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Resources updated between Monday, February 12, 2018 and Sunday, February 18, 2018

February 18, 2018

A rocket fired from Gaza

A rocket fired by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip landed in an open area in the southern Sha'ar Hanegev region Sunday night, amid escalating tension between Israel and the coastal territory.

The army confirmed in a tweet that a rocket was launched from Gaza. Sirens blared in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council and the city of Sderot. There were no reports of injury or damage.

A rocket was launched at southern Israel from the Gaza Strip. Sirens sounded in the Sha'ar HaNegev Regional Council and the city of Sderot.

The rocket fire came after Israeli fighter jets struck Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip early Sunday, following an incident the day before in which four IDF soldiers were wounded, two seriously, when a bomb exploded next to their patrol on the Gaza border fence.

In response, 10 "terror targets" linked to the Hamas terrorist group were destroyed in the early hours of the morning, the army said. Eight were hit by air force strikes, and two by cross-border tank fire, according to the IDF.

Earlier in the night, eight sites, including one that the army said was managed by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, were destroyed. The targets included observation posts, an attack tunnel, and Hamas weapons factories, the army said.

On Saturday, a rocket fired from Gaza hit a house in the community of Sha'ar Hanegev.

The rocket caused significant damage and several residents of the community were treated for anxiety, the Ynet news site.

Video footage of the land site showed damage to the roof of the building.

Rocket fired from Gaza lands in southern Israel Document

February 17, 2018

Illustrative: Flares fired by Israeli forces to check the border are seen over Gaza City

Rocket warning sirens blared on the Gaza Strip border on Saturday night amid escalating violence between Israel and the Palestinians in the coastal Strip, as one rocket hit a house in the community of Sha'ar Hanegev.

There were no immediate reports of casualties and the army could only confirm that a rocket had been fired into Israel.

The rocket caused significant damage and several residents of the community were treated for anxiety, the Ynet news site.

Video footage of the land site showed damage to the roof of the building.

The sirens sounded in the communities of Sufa and Holit near southern Gaza. Several minutes later warnings went near the Erez crossing and Sha'ar Hanegev in the north. The IDF said it was investigating.

In the south, the army said no rockets were fired into Israel, amid reports that Hamas had fired anti-aircraft missiles at IAF jets.

The warnings came on a day of escalating violence.

Earlier Saturday four IDF soldiers were wounded, two seriously, when a bomb exploded next to their patrol on the Gaza border fence.

The army said the soldiers were hit when a patrol stopped along the border to remove a flag that had been placed at the fence a day earlier during a protest, and that a device planted below the flag then detonated.

The spokesperson said that the patrol - made up of Golani infantry soldiers and members of a combat engineering unit - was operating with standard procedures to remove any foreign object from the border fence, but that these would now be reviewed.

The soldiers were evacuated by helicopter to Soroka hospital in Beersheba for treatment, where three of them were rushed into surgery. The soldiers were not in life-threatening condition, hospital officials said later Saturday.

In response, an IDF tank fired a shell at a Palestinian Islamic Jihad observation post.

Later in the evening, the IAF hit six Hamas targets in Gaza, including an attack tunnel and Hamas weapons factories, the army said.

Also during the strikes an IDF tank opened fire on a group of Palestinians approaching the border in a "suspicious manner," the army said. The Hamas-run health ministry said at least two people were wounded.

Rocket fired from Gaza hits house in southern Israel Document

An Israeli tank manoeuvres along the border fence with the southern Gaza Strip

In what may be the most serious incident on the Gaza front since Operation Protective Edge in 2014, four soldiers were wounded when a bomb was detonated against their military jeep as they patrolled the border fence on Saturday afternoon.

Two soldiers were in serious condition, one was moderately wounded, and one was lightly wounded, the army said. They were evacuated by helicopter to Soroka-University Medical Center in Beersheba.

"This was a severe terrorist attack that has the potential to destabilize the region," IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis said. A situational assessment had been carried out by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir, OC Air Force Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin and other officers, Manelis said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Munich for a security conference, said, "The incident on the Gaza border was a very serious one. We will respond in kind. I am sending to the wounded my wishes for a speedy recovery."

The attack took place around 4 p.m., east of Khan Yunis and the southern Gaza Strip, when the patrol from the Golani Brigade arrived to investigate a suspicious flag that was spotted on the Palestinian side of the fence, following protests that broke out along the border on Friday.

