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March 10, 2014

Israel jails teen bomber Mohammed Mafarja for 25 years

Israel jails teen bomber Mohammed Mafarja for 25 years

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Monday, March 10, 2014

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A court in Israel today jailed Muhammad Abed al-Jaffer Nasser Mafarja, 19, for 25 years after he bombed a bus in Tel Aviv in 2012.

Two people received significant injuries in the explosion, which also wounded eight others and sent fourteen victims into shock. Mafarja was under 18 at the time of the attack. He placed the device on the bus after rejecting several others he rode on as insufficiently crowded, according to the prosecution. He then left the bus and phoned a co-conspirator, who detonated it remotely.

The remains of a bombed orphanage and mosque in Gaza, during hostilities in 2009.
Image: ISM Palestine.

Mafarja was convicted on his own plea last December in a deal which spared him a possible life sentence by dropping a charge of aiding an enemy at a time of war. The bombing was during a brief war between Israel and Gaza and was designed to convince the Israel Defence Forces to withdraw. Later that day an unrelated ceasefire was brokered by Egypt.

The sentence was the highest allowed by the deal. Laviv Habib, representing Mafarja, cited the defendant’s young age, and his guilty pleas, in mitigation. He also said the device was a “weak bomb” not designed to kill but acknowledged his client’s actions were “not simple” and Mafarja understood fatalities were possible.

Mafarja admitted offences of causing an explosion, conducting an act with intent to aid the enemy, attempted murder, and causing serious bodily harm. Of Palestinian origin, he gained Israeli residency as part of a family reunion programme. After the bombing he returned to his job at a McDonald’s in Azrieli Mall, Modi’in after catching a train.

Other alleged members of Mafarja’s cell, which was based in the Beit Liqya and Ramallah areas, have been indicted. Prosecutors claim political assassinations and suicide attacks were planned. Palestinian Ahmed Moussa, a West Bank resident, is presently on trial over the bus bombing; he is accused of triggering the device. Mohammed Assi was shot dead by Israeli authorities during an attempted arrest. A fourth suspect, Ahmad Salah Ahmad Musa, 25 and of Beit Likya, was indicted in January.



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February 6, 2014

Hamas returns rocket-prevention forces to action

Hamas returns rocket-prevention forces to action

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

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Tuesday, Hamas announced it was deploying its special rocket-prevention security forces in the Gaza Strip. Recent reports said Hamas withdrew the force to protest Israeli attacks.

The rocket-prevention force includes 600 Hamas operatives and started its activity after the ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas, during the last escalation between the two in late 2012. The force’s job is to prevent rocket shooting from the Gaza Strip to Israel and so to ensure the continuation of the ceasefire between the two.

Lately there has been an escalation in the tension between Hamas and Israel, expressed by Israeli attacks and in rocket shooting from Gaza. These incidents have raised questions regarding the Egyptian-mediated ceasefire agreement between the sides.

Regarding the force’s return to activity, Islam Shahwan, Hamas interior ministry spokesperson, said his office, in charge of the force’s operation, is acting to “secure and fortify the home front and the agreements approved by resistance factions to realize our people’s interests, security and stability” and said in addition, “We will not allow anyone to break the truce. This force is meant to protect our internal bloc”.

However, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson Major Avichay Adraee told the Xinhua News Agency, “The army will respond strongly to any rockets coming from Gaza. We will not let this continue”. He said the IDF holds Hamas responsible for any attacks from Gaza.



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December 2, 2012

Leaked Syrian government emails indicate weapons supplied to Hamas

Leaked Syrian government emails indicate weapons supplied to Hamas

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

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Emails allegedly hacked from Syrian government accounts, leaked onto the Internet, indicate Iran and Syria are supplying weapons made in Ukraine and Belarus to Hamas in Palestine.

One of the leaked letters from the Syrian Embassy in Tehran, requesting Iranian tourist visas for the Syrian Ambassador’s brother and son, who have Romanian citizenship.
Image: Syrian Embassy.

The online activist group known as Anonymous takes responsibility for the leak, which comprises over 2,000 emails and other files totaling around 1 gigabyte. The leak is part of Anonymous’ ongoing campaign known as ‘#OpSyria’ or ‘Operation Syria’ on the social networking website Twitter.

On Monday at 2030 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), ‘Par:AnoIA,’ one of many Twitter accounts connected to Anonymous, stated that the group would “release a stash of Syrian Government emails in the next 24h, featuring Kofi Annan correspondence, cash & weapon deliveries.” Three hours later the same user announced a leak of “1 Gigabyte [of] internal emails from [the] Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs” onto the internet.

