Lebanon’s defence minister on Thursday exhibited two drones he said Israel had sent last month into a Beirut bastion of the Shiite militant group Hezbollah.
Elias Bou Saab displayed a pair of drones — one intact and the remains of the other — and used slides to give a detailed account of the alleged Israeli operation.
He said the devices were “advanced military production” and even listed the name and address of one Israeli company he said made some of the components.
The August 25 drone incident in Beirut, which came a day after Israeli strikes targeted Hezbollah operatives in Syria, drastically raised tensions in the region.
Lebanon’s government and Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah both described the apparently botched operation as an act of aggression.
Israel’s and Hezbollah’s respective patrons, the United States and Iran, have been locked in an escalating tit-for-tat proxy war in recent months.
Bou Saab said that the data retrieved from the intact drone — from which the explosive charge was purportedly removed for the press conference — offered a set of detailed times and locations.
The operation was initiated 11.6 kilometres (7.2 miles) off the coastal airstrip of Habonim, south of the Israeli city of Haifa, he said, adding that the explosives-laden device had been guided by another larger drone in the area.
To reach its presumed target, that device flew over the Jnah district near Beirut International Airport, in what the defence minister said would have posed a risk to civilian air traffic.
Following the Beirut incident, Hezbollah had vowed to take down Israeli drones overflying Lebanon and on September 9 claimed it had downed and seized one.
The Israeli army confirmed that one of its devices “fell” in Lebanon but it has not commented on the August 25 incident.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday said that Germany’s warning to Jews on the dangers of wearing the traditional kippah cap was a “capitulation to anti-Semitism” and evidence Jews were unsafe there.
Germany’s government commissioner on anti-Semitism, Felix Klein, said in an interview published Saturday he “cannot advise Jews to wear the kippah everywhere all the time in Germany,” due to increasing anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish attacks there.
Rivlin said Klein’s remarks “shocked” him, and while appreciating the German government’s “commitment to the Jewish community,” accused it of bowing to those targeting Jews in Germany.
“Fears about the security of German Jews are a capitulation to anti-Semitism and an admittance that, again, Jews are not safe on German soil,” he said.
“We will never submit, will never lower our gaze and will never react to anti-Semitism with defeatism — and expect and demand our allies act in the same way,” he said.
Anti-Semitic crimes rose by 20 percent in Germany last year, according to interior ministry data which blamed nine out of 10 cases on the extreme right.
Klein, whose post was created last year, said that while the far-right was to blame for the vast majority of anti-Semitic crime, some Muslims were also influenced by watching certain television channels “which transmit a dreadful image of Israel and Jews”.
Germany has a culture of atonement over atrocities committed during World War II, during which the ruling Nazis orchestrated the murder of some six million Jews in the Holocaust.
Previous Israeli statements about her murder came only from top diplomats and politicians.
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, accused the UN Security Council of staying silent in the face of what he charged was the complicity of the Palestinian Authority (PA) of president Mahmud Abbas in such attacks.
“The PA maintains its policy of paying salaries for terrorists and educating its youth with incitement, and a 19-year-old girl was brutally murdered in Israel,” he said.
“The Security Council has the responsibility and moral duty to make a clear condemnation of this barbaric murder and to act firmly against the culture of terror in the Palestinian Authority.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed in a statement on Friday evening that “the security forces will track down those responsible for this killing and we will treat them with the full force of the law.”
Netanyahu’s principal challenger in an April 9 general election, former armed forces chief of staff Benny Gantz, said he had full confidence in the ability of the security forces to arrest the killer.
The West Bank was hit by a bout of unrest in December as tensions eased in the Gaza Strip. but they later eased in the West Bank too.
The future of the West Bank is set to be one of the main issues of the Israeli election campaign.
Gantz, who is running on a centre-right ticket, has hinted that he may be ready to pull back from the territory as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu’s far-right coalition partners are campaigning for the unilateral annexation of large swathes of the Palestinian territory.
Some 650,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank, including annexed east Jerusalem.
The settlements are seen as illegal under international law and a major obstacle to peace, as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced he will hold a “decisive” meeting Sunday with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon in a final bid to avert early elections.
Netanyahu’s ruling coalition was left with a single seat majority in parliament after a walkout Wednesday by defence minister Avigdor Lieberman and his hawkish Yisrael Beitenu party.
Lieberman quit over a Gaza ceasefire deal, which on Tuesday ended the worst flare-up between Israel and the territory’s Islamist rulers Hamas since a 2014 war.
Kahlon’s centre-right Kulanu party holds 10 parliamentary seats and is vital to the survival of Netanyahu’s ruling coalition.
