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Amnon Lipkin-Shahak (1944-2012)

Lt. Gen. (res.) Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, Israel’s 15th Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, passed away yesterday at the age of 68 after battling cancer. Lipkin-Shahak was born in  Tel Aviv in 1944, a few years before the modern State of Israel was founded, and throughout his amazing life, helped shape it into what it is today.

His military service saw him joining the Paratroopers in 1962, rising to the rank of deputy battalion commander for his brigade during the Six-Day War in 1967. During his career, he was twice awarded with the  Medal of Courage, one of Israel’s highest military honors. His role in  Operation Spring of Youth as a Lt. Colonel, the 1973 raid in Lebanon against members of Black September, the terrorist organization responsible for the Munich Olympics attack, is one of the most famous military operations in history (also forever immortalized in Hollywood by Steven Spielberg’s Munich).

In 1995, Lipkin-Shahak succeeded Ehud Barak and became the 15th Chief of Staff of the IDF, during a very important time in Israel’s history, with the peace process in full swing as well as constant suicide bombings from Palestinian terrorists. After retiring from the military in 1998, he was elected to the Knesset the following year. Over the next few years, in addition to representing Israel as a Parliamentarian he served as Minister of Tourism and later on as Minister of Transportation.

He is survived by his wife, journalist Tali Lipkin-Shahak, and five children.

Israel’s leaders had extremely kind words to say of Amnon, with his former colleague in both the IDF and in politics, Ehud Barak said in a statement he was an “exemplary example of courage, leadership and perseverance in the battlefield and in the diplomatic battle.”

Prime Minister Banjamin Netanyahu called him “a hero of Israel who dedicated his best years to the defense of the state of Israel….His heroism was evident in the brave way he conducted himself throughout his illness. Not for a moment did he ever lose his dignity.”

President Shimon Peres said “Amnon was a true hero who carried the torch of peace, a rare and exceptionally wise man. His students and soldiers saw him as a role model like no other, they trusted every word he said and people queued at his door seeking his wisdom, honesty and courage.”

May his memory be blessed.

 

 

Iron Dome Missile Defense System

A short while ago, a ceasefire agreement regarding the fighting in the south, came into effect. Following eight days of operations, the IDF has accomplished its predetermined objectives for Operation Pillar of Defense, and has inflicted severe damage to Hamas and its military capabilities.

As a result of IDF operations, the command and control apparatus of Hamas was significantly struck, beginning with the targeting of the commander of the military wing of Hamas, Ahmed Jabari, continuing with the targeting of broad terrorist infrastructure, facilities and military bases, as well as the destruction of dozens of smuggling and explosive tunnels.

During the operation, the IDF damaged and destroyed significant elements of Hamas’ strategic capabilities, among them. Amongst those capabilities were long-range (over 40 km) and hundreds of short- and medium-range rocket launchers. These actions have severely impaired Hamas’ launching capabilities, resulting in a decreasing number of rockets being fired from the Gaza Strip. The ‘Iron Dome’ defense system has accomplished high rate of successful interceptions (84%) and Hamas’ accuracy with regards to hitting populated areas within Israel remained below 7%.

IDF soldiers, in regular and reserve military service, gathered in assembly areas and prepared for the ground operation. Their time was used for training and improving their operational capabilities.

These operational achievements provided the underlying framework for this evening’s ceasefire agreement.

At this time, Israeli residents are requested to continue to pay attention to Home Front Command’s instructions.

Over the course of Operation Pillar of Defense, the IDF targeted over 1,500 terror sites including 19 senior command centers, operational control centers and Hamas’ senior-rank headquarters, 30 senior operatives, damaging Hamas’ command and control, hundreds of underground rocket launchers, 140 smuggling tunnels, 66 terror tunnels, dozens of Hamas operation rooms and bases, 26 weapon manufacturing and storage facilities and dozens of long-range rocket launchers and launch sites.

Senior Operatives Targeted:

14.11 – Ahmed Sai’d Halil Jabri, head of Hamas’ military wing.

15.11 – Hab’s Hassan Us Msamch, senior operative in Hamas’ police.

16.11 – Ahmed Abu Jalal, Commander of the military wing in Al-Muazi

16.11 – Khaled Shayer, senior operative in the anti-tank operations.

