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Resources updated between Monday, September 17, 2018 and Sunday, September 23, 2018

September 23, 2018

Palestinians in Gaza preparing arson balloons to be flown toward Israel (File photo)

Seven fires broke out in southern Israel on Sunday sparked by incendiary balloons launched over the border from the Gaza Strip, Israeli fire and rescue services said.

Fires were reported near the border-adjacent communities of Be'eri and Re'im as well as the nearby Kissufim Forest.

Firefighters with the assistance of the KKL Jewish National Fund and Parks and Nature Authority put out the fires by Sunday evening, officials said.

Over the weekend, more than a dozen fires were sparked in southern Israel as a result of the incendiary balloons from Gaza, after a several-week lull in the cross-border arson attacks.

In response, IDF aircraft on Friday and Saturday fired at cells of Gazans in the northern part of the Strip as they launched the devices towards Israel.

Palestinian news outlets reported no injuries in the strikes.

Over the last six months, more than 7,000 acres of land in southern Israel has been burned by fires sparked by the balloons, causing millions of shekels in damages.

This week has seen an uptick in the launching of incendiary balloons, following several weeks of relative quiet along the border that has seen months of clashes and near-daily arson attacks.

The surge of violence in Gaza began in March with a series of protests along the border that were dubbed the "March of Return."

The clashes, which Israel says are being orchestrated by Gaza's Hamas rulers, have included regular rock and Molotov cocktail attacks on troops, as well as shooting and IED attacks aimed at IDF soldiers and attempts to breach the border fence.

According to AP figures, more than 130 Gazans have been killed by Israeli fire since the start of the clashes. Hamas, an Islamist terror group that seized control of Gaza in 2007 and seeks to destroy Israel, has acknowledged that dozens of the Palestinian fatalities were its members.

Israel says its actions - and in particular the use of live ammunition - are necessary to defend the border and stop mass infiltrations from the territory.

Israel has accused the Hamas terror group of encouraging the protests and using them as cover to attempt to carry out terror attacks, including firing at troops and attempting to breach the border fence.

The return of the fire balloons come as tensions along the Gaza-Israel frontier have ramped back up after a brief lull, with the Hamas terror group leading weekly marches on the fence. The last several days have also seen smaller nightly protests along the border.

On Friday, one Palestinian was reported killed and at least 312 were wounded as some 10,000 Palestinians protested on the Gaza Strip border, with some throwing explosive devices, rocks, and burning tires, as soldiers responded with tear gas and occasional live fire.

One Israeli soldier was lightly injured by shrapnel from a pipe bomb thrown at troops, the army said, adding that it spotted a number of infiltration attempts.

Additionally, Israel and Hamas have engaged in a number of brief exchanges of fire in recent months that have seen terror groups in Gaza launch hundreds of rockets and mortars toward Israeli territory, including one in July that was the largest flare-up in violence since the 2014 war.

Reports have proliferated that Israel is in talks with Hamas, via UN and Egyptian mediation, for a long-term truce in the Strip.

Gaza arson balloons spark 7 fires in southern Israel Document

September 22, 2018

U.N. Environment executive director Erik Solheim

"The head of the UN body that leads on sustainability and green issues has been criticised for extensive and expensive air travel.

A draft internal audit, obtained by the Guardian and seen by the BBC, says that Erik Solheim's actions risked the reputation of UN Environment.

The report says he incurred costs of $488,518 (373,557) while travelling for 529 out of 668 days.

There was "no oversight or accountability" to monitor this travel.
...
Across UN Environment, around $58m was spent on travel in the two years up to 2018.

OIOS points out that the amount of money UN Environment spends on travel essentially doubled over the three years between 2014 and 2017.

While all UN staff are expected to complete "mission reports" within two weeks of travel, OIOS found that these were often missing.

When they requested reports for 596 trips undertaken by 32 managers and staff, 210 mission reports were not provided, while around 200 others were only completed after the request was made..."

With "No Oversight or Accountability," Head of U.N. Environment Agency Spent Big on Travel Article

September 20, 2018

Palestinian rioters near the Gaza fence (File photo)

Hundreds of Palestinians riot near security fence during Yom Kippur Document

Scene of the attempted terror attack on Yom Kippur

Palestinian attempts to stab worshiper, cops on Yom Kippur Document

September 18, 2018

September 17, 2018

Palestinian rioters, September 14, 2018

300 Palestinians riot along Gaza fence for second night Document

UNIFIL personnel in Lebanon

"In what is becoming a yearly ritual, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2433 end of August, extending the mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) for another year. The usual actors played their familiar scripted roles: Hezbollah restated its red lines through its habitual threats. Hezbollah's little helper, "the Lebanese government," demanded the world continue with the status quo and otherwise keep quiet, and, finally, the Europeans, namely France, led the charge at the UN Security Council to ensure the Lebanese got what they wanted, and blocked any attempt by the United States to introduce amendments to the mandate.

There was one change from last year's performance, however. Whereas a year ago U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley expressed optimism at the minor and entirely cosmetic changes the United States did manage to introduce, this year, Amb. Haley didn't even attend the voting session and declined to issue a statement afterwards.
...
The United States did manage to add an expression of 'concern' over the publicized visits last year by commanders of Iranian-led Shi'ite militias to the Blue Line. Needless to say, there was no holding the Lebanese to account. Instead, when not praising them effusively, UNSCR 2433 robotically continues the practice of urging more international funding for the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in order to extend 'the control of the Government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory.'

All of which underscores why this approach is a fool's errand. It's not just because not one European country would agree to any meaningful changes to the UNIFIL mission, but also because the force's mandate is predicated on coordination with the Lebanese government and the LAF. That would be the LAF which chaperoned Hezbollah's media tour along the Blue Line last year. As for the Lebanese government, a couple of weeks ahead of the vote to extend UNIFIL's mandate, the Minister of Finance Ali Hassan Khalil declared in an interview that in 2006, 'There were those who thought of taking advantage of the Israeli aggression to pounce on the Resistance and the weapons of Hezbollah.' Khalil then added, 'Today, it is forbidden to raid the Resistance's arms depots, and any idea of pulling the arms to beyond the Litani River, we refuse to even discuss.' That is, lest anyone harbor any illusions about what 'coordinating' with the LAF and 'extending government authority' actually mean.
...
Both the LAF and UNIFIL share the same objective of not disturbing the status quo, which is to say, not to cross Hezbollah's red lines. In turn, this raises a question about the point of underwriting this arrangement altogether, while pretending UNIFIL is doing something that it clearly cannot and will not do. Instead, UNIFIL has become more akin to yet another UN aid agency. It clears minefields, and works 'together with the Lebanese authorities, in creating the conditions conducive for the population to build their future.' It also 'works closely with many municipalities and local authorities to strongly support their communities.' It even hires Hezbollah members and supporters!

Beside that, UNIFIL, as Hezbollah's effective threats have demonstrated, functions as hostages or human shields of sorts..."

Hezbollah Ritually Humiliates the U.N. Article