Six Palestinians Escape From High-Security Prison In Israel

This handout image provided by Israel Prison Service shows a tunnel dug beneath a sink at the Gilboa prison in northern Israel on September 6, 2021. Six Palestinians broke out of Israeli prison through a tunnel dug beneath a sink, triggering a massive manhunt for the group that includes a prominent ex-militant.
AFP / Israel Prison Service

 

Six Palestinians broke out of an Israeli prison Monday through a tunnel dug beneath a sink, triggering a massive manhunt for the group that includes a prominent ex-militant. 

The Israel Prison Service said an alert was sounded around 3:00 am (0000 GMT) by locals who spotted “suspicious figures” outside the Gilboa prison in the country’s north.

The group includes Zakaria Zubeidi, a former militant leader from the flashpoint city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank, the IPS confirmed in a statement.

In footage that recalled the iconic 1994 prison escape film “The Shawshank Redemption,” the service released a video that showed agents inspecting a narrow tunnel beneath a sink and another showing a hole just outside the prison walls.

Gilboa — which opened in 2004 during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising — is a high-security site where hundreds of Palestinians are detained among other inmates.

The prison service said all those held at Gilboa over “security offences” are being relocated in case additional escape tunnels have been dug beneath the facility.

Police, the army and agents from Israel’s Shin Bet internal security agency joined the search, which included aerial surveillance vehicles, officials said.

Sniffer dogs were deployed and checkpoints were set up in the area surrounding Gilboa.

This handout image provided by Israel Prison Service shows Israeli security personnel inspecting a cell at the Gilboa prison after six Palestinians broke out through a tunnel dug beneath a sink, in northern Israel on September 6, 2021.
Israel Prison Service / AFP

 

The army had in particular deployed heavily at a crossing point from Israel to Jenin governorate, checking identities of all Palestinian workers seeking to cross, an AFP reporter said.

The army said its forces were “prepared and deployed” in the West Bank as part of the operation.

The jailbreak occurred hours before Israel begins its High Holiday season, starting with Jewish New Year which begins at sundown.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called the escape “a serious event that required a comprehensive effort by all of the security services”.

The premier was “receiving regular updates regarding the search efforts for the terrorists”, said a statement.

 

 Gaza groups cheer

 

Head of Israel Prison Service Arik Yaakov (C) looks at an evidence outside the Gilboa Prison in northern Israel on September 6, 2021. Six Palestinians escaped from a prison in northern Israel through a tunnel dug beneath a sink, triggering a massive manhunt for the group that includes a prominent ex-militant, officials said.
JALAA MAREY / AFP

 

The five others who escaped were accused of planning or carrying out attacks on Israelis.

Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Israeli blockaded Gaza Strip, called the escape “a heroic act and a victory for the will and determination of our heroic detainees”.

Islamic Jihad, one of Gaza’s most powerful armed groups after Hamas, lauded the jailbreak as “a powerful blow to the occupation forces”.

Zubeidi was the former head of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades and a well-known figure among Palestinians and Israelis.

He was arrested over “terror allegations” in 2019 in a West Bank village near Ramallah.

He had faced charges in the past from the Palestinian Authority for taking part in a shooting attack on the residence of Jenin governor Qaddura Musa in 2002.

Musa died after suffering a heart attack during the incident, and Palestinian security forces arrested dozens of people, including Zubeidi, shortly afterward.

Zubeidi in 2007 agreed to lay down his arms and went on to help found Jenin’s Freedom Theatre.

In 2011, the theatre’s well-known Israeli-Palestinian director Juliano Mer-Khamis was gunned down in Jenin’s refugee camp, in an attack that remains unsolved.

Unrest has also spiked in Jenin in recent weeks. A gun battle broke out last month as Israeli forces came under fire while looking for suspects, leaving four Palestinians dead.

