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IDF looked for Hamas tunnel under Gaza-border community

Police clearing final home in Ofra, several cops hurt in scuffles, some were bitten

  • A giant poster of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked adorns a home slated for demolition in Ofra on Tuesday February 28, 2017 (Raoul Wootliff/Times of Israel)
    A giant poster of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked adorns a home slated for demolition in Ofra on Tuesday February 28, 2017 (Raoul Wootliff/Times of Israel)
  • A protester sits on the roof of a house slated for demolition in the West Bank settlement of Ofra on February 28, 2017 (Raoul Wootliff/ Times of Israel)
    A protester sits on the roof of a house slated for demolition in the West Bank settlement of Ofra on February 28, 2017 (Raoul Wootliff/ Times of Israel)
  • Protesters and police confront each other outside a home slated for demolition in the West Bank Settlement of Ofra on Tuesday February 28, 2017 (Raoul Wootliff/Times of Israel)
    Protesters and police confront each other outside a home slated for demolition in the West Bank Settlement of Ofra on Tuesday February 28, 2017 (Raoul Wootliff/Times of Israel)
  • Tova and Neria Antman with their daughters pose for a photo by the tents set up as part of a protest of the Amona evacuation opposite the Israeli parliament on February 9, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
    Tova and Neria Antman with their daughters pose for a photo by the tents set up as part of a protest of the Amona evacuation opposite the Israeli parliament on February 9, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
  • Police remove the windows of a house in Ofra as they prepare to clear the home of protesters on February 28, 2017 (Raoul Wootliff/ The Times of Israel)
    Police remove the windows of a house in Ofra as they prepare to clear the home of protesters on February 28, 2017 (Raoul Wootliff/ The Times of Israel)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they unfolded.

Ofra family ask protesters to leave so they can be last in their home

With police surrounding the building, the Eldad family, veterans of the Ofra settlement, ask protesters who have gathered in their home to leave peacefully so that they can be the last ones in the house.

A senior Border Police officer tells the protesters that he is sorry to have to remove them.

“We are one people and we must not fight each other,” he says. “I’m sorry to have to do this but please let us do our job.”

Earlier, protesters clashed with police outside the Eldad home.

Trump denies ‘major leak process’ at White House

US President Donald Trump denies that there’s a “major leak process” at the White House following reports that White House press secretary Sean Spicer targeted leaks from his own staff.

In an interview with Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends,” aired Tuesday, Trump responded to a Politico report that said Spicer convened an “emergency meeting” after details of a planning meeting got out, and conducted a “phone check” to prove they hadn’t been leaking information.

He says he “would have handled it differently than Sean. But Sean handles it his way and I’m OK with it.”

Trump says “Sean Spicer is a fine human being,” but adds, “I would have gone one-on-one with different people.”

Trump also says White House officials have “sort of ideas” about who may have leaked information, adding that “we have people from other campaigns, we have people from other governments.”

AP

Jewish Home MK says party too weak to block home demolitions

Speaking to The Times of Israel as he leaves one of the homes being evacuated in Ofra, Knesset member Nissan Slomiansky says he is “devastated” to see Jewish homes being destroyed.

“It’s just terrible, there are no other words.” he says.

Asked why his pro-settler Jewish Home party was unable to stop the evacuation, he says they lacked the political strength.

“We tried all we could, we really did,” he says.

Protesters at Ofra aim to slow the inevitable

With police surrounding the buildings one by one, protesters run toward the Klein family home, the last building on the block.

Members of the family and their friends are gathered in the living room while dozens of protesters fill the upper floors and scale the roof.

“We are here to slow down the inevitable,” one protester tells The Times of Israel. He asked not to be named because his IDF draft date is less than two weeks away.

A protester sits on the roof of a house slated for demolition in the West Bank settlement of Ofra on February 28, 2017 (Raoul Wootliff/ Times of Israel)

A protester sits on the roof of a house slated for demolition in the West Bank settlement of Ofra on February 28, 2017 (Raoul Wootliff/ Times of Israel)

“We need to show the government and the High Court that we will not let this happen easily,” he says.

Asked if he would resort to violence against police, he says he was personally opposed but knew of others who were planning to.

“People are angry and upset and I can understand them,” he adds.

As police break for lunch, Ofra protesters go pray

Police appear to have paused their activity after clearing four of the nine of the houses slated to be demolished in Ofra.

