News / Middle East

US Approves $225M for Israel's Iron Dome

  • Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip, is seen shortly before the start of a proposed cease-fire, Aug. 1, 2014.
  • A Palestinian boy carries his belongings after salvaging them from his destroyed house, in the heavily bombed town of Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip, close to the Israeli border, Aug. 1, 2014.
  • Israeli soldiers stand on an armored personnel carrier outside the central Gaza Strip as they fire mortar shell towards Gaza before a cease-fire, Aug. 1, 2014.
  • Israeli Merkava tanks and armored personnel carriers drive in southern Israel as they advance towards the Israel-Gaza border, Aug. 1, 2014.
  • A poster of later Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is seen on the rubble of a destroyed house in the Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, Aug. 1, 2014.
  • Palestinians look at an unexploded Israeli shell that landed on the main road outside the town of Deir Al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip, Aug. 1, 2014.
  • Destruction is pictured through the window of a mosque in Shejaia neighborhood, which witnesses said was heavily hit by Israeli shelling and airstrikes during an Israeli offensive, in the east of Gaza City, Aug. 1, 2014.
  • A graduation photo of a Palestinian boy is hung on the wall of a destroyed house in the heavily-bombed Gaza City neighborhood of Shijaiyah, close to the Israeli border, Aug. 1, 2014.
  • An Israeli soldier walks near the border with the Gaza Strip, Aug. 1, 2014.
  • Israeli soldiers stand on an armored personnel carrier outside the central Gaza Strip as they fire mortar shell towards Gaza before a cease-fire was due, early Aug. 1, 2014.
  • A Palestinian woman holds her son as residents return to Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, Aug. 1, 2014.
  • Palestinians search the rubble that was their home, in Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip, Aug. 1, 2014.
  • An Israeli soldier of the Maglan elite unit mourns over the grave of Staff Sgt. Matan Gotlib, a Maglan elite unit soldier, during his funeral in the military cemetery in Rishon Letzion, central Israel, July 31, 2014.
  • Friends of Israeli soldier Matan Gotlib mourn during his funeral, in Rishon Lezion, near Tel Aviv, July 31, 2014.
Gaza Cease-fire Collapses; Israeli Soldier Captured
VOA News

The armed wing of Hamas say it does not know the whereabouts of an Israeli solider that Israel has accused it of abducting, but speculated that he was likely killed in an Israeli strike.  

The group said Saturday in a statement it had lost contact with its fighters in the southern Gaza Strip where Israel says the soldier was abducted.  Hamas said it believes all members of its group in the southern Gaza Strip have died in an Israeli strike along with the Israeli soldier.

The status of the missing soldier has not been confirmed.

On Fridaty, U.S. President Barack Obama called on Hamas to immediately and unconditionally free the soldier to show that Hamas is serious about trying to resolve the situation in Gaza.

At a White House news conference, Obama said it will be very hard to put the shattered cease-fire back together if Israel and the international community are not confident Hamas will follow through on pledges to stop attacks.

The president repeated that Israel has a right to defend itself from Hamas rockets and attacks. But he called the deaths of Palestinian civilians heartbreaking and said everything must be done to protect them.

Late Friday, U.S. Congress approved $225 million in emergency funding for Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system, sending the measure to President Barack Obama to be signed into law.  The House vote was 395 to 8.

Early Saturday, an Israeli website said the Iron Dome system has intercepted several rockets not long after Hamas said it had fired three rockets at Tel Aviv.

Also Saturday, Palestinian officials say 34 people where killed in airstrikes in and around the town of Rafah.  

What was supposed to be a 72-hour cease-fire lasted barely 90 minutes Friday before Israel said a suicide bomber attacked Israeli soldiers dismantling a tunnel near Rafah. Israel says two soldiers were killed and a third kidnapped.

Hamas blames Israel for breaking the cease-fire.