While the next elections are currently scheduled for November 2019, Kahlon has called for polls to be held “as soon as possible”.
“I’m going to meet Moshe Kahlon before the weekly minister’s council Sunday for one last attempt to convince him not to bring down the government,” Netanyahu, who heads the Likud party, said Saturday on Twitter.
“We can’t bring down a right-wing government. All members of Likud want to continue serving the state for another year.”
Kahlon, however, told Israel’s Channel 2 Saturday evening that he did not think it was possible to keep a coalition going with such a slim majority.
“We have to act responsibly,” he said.
Netanyahu held crunch talks on Friday with Education Minister Naftali Bennett, whose religious nationalist Jewish Home party has also threatened to quit unless he is given Lieberman’s job.
The party’s eight lawmakers are another crucial component of the premier’s razor-thin parliamentary majority.
Netanyahu said Friday he was temporarily taking over the defence minister post.
Bennet on Saturday told Israel’s second channel that Lieberman had “collapsed the government, there is no more government and we are heading towards elections – there is no other alternative”.
“We have agreed with Moshe Khalon that there is no more government,” he said.
A Palestinian fatally stabbed an Israeli-American man near the entrance to a mall in the occupied West Bank on Sunday before being shot and wounded at the end of a brief foot chase, officials said.
The man killed, Ari Fuld, was a right-wing activist who has appeared regularly on television, but a police spokesman said there was no indication he was targeted for that reason.
Fuld, 45, was a father of four who lived in the Israeli settlement of Efrat, near the mall where he was stabbed.
The Palestinian attacker was 17-year-old Khalil Jabareen, from the village of Yatta in the southern West Bank, according to Palestinian security sources.
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Jabareen was moderately wounded.
The incident took place at the Gush Etzion Junction south of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, according to Israel’s military, which provided the details of the stabbing.
Surveillance footage shared on news sites and social media showed the assailant approaching an older man near the mall entrance and stabbing him several times.
He is then pursued by civilians and shot nearby.
There is regular friction between Israelis and Palestinians at the junction, which lies near a major Israeli settlement bloc and has been the site of numerous lone-wolf Palestinian attacks.
Vocal defender of Israel
Fuld created a Facebook page called “Israel Defense Page” and was a hardline defender of Israel in his television appearances.
During last year’s march by right-wing Israelis through east Jerusalem’s Old City to commemorate 50 years since Israel seized control of it in the Six-Day War, Fuld said it was a “miraculous day” for Jews.
“Today we are celebrating the unification of Jerusalem,” he said.
US ambassador to Israel David Friedman said on Twitter that “America grieves as one of its citizens was brutally murdered by a Palestinian terrorist.”
“Ari Fuld was a passionate defender of Israel & an American patriot.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “in the name of every citizen of Israel, I send my condolences to the family of Ari Fuld, who was murdered today in a terrorist attack”.
“He was an advocate for Israel who fought to spread the truth about Israel.”
A wave of Palestinian knife attacks against Israelis broke out in 2015, but they have since become sporadic.
On September 3, a Palestinian wielding a knife approached an Israeli military checkpoint near the hardline Kiryat Arba settlement in the Hebron area and was shot dead by soldiers, according to the army.
In a stabbing attack on July 26 in the West Bank settlement of Adam, one Israeli was killed and two wounded. The 17-year-old Palestinian attacker was shot dead.
There are concerns that tensions between Israelis and Palestinians will increase this month as Jews celebrate their high holidays and pay more visits to holy sites.
In previous years, increased Jewish visits to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City — what Jews call the Temple Mount — have led to such tensions.
Israel annexed east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.
While protests and clashes have continued at varying levels along the blockaded Gaza Strip border since March 30, the West Bank has remained relatively calm.
In the Gaza unrest, at least 179 Palestinians have been killed since March 30. One Israeli soldier has been killed in the Gaza border area since then.
Israel accuses Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip, of seeking to use the protests to carry out attacks or infiltrations.
It says its actions are necessary to defend the border.
Palestinians and rights groups say protesters have been shot while posing little threat.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008.
An Israeli court on Tuesday sentenced an Arab woman to five months in prison for incitement to violence and support for a terrorist organisation in poems and other social media posts, the justice ministry said.
Dareen Tatour, 36 and an Israeli citizen, posted a video clip of herself reading her poem “Resist, my people, resist them,” in October 2015, accompanied by pictures of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces, according to authorities.
The posts on YouTube and Facebook came as a wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence was erupting, including Palestinian knife attacks.