Protesters, announcing that many of the police are on a lunch break, take the lull in activity as an opportunity for afternoon prayers.

Nevertheless, several light clashes break out between protesters and police as a hardcore group of settler youth continue to pile into one house, preparing for a showdown with the officers.

A giant poster of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked adorns a home slated for demolition in Ofra on Tuesday February 28, 2017 (Raoul Wootliff/Times of Israel)

A giant poster of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked adorns a home slated for demolition in Ofra on Tuesday February 28, 2017 (Raoul Wootliff/Times of Israel)

Comptroller tells politicians to learn the lessons of his Gaza War report

Ahead of Gaza war probe, the State Comptroller tells the political and military leadership to “focus on studying the report and learning lessons, not defamation.”

The report into the 2014 Gaza War is set to be released later today and it “reveals serious failings in the working of the security cabinet, headed by the prime minister,” the comptroller says in a statement.

Politicians have been trying to shift the blame for the failings ahead of the release, with some even attacking the comptroller.

The statement laments attempts to “delegitimize the office of the state comptroller and the comptroller himself.”

Judah Ari Gross

Police surrounding Ofra home filled with hundreds of protesters

Police have begun to surround the home of the Kfir family in Ofra ahead of attempts to empty the house.

Hundreds of protesters have filled the building, with dozens more on the roof.

A group of hardcore demonstrators have locked themselves on the balcony and thrown away the key to the door.

Police on alert near Beersheba

Police set up roadblocks and sent in reinforcements near Beersheba and the southern Bedouin town of Rahat due to the “suspicion of a security incident,” a spokesperson says.

No reasons for the alert were given.

The police do not have any special directives for residents, but encourage them to listen to the orders of officers.

Additional police officers, as well as security vehicles, will be traveling throughout the area, police say.

“The public is encouraged to call the 100 call center with anything out of the ordinary,” police say.

Judah Ari Gross

8 officers lightly wounded in Ofra protests – some were bitten

Police say 8 officers were lightly wounded during clashes with protesters in Ofra, including some who were bitten.

Four of them were taken for medical treatment and one has already been released.

Police say they have now cleared eight of the nine structures set for demolition and were gearing up to evacuate the last one.

Judah Ari Gross

Dozens burn tires, block entrance to Jerusalem in show of support for Ofra

Dozens of youths blocked roads at the entrance to Jerusalem to protest the home demolitions in the West Bank settlement of Ofra.

Police say they are burning tires and blocking the road. Police are trying to clear them.

Judah Ari Gross

Israeli tourist killed in motorcycle accident in Bolivia

An Israeli tourist has been killed in a motorcycle accident in Bolivia, the Foreign Ministry says.

His family has been notified and the ministry is working to return his body to Israel, it says.

Raphael Ahren

Palestinians to hold elections in West Bank only

The Palestinian Authority says that municipal elections scheduled for May 13 will be held only in the West Bank and not in the Gaza Strip.

This will be the second time in a row that Palestinian local elections are held solely in the West Bank, after the Hamas terror group, which rules the Gaza Strip, boycotted municipal elections in 2012.

Municipal elections had been slated to be held in the West Bank and Gaza last October, but were postponed after a court decision last year, with Fatah and Hamas trading blame over the delay.

Dov Lieber

Trump going to leave open hundreds of jobs in administration

US President Donald Trump acknowledges that there remain hundreds of unfilled jobs in his administration, but says “they’re unnecessary to have.”

In an interview with Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends” that aired Tuesday, Trump says he has no intention of filling many of the open positions.

He says, “I say, ‘What do all these people do?’ You don’t need all those jobs.”

Trump also says that some are looking to criticize him for eliminating those positions, but he adds, “That’s not a bad thing. That’s a good thing. We’re running a very good, efficient government.”

AP

The Hague advised to offer $2.75 million in Holocaust restitution

The executive board of the municipality of The Hague in the Netherlands advised the city government to offer $2.75 million in restitution for money wrongfully collected from Holocaust survivors.

The recommendation, announced yesterday, follows the vote last year by the City Council of Amsterdam to allocate $11 million to Jewish causes as compensation for similar practices.