Israel Searches

The presumed abduction of the Israeli soldier occurred in the southern city of Rafah at about 9:30 a.m. Friday, local time, roughly 90 minutes after the humanitarian truce between Israel and Hamas took effect. Israel Defense Forces identified the missing soldier as 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23. A spokesman said the military was conducting an extensive search for Goldin.

Gaza Conflict, death tolls, August 1, 2014Gaza Conflict, death tolls, August 1, 2014
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Gaza Conflict, death tolls, August 1, 2014
Gaza Conflict, death tolls, August 1, 2014

Goldin reportedly was taken, and two other Israeli troops were killed, during an operation to find and destroy tunnels used by militants to infiltrate Israel. The Israeli military said a firefight with militants broke out, with a suicide bombing adding to the mayhem. Several Palestinians also were killed. 

Shortly after the attack, the Israeli military resumed shelling the southern Gaza Strip, killing at least 40 people, according to various reports. Hamas resumed firing rockets into southern Israel. 

Israel declared the cease-fire over hours after it began. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office released a statement blaming Gaza militants for "flagrantly" violating what was supposed to be a three-day cease-fire. Israeli media later reported that the military had resumed its offensive operations in Gaza.

The United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Robert Serry, said in a statement that if reports of the tunnel attack were corroborated, "this would constitute a serious violation of the humanitarian cease-fire ... by Gazan militant factions, which should be condemned in the strongest terms."

 

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who with U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon had announced the 72-hour cease-fire late Thursday, in a statement Friday decried its “outrageous violation" and called for the missing soldier's immediate release.

"After the horrific loss of life in this attack and its aftermath, it would be a tragedy if this outrageous attack leads to more suffering and loss of life on both sides of this conflict," Kerry said. He called upon the international community to "redouble its efforts to end the tunnel and rocket attacks by Hamas terrorists on Israel and the suffering and loss of civilian life."

Kerry has appealed to Qatar and Turkey in particular to help in freeing the  soldier, Reuters reported.

Secretary-General Ban, in a statement, said he was "profoundly, profoundly disappointed" by the renewed violence, calling it "a tragic loss of opportunity for both sides to end the cycle of fear and suffering."

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators had planned to meet in Cairo, Egypt, during the cease-fire to hammer out a more enduring calm and to address issues underlying the conflict.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said a Palestinian delegation will be in Cairo on Sunday for talks previously planned talks with Israelis. Israel has not yet commented on the upcoming talks, but an Egyptian official said the task are still on track.

The U.N.'s political chief, Jeffrey Feltman, told reporters Friday that the abrupt end to the cease-fire threatened chances for successful negotiation.

"There was substantive and logical linkage between the 72-hour unconditional humanitarian cease-fire and attempt to make it more durable by addressing some core issues," Feltman said. "Right now, that essential first part is not there."

Some Palestinian representatives have sought postponing negotiations to the weekend, meanwhile hoping for a truce, Reuters reported. It said the Palestinian delegation would include representatives of Hamas, Western-backed Fatah, the Islamic Jihad militant groups and others. 

A senior official traveling with Kerry in India said several other U.S. diplomats were expected to arrive in Cairo on Friday and Saturday, Reuters said.

According to reports by Reuters, "Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah broke his silence on Friday over the three-week-old conflict in Gaza, condemning what he saw as international silence over Israel's offensive and describing this as a war crime and 'state-sponsored terrorism'."

Positions hardened

VOA correspondent Scott Bobb, who is in Gaza, said both sides are hardening their positions and there is no end in sight to the fighting.

"Hamas continues to insist on a complete end to the [economic] blockade before it will consider a formal, official cease-fire," he said. "And Israel insists on the demilitarization of Gaza before it will consider lifting any blockade. So at the moment, there is no cease-fire."

Israeli leaders want the demilitarization of Hamas, which has sent thousands of rockets into Israeli territory in recent weeks. The Islamist group wants an end to the Israeli-led blockade that has strangled Gaza's economy and prevented Gazans from traveling.