She was convicted in May and sentenced in the Nazareth district court. Her lawyer Gaby Lasky was expected to appeal.
Her prosecution has drawn international criticism.
International writers group Pen has defended Tatour, saying she “has been convicted for doing what writers do every day — we use our words to peacefully challenge injustice.”
The poem was quoted in Hebrew in the charge sheet, but according to an English translation on the Arabic literature and translation site ArabLit, it contains the following lines:
“For an Arab Palestine, I will not succumb to the ‘peaceful solution,’ Never lower my flags, Until I evict them from my land, Resist the settler’s robbery, And follow the caravan of martyrs.”
Prosecutors said that on October 4, she also quoted a statement by Islamic Jihad calling for “continuation of the intifada in every part of the West Bank,” alleging it showed her support for the outlawed militant group.
Tatour, from the Arab village of Reineh near Nazareth, was arrested on October 11, 2015.
Her sentencing comes after the release on Sunday of Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi who served an eight-month sentence for slapping two Israeli soldiers, an episode recorded in a video that went viral.
Tamimi, 17, was greeted by crowds of supporters and journalists upon her release in her hometown of Nabi Saleh in the occupied West Bank.
Three Israelis were wounded Thursday in a knife attack at a house in a West Bank settlement, the Israeli army said.
“A terrorist infiltrated into (the Adam settlement) and stabbed three civilians,” the army said in a statement.
“The terrorist was shot and killed,” it added.
In a previous statement, the army had said all three were “seriously” wounded.
According to emergency services, two seriously injured Israelis were evacuated to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem.
The third, slightly wounded in the leg, was evacuated to another hospital.
Hadassah Hospital said the two wounded had been admitted to intensive care. A 31-year-old was in critical condition, while a 58-year-old patient was not in danger, it said.
Israeli soldiers headed to the scene after the attack to search the area.
Lone Palestinian attackers have carried out multiple deadly stabbings and car-rammings against Israelis in recent years.
The last stabbing attack in a West Bank settlement was in April 2018 when a Palestinian tried to stab an Israeli with a screwdriver near a petrol station in an industrial area connected to the Maale Adumim settlement east of Jerusalem.
Thursday’s attack comes amid recurrent violence between the Israeli army and Palestinian groups in the besieged Gaza Strip.
Earlier in the day, Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which rules Gaza, promised revenge after Israeli strikes on the coastal enclave killed three of its members.
Israel said the artillery fire late Wednesday was in retaliation for shots fired at troops along the border that injured one soldier.
“The enemy shall pay a high price in blood for the crime which it commits daily against the rights of our people and our fighters,” said the al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas.
The flare-up came five days after the United Nations and Egypt brokered a deal to halt a July 20 surge in violence that claimed the lives of four Palestinians and an Israeli soldier — the first killed in the area since the last war in Gaza in 2014.
On Tuesday, Israel partially reopened its only goods crossing with the Gaza Strip, after a two-week closure prompted by border tensions and incendiary kites had sparked fears of a severe fuel shortage in the blockaded Palestinian enclave.
Tensions along the Gaza border increased in late March when Palestinians launched a mass protest movement.
At least 149 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza by Israeli fire since March 30.
Israel says its blockade is necessary to keep Hamas from obtaining weapons or materials that could be used for military purposes.
But UN officials and rights groups have repeatedly called for the blockade to be lifted, citing worsening humanitarian conditions in the enclave, home to two million people.
A Palestinian was killed in an Israeli strike in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, the enclave’s health ministry said, after Israel said one of its aircraft targeted a group launching balloons carrying firebombs.
Three other people were wounded east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, the ministry said. A family member said the person killed was working as a border policeman in the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave.
Following the incident, Israel’s army said Palestinians launched mortar shells at soldiers near the border fence, causing no injuries.
Israel has pledged a tougher response to Palestinians who have for months sent balloons and kites carrying firebombs over the border fence to burn Israeli farmland.
Israel’s fire service says hundreds of fires have caused damage amounting to millions of shekels (hundreds of thousands of dollars or euros).
The military has opened fire at or near those launching the devices in recent days, but Thursday would mark the first time someone was killed in such strikes.
“Earlier today, a Hamas terrorist squad was launching arson balloons from the southern Gaza Strip into Israeli territory,” a military statement said.
“In response, an IDF aircraft fired towards the squad.”
Last weekend saw the most severe exchange of fire between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since a 2014 war.
Israel hit dozens of sites it said belonged to militants in the Gaza Strip in Saturday’s strikes, killing two Palestinian teenagers.