-AFP

Incendiary Balloons From Gaza Cause Fires In Israel

An elderly Palestinian man raises a national flag as youths shout slogans during a protest along the border fence, east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 25, 2021. MAHMUD HAMS / AFP
An elderly Palestinian man raises a national flag as youths shout slogans during a protest along the border fence, east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 25, 2021. MAHMUD HAMS / AFP

 

Israeli firefighters on Saturday were working to put out blazes sparked by incendiary balloons launched from the blockaded Gaza Strip.

Two wildfires broke out in Israel’s southern Eshkol region near the Palestinian enclave, firefighters said in a statement, adding that experts had concluded that the source was “incendiary balloons”.

Launching the makeshift devices is a common tactic of Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

Israel frequently responds with air strikes.

Earlier in the day, Gaza’s health ministry said a 12-year-old Palestinian boy shot last week by Israeli soldiers during clashes along the enclave’s border had died of his wounds.

READ ALSO: US Strikes IS Targets In Afghanistan As Kabul Evacuations Enters Final Stages

The August 21 unrest left around 40 people wounded, according to Gaza’s Hamas rulers, including a 32-year-old Palestinian man who died on Wednesday.

An Israeli police officer was also shot and remains in a critical condition.

Following the clashes, Israel carried out air strikes it said were targeting weapons manufacturing and storage sites of the Islamist group Hamas.

Israel struck Gaza again overnight Monday-Tuesday in response to incendiary balloons that also sparked fires in the Eskhol region.

New clashes took place on the border between Gaza and Israel on Wednesday, but they were less violent than those on August 21.

Further demonstrations were expected on Saturday evening after calls from several Palestinian factions, in particular to protest against Israel’s almost 15-year-long blockade of the territory.

Israel has launched several strikes on Gaza in response to incendiary balloons since a May 21 ceasefire ended 11 days of deadly conflict between the Jewish state and armed groups in the enclave.

 

AFP

Israel To Begin Covid Booster Shots For Over 40s

An Israeli health worker administers a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine to Jewish ultra-Orthodox man at a religious neighbourhood in Jerusalem on August 19, 2021. AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP
An Israeli health worker administers a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine to Jewish ultra-Orthodox man at a religious neighbourhood in Jerusalem on August 19, 2021. AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP

 

Israelis aged 40 and over will be able to receive coronavirus vaccine booster shots starting this weekend, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said Thursday, as the country battles a spike in infections.

Israel was one of the first countries to launch a vaccination drive in mid-December via an agreement with Pfizer to obtain millions of paid vaccine doses in exchange for sharing data on their effectiveness.

The inoculation campaign was hailed as a success story that helped drastically reduce infections in the country of nine million.

But cases have been rising due to the spread of the Delta variant among the unvaccinated and waning immunity in others.

To try and contain the spread, authorities last week began administrating a booster shot to those aged 50 and older, after starting a campaign for over-60s late last month.

Horowitz, who is among those who have received a third dose, tweeted Thursday that people aged 40 and over will be able to get a booster shot from Sunday.

“We have vaccines for everyone and now those 40 and older can receive a third dose,” he wrote. “The vaccine is effective. Let’s stop this Delta.”

Israel has recorded more than 970,000 coronavirus infections since the pandemic started early last year, and over 6,700 deaths.

More than 5.4 million people have received two doses of the vaccine, while 1.2 million have had a third jab.

Earlier this month, the World Health Organization called for a moratorium on Covid-19 vaccine booster shots to help ease the drastic inequity in dose distribution between rich and poor nations.

AFP

Israel Tightens Restrictions As COVID-19 Cases Rise

File photo: A healthcare worker fills a syringe with Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at a community vaccination event.  (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP)

 

New restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of Covid took effect in Israel on Wednesday, after the largely vaccinated country saw the highest daily infection rate since January.

The measures, announced Sunday, require vaccination certificates or negative coronavirus tests to enter a range of public spaces, including restaurants and bars, cultural and sports venues, hotels, and gyms, the health ministry said.