17.11 – Osama Kadi, senior operative in the smuggling operations in the southern Gaza Strip.

17.11 – Muhammad Kalb, senior operative in the aerial defense operations.

19.11 – Ramz Harb, Islamic Jihad senior operative in propaganda in Gaza city.

Number of Rocket Launches Toward Israel During the Operation:

14.11 – 75

15.11 – 316

16.11 – 228

17.11 – 237

18.11 – 156

19.11 – 143

20.11 – 221

21.11 (Until 21:00) – 130

Rocket Launched Towards Israel:

Total number of rockets launched from the Gaza Strip – 1,506

Open areas – 875

Urban areas – 58

‘Iron Dome’ Interceptions – 421

Failed launching attempts – 152

Israeli Casualties:

Fatalities – 5 Injuries – 240

The legal justification for the operation

Hamas and other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip have been waging an ongoing armed conflict against Israel, which has included incessant barrages of rockets and mortars towards the Israeli civilian population and other terror activities.

Israel has the right under international law, and a moral obligation, to act in self-defense, to defend its population and to protect its territory when under attack, as well as to take military action against the terrorist attacks from the Gaza Strip.
Violations of international law on the part of the Hamas and the other terror organizations

Hamas’ actions are in clear violation of the most fundamental principles of international law, including the principle of distinction, which requires Hamas and other terrorist organizations not only to refrain from directing its attacks at Israeli civilians, but also to clearly distinguish itself from its own civilian population.

These terrorist organizations consciously and deliberately violate these principles in a repeated manner, by deploying weapons and command centers in densely populated areas, operating from residential areas, and exploiting the civilian population by exposing them to serious harm. By doing so, Hamas and the terror organizations in the Gaza Strip are committing war crimes.
The commitment of the State of Israel and the IDF to international law

Israel and the IDF are fully committed to international law in general, and to the Laws of Armed Conflict in particular.

Israeli commanders and soldiers are guided by international law in their actions. The IDF strives to imbue the principles of international law in IDF training, the IDF Code of Ethics and rules of engagement.

The IDF receives ongoing legal advice on a wide range of operational issues at various levels of the command chain (for example, regarding targeting decisions, the use of weaponry and issues regarding humanitarian efforts towards the civilian population).
The legality of the IDF’s attacks

IDF attacks in the Gaza Strip are solely targeted against military targets and terrorist operatives. Civilian objects such as residential buildings may constitute legitimate targets if used by terrorist operatives for military purposes.

The IDF makes great efforts to minimize the incidental harm that may be caused to civilians or civilian objects as a result of an attack on a military target. For example:

  • Munitions to be used in an attack are carefully chosen, often using precision guided missiles in pinpoint surgical strikes to minimize the risk of incidental civilian harm.
  • The IDF uses advanced and precise intelligence regarding target identification and employs various means for monitoring the presence of civilians in areas of operation as well as for aborting attacks if it appears that civilians are at risk.
  • Where circumstances permit, effective advance warning is given prior to attacks which may place the civilian population at risk.

(Communicated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Hamas is not allowing at least 22 foreign nationals who wish to exit the Gaza Strip for Israel to do so. Among the members of the foreign press being detained are nine Italian citizens, six citizens of Japan, one Canadian, one South Korean and a French national. In addition, two Turkish Red Crescent members have been refused exit.

This violation of the human rights of neutral foreigners is yet another example of Hamas’ attempts to manipulate and pressure the press.

For its part, Israel is keeping the Erez crossing into Gaza open, allowing passage to the foreign press, diplomats and humanitarian workers.

Earlier today, rocket fire continued from Gaza, even as Egypt’s Prime Minister was visiting the area.  With alarms going off again in Tel Aviv, and for the first time, Jerusalem, Operation Pillar of Defense  is still needed to protect Israel’s civilians. Overnight, the IDF targeted approximately 150 medium range rocket launching sites as well as ammunition storage facilities across the Gaza Strip, causing severe damage to terror infrastructures.

Since the start of Operation Pillar of Defense, the Israeli Air Force has targeted over 450 terror activity sites in the Gaza Strip. In addition, IAF aircraft targeted a central terror activity site in the southern Gaza strip in order to harm the command and control posts of the Hamas terror organization.