The same day, around 200 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel from Gaza and four Israelis were wounded when a rocket hit a house in the nearby Israeli city of Sderot.
Iran said on Tuesday that Israeli officials should be tried as war criminals over the “brutal massacre” of Gazan protesters the previous day.
“The killing of children, women and defenceless people of Palestine and the occupation of Palestinian lands has become the main strategy of the Zionists over the 70 years of occupation,” said foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi on the ministry’s website.
He called on the international community to take “immediate action” and try Israeli leaders as “war criminals in international courts”.
At least 59 Palestinians were killed and thousands injured by Israeli forces on Monday as they protested along the Gaza border against the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem.
“The constant and continued crimes of the Zionists in Palestine is the result of the unsparing support of the US,” Ghasemi said.
He accused countries in the region — an apparent reference to Iran’s rival Saudi Arabia — of a “treacherous compromise and undignified passivity” for failing to strongly condemn Israeli actions.
Parliament speaker Ali Larijani said the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem was part of its attempts to undermine international institutions, along with its withdrawal from the Paris climate treaty and Iran nuclear agreement.
“All these cases show that America intends to destroy the international institution of the United Nations,” he told parliament on Tuesday.
“It is driving the international scene to a kind of security chaos,” he added.
The US blocked a UN resolution on Monday calling for an international investigation into the Gaza killings.
On Monday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif denounced “a day of great shame”.
“Israeli regime massacres countless Palestinians in cold blood as they protest in the world’s largest open-air prison,” he wrote on Twitter.
An Israeli soldier convicted of manslaughter for shooting dead a prone Palestinian assailant was freed from prison on Tuesday and greeted by supporters as a hero after serving nine months behind bars, half his original sentence.
Elor Azaria was lifted onto the shoulders of a man who was part of a small group of supporters outside his home following his release and he later paraded the streets in celebration in a small convoy of cars and motorcycles.
“We’ve been through a very difficult period, very difficult,” Azaria’s father Charlie told supporters.
“Today we’re celebrating. We’ll continue to rejoice. There will be a time and place to say what we have to say.”
Azaria did not speak to supporters but smiled broadly as he was lifted in celebration. Some family members wore T-shirts with Azaria’s photo on it.
The former soldier was initially condemned to 18 months in prison for the 2016 killing of Abdul Fatah al-Sharif in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron.
Armed forces chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot later reduced the term by four months and in March a parole board ordered a further cut, to a total of nine months.
Azaria was released two days ahead of schedule, and as word of it spread supporters began to visit his home in Ramla near Tel Aviv, including the city’s mayor.
Israeli media said he was freed early from Tzrifim military prison to allow him to attend his brother’s wedding. The military confirmed his release but provided no further details.
A sign outside Azaria’s home said “welcome back Elor the hero”.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the far-right Jewish Home party, tweeted his congratulations to Azaria along with a picture of the family, saying “it’s good to have you home”.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had called for the former soldier to receive a presidential pardon, told reporters he was “happy that the affair is over”.
– ‘Nothing we can do’ – The release, however, drew further anger from Palestinians, who have called his sentence outrageously short.
The mother of the Palestinian killed by Azaria spoke of her resignation.
“There is nothing we can do,” Rajaa al-Sharif told AFP at her home in Hebron. “This is something natural for them.”
The Palestinian foreign ministry called the sentence “racist”.
It accused Israel of “encouraging the occupation soldiers to continue field executions of unarmed Palestinian citizens with full cover and protection from occupation authorities”.
Azaria, who was 19 at the time of the 2016 shooting, began serving his sentence on August 9. Prisoners in Israel often have their sentences cut by a third for good behaviour.
The shooting incident was caught on video by a human rights group and spread widely online.
It showed Sharif, 21, lying wounded on the ground, shot along with another Palestinian after stabbing and wounding a soldier, according to the army.
Some 11 minutes after the initial shooting, Azaria, a sergeant and military medic at the time of the incident, shot him in the head without any apparent provocation.
He said he feared Sharif was wearing an explosive belt and could blow himself up, a claim judges rejected.
The trial captivated Israel and highlighted deep divisions in public opinion between those who denounced the shooting and others who said it was justified.
Senior army officers strongly denounced Azaria’s actions, but right-wing politicians, including Netanyahu, called for him to be pardoned.
Comparisons have been drawn to sentences handed out to Palestinians for lesser crimes.
Those critical of Azaria’s sentence have in particular pointed to the jail term of Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi.
She was sentenced to eight months in prison in a plea deal after a video that went viral showed Tamimi, 16 at the time, slapping two Israeli soldiers in the West Bank in December.