The same applies to worshippers wishing to enter synagogues, mosques or churches with more than 50 people in attendance.

In addition, the capacity of stores, shopping malls, and industrial parks will be limited to one person per seven square metres (75 square feet).

READ ALSO: Afghan Girls Return To School After Taliban Takeover

After its launch, last December, Israel’s widely praised vaccination drive helped to drastically bring down infections.

But that trend has since reversed, driven by the spread of the more contagious Delta variant of the virus, with restrictions that were lifted in June reimposed since July.

In recent weeks, the state has begun administering booster shots to Israelis aged 50 and over, while urging anyone aged 12 and older to get vaccinated.

About one million Israelis have not been vaccinated even though they are eligible.

According to the health ministry, more than 8,700 people tested positive for coronavirus on Tuesday, the highest number for a single day since January.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has been imploring Israelis to get vaccinated, warning of a possible lockdown that could affect the Jewish high holidays next month unless inoculation numbers rise.

Isrealis Protest As Rising COVID-19 Cases Trigger New Rules

Israelis lift placards as they chant slogans denouncing the government's renewed restrictions to combat COVID-19, in the central coastal city of Tel Aviv, on July 31, 2021.  AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP
Israelis lift placards as they chant slogans denouncing the government’s renewed restrictions to combat COVID-19, in the central coastal city of Tel Aviv, on July 31, 2021. AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP

 

Several hundred Israelis demonstrated Saturday in Tel Aviv against new coronavirus restrictions and vaccines as positive cases and hospitalisations rose to levels not seen in months. 

The health ministry reported Saturday that 2,435 new Covid cases had been recorded the day before — the highest number since March — driven by the more contagious Delta variant.

There were 326 hospitalisations, the highest since April, although well below the January peak, when more than 2,000 people were being hospitalised daily.

Israel has in recent days rolled out a booster vaccine shot for older citizens, reimposed mask requirements indoors and restored “green pass” restrictions requiring vaccine certificates for entering enclosed spaces such as gyms, restaurants and hotels.

The rise in infections is a step back after Israel’s world-leading vaccine campaign drove down new Covid-19 cases from 10,000 a day to fewer than 100.

Protesters Saturday flew a banner that read, “There’s no pandemic, it’s a con”. They held up placards denouncing coronavirus vaccines, with one poster linking vaccines to the Nazis.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz told Israeli Channel 12 TV Saturday that he intended to balance public health with livelihood.

“The economy must remain open,” he said.

“I don’t want to impose a lockdown and I will avoid a lockdown at all costs. Everything is open — but we need masks and we need vaccines.”

Nearly 60 percent of Israel’s 9.3 million people have gotten two shots, mostly with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

But about one million Israelis still refuse to be vaccinated even though they are eligible.

From Sunday, some children between ages five and 11 at risk of health complications will become eligible for vaccines.

 

AFP

Israel Announces Plan To Slash Carbon Emissions By 2050

(File Photo) Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on July 19, 2021. Gil COHEN-MAGEN / POOL / AFP

 

Israel will seek to drastically reduce its carbon emissions by 2050 to help combat the global climate crisis, the foreign ministry announced in a statement Friday.

The “revolutionary and historic decision” agreed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and several cabinet members will be put to a vote before Israel’s parliament on Sunday, it said.

“The Israeli government set to approve an unprecedented decision mandating that by the year 2050 Israel will move to a low carbon emissions economy, while dealing with the climate crisis that threatens all of humanity,” the statement added.

“In coordination with the Paris Agreement and Israel’s international climate commitments, and to prevent crossing the global warming threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius, Israel is committed to reaching the goal of zero carbon emissions by the year 2050,” it added.

The ministers for environmental protection, foreign affairs, finance, energy, transport, economy and interior are pushing for the initiative along with Bennett.