The first email leaked was called a “teaser”, from the Syrian embassy in Tehran on November 20, to the British embassy in Belarus. In the communique, the embassy confirms the Iranians are supplying helicopters and Ukrainian made weapons to Hamas, which operates mostly from the Gaza Strip in Palestine. “1.2D projectiles of Ukraine origin found in Egypt and Syria” are some of the weapons being sent to Palestine along with “EC725 Helicopters“.

“Since 2008 Iran is the main transit point for Palestine armament”, says the email. It also goes on to say the weapons are made in Ukraine as part of “2008 arms trade operations sanctioned by The [Ukrainian] Minister of Defense Anatoly Gritsenko.

Although evidence could suggest Iran’s willingness to supply arms to Hamas, in a report compiled on November 2, by the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants, Iran is trying to stop weapons from being sent into Syria for the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The report quotes Iran’s Supreme leader Ali Khamenei, who called for the FSA “to lay down their arms to be able to deliver their demands to the Syrian government.”((ar)) In regards to the civil war in Syria, Khamenei went on to say that if outside entities “were to provide the opponents in every country of weapons from outside the country, it is natural that the regime responds to opponents”((ar)).

This is not the first time Anonymous has hacked into Syrian government email accounts. In February, the group hacked into 78 Syrian government email accounts and leaked the usernames and passwords associated with them. The accounts accessed reportedly belonged to aides of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. One of the leaked emails, allegedly written by a press aide at Syria’s mission at the UN in New York named Sheherazad Jaafari, talks about Assad’s preparation for a December 2011 television interview with ABC NewsBarbara Walters. In it, Jaafari wrote about ways the Syrian president might be able to manipulate the television audience.

“The American audience doesn’t really care about reforms. They won’t understand it and they are not interested to do so…. American Psyche can be easily manipulated when they hear that there are ‘mistakes’ done and now we are ‘fixing it.’ … Its[sic] worth mentioning also what is happening now in Wall Street [Occupy Wall Street] and the way the demonstrations are been suppressed by police men, police dogs and beatings,” wrote Jaafari.



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November 27, 2012

Leaked Syrian government emails indicate weapons supplied to Hamas, massive cash transfers

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

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Emails allegedly hacked from Syrian government accounts, leaked onto the Internet, indicate Iran and Syria are supplying Ukrainian made weapons to the Palestinian group Hamas.

One of the leaked letters from the Syrian Embassy in Tehran, requesting Iranian tourist visas for the Syrian Ambassador’s brother and son, who have Romanian citizenship.
Image: Syrian Embassy.

The online activist group known as Anonymous takes responsibility for the leak, which comprises over 2,000 emails and other files totaling around 1 gigabyte. The leak is part of Anonymous’ ongoing campaign known as ‘#OpSyria’ or ‘Operation Syria’ on the social networking website Twitter.

On Monday at 2030 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), ‘Par:AnoIA,’ one of many Twitter accounts connected to Anonymous, stated that the group would “release a stash of Syrian Government emails in the next 24h, featuring Kofi Annan correspondence, cash & weapon deliveries.” Three hours later the same user announced a leak of “1 Gigabyte [of] internal emails from [the] Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs” onto the internet.

The first email leaked was called a “teaser”, from the Syrian embassy in Tehran on November 20, to the British embassy in Belarus. In the communique, the embassy confirms the Iranians are supplying Ukrainian made weapons and other materials to Hamas, which operates mostly from the Gaza Strip in Palestine.

“Since 2008 Iran is the main transit point for Palestine armament”, says the email. It also goes on to say the weapons are made in Ukraine as part of “2008 arms trade operations sanctioned by The [Ukrainian] Minister of Defense Anatoly Gritsenko”.

The email also alleges that the Iranian government requested use of Belarus airspace to transport arms and other material to Hamas from Ukraine. The Iranian government made the request because they fear outside involvement. They believe that some within the Ukrainian military, “people … outside Syria” and “abroad” are attempting to interfere and help fund the manufacturing and shipment of weapons through “offshore companies controlled by the former high rank military command of Ukraine”.

Although evidence could suggest Iran’s willingness to supply arms to Hamas, in a report compiled on November 2, by the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants, Iran is trying to stop weapons from being sent into Syria for the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The report quotes Iran’s Supreme leader Ali Khamenei, who called for the FSA “to lay down their arms to be able to deliver their demands to the Syrian government.”((ar)) In regards to the civil war in Syria, Khamenei went on to say that if outside entities “were to provide the opponents in every country of weapons from outside the country, it is natural that the regime responds to opponents”((ar)).