The Iron Dome Active Missile Defense System has successfully intercepted over 130 rockets that launched from Gaza, aimed at Israel.

Over the past few days, over 300 rockets were fired at Israeli communities — contrary to an earlier erroneous update which misstated this fact

In this video, the IDF targets underground rocket launchers in Gaza. The secondary explosions show that hidden explosives were hit.

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Like in all operations, the IDF has taken the utmost care to protect uninvolved civilians during Operation Pillar of Defense, even while rockets have continued to fall on Israel. In addition to the large number of flyers the IDF has dropped prior to striking an area, air strikes are often aborted when civilians are found in the area.

Yesterday saw one such occurrence- an air strike on an underground launch site was aborted due to the discovery of civilians in the area.

Since Wednesday (November 14th) afternoon, the IAF has struck ammunition warehouses and rocket launch sites used by terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip, all in response to the incessant rocket fire directed at Israel. Yesterday, in the early hours of the morning, a squadron of intelligence collecting aircraft took the sky. Through sophisticated observation equipment and cameras the pilots were able to identify a rocket launch, and Air Force aircraft were sent to strike the area. But things didn’t go as planned. “We saw that innocent civilians were approaching the area of the underground launch site,” said Lt. Omer, a source within the intelligence squadron who took part in the operation. “We immediately contacted the forces and instructed them to abort the strike.”

The strike was aborted immediately, thanks to the experience of IDF forces. This is one of many similar stories from Operation Pillar of Defense. It has long been one of the IDF’s top priorities to minimize civilian casualties during IDF operations.

The task is not an easy one, as Hamas has intentionally used the civilian areas of Gaza as staging grounds for their attacks on Israel. Knowing that the IDF wishes to avoid civilian casualties, Hamas places its own civilians in the line of fire in order to hide and protect its own operations. Women and children, victims of the Hamas human shield tactics, usually ignore warning signals to evacuate buildings prior to an IDF strike. The victims remain in the house with Hamas members, knowing ahead of time that the IDF will not target civilians. Many innocent bystanders are killed as a result of Hamas’ abuse of its own civilians. Instead of keeping its citizens out of harm’s way, Hamas encourages and even forces its population to join the violent resistance against Israel

During Operation Cast Lead, which took place four years ago, a great emphasis was placed on limiting damage to civilian areas, despite the fact that Hamas officials chose to launch rockets from densely populated areas. After Operation Cast Lead, Col. (res.) Udi, a crew member who took part in the operation, said that “avoiding harm to innocents was a top priority for all those who participated in the operation. You can hear it in the conversations between the pilots and headquarters, and in general. The IAF is trying to do as much as possible so as not to hurt those who are uninvolved.

Source: http://www.idf.il/1283-17615-en/Dover.aspx

 

The IDF reported that global jihad terrorists in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula stormed an Egyptian military post near the town of Rafah around 8:15 pm on Sunday, August 5, 2012, killing more than 15 Egyptian soldiers and capturing an armored personnel carrier (APC) and a truck filled with explosives.

The two vehicles then headed toward Israel. The truck exploded at the Kerem Shalom crossing on the Israel-Egypt border. The APC entered Israeli territory with four terrorists inside. It was then targeted by the Israel Air Force.

The attack came shortly after a mortar barrage from the Gaza Strip pounded the Kerem Shalom border crossing in Israel and rockets were fired at adjacent towns. It is believed that the terrorists who tried to infiltrate Israel were planning a major terror attack. No Israelis were reported injured in the attack. Israeli residents in the area were told to stay inside their homes late into the night.

As a result of the attack, the Kerem Shalom crossing will remain closed for the transfer of goods between Israel and Gaza on Monday, August 6.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak congratulated the IDF for thwarting the attack and called on the new Egyptian government to immediately work to restore control over Sinai.

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PM Netanyahu: “I would like to praise the IDF and ISA for foiling a very major terrorist attack. You deployed and acted properly. I would also like to express regret over the killing of the Egyptian soldiers. I think that it is clear that Israel and Egypt have a common interest in maintaining a quiet border. However, as has been made clear on numerous occasions, when it comes to the security of the citizens of Israel, the State of Israel must and can rely only on itself. Nobody can fulfill this role other than the IDF and the security services of the State of Israel and this is how we will continue to act.”