While the flag, to which the improvised explosive device was attached, was spotted on the Gaza side of the fence, the troops were on the Israeli side when it detonated.

"I will not say whether this incident calls for a stronger response, I will let the planes give that answer," Manelis said, when asked if there would be additional retaliatory strikes.

Soon after that, Palestinian media reported several air strikes in the Gaza Strip against Hamas positions.

The IDF carried out large-scale strikes against six terrorist targets belonging to Hamas, including an attack tunnel in the Zeitun neighborhood of Gaza City that was dug toward Israeli territory.

The air force also attacked a Hamas military compound in the Netzarim area that included a weapons manufacturing sites, and another Hamas military compound in Khan Yunis.

Late on Saturday night, rocket warning sirens sounded in several Gaza border communities, with unconfirmed reports that at least four mortar shells were fired from Gaza toward Israeli territory.

Manelis said that while the IED is not believed to have been placed by either Hamas or Islamic Jihad, Israel hold Hamas responsible for everything that occurs "under and above the Gaza Strip."

Hamas is responsible for bringing demonstrators to the "spontaneous" protests held in recent weeks along the Israel-Gaza border, he said.

These demonstrations have been getting more violent in recent weeks, with protesters bringing firearms and grenades to use against IDF troops on the other side of the fence, the army said.

"These spontaneous demonstrations are also used for terrorist activity, and these events will be met with an uncompromising response," Manelis warned.

The IDF Spokesperson's Unit said, "The IDF views with great severity the attempt by Hamas to carry out seemingly spontaneous demonstrations intended to turn the fence into a confrontation zone and carry out acts of terrorism that would destabilize the Gaza Strip."

Maj.-Gen. Yoav "Poli" Mordechai, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, took to Facebook, calling the IED attack one of "cowardice" and warning the civilian population in Gaza against the ongoing manipulation and exploitation by Hamas, calling on them to "wake up."

A statement from the Eshkol Regional Council, whose jurisdiction includes the area of the attack, stressed that there were no ramifications for residents and no changes to security instructions, as it "was a military incident that occurred on the border."

Although tension has increased on the Gaza border in recent months, the discovery and detonation of IEDs along the fence is rare. Since the end of Operation Protective Edge, one IED was discovered in early 2015, another in April 2016 and another two in March 2017.

The two IEDs discovered last year were "neutralized" after they were found in a closed military zone near the northern Gaza Strip. The charges were then taken for further examination. No one was injured.

While the security establishment does not believe that Hamas currently seeks another, the situation is fragile, especially given the worsening conditions in the Strip.

Earlier this month, Eisenkot warned a cabinet meeting that a war with Hamas could take place this year if the Gaza Strip's dire economic and humanitarian situation is not ameliorated.

The IDF chief added that rehabilitation of the Strip must first be preceded by the return of the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, Lt. Hadar Goldin and St.-Sgt. Oron Shaul, as well as the release of Israeli civilians Avraham Abera Mengistu, Hisham al-Sayed and Juma Ibrahim Abu Ghanima, all of whom are being held captive in Gaza.

According to senior IDF officers, the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is the worst it has been in decades. Unemployment is at 46%, and those who find work earn an average monthly salary of just over $400. Nearly 80% of Gaza residents receive some form of aid.

The Rafah crossing with Egypt has remained mostly closed since 2013, and the number of trucks entering the Strip from Israel's Kerem Shalom crossing, the sole commercial crossing into the enclave, has in recent months dropped from between 800-1,200 trucks per day to 300-400 trucks.

4 IDF soldiers wounded after explosive device detonated near Gaza border Document

February 14, 2018

An office of UNRWA in Gaza

"U.S. President Donald Trump's State of the Union address, alongside reports that his administration intends to put an end to the problematic definition of Palestinian refugeeism by which descendants of refugees are also granted refugee status, constitutes an important turning point in efforts to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Unlike the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, which is dedicated to helping the world's refugees, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, the agency dedicated solely to Palestinian refugees, has created its own unique definition of who is considered a Palestinian refugee. As a result of UNRWA's criteria, there are now around 5.3 million Palestinian refugees around the world. This definition is significant in that it ensures the number of refugees will continue to grow and so make a solution to the conflict ever more elusive.

