After an 18-day search, the IDF discovered the bodies of the three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped and murdered by terrorists near Hebron. The students appear to have been killed soon after being taken. For nearly three weeks, the IDF has been conducting an extensive operation in the West Bank, arresting more than 400 Palestinians–most of them members of Hamas–in a frantic search to find the missing teens. Two Hamas operatives, Amer Abu Aysha and Marwan Kawasme, have been identified as prime suspects and remain at-large. At the time of this writing, the Israeli Cabinet had postponed any responses until after the funerals. However, Israeli jets pounded 34 targets in Gaza overnight following the recent upsurge in rocket attacks.
As part of security measures put in place after the murders, the IDF is considering installing cameras, railings, and better lighting at all West Bank bus stops.
Israeli troops check a map during a search for three kidnapped Israeli teenagers. (Photo:AFP)
After the lifting of a six-week gag order, Israel announced the arrest and indictment of Ziad Awad, a Hamas operative who had been released as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange in 2011, for the April 14th murder of Baruch Mizrahi, a senior police officer killed near Hebron on his way to a Passover seder. This marks the first known fatal terrorist attack by a prisoner released in the Shalit deal. As part of Operation Brother’s Keeper, Israel has rearrested over 50 other terrorists released in the 2011 exchange.
Over the course of the operation, the IDF raided several weapons caches in Nablus on June 16th, seizing automatic weapons and arresting 40 terrorist suspects. Israeli forces also exposed underground tunnels as well as IED laboratories in civilian homes. Israeli soldiers also stopped three Palestinians attempting to sneak past a security barrier into the West Bank settlement of Kochav Yaakov, outside Ramallah, late on June 17th. One of the infiltrators was injured during the incident.
The Israeli military confronted about 300 Palestinian protesters in the West Bank on June 19th, during some of the fiercest clashes since the beginning of Operation Brother’s Keeper. According to government officials, some of the protesters violently confronted soldiers, shooting and hurling explosives. Three Palestinians went to the hospital with gunshot wounds following the exchange.
In light of the recent Fatah-Hamas power-sharing agreement, House and Senate Appropriations Committees each approved 2015 foreign operations bills that would bar the Palestinian Authority from receiving $440 million in aid. The language stipulates a cut-off in funds to any government “that results from an agreement with Hamas.” President Obama can waive the restrictions only by certifying that the new government recognizes Israel, renounces violence, honors previous agreements, and acknowledges Israel as “a Jewish state.”
Over 60 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel during the month of June, a notable increase from the 13 fired in May. Although Jerusalem holds Hamas responsible for all Gaza-based attacks, Israeli officials believe that Monday’s barrage of 16 rockets was the first time in nearly two years Hamas had directly fired at Israel, marking a potential escalation in the calm imposed since Operation Pillar of Defense. Iron Dome has intercepted at least 7 rockets over the last two weeks. One rocket hit a paint factory in Sderot setting the site ablaze, the first direct hit in the recent escalation. In response, the IAF has conducted numerous airstrikes on rocket launching sites and terror cells in Gaza.
Sderot facotry caught fire after a hit by a rocket (Photo: Roee Idan)
On June 18th, Israeli forces uncovered and detonated an explosive device along the Gaza border. Nine days later, another explosive device was activated against IDF troops operating along the security fence in the southern Gaza Strip near Khan Younis. There were no injuries, but Israeli forces responded with tank fire at suspected lookout posts on the Palestinian side.
On June 22nd, a lone terrorist, armed with a grenade, managed to scale the Gaza security fence and walk 5km into Israel before being apprehended by a civilian security officer near Moshav Yated. IDF officials believe the man acted alone and was not sent by a terrorist organization.
Five members of Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, were killed when a tunnel under the Israeli border collapsed on June 19th.
On June 22nd, a 14-year-old Israel boy was killed and three others were wounded by a Syrian anti-tank missile targeting their truck while doing maintenance work on the border fence in the Golan Heights. Muhammad Fahmi Krakara is the first Israeli killed on the Golan since the upsurge in border attacks due to the three-year-old Syrian conflict. Israel held the Assad regime responsible for the attack and IDF planes and artillery struck nine Syrian Army positions, killing between 3 and 10 Syrian soldiers.
The IDF is building a “Defensive Canopy,” a series of suppressive fire posts along the border with Syria that would allow for a rapid-response to any cross-border attack. To be supervised by the artillery core and manned when necessary, these posts are similar to the ones built along the Gaza border.
Despite the attacks, Israel continues to provide medical aid to Syrian refugees and even rebels who voluntarily cross the border into Israel.
Over the weekend of June 21-22, the Egyptian Army, as part of its continued security crackdown in the Sinai, killed at least 27 militants in Sheikh Zuweid city of Egypt’s North Sinai governorate. Islamist militants continue to harass and abduct Christians in the central Sinai.
Unknown gunmen killed four Egyptian security officers on the road between Rafah and El-Arish on Saturday June 28th. At least three other attacks earlier in the week claimed the lives of two more Egyptian officers.
Egyptian special forces claimed to arrest 15 ISIS militants who were using the Gaza tunnels to set up a terror cell inside Egypt. ISIS flags were apparent during the Gaza funeral of recent militants killed by an Israeli airstrike.