DM Barak: “The incident that could have transpired with all the explosive material that was brought in the small truck that exploded at the start, as well as the suicide bomber belts on the six to eight terrorists who were in the armored vehicle… there is no doubt that if they had entered a town here or an army bases by surprise, they could have caused very serious damage.”

* * *

Earlier, in a joint IDF-ISA operation, IAF aircraft targeted a Global Jihad-affiliated terrorist squad in the southern Gaza Strip which was planning another terrorist attack in the immediate future near the Israel-Egypt border. One of the terrorists, Ahmad Said Ismail, was among those responsible for the June 18, 2012 terror attack adjacent to the Israel-Egypt border, in which an Israeli civilian was killed.

More than 135 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip, and struck major population centers in southern Israel in the last 48 hours. More than 500,000 Israelis are forced to stay in bomb shelters and one million Israelis are sleeping tonight under the threat of rocket fire from Hamas.

Terrorists are firing Qassam rockets, Grad missiles and mortar shells into the cities of Ashdod, Be’ersheba, Yavne, Netivot and Ashkelon; as well as into the Eshkol Regional Council. Iron Dome has intercepted more than 20 rockets.

Timeline

Saturday, March 10, 2012

  • 19:30 – Approx. 135 rockets have been fired from Gaza74 landed in Israel. Iron Dome intercepted 28 out of 31 attempts–a 90% success rate. Regarding the recent strikes, IDF Spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai: “The aerial strikes were surgical and precise, with no collateral damage to innocent bystanders.”
  • 18:10 – Over 90 rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel, and over 70 have landed in Israeli soil. The Iron Dome system has intercepted 27 out of 30 attempts–a 90% success rate.
  • 17:40 – A senior operative in the Popular Resistance Committee terror organization was targeted in an IAF strike. IDF Spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai: “So long as Hamas enables Popular Resistance Committee and Islamic Jihad rocket fire at Israel, we’ll continue to act against it.”
  • 14:00 – IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz held a situational assessment in southern Israel and ordered forces to prepare for a heightened escalation. As of now over 94 rockets have been fired from Gaza, 68 of which landed in Israeli soil. Iron Dome intercepted 25 out of 28 attempts.
  • 12:00 - As of now over 70 rockets have been launched from Gaza at Israeli communities, out of which 67 landed in Israeli soil.
  • 11:45 – The Iron Dome active missile defense system has intercepted 27 rockets – which were fired at the cities of Be’er Sheva, Ashdod and Ashkelon, together home to over 520,000 people. 25 attempts out of 27 have been successful thus far.
  • 7:00 – Over the past 24 hours, over 45 rockets have hit communities in southern Israel–injuring four people, one severely, one moderately and two lightly.
  • Overnight, IAF aircraft targeted two weapon manufacturing facilities and two rocket launching sites in the northern Gaza Strip, a weapon manufacturing facility in the central Gaza Strip and a terror activity site in the southern Gaza Strip.
  • In addition, IAF aircraft targeted a terrorist in the central Gaza Strip and six additional terrorist squads who were in the final stages of preparing to fire rockets at Israel from separate locations in the northern and the central Gaza Strip. Direct hits were identified.

Friday, March 9, 2012

  • 23:00 - Four people were injured today; two severely, one moderately, and another lightly.
  • 22:20 – The Iron Dome System has intercepted so far one of three rockets aimed at Ashdod and four of four rockets aimed at Be’ersheba–two cities with a population of more than 200,000 each.
  • 17:30 - IAF aircraft targeted two members of the Popular Resistance Committee terror organization in the Gaza Strip – a senior operative, Zuhir Mussah Ahmed Kaisi, and a collaborator, Mahmud Ahmed Mahmud Hananni. The squad had been responsible for planning a combined terror attack that was to take place via Sinai in the coming days. A direct hit was confirmed.

Israel does not seek an escalation in the region. However, the the country is prepared to defend the residents of Israel and prevent terrorist attacks.

 

 

The Government approved the agreement for the release of Gilad Shalit by a large majority of 26 ministers in favor and 3 against.