This is not the first time Anonymous has hacked into Syrian government email accounts. In February, the group hacked into 78 Syrian government email accounts and leaked the usernames and passwords associated with them. One of those accounts accessed belonged to an aide of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. One of the leaked emails, allegedly written by a press aide at Syria’s mission at the UN in New York named Sheherazad Jaafari, talks about Assad’s preparation for a December 2011 television interview with ABC NewsBarbra Walters. In it, Jaafari wrote about ways the Syrian president might be able to manipulate the television audience.

“The American audience doesn’t really care about reforms. They won’t understand it and they are not interested to do so. American Psyche can be easily manipulated when they hear that there are ‘mistakes’ done and now we are ‘fixing it.’ Its [sic] worth mentioning also what is happening now in Wall Street [Occupy Wall Street] and the way the demonstrations are been suppressed by police men, police dogs and beatings,” wrote Jaafari.



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November 21, 2012

Israeli airstrikes damage more offices housing international journalists in Gaza City

Israeli airstrikes damage more offices housing international journalists in Gaza City

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

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Yesterday night, in separate Israeli airstrikes, the offices of Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Al Jazeera English were struck or damaged in Gaza City. The airstrike struck the Al-Showa media building, the third such strike in three days.

Badge of the Israel Defense Forces

“A short while ago, the IDF targeted a Hamas intelligence operations center on the seventh floor of a media building in Gaza. A direct hit was confirmed,” said the IDF in a statement. “The Hamas terrorists weren’t in the media building to be interviewed. They were there to communicate with field operatives and plan attacks”.

Journalists in Gaza City in particular, have been victims of violence in the past three days. Earlier yesterday, three Palestinian journalists were killed in two separate airstrikes. Al-Aqsa cameramen Mahmoud al-Koumi and Husam Salameh were killed when an Israeli airstrike struck their car which was reported to be marked as ‘Press.’ Al-Quds Educational Radio personality Muhammad Abu Aisha was killed in the second airstrike which also struck his car. On Sunday, at least six journalists were injured when an Israeli airstrike first struck the Al-Showa media building housing international journalists. Sky News, RT News, Ma’an news agency, and al-Quds TV, among other agencies, all have offices located in the building.

The IDF has admitted to targeting buildings belonging to media outlets, but states that such buildings are used for “Hamas’ operational communications” and denies that any journalists were targets.

“We obviously knew there were journalists in the building, so we did not attack other floors in the building”, said Avital Leibovich, a spokesperson for the IDF on Monday.

In an interview on the English channel of Al Jazeera, also on Monday, an Israeli government spokesperson said “As far as I know, no foreign journalists were hurt whatsoever” in the airstrike on Sunday. “I am not aware…oh you are talking about…first of all, maybe we have a discussion about who is a journalist,” added the spokesperson who claims that Al-Aqsa is a Hamas control facility. The spokesperson went on to add that, “From our point of view, that’s not a legitimate journalist like an Al Jazeera journalist” and that none of those injured was a “bona fide journalist.”

According to the AFP’s own report, they were warned directly by the IDF via their Twitter account not to setup offices in the Showa building in a message saying, “This building housed a Hamas intelligence HQ, do not be used as human shields.”



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November 20, 2012

Cease fire fails as Palestinian militants fire at Israel

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

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Rockets launch from Gaza
Image: Israel Defence Force, Dima Vazinovich.

Shortly after a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas was announced by Egyptian Foreign Minister Kamel Amr and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Palestinian militants have again fired rockets into Israel.

The cease-fire deal, that was blessed by both Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, stipulates that “All Palestinian factions shall stop all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel, including rocket attacks and attacks along the border” and that Israel will “stop all hostilities on the Gaza Strip, land, sea and air including incursions and targeting of individuals”.

Currently there had yet to be a response to the attack from the Israeli side.



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Israel sets 36 hour ultimatum for Hamas

Israel sets 36 hour ultimatum for Hamas – Wikinews, the free news source

Israel sets 36 hour ultimatum for Hamas

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Israel
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IDF forces stage around Gaza
Image: Israel Defence Force.

Israel warned Hamas yesterday to cease rocket fire and threatened a widening offensive if Hamas continues. Hamas maintains Israel “is the aggressor.”