The funds made available to Jewish individuals and organizations are for property taxes that The Hague and Amsterdam local authorities demanded from Jewish residents for the years 1940 to 1945, when the Netherlands was under Nazi occupation and the vast majority of Dutch Jews were either in hiding or in Nazi concentration camps.

JTA

Sydney Jewish Museum evacuated after bomb threat

The Sydney Jewish Museum was evacuated today following a bomb threat.

All staff at the neighboring building housing the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies, Jewish Communal Appeal and United Israel Appeal also are evacuated. Police and security officials searched the buildings and allowed staff to reenter two and a half hours later.

— JTA

Police will leave Ofra protesters on the roofs

Police say that while they have almost finished evacuating the homes in Ofra, they will not forcibly clear the dozens of demonstrators who remain on the roofs of the buildings.

An officer tells The Times of Israel that they will let them come down of their own accord.

Police are now trying to enter the final home where protesters have locked themselves inside.

Lapid says Gaza war probe shows Netanyahu failed the country

Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid says the State Comptroller’s report clearly shows that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to properly prepare the country for the Gaza War.

“The report clearly concludes that the State of Israel under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu was not properly prepared for Operation Protective Edge,” Lapid says.

“The report proves beyond any doubt that the prime minister knew about the strategic threat of the tunnels, didn’t order the IDF to prepare an operational plan, didn’t inform the security cabinet and didn’t tell the public the truth.”

Hundreds of police charge protesters in effort to clear final Ofra home

Hundreds of police officers in protective gear are rushing protesters outside the final home to be cleared in Ofra.

The officers are trying to clear them away so they can force open the front door, which is locked.

Protesters on the roof are throwing water and bottles at the officers.

Police are pulling away protesters one by one, with four officers to each demonstrator.

Most are going peacefully.

Netanyahu defends Gaza war record, says operation ‘great success’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is defending his actions during the Gaza War in the wake of the scathing comptroller report, saying it was a “great success.”

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supports the officers and fighters of the IDF following their great success during Operation Protective Edge,” Netanyahu says in a statement.

Netanyahu notes that the army “hit Hamas harder than it had ever been hit before, killing more than 1,000 terrorists and destroying thousands of rockets.”

Netanyahu says proof of the success is the “unprecedented quiet” enjoyed since then by residents of the south.

Police taking away Ofra protesters in buses

Police are taking away protesters in Ofra and putting them on buses as they try and breach the final home in the West Bank settlement.

The officers are tearing the shutters off the windows and dragging protesters out through the windows as they try gain access to the home, in which hundreds of demonstrators are holed up.

The crowd is chanting “soldier, policeman, refuse your orders.”

Police batter their way into last home in Ofra

Police are using a hydraulic battering ram to force open the back door of the last house set to be evacuated in Ofra.

Hundreds of protesters inside are trying to push the doors closed, but to no avail. Police are now inside the house for the first time.

Other demonstrators on the roof continue to pour water on the officers.

Families of Gaza war fallen call for full implementation of report

The families of the soldiers who fell in the 2014 Gaza War are calling for the full implementation of the recommendations in the comptroller’s report.

A representative of the families read out a letter from them in the Knesset after the report was released.

“We call for the full implementation of the conclusions of the report and call on those responsible for Operation Protective Edge to take responsibility,” they say.

“We demand that a political and military plan be presented for an overhaul to the procedures and priorities before the threat of the next war,” they say, thanking the state comptroller for his work.

One dead as clashes rock Palestinian camp in Lebanon

One civilian was killed and four wounded today in fierce clashes that rocked Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp for the sixth day, a medical source told AFP.

The fighting in Ain al-Hilweh near Lebanon’s southern port city of Sidon has pitted members of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement against Islamist groups.

Even as factions declared a ceasefire from the Palestinian embassy in Beirut, plumes of smoke could be seen rising from the camp on Tuesday, AFP’s correspondent says.

“A 23-year-old civilian was killed in the fighting,” a medical source at the Rai hospital in Sidon told AFP.

“We also treated four people including a young boy who was hit by a stray bullet and who is in critical condition,” the source adds.

AFP

Police bring in heavy reinforcements in Ofra

Police have brought in about 100 more officers as the attempt to clear the last house in Ofra slated for evacuation.

One officer was wounded and is receiving medical treatment at the site.

Dozens of police are now inside the house as they continue to pull out the protesters one at a time.

Police say attempts to negotiate with them to leave peacefully had failed.