The move calls for reducing carbon emissions by at least 85 percent by 2050 compared to 2015 levels, with an intermediary target of 27 percent by 2030.

“This is the first time that the Israeli government set joint national goals to reduce carbon emissions and declare a national strategy to move to a clean, efficient and competitive economy, thus aligning Israel with the other developed countries in the global fight against the climate crisis,” the statement said.

Israel signed the 2015 Paris climate accord, pledging to keep its carbon emissions stable until 2030.

Its 2050 plan includes targets for a 96 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in transportation, 85 percent in the electricity sector and 92 percent in municipal waste.

Israel Removes Cancer Patients From Third Vaccine Jab List

A Palestinian Red Crescent health worker prepares a dose of Russian Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine in the West Bank city of Hebron, on February 11, 2021. HAZEM BADER / AFP

 

Israel on Sunday walked back part of its policy for third coronavirus vaccination shots, saying that contrary to a recent announcement, oncology patients should actually stick with two jabs only.

On Monday Israel began administering a third shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech inoculation to patients with compromised immune systems, including people who have had heart, lung and kidney transplants and some cancer patients.

But on Sunday, the health ministry said that after reviewing data on hundreds of patients from oncology wards, “the recommendation at this stage is to not vaccinate” cancer patients.

“Nearly 90 percent of the patients receiving chemotherapy developed antibodies following the (two doses of) vaccination, and the level of antibodies remained high a number of months after the vaccination,” it said in a “clarification” to the health funds and hospitals administering the shots.

“In addition, the vaccination could have side effects… that could affect the oncological treatment,” the ministry said.

Pfizer and BioNTech have said they would ask US and European authorities for permission to provide a third dose of their vaccine, but European regulators say it was too early to tell if a third was necessary.

The World Health Organization has expressed concern that such a booster shot could come at the expense of countries whose citizens have not yet received their first two doses.

READ ALSO: Germany Questions Warning System After Deadly Floods

Israel’s initial vaccine rollout of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab was among the world’s fastest, and helped to bring confirmed daily cases down to single digits last month.

It decided to go ahead with third shots in the light of evidence “that patients with immunosuppression do not develop an adequate antibody response after two doses” and after the number of daily cases began to rise.

A spokesman for Sheba medical centre, Israel’s largest hospital, told AFP that “dozens” of cancer patients have received a third shot since Monday.

AFP

Netanyahu Leaves Official Residence A Month After Losing Office

In this file photo taken on February 9, 2020, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. RONEN ZVULUN / POOL / AFP.

 

Israel’s former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu formally departed his official Jerusalem residence early on Sunday, nearly a month after he was ousted by his successor Naftali Bennett.

“A little after midnight the Netanyahu family left the residence on Balfour [Street],” a spokesman for the family told journalists in a statement.

Moving trucks were spotted outside the residence and black Audi cars were filmed being towed from the property over the weekend.

The hawkish Netanyahu, who served as Israel’s leader for 12 straight years following an earlier three-year term, stayed in office longer than any other prime minister in Israel’s history.

He remained in office even as he went to trial on charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust. He denies the charges and says they are a left-wing plot against him.

He led Israel through four deeply divisive elections in less than two years before right-wing nationalist Bennett was sworn in on June 13 to head an ideologically disparate coalition, unseating him.

However, Netanyahu did not vacate the prime ministerial residence.

Instead, he continued to host dignitaries including Nikki Haley, who served as US ambassador to the United Nations under president Donald Trump.

In late June, Netanyahu and Bennett’s offices announced a final date for the former premier to move out: Saturday, July 10.

Netanyahu left after midnight Sunday, slightly after the deadline he agreed to.

“Crime Minister”, an organisation that has mounted weekly protests against Netanyahu outside the residence for more than a year, mocked him on Sunday.

“The defendant and his family fled as the last of the thieves in the night,” the group wrote on Facebook.

Bennett is to take over the prime minister’s residence on Sunday.