During the discussions outlines were heard by the heads of the security services – Director of the Shin Bet Yoram Cohen, Chief of Staff Benny Gantz , Director of the Mossad Tamir Pardo and the Prime Minister’s special envoy to the negotiations David Meidan. The heads of the security services presented the agreement and its various aspects and expressed their support in it.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “This is a difficult decision to make, but a leadership is examined in moments like these, in its ability to make difficult decisions. I am bringing Gilad Shalit home, to his parents Noam and Aviva, his brother Yoel, his sister Hadas, his grandfather Zvi, and the people of Israel.”

PM Netanyahu’s remarks at the opening of special Cabinet meeting:

“Today, I bring a proposal to the Government for a deal that will bring Gilad Shalit home alive and well; bring him home to his parents Aviva and Noam, his brother Yoel, his sister Hadas, his grandfather Zvi, and the entire people of Israel. Two and a half years ago, when the government was formed, I took upon myself, as my first priority, to bring Gilad home to his people, to his family – to bring him home safe and sound.

At the time, Gilad was already held in captivity for two and a half years, with no visits from the Red Cross, with no visits at all, and we did not know what state he was in. The first step I took, and we approved it here in the Government, was to get a video recording of Gilad, and we all breathed a sigh of relief when we saw it. We saw that he was functioning, physically, mentally and cognitively. We saw that he was functioning well. We knew that he was healthy and that he was alive. I regarded that tape as an insurance policy, because it obliged the Hamas before the international community to safeguard him, to keep him alive and maintain his health. But that was obviously only the first step.

The most important mission that we had was more challenging – to actually bring Gilad home. To that end we held long and tough negotiations through the German mediator. These negotiations were based on a framework outlined by the previous government. They were long and exhausting and despite all our efforts, a deal was not reached.

I must point out that not a day went by without us trying various ways to bring Gilad home, any way possible, and that didn’t work either. In the last few weeks, the negotiations were renewed in Cairo, this time with the Egyptian government as mediator. My instructions to the team were to adhere to the principles and framework that are important for the security of the State of Israel, which I will detail in the meeting.

There is an inbuilt tension between the desire to bring back an abducted soldier, or citizen, and the need to maintain the security of the citizens of Israel. This is my dual responsibility as Prime Minister.

The deal I am bringing to the Government expresses the right balance between all of these considerations. I do not wish to hide the truth from you – it is a very difficult decision. I feel for the families of victims of terror, I appreciate their suffering and distress, I am one of them. But leadership must be examined at moments such as this, being able to make difficult, but right, decisions.

I believe that we have reached the best deal we could have at this time, when storms are sweeping the Middle East. I do not know if in the near future we would have been able to reach a better deal or any deal at all. It is very possible that this window of opportunity, that opened because of the circumstances, would close indefinitely and we would never have been able to bring Gilad home at all.

Therefore, for all of these reasons, I instructed the team to put their initials on the deal last Thursday, and today it was finalized and signed by both sides. I thank my Military Secretary Maj. Gen. Yohanan Locker, the Chief of the Shin Bet Yoram Cohen, my personal envoy to the negotiations, David Meidan and his predecessor Hagai Hadas. I thank the team that has accompanied them all these years.

I thank the IDF, the security forces for doing everything they could regarding Gilad Shalit. I also wish to thank the German mediator, and the Chancellor Angela Merkel who supported his mission all along. A send a special thanks to the Government of Egypt and the Egyptian Intelligence Services for providing much assistance in mediating and helping us reaching this agreement.

This morning I Invited Noam Shalit to my residence, and I spoke on the phone with the mother Aviva and the grandfather Zvi. I told them that I am keeping my promise and I’m bringing their son and grandson home. I told them, “I’m bringing your boy back.” I am happy that I succeeded in fulfilling the Jewish decree of redeeming captives, and if all goes as planned, Gilad will be back in Israel in the next few days with his family and his people.

The Nation of Israel is a unique people. We are all mutually responsible for each other, as our Sages said: “He who saves one soul, it is as though he saved an entire world.” Tonight, I bring the Government a proposal to save Gilad Shalit, to finally bring him home to Israel after five years.”