Iran can defend itself however it wants, but Lebanon is not a mailbox for the IRGC and is not an arena for external use by any country. These words are completely unacceptable.”

The president of the Independence Movement, Michel Moawad, criticized Qorbani’s statement, while member of Parliament Nadim Gemayel demanded a “clear position on these words from Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, President of the Republic Michel Aoun and from (Prime Minister) Saad Hariri.”

Hezbollah’s Ibrahim Al-Moussawi tweeted: “In light of the enemy’s (Israeli) occupation of Palestine, parts of Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, the threat against Egypt, and the Zionist appetite open to our oil, gas and water, any call to neutrality is misleading and suspicious, and it is a betrayal of the homeland, right and justice, and meets the enemy’s goals intentionally or unintentionally.

“Neutrality is at best a delusion and at its worst is treachery. Reject it.”