AFP

Israel Attacks Gaza After Incendiary Balloon Fire

PHOTO USED TO ILLUSTRATE STORY: Flames are seen following an Israeli air strike in the town of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, early on November 22, 2020. (Photo by SAID KHATIB / AFP)

 

Israel attacked Gaza military targets late Saturday, the army and Palestinian sources said, after incendiary balloons from the Palestinian territory caused fires in Israel in recent days.

The Israeli army said fighter jets had “struck a weapon manufacturing site and a rocket launcher belonging to the Hamas terror organisation”.

According to security sources and witnesses in Gaza, the facilities hit were west of Gaza City and in the northern Strip, with no immediate reports of casualties.

“The strikes were made in response to the arson balloons fired towards Israeli territory,” said a statement from the Israeli army.

Incendiary balloons from Gaza caused fires in southern Israel’s Eshkol region on Saturday and Friday, according to the fire service.

On Thursday, four small fires caused by incendiary balloons from Gaza were extinguished in the Eshkol region.

Israel retaliated early Friday with air strikes, which the army said struck “a weapons manufacturing site” belonging to Gaza’s Hamas Islamist rulers.

Eleven days of deadly fighting between Israel and Hamas, as well as other Palestinian armed groups based in the enclave, ended on May 21 with a ceasefire declaration.

There was no immediate indication as to which Gaza-based group was responsible for the latest balloon launch.

There have been multiple flare-ups since the ceasefire, including a series of balloon launches last month, to which Israel has responded with air strikes.

The May conflict killed 260 Palestinians including some fighters, according to Gaza authorities.

In Israel, 13 people were killed, including a soldier, by projectiles fired from Gaza, the police and army said.

 

AFP

Three Palestinians Killed In Clash With Israeli Forces

.
JALAA MAREY / AFP

 

Three Palestinians were killed early Thursday by Israeli special forces who were on an arrest mission in the northern West Bank, sources on both sides said.

One of the Palestinians killed was suspected of having carried out a shooting attack against Israeli soldiers, an Israeli security official said.

The other two were members of the Palestinian Authority security forces who witnessed the initial exchange of fire.

An Israeli security official told AFP that special forces were in Jenin seeking “to arrest two terrorists who had carried out a shooting attack”.

“One Palestinian who opened fire on the forces was shot dead,” he said.

The Palestinian health ministry identified him as Jamil al-Amuri.

According to the Israeli official, after the initial incident, Palestinians at the scene “opened fire on the Israeli forces,” and in an ensuing exchange, “two additional Palestinians were killed.”

Palestinian security officials identified the two as members of the Palestinian Authority’s military intelligence department, Adham Eleiwi and Taysir Issa.

No Israeli forces were wounded in the incident, the Israeli official told AFP.

A second Israeli security official told AFP Amuri was a member of the Islamic Jihad militant group who was suspected of carrying out a string of shooting attacks targeting Israeli soldiers in recent months.

Another Islamic Jihad member suspected of taking part in the attacks, Wissam Abu Zeid, was wounded in the same incident, the Israeli official said.

The Palestinian presidency condemned the Israeli operation, with spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina calling it a “violation of international law” that would bring a “dangerous escalation” in remarks carried by official news agency Wafa.

Israeli forces frequently carry out arrest raids in the occupied West Bank. On May 25, Israeli forces killed a Palestinian during one such raid near Ramallah.

-AFP

Israeli Airstrikes Kill 11 Syria Troops

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EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP

Israeli airstrikes in central Syria killed at least 11 government troops and militiamen late Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The strikes were the first carried out by Israel in Syria since 11 days of heavy fighting with the Hamas rulers of Gaza ended with an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire on May 21, the Britain-based war monitor said.

“At least seven army soldiers and four National Defence Forces militiamen were killed,” Observatory chief Rami Abdul Rahman told AFP, adding that all of the dead were Syrian.

