Tuesday, June 23, 2015

One Syrian killed in Druze attack on IDF ambulance carrying wounded rebels

Protesters extract two wounded Syrians from military vehicle in northern Israel and beat them; two soldiers wounded, too.

The Israeli ambulance carrying Syrian rebels attacked by Druze, June 22, 2015. / Photo by Courtesy
By Jack Khoury and Gili Cohen

One Syrian militant was beaten to death and one was wounded in very serious-to-critical condition after Druze protesters attacked Monday night an Israel Defense Forces ambulance in northern Israel carrying Syrian members of armed militias wounded in the civil war there. Two Israeli soldiers were lightly wounded.

According to the IDF, the ambulance was accompanied by a military police escort following the Druze attack on an IDF ambulance earlier Monday. Upon entering Majdal Shams en route to Kiryat Shmona, approximately 150 furious protesters from Golan Heights villages in the Neve Ativ region, who attacked the vehicle.

According to one eyewitness, the protesters extracted two wounded Syrians from the ambulance and beat them. The IDF said it sent a military helicopter to evacuate the wounded Syrians, who are now in serious condition. The emergency rescue vehicle was also damaged.

A large deployment of Israeli police and military forces were called to the site, where they confronted the protesters.

The head of the Israeli Druze community, Sheikh Mowafak Tariq, strongly condemned the attack, saying "this is not our way, and we're in pain over what happened. This is a criminal act, carries out by lawless people and the authorities must act."

This is the second time in 24 hours that protesters have struck an ambulance carrying wounded Syrians. Early Monday, Druze residents from the village of Horfish in northern Israel attacked a military ambulance carrying wounded Syrians, demanding to check whether the passengers on board belonged to a rebel organization that has been targeting Druze in the civil war across the border.

Most of the Druze in the Golan Heights do not enlist in the army, though their brethren in the Galilee and the Carmel do serve, and the situation of the Druze community in Syria often raises questions of loyalty among the community in Israel.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Israeli report highlights IDF casualty prevention, Hamas abuses during Gaza conflict

Ariel Schalit/AP/Press Association Images

Israel’s government yesterday released an extensive report into last summer’s Operation Protective Edge, highlighting the IDF’s extensive efforts to avoid military casualties, while at the same time documenting Hamas’ exploitation of Gaza’s civilians during the conflict.

The 277-page document is an inter-ministerial report published by the Foreign Ministry. Among its key findings, the report found that the IDF engaged in a lengthy legal process before attacks were approved, in accordance with the Law of Armed Conflict and that the IDF also made extensive efforts to facilitate humanitarian aid to Gaza’s civilians during the fighting.

By contrast, the report said that Hamas deliberately attempted to draw fighting into urban terrain for political gain and often physically coerced Gazans to remain in areas Israel warned would be attacked. 550 rockets and mortars were identified as having been fired from civilian sites including mosques, schools and hospitals. Meanwhile, of the 2,125 Palestinians killed during the conflict, the report said 36 per cent were civilians and 44 per cent combatants. Had Hamas accepted an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire a week into the conflict, the report said 90 per cent of casualties would have been avoided.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented that the report “presents the true fact that the actions carried out by the IDF were done in accordance to international law.” It comes soon before the expected publication of a United Nations’ Human Rights Council (UNHRC) commission report into the conflict. Israel declined to cooperate with the UNHRC investigation as the commission’s mandate appeared to target Israel, while the UNHRC itself has a track record of hostility towards Israel.

Meanwhile, a multi-national group of former-chiefs of staff, generals and politicians on Friday submitted a report to the United Nations summarising their own investigation into the IDF’s conduct during Operation Protective Edge. It concluded, “Israel not only met a reasonable international standard of observance of the laws of armed conflict, but in many cases significantly exceeded that standard.”

Monday, June 8, 2015

Rivlin urges “wake up” to challenge of Israeli society’s changing face


Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin used a major address yesterday evening to highlight the demographic changes facing Israeli society and their potential economic and sociological impact.

Speaking at the opening of the Herzliya Conference, a major policy gathering, Rivlin said that, “Israeli society is in need of a wake-up call.” Outlining the country’s changing demographic reality, he said, “Whether we like it or not, the makeup of the ‘stakeholders’ of Israeli society and of the State of Israel is changing before our eyes.”

In essence, said Rivlin, Israeli society is becoming increasingly fragmented and compartmentalised. He explained that in the mind-set of many Israelis, the country remains dominated by a large secular Zionist majority. In reality though, Rivlin noted that, “First-grade classes are composed of about 38 per cent secular Jews, about 15 per cent national-religious, about one-quarter Arabs, and close to a quarter ultra-Orthodox.” He described it as “a ‘new Israeli’ order… there is no longer a clear majority nor clear minority groups.” It is a configuration which Rivlin predicted “will have a profound impact on the way we understand ourselves and our national home.”

Giving two practical consequences of these changes, Rivlin said, “The mathematics is simple … If we do not reduce the current gaps in the rate of participation in the work force and in the salary levels of the Arab and ultra-Orthodox populations … Israel will not be able to continue to be a developed economy.” He added that “in the emerging Israeli order, more than half of the population does not serve in the military. So the different Israelis will meet for the first time, if at all, only in the work place.”

In addition, explained Rivlin, each sector is “educated toward a totally different outlook regarding the basic values and desired character of the State of Israel.” As a result, Israeli society will need to answer difficult questions to “balance the secular-liberal character of the State of Israel and the Zionist enterprise.”

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Netanyahu calls on PA to return to peace talks, drop delegitimisation.

Speaking at a press conference alongside Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Netanyahu reiterated “the only way we can achieve a lasting peace is through the concept of two states for two peoples – a demilitarised Palestinian state that recognises the Jewish nation state of Israel.” It is a position Netanyahu publicly declared last month in a similar setting with European Union foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini. Also last month, Netanyahu’s new government announced that it would “strive to reach a peace agreement” as part of its agreed policy guidelines and Interior Minister Silvan Shalom has since been appointed to head any future talks. The last round of peace talks, spearheaded by the United States, broke down in April 2014 after the PA agreed a unity government with Hamas.

Netanyahu said yesterday that he had discussed with Steinmeier, the “common quest to move forward on peace with the Palestinians” and to that end “I think the only way to move that is through direct negotiations … Unfortunately, the Palestinian Authority has moved away from these negotiations.” He urged Steinmeier to, “Tell the Palestinians to stop their campaign to delegitimise Israel … Tell them to get back to the negotiating table. Tell them that we should negotiate without preconditions.”

Speaking to his cabinet yesterday, Netanyahu elaborated on Palestinian efforts to exclude or attack Israel in international forums. On Friday, the Palestinian Football Association (FA) eventually dropped a motion to suspend Israel from FIFA, football’s world governing body. However, Netanyahu warned that the Palestinian FA initiative formed just part of “a great struggle being waged against the state of Israel, an international campaign to blacken its name.” At its core, said Netanyahu, “this campaign to delegitimise Israel … seeks to deny our very right to live here.”

Source: BICOM