Palestinians say the three-week Israeli air and ground campaign in Gaza has killed about 1,600 Palestinians; mostly civilians. Israel says 63 of its soldiers and three civilians have died.

In the hours before the cease-fire took effect Friday, Gaza police reported heavy Israeli tank shelling in northern and eastern Gaza, and the loud exchange of fire between Israeli troops and militants was audible throughout Gaza City. Tank shells landed on homes in the city, setting homes and shops ablaze.

Hamas fighters hit an Israeli tank with an anti-tank missile, Gaza police said, and then attacked Israeli troops who came to evacuate the tank crew. Clashes continued into the early morning hours, police said.

Brief reprieve

Just after the truce began, Bobb saw "small traffic jams in the city as people rush out to buy supplies and visit the homes they abandoned days or weeks ago."

At a depot selling cooking gas, "literally hundreds of canisters [were] lined up waiting to be filled," he said. This was the first depot to reopen. Others, located to the east near the conflict zone, are considered too dangerous to reopen. 

Bobb said some stores and restaurants had reopened. "People are out in the streets today," he reported. "For the first time, I saw children playing in the ocean, on the beach. And fishermen have gone out, although they stay within about a hundred meters offshore."

But the respite was short-lived.

After Friday prayers, news began to spread that the cease-fire had been broken. City and neighborhood streets emptied, and Gaza returned to its previously forlorn state.

VOA's Scott Bobb contributed to this report from the Gaza Strip. Reuters, AFP and the Associated Press also contributed.

  • Hajar Muharram, 5, sits in a classroom where the family of seven now live, at a U.N. school, in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Thursday, July 31, 2014.
  • Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon (L) attend a cabinet meeting in Tel Aviv July 31, 2014.
  • A woman carries a bag of food supplies that she received from a United Nations food distribution center in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip July 31, 2014.
  • People pray next to the bodies of Palestinians from the al-Silk family during their funeral in Gaza City July 31, 2014.
  • Heygar Jendiyah, left, points to where the family house kitchen once stood, partially destroyed by a previous air strike, as her children Ranin, 10, center, and Helmi, right, listen, in the Sabra neighborhood of Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip,
  • An Israeli soldier stands atop an armored vehicle at a staging area near the border with the Gaza Strip July 31, 2014.
  • Israeli soldiers carry cases at a staging area near the border with the Gaza Strip July 31, 2014
  • Israeli tanks at a staging area near the border with the Gaza Strip July 31, 2014.

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by: Adam from: NYC
August 04, 2014 10:35 PM
When u criticize israel everyone says your anti semetic, whats funny is the innocent palestinians dying are actually semetic have semetic blood unlike most israelis. Ashkenazi jews whose mitochondrial dna shows that their female ancestors are from europe. Jews themselves say to be considered jewish your mom has to be jewish, even with their own definition the vast majority of israelis have no ancestral connection to that land. Why not punish the people who actually committed the holocaust, give these people a piece of germany as their home, they actually have more of an ancestral connection to that area anyway

by: Joe from: philly
August 03, 2014 10:37 PM
First of all, let me make clear that Hamas is a group that has been self-created to fill a Palestinian defense void it believes was there. A majority of Palestinians do not support the way Hamas operates and for anyone to paint Hamas' view as that of the entire Palestinian people is the same as the rest of the world seeing the United States as a group of racists simply because the KKK originated here and feels its message is correct. A vast majority of Palestinians agree Israel has a right to exist but what many of you fail to realize is Palestine does not exist. That is the issue. Give Palestinians their own state, unobstructed by the Israeli-occupation and both "sides" will live in peace. The issue is the Israeli settlers who claim whatever they want whenever they want. The encroach on land and communities that even Israel has designated as Palestinian and nobody can stand up to them. Stop the settlements, agree to a sovereign state of Palestine and the troubles will go away. You really think the Palestinians are nieve enough to believe the modern, well-established state of Israel is going anywhere?

