By Tazpit Press Service
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has canceled a scheduled trip to Colombia in order to oversee developments in Israel’s south, the prime minister’s office reported Thursday. The premier had been scheduled to attend the inauguration of incoming Colombian President Iván Duque and to hold meetings with several Latin American leaders.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the PM’s office in Jerusalem. (Credit: Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)
The decision comes amidst reports that Netanyahu wants to monitor the visit of Saleh al-Arouri, the founding commander of Hamas’ Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades armed wing who is believed to be the organization’s commander in Judea and Samaria. Al-Arouri will travel to Gaza in the coming days reportedly to participate in Egyptian-sponsored talks to cover a range of Gaza issues, including a ceasefire agreement with Israel and a reconciliation deal with the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority.
Netanyahu’s announcement also followed an announcement by Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman that Israel would begin targeting Palestinian leaders who instruct young people to launch arson kites at Gaza Belt communities, rather than at the launchers themselves.
“We have to hit those who give the orders to launch the balloons, not the underlings who do the actual launching,” Liberman said Thursday morning during a tour of air defense systems in the north of the country.
Liberman also said that last week Hamas leaders ordered Gazans, including children, to launch balloons from populated homes and announced he would reinstitute a ban on fuel and gas being transferred into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom border crossing until further notice.
“The decision was made in light of the recent balloon and kite terrorist attacks,” Liberman said in a statement Wednesday.
“The residents of Gaza must understand that as long as there are incendiary balloons on our side and fires, their life will not return to normal,” he said.
Some 600 kites have been launched at Israel since late April, causing 198 separate brush fires and burning about 7,500 acres of forest and farmland.
Referring to the tensions on the northern border, Lieberman also said that Israel is ready for every possible development
“We are prepared, ready and at the moment of truth, we will show what we’ve got. We will not make any concessions on our security interests,” he said.
Referring to the return of Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad army to the Syrian Golan Heights, near the border with Israel, Liberman underlined that Israel will maintain a policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of Syria.
“As far as we are concerned, the situation has reverted to the way it was before the (Syrian) civil war. I think that is in Assad’s interest (to keep the border quite); I have made clear that we will not compromise our security interests but also that we have no intention of intervening in their internal affairs if we do not need to.”
ISIS Attempts to Breach Israel’s Northern Border: 7 Terrorist Killed
On Wednesday night, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) killed seven Islamic State (ISIS) fighters who had penetrated into Israeli territory from Syria. It has been reported that the terrorists entered 650 feet past the “alpha line,” which demarcates Israel’s side of a demilitarized zone. IDF troops who surveyed the area in the morning discovered explosive belts and an AK-47 assault rifle.
According to Israel Army Radio, the gunmen had been en route to an attack on Israel.
Assad regime forces are currently operating in the region to eliminate pockets of rebel resistance after securing their presence along the Israeli border. The rebels opposing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad include ISIS-affiliated forces.
Last night, the IDF tracked 7 armed suspects identified as terrorists most likely affiliated with ISIS. Their movements were tracked in the southern Golan Heights near the area of the triangle of Israel, Jordan, and the DMZ of Syria. An IDF aircraft struck the 7 terrorists pic.twitter.com/ATibSZvL6k
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) August 2, 2018
The border between Syria and Israel has been unusually problematic in the last week or so. Last tuesday, the IDF fired two patriot missiles at a Syrian Sukhoi fighter jet that strayed approximately one mile into Israeli airspace. The Russian-made jet was shot down, crashing in Syria and killing the pilot.
One day later, the IAF destroyed a rocket launcher in Syria after two projectiles landed in the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). The IDF reported the rockets as errant fire from Syrian infighting but some military analysts conjectured that it may have been an intentional attempt by desperate ISIS rebels to draw Israel into the conflict.
Two weeks ago, the IDF completed a large-scale surprise military exercise in the Golan Heights area.The IDF emphasized that the exercise was not tied to current events but was “planned in advance as part of the 2018 training schedule.” The exercise ended Thursday.
The Russian defense ministry announced Thursday, that it will establish eight Russian military police posts on the border between Israel and Syria in order to “prevent provocations.”