The ultimatum comes after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated the Israel Defence Force (IDF) was “prepared for a significant expansion of the operation” and after 75,000 army reservists were drafted for duty.

“We are at a junction. Either we go toward a calm or toward a meaningful widening of the operation… including a possible move to achieve complete military decision”, said Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz to IDF Radio.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is in the region meeting with the Arab Leauge in an attempt to negotiate a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza. There has been some optimism as Netanyahu met with his cabinet members to discuss a phased ceasefire agreement.

Israel has led an air campaign targeting high ranking Hamas commanders, rocket launcher locations, and Hamas communication sites, but has come under scrutiny with the rising number of civilian deaths in Gaza.



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Cease fire in danger as Palestinian militants fire at Israel

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

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Rockets launch from Gaza
Image: Israel Defence Force, Dima Vazinovich.

A few hours after a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, announced by Egyptian Foreign Minister Kamel Amr and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has gone into effect, Palestinian militants still fire rockets into Israel.

The cease-fire deal, that was blessed by both Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, stipulates that “All Palestinian factions shall stop all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel, including rocket attacks and attacks along the border” and that Israel will “stop all hostilities on the Gaza Strip, land, sea and air including incursions and targeting of individuals”.

Currently there had yet to be a response to the attack from the Israeli side.



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Former US diplomat expresses concern Gaza rocket fire puts cease-fire at-risk

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

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A few hours after a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, jointly announced by Egyptian Foreign Minister Kamel Amr and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, came into effect, rocket fire from militants in the Palestinian territories continues. Former US diplomat Nicholas Burns, currently a Harvard professor, who previously served as an under secretary of State, expressed his concerns: “things could get even more out of hand if the rockets continue flying out of Gaza”.

The cease-fire deal, brokered by Egypt and blessed by both Hamas’ political leader Khaled Meshaal and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, stipulates “[that] all Palestinian factions shall stop all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel, including rocket attacks and attacks along the border” and, that Israel will “stop all hostilities on the Gaza Strip, land, sea and air including incursions and targeting of individuals”.

In the lead-up to the cease-fire, an ultimatum was issued by Israel following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stating the Israel Defence Force (IDF) was “prepared for a significant expansion of the operation” and, in the wake of 75,000 army reservists being drafted for active duty.

Israel’s Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz had told IDF Radio that: “We are at a junction. Either we go toward a calm or toward a meaningful widening of the operation […] including a possible move to achieve complete military decision”.

As-yet Israeli forces have not reacted to the ongoing missile fire.



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November 19, 2012

Israeli Defense Force admits to targeting media center in Gaza City airstrike

Israeli Defense Force admits to targeting media center in Gaza City airstrike

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Monday, November 19, 2012

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The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has admitted that in an airstrike, they targeted an office building housing offices for international media in Gaza City on Sunday night. The IDF called their specific targets “Hamas operational communication sites”. The IDF also claims Hamas staged a scene outside the building to make it appear an injured man was being taken away in an ambulance, who was “seen minutes later walking around.”

Badge of the Israel Defense Forces

“Overnight, the IDF targeted two Hamas operational communication sites that were identified by precise intelligence. The first site was targeted at approximately 01:40 a.m. and was an infrastructure of Hamas’ operational communications, located inside a civilian building,” said the IDF in a statement on its website.

Reuters reports eight journalists were injured in the attack with one journalist needing a leg amputated.

The IDF also admits they knew international journalists had offices in the building and targeted it because “Hamas’ operational communications [were] deliberately located on the roof of the building, in which several international media bureaus reside.”

“We obviously knew there were journalists in the building, so we did not attack other floors in the building”, said Avital Leibovich, a spokesperson for the IDF. Sky News, RT News, Ma’an news agency, and al-Quds TV, among other agencies, all have offices located in the building.

Though the IDF admits they knew international journalists were inside the building, a spokesperson denies they were the target saying, “Hamas took a civilian building and used it for its own needs. So the journalists … were serving as human shields for Hamas”. The IDF statement goes on to say that journalists were warned to “stay clear of Hamas’ bases and facilities.”

The building was reportedly bombed three times. After the IDF bombed the building once, there was a pause during which occupants evacuated before the IDF bombed it two more times.

According to Protocol 1, Article 79 of the Geneva Convention, targeting journalists or civilians is considered a war crime. “Journalists engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered as civilians…. They shall be protected as such under the Conventions and this Protocol, provided that they take no action adversely affecting their status as civilians, and without prejudice to the right of war correspondents accredited to the armed forces”.



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