by: riaz from: germany
August 03, 2014 7:22 AM
u.s officials have always been israeli servants. Im sorry for a nation pretending to be a super power but acts as servant for a wicked regime. down with zionist regime.they don't deserve to be a country

by: riano baggy from: ina
August 03, 2014 5:29 AM
it's wrong decision, US to hurt international community and UN talks, better to transfer money for red cross and international aids for rebuilt palestinians civilan house,school and hospital. I am afraid hard line can still support weapons in gaza strip to continue conflict because US to support Israel..

by: hawkbred from: usa
August 02, 2014 4:29 PM
Interesting that Hamas (or Fatah) haven't found anyone responsible for the murder/kidnapping of the 3 Jewish schoolboys in the West Bank - nor do they admit having anything to do with it. Israel quickly found the Jewish extremists who did a revenge killing and he is in custody. Now Hamas disavows knowing what happened to the IDF lieutenant.
And yet, when it comes to body count and the demographics surrounding them, they are super-knowledgeable.

by: Olu from: Nigeria
August 02, 2014 5:07 AM
If truely the terrorists attacked IDF when trying to destroy the turnel, it means all palestinians are terrorists and support terrorists. It means they are not ready to end the war. They have other international terrorist organization backing them, that's why they did not want the cessfire. If the blockade is in place and you are still finding away to attack and kidnaping, if Israel is not save when there is blockade, how do you convince them that there will not be security problem if it is completely lifted up? All what Hamas demanded for can be settle through deplomatic relation, not through sending rocket to Israel and dulging of turnel for attack. Since palestinians has pit their tents with terrorists and jihadists, they cannot receive the mercy of US and all powerful countries of the whole world.

by: Anthonybellchambers from: London
August 02, 2014 2:09 AM
The key driver in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in which the figure of those killed is tragically already heading for 2000, primarily non-combatant men, women and children, is not Hamas or Israel.

The key driver is an unelected lobby in Washington that pulls the strings in the US congress that control the marionettes sitting both there and in the White House where a shackled President has been rendered impotent and democracy is bleeding to death with its throat cut.

The grip on US foreign policy, that affects virtually the entire world, by a faceless lobby that has hijacked the democratic process, is a tragic phenomenon that has been allowed to grow virtually unchecked to a point whereby millions of dollars of armaments and warplanes are now sent to the Middle East upon the demand of the lobby to implement its own agenda regardless of the impact upon either America, Americans or the world.

US Democracy is haemorrhaging dangerously and there appears to be nothing and nobody to stem the blood.
In Response

by: B from: Thailand
August 02, 2014 11:06 PM
Accurate and insightful assessment, too bad most Americans are blind to the this tragedy of their own government.

by: Tony from: USA
August 02, 2014 1:50 AM
There can be no peace until Hamas and groups like them are eliminated. Over the years, Israel has agreed to many ceasefires. None has brought peace. Hamas does not want peace, they want to destroy Israel and all the Jews. This time, the Jews will not go quietly!

by: shawn from: california
August 02, 2014 1:02 AM
If everytime you open your door someone comes in shooting I think any sane person would keep it closed . If hamas and the Palestinians cant stop the rockets and terrorist attacks than I seriously cant find mysefl caring if israel destroys the whole place. I cant justify helping anyone that believes israel doesnt have a right to exist. You can call my opinion on this simplistic but hamas is targeting civilians and using civilians as shields. wheres the outcry from the clerics and the muslims? wheres the pressure on hamas ...

by: Stan Kerns from: Colorado, USA
August 02, 2014 12:54 AM
Never loose sight of the fact that every rocket Hamas fires is 100% targeted at civilians--pause and think of the carnage if Israel's response were to be 100% targeted at civilians. War is Hell--but Israel is doing everything it can to avoid killing civilians--but it does have a right to shoot back at those who shoot at it. It isn't Israel's fault that Hamas hides it's rockets in school. All that has to happen to end the retaliation is for Hamas to quit shooting rockets.
Stan
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