Furthermore, instead of incentivizing initiatives that promote a culture of peace among Palestinians and pouring money into purely humanitarian efforts, UNRWA works to create and cultivate a victimhood mentality in Palestinian society through ongoing incitement and the rejection of peace. In UNRWA-run schools, students are taught to believe they will one day be able to 'return' to all the lands of Israel and bring an end to the Jewish state. Here, too, the dangerous irony of a humanitarian organization, which, instead of solving the refugee problem, in fact, works to ensure its perpetuation, is apparent.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' recent remarks against Zionism and the Jews' right to self-determination make it clear that Palestinian recalcitrance is the root of the conflict..."

UNRWA: the Greatest Obstacle to Peace Article

February 13, 2018

Palestinian representative and senior adviser to the U.N. Development Group, Abdallah Abushawesh (File photo)

"A Palestinian diplomat speaking to students at the United Nations headquarters in New York told them the Palestinians were proud to be throwing stones at Israeli forces and will continue teaching their children to do so.

In a recording obtained by Ynet, Abdallah Abushawesh, who serves as a senior adviser to the UN's Development Group and as a member of the Palestinian UN mission, is heard saying in broken English, 'We are very clever and very expert at throwing the stones. We are very proud to do that. We will not stop to learn our kids (to do that).'

To the sound of sniggering from his listeners, Abushawesh went on to say that every Palestinian caught throwing stones by Israel gets sent to jail. 'We are very proud that we are stone throwers. I'm one of them. Now I became a little bit older, but I stay resistant in the name of my kids,' he continued.

The Palestinian diplomat later told the students about his own past as a stone-thrower during the first intifada. 'I was in high school. I never missed an opportunity to throw stones. This is our life. We develop our resistance every day. We're proud of it,' he said.

Abushawesh was speaking to a group of international relations students from McGill University who were at the UN for a tour and a series of meetings as part of their program..."

Palestinian Diplomat at U.N.: We'll continue teaching our kids to throw stones Article

February 12, 2018

A meeting of the U.S. House of Representatives (File photo)

"Congress is laying the groundwork to remove America from a United Nations human rights body that lawmakers claim uses American taxpayer funds to unduly target Israel for criticism and promote anti-Semitism, according to officials familiar with the effort.

A new congressional resolution gathering support among lawmakers calls out the U.N. Human Rights Council, or UNHRC, for what many allege is its virulently anti-Israel bias and urges the body to enact massive reforms or face a cut off of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars.

Rep. Joe Wilson (R., S.C.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is spearheading the resolution, which puts the UNHRC on notice that its targeting of Israel could lead the United States to remove itself from the body and to consider cutting off some $23 million in funding.

The effort comes amid a push by not just the UNHRC but also a number of other U.N.-affiliated bodies to target Israel for criticism and promote boycotts of the Jewish state, an effort that many describe as anti-Semitic in nature...

Anne Bayefsky, a human rights scholar and head of the Touro College Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust, said the U.N. efforts to blacklist American companies doing business with Israel is reason enough to withdraw from the organization..."

Kredo: Congress Laying Groundwork to Boycott U.N. Body After Rash of Anti-Israel Measures Article

One of the soldiers holds her rifle on her lap during an attack on her car

Two Israeli soldiers came under attack, getting pelted with rocks and beaten by a mob, after they accidentally drove their military car into the Palestinian city of Jenin in the northern West Bank on Monday, the army said.

In the attack, one of the soldiers' guns was stolen by the rioting Palestinians, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The army said forces were searching the area for the weapon.

When the two soldiers, a man and a woman, drove into the city on Monday afternoon, local residents began attacking the car with rocks and chairs, breaking the windows and bloodying the soldiers.

Before the riot began, the female soldier could be seen holding an M-16 assault rifle, without a magazine, across her lap.

Videos from the scene showed swarms of people surrounding the vehicle and clawing at the soldiers inside it, including one person who appeared to try grabbing the female soldier by her hair.

She was taken to a nearby Israeli hospital for treatment, the army said.

Palestinian security forces could be seen in the videos protecting the Israeli soldiers during the riot. They also helped them leave the area.

Deputy Governor of Jenin Kamal Abu al-Rub said the IDF vehicle was attacked by Palestinians for "nationalist motives."

He confirmed PA policemen rushed to the scene to secure the safe exit of the vehicle from the city.

The IDF said the car was brought out of the city through coordination with the Civil Administration, a Defense Ministry unit that acts as a liaison between the military and Palestinians.