The Observatory said the strikes targeted air force positions near the village of Khirbet al-Tin on the outskirts of Homs, as well as an arms depot belonging to the Lebanese Hezbollah movement.

The Israeli air force carried out Tuesday evening strikes in several regions of Syria, in the capital Damascus as well as in Homs, Hama and Latakia provinces, the Observatory said.

Syria’s state SANA news agency said there had been “explosions in Damascus” as Israeli forces carried out the raid from Lebanese air space.

It said air defences had been activated against the “Israeli aggression”, but said nothing about any casualties or damage.

The Israeli army, which rarely acknowledges individual strikes on Syria, declined to comment on “reports in the foreign media”.

Since civil war broke out in Syria in 2011, Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes on Syrian territory, targeting government positions as well as allied Iran-backed forces and fighters of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement.

Israel has said repeatedly that it will not allow neighbouring Syria to become a launchpad for its arch-foe Iran.

-AFP

Israel Says Hamas Jammed Signals From Destroyed Media Building

A ball of fire erupts from the Jala Tower as it is destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement, on May 15, 2021. (Photo by Mahmud Hams / AFP)

 

 

Israel alleged Tuesday that a Gaza media building it destroyed was used by Hamas to jam air defenses as it offered to help the Associated Press rebuild its bureau.

Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Gilad Erdan, gave the most detailed explanation yet of the decision to strike the tower as he met the head of the news agency, Gary Pruitt, at its New York headquarters.

“The unit was developing an electronic jamming system to be used against the Iron Dome defense system,” Erdan said, referring to the anti-missile shield that intercepts Hamas rockets.

He praised the role of the Associated Press, one of the world’s major news agencies along with Agence France-Presse and Reuters, and said he did not imagine AP employees were aware of the alleged use of the building by Hamas.

“Israel did everything it could to make sure that no employees or civilians were hurt during this important operation,” he said in a statement released a day after his meeting with AP executives.

“In contrast, Hamas is a genocidal terrorist organization that has no regard for the press. It purposely places its terror machine in civilian areas, including in offices being used by international media outlets,” he said.

Erdan said that Israel is “willing to assist” the Associated Press in rebuilding its office in Gaza, which is controled by Hamas, a militant Islamist group.

 

(COMBO) This combination of pictures created on May 15, 2021 shows, the Jala Tower (highest building) housing international media outlets in Gaza city controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement, on May 15, 2021, and a ball of fire erupting from the the same building after being hit by an Israeli air strike on the same day. – Israeli air strikes pounded the Gaza Strip, killing 10 members of an extended family and demolishing a key media building, while Palestinian militants launched rockets in return amid violence in the West Bank. Israel’s air force targeted the 13-floor Jala Tower housing Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television and the Associated Press news agency.
Israeli air strikes pounded the Gaza Strip, killing 10 members of an extended family and demolishing a key media building, while Palestinian militants launched rockets in return amid violence in the West Bank. Israel’s air force targeted the 13-floor Jala Tower housing Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television and the Associated Press news agency. (Photos by MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

 

The AP and international media rights groups earlier called for an independent investigation into allegations that the Jala Tower building was used by Hamas.

The air strike also destroyed the office of Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based television network that has frequently irritated both Israel and Arab states with its coverage.

The owner of the Jala Tower had unsuccessfully pleaded for 10 extra minutes to let Al Jazeera retrieve its equipment but an Israeli officer rejected the request and went ahead with the strike.

The attack came during a May 10-21 military escalation, with Hamas firing rockets into Israel in response to what it considered provocations in Jerusalem against the Palestinian population.

Israeli strikes killed 260 Palestinians, including 66 children adn some fighters, and wounded more than 1,900 people, the Gaza health ministry says.

Rockets and other fire from Gaza killed 13 people in Israel, including a child and an Arab-Israeli teenager and an Israeli soldier, medics and the military say. Some 357 people in Israel were wounded.