An airstrike, apparently by an Israeli helicopter, killed six Hezbollah fighters and another six members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in Quneitra, Syria on January 18th, according to Arab media reports. An unnamed Israeli official said that the targeted men were planning an attack on the Jewish state, but its unclear if IDF commanders knew a Hezbollah field commander, the son of a former Hezbollah military leader, and an Iranian general would be among the dead. UN observers told reporters that peacekeepers station in the Golan saw Israeli drones fly over Syrian airspace near the time of the attack. The IDF deployed an additional Iron Dome battery in Northern Israel in preparation for any retaliatory rocket launchings from Lebanon.
One hundred Fijian troops are preparing to redeploy from the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights to the UNIFIL peacekeeping mission in Lebanon. The UN will make a final determination where to station the soldiers next month.
Hamas and Fatah renewed their war of words, bringing new tension to the Palestinian unity government. Hundreds of Hamas civil servants in Gaza organized a sit-in outside of the PA’s headquarters, vowing not to leave until they receive back pay. Meanwhile, terrorists planted a bomb outside a Gaza bank used by the Hamas-run Interior Ministry and by PA officials to withdraw their salaries.
Palestinian employees of the former Hamas government shout slogans after breaking past the gate of the Palestinian unity government cabinet headquarters to demand back pay, in Gaza City January 13, 2015. (Photo: AFP)
Hamas’s security forces moved their own checkpoint leading to the the Israeli-held Erez crossing closer to the border, displacing PA security forces running the official crossing. Israel subsequently closed the checkpoint with Gaza on January 8th. Trade at crossing remains significantly curtailed as Hamas and the PA vie for influence over the post.
A Hamas Minister also accused President Abbas of obstructing reconstruction saying it could lead to a “popular explosion,” while another official threatened to withdraw from the agreement. Hamas shows no signs of relinquishing control over Gaza as it agreed too.
During a candid interview with al-Monitor, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon stated that PA President Mahmoud Abbas has no control over Gaza and that he “barely controls” the West Bank city of Jenin.
An Israeli court sentenced two sisters of Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas leader in Gaza, for illegally entering the coastal enclave. Sabah Haniyeh, 48, and Leila Abu Rkaik, 65, who both hold Israeli citizenship, will pay $5,000 in fines and spend up to eight months in prison for not obtaining a visiting permit in 2013.
The U.S. State Department voiced concern over Turkey’s harboring of terrorists after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s said Hamas’s political leader, Khaled Mashaal, is “welcome in Turkey.”
The IDF arrested six Palestinians for questioning in a series of overnight raids on January 15th. Two of the men detained were affiliated with Hamas supporters.
Following the publication of images displaying the Prophet Mohammed in France, Palestinian demonstrators burned a French flag after Friday prayers at the Temple Mount on January 16th. Approximately 500 people joined the protest, some of which chanted, “jihad, jihad, we will die in the name of God.”
A Palestinian burns a French flag in protest against Charlie Hebdo during a rally in Gaza. (Photo: AFP)
An Israeli court convicted two Hamas members of plotting to attack a shopping center during the 2013 Jewish High Holidays. Ahmad Rishak, 23, and Ismail Abu Mfalfal, 27 both from the West Bank, had planned to fill a bomb with ball bearings to cause maximum destruction.
Terrorists kidnapped and executed police officer Ayman Al-Sayed Al-Desouky at a checkpoint they set up on January 11th. Officials found his body several days later after the Army sent additional reinforcements to the area. Security officials suspect the Islamist insurgent group Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, which swore loyalty to IS militants late last year, was behind the abduction. Border police also announced that the Egyptian-held Rafah border crossing with Gaza would remain closed because of the kidnapping.
An army officer died while attempting to defuse a roadside bomb near al-Arish on January 15th, the second such death this year. Meanwhile another IED injured four soldiers outside Sheikh Zuweid on January 19th.
The Egyptian Army started the second phase of its operation to expand a buffer zone between Gaza and Sinai. Authorities began evicting residents from 1,220 homes within 1km from the border. Security forces destroyed a tunnel approximately 1,200 meters long that was filled with mortar shells and other explosives. According to Palestinian press reports, the expansion of the buffer zone has severly restricted Hamas’s ability to rearm. Hamas’s income has fallen precipitously as well, declining as much as $500 million – or half its stated budget – since Egypt began destroying the smuggling tunnels.