IDF says it informed politicians of tunnel threat

The IDF spokesman says that the political echelon was fully informed of the tunnel threat ahead of the 2014 Gaza War.

“The IDF presented the severity of the tunnel threat to those responsible, analyzed it and explained the operational significance,” the spokesperson says.

The army also says that it had “presented the threat to the cabinet and described it as one of the five major threats.”

Don’t dismiss comptroller report, says President Rivlin

In a veiled criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin calls on Israel to learn the lessons from the damning comptroller’s report on the last Gaza war and not to dismiss it.

“Flaws that have been revealed require fixing,” the president says.

“This is not a time to exchange punches. This is the time to learn from the reports’ findings, to implement them as necessary, and to strengthen the IDF so it may continue to serve as a barrier of defense to us,” he says at an event of the Jewish People Institute at his residence.

“We must learn from these reports, and not disregard them, out of our supreme obligation to work for the benefit for the citizens of Israel,” Rivlin says. “We are all wise in hindsight, and we should invest our efforts and energy in learning and implementing the findings.”

Raphael Ahren

Rocket warning sirens blare in south

Rockets sirens are blaring in southern Israel near the communities of Nahal Oz, Alumim and Sha’ar Hanegev.

There were no immediate reports of explosions and the army says it is looking at what set off the alarm.

The alert comes an hour after a damning state comptroller report into the 2014 Gaza War which was launched to stop rocket fire from Gaza.

Rocket fired from Gaza falls in open field

A rocket fired from Gaza fell in an open field, causing no injuries or damage, Channel 2 reports.

Residents of communities near Gaza report hearing an explosion minutes after warning sirens went off in the area

 

Record $1.1 billion in Israel Bonds sold in US in 2016

A record $1.127 billion in State of Israel Bonds was sold in the United States in 2016.

The Development Corporation for Israel, also known as Israel Bonds, issues debt securities by the government of Israel. Israel Bonds also are sold to investors in the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Belgium.

Israel Bonds also announces this week that it has sold more than $40 billion globally since the corporation was launched in 1951.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon says in a statement that Israel Bonds are “a cornerstone of Israel’s economy.”

JTA

Army says Gaza rocket siren was a false alarm

The army says that the rocket sirens that blared in communities near Gaza was a false alarm.

Earlier TV reports said one rocket had been fired and fell in an open area, but the army denied this.

Police clear ground floor of final Ofra house

Police, pulling protesters out one-by-one, continue to clear the final Ofra home slated for demolition

They have cleared the lower floor of the house and are now moving toward the packed staircase.

There are at least 150 people on the second floor and at 50 more on the roof.

While officers continue to remove protesters from the final building, a heavy-duty fence is being erected around all of the buildings slated to be demolished.

Hospital says five cops treated for injuries in Ofra evacuation

The Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus in Jerusalem says that it treated five policeman who were wounded during the evacuation of the houses in the West Bank settlement of Ofra.

The hospital says all five had minor injuries. Four have been released and the fifth will be sent home soon, the hospital says.

Judah Ari Gross

Natan Sharansky agrees to stay on as Jewish Agency chief

Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel, will head the organization for an extra year.

The board of governors announced today that Sharansky agreed to its request that he stay a year past his second four-year term ending in June. The announcement comes at the closing plenary of the board’s winter meetings in Tel Aviv.

Sharansky had said in September that he would not remain past June, despite a request from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

His recent efforts include trying to secure a compromise for an egalitarian plaza at the Western Wall and calling for wider recognition by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate of conversions done by rabbis outside the Jewish state.

“Although I was skeptical of the value of remaining for an additional year, what has taken place in recent months has convinced me that it is important that I remain,” Sharansky says in a statement.

JTA

Bulldozer begins demolishing Ofra house

A police bulldozer is demolishing one of the evacuated homes in the West Bank settlement of Ofra.

Police cleared eight of the nine houses and are still working to clear the last one of protesters who are holed up on the top floor and roof

But even before doing so, a bulldozer began tearing down one of the structures.

Police have also fenced off the other homes.

Minister says Hamas tunnel threat will disappear

Interior minister Aryeh Deri says that residents of the south can be calm because the threat of Hamas attack tunnels will soon disappear.

Deri says the government has learned the lessons of the 2014 Gaza war and taken steps to remedy the shortcomings found in the state comptroller report on the issue released today.