Markings on their vehicle indicated that they were noncombat soldiers from a support unit.

An IDF spokesperson said it was not immediately clear how they accidentally drove into the Palestinian city. In the past, this has happened because soldiers relied on navigation applications.

"The event is being investigated," the army said.

Palestinian Mob Attacks Two IDF Soldiers After They Made a Wrong Turn Document

Kavous Seyed-Emami is seen in this undated handout photo

An Iranian-Canadian university professor detained in Tehran has died in custody, activists and a family member said Sunday, marking the latest suspicious death of a detainee in Iran after a crackdown on dissent following nationwide protests.

They identified the professor as Kavous Seyed-Emami, a 63-year-old professor of sociology at Imam Sadeq University in Tehran and the managing director of the Persian Heritage Wildlife Foundation. His son and the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran say that authorities told Seyed-Emami's family that he committed suicide in custody, something they described as suspicious following other detainee deaths.

Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi later confirmed the professor's death on Sunday, saying he had been detained in an alleged espionage ring. The prosecutor on Saturday announced the ring, saying it had targeted people who were "implementing scientific and environmental projects" to collect information on "strategic areas."

"He knew there were a lot of confessions against him and he also confessed himself," Dolatabadi was quoted as saying Sunday by the semi-official ILNA news agency. "Unfortunately, he committed suicide in prison."

The professor's son, musician Ramin Seyed-Emami who performs under the stage name King Raam, wrote on Instagram that his father had died following his arrest on Jan. 24.

"They say he committed suicide. I still can't believe this," he wrote.

Global Affairs Canada, the country's Foreign Ministry, said it was aware of reports of Seyed-Emami's death. An Iranian reformist lawmaker, Mahmoud Sadeghi, tweeted that he failed to get information on Seyed-Emami's death despite calls to "related officials."

"Some of them refused to comment, some others said we pursued (but) failed to get information," the lawmaker wrote.

Iran entered the New Year with nationwide protests sweeping across 75 cities and towns. The demonstrations initially focused on Iran's poor economy despite its nuclear deal with world powers, but quickly spiraled into chants directly challenging Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and its theocratic government.

Authorities arrested nearly 5,000 people in the crackdown that followed, according to Alireza Rahimi, an Iranian lawmaker. At least 25 people were killed in clashes surrounding the demonstrations.

Activists say they have concerns about Iran's prisons and jails being overcrowded and dangerous, pointing to allegations of torture, abuse and deaths that followed the mass arrests during Iran's 2009 Green Movement protests. Since the most-recent protests, activists have said they also remain concerned by reported suicides within Iran's prison system.

Analysts and family members of dual nationals and others detained in Iran have suggested that hard-liners in the Islamic Republic's security agencies use the prisoners as bargaining chips for money or influence. A U.N. panel in September described "an emerging pattern involving the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of dual nationals" in Iran, which Tehran denies.

Iran does not recognize dual nationalities, so those detainees cannot receive consular assistance.

Others with ties to the West detained in Iran include Chinese-American graduate student Xiyue Wang, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for allegedly "infiltrating" the country while doing doctoral research on Iran's Qajar dynasty. Iranian-Canadian national Abdolrasoul Dorri Esfahani, a member of Iran's 2015 nuclear negotiating team, is believed to be serving a five-year sentence on espionage charges. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman, also is serving a five-year prison sentence for allegedly planning the "soft toppling" of Iran's government while traveling with her young daughter.

Iranian businessman Siamak Namazi and his 81-year-old father Baquer, a former UNICEF representative who served as governor of Iran's oil-rich Khuzestan province under the U.S.-backed shah, are both serving 10-year sentences on espionage charges. Iranian-American art dealer Karan Vafadari and his Iranian wife, Afarin Neyssari, recently received 27-year and 16-year prison sentences respectively.

Iranian-American Robin Shahini was released on bail last year after staging a hunger strike while serving an 18-year prison sentence for "collaboration with a hostile government." Shahini is believed to still be in Iran.

Also in an Iranian prison is Nizar Zakka, a U.S. permanent resident from Lebanon who advocated for internet freedom and has done work for the U.S. government. He was sentenced to 10 years last year on espionage-related charges.

Former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorized CIA mission, remains missing as well. Iran says that Levinson is not in the country and that it has no further information about him, though his family holds Tehran responsible for his disappearance.

Iranian-Canadian Dies in Custody in Tehran After Crackdown Document