Deri does not give details on how Israel will end the threat of the tunnels. It is currently believed that there are some 15 Hamas tunnels leading into Israel from the Strip

IDF chief says army ‘not immune to criticism’

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eiesnkot, responding to the 2014 Gaza war report, says the army is “not immune to criticism” and has improved its capabilities in the two and a half years since the conflict.

The military drew considerable denunciations in the State Comptroller’s Office report for not being adequately prepared to face the threat of Hamas tunnels.

However, Eisenkot says that any mistakes should not take away from the accomplishments and sacrifice of the soldiers in the conflict.

“The IDF learned its lessons, put together work plans and is constantly working to improve its operational capabilities on the Gaza Strip-front,” he says at an event honoring civilian employees of the military.

Eisenkot served as deputy chief of staff under Lt. Gen. (res.) Benny Gantz during the 2014 war.

From that vantage point he “saw up close IDF soldiers and officers in the ground, air and sea… with Benny Gantz leading them, working day and night to achieve fighting goals and bring security back to our country,” Eiesnkot says.

— Judah Ari Gross

French police officer accidentally fires at Hollande speech

The top official of France’s Charente region says a police sharpshooter has accidentally fired his weapon during a speech by President Francois Hollande and two people were slightly injured.

Pierre N’Gahane said the incident occurred today while Hollande was inaugurating a new fast train line in the western town of Villognon.

AP

Sen. Lindsey Graham brings back bill to nix aid to PA for paying terrorists

Sen. Lindsey Graham says he is reintroducing a bill that would cut off funding to the Palestinian Authority for paying rewards to terrorists and their family members.

Graham, R-S.C, made the announcement today about the Taylor Force Act, whose introduction he had sponsored in September. He will reintroduce the bill with nine co-sponsors, all Republicans.

The bill, which is named for an American stabbed to death in Israel last year by a Palestinian terrorist, would condition aid to the Palestinian Authority on the government body condemning and taking steps to prevent acts of violence against US and Israeli citizens, and ceasing payments to terrorists and their families.

In 2016, the US allotted $317 million to the West Bank and Gaza, according to a partial report by the United States Agency for International Development. The figure does not include security funding.

JTA

Police lift security alert in Beersheba region

Police say they have lifted a state of alert in the Beersheba region.

Earlier today police set up roadblocks in the area and called on the public to report any suspicious activity.

“Roadblocks have been lifted and police reinforcements released. There is a compete return to normal,” police said.

Police did not give a reason for the alert or for lifting it.

Judah Ari Gross

Russia, China veto UN resolution on Syria sanctions

Russia and China today vetoed a Western-backed UN resolution that would have imposed sanctions on Syria over chemical weapons use, as peace talks in Geneva showed no signs of progress on ending the nearly six-year war.

The Security Council resolution drafted by Britain, France and the United States won nine votes in favor while three countries opposed it — China, Russia and Bolivia. Kazakhstan, Ethiopia and Egypt abstained.

UN resolutions require nine positive votes and no veto to be adopted.

It was the seventh time that Russia, Syria’s top military ally, has used its veto power to shield the Damascus regime.

AFP

IDF looked for Hamas tunnel under Gaza-border community

The army has been quietly dealing with Hamas tunnels in recent months, a Channel 2 TV report today indicates.

According to the report, in December security officials quietly contacted residents of an unspecified Israeli community close to the Gaza border, and told them that IDF digging tools could soon be working within the community, because of indications there was a tunnel beneath it.

The IDF apparently dealt with the issue, and after some time, the security officials came back to the residents and said the threat had been dealt with and neutralized.

In response the army says that “The residents were updated on IDF efforts to locate certain finds in the area, as part of routine ongoing IDF activity along the border with Gaza.”

“The residents were also updated that, as of now, no unusual findings were discovered.”

Israeli tennis star Shahar Peer retires

Israeli tennis star Shahar Peer is retiring from the game.

Peer, 29, who was once ranked as high as 11 in the world told Channel 2 TV that she would be hanging up her racket.

Peer tells the TV channel that she sat on her bed and cried when she made the decision, but she is now looking forward to life after professional sport.

Shahar Peer playing in 2011. (CC-BY-SA Keith Allison, Flickr)

Shahar Peer playing in 2011. (CC BY-SA Keith Allison/Flickr)

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