IDF downs Syrian drone over Israeli airspace

Syria’s civil war intensifies on Israel’s border; IAF downs drone over Israeli airspace; 44 UNDOF peacekeepers still in captivity

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An unmanned aircraft (drone) from Syria was shot down over Israeli airspace Sunday afternoon. The Israeli Air Force fired a Patriot missile at the drone, which was sited close to the Quneitra crossing which has been taken over by Islamic groups in Syria.

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Patriot missile battery (Avihu Shapira)

IDF intelligence believes the drone was most likely from Assad’s military regime and may have strayed into Israeli airspace unintentionally. However, the IDF released the statement “in spite of the IDF’s sensitivity to recent occurrences in the proximity of the border, we have repeatedly stated that we will respond to any breach of Israel’s sovereignty and will continue to act to maintain safety and security to the civilians of the State of Israel.”

Syria’s civil war is closer than ever to Israel’s border, as Islamic organization and rebel forces gain control of southern Syria. 

45 UNDOF peacekeepers still remain in captivity at the hands of rebel forces in Syria. 75 peacekeepers escaped into Israel Saturday morning and an additional 40 Filipino peacekeepers escaped under fire.

On Sunday evening, the al-Nusra Front, the al-Qaeda affiliated militant force in Syria reported they would release the 45 UNDOF peacekeepers held captive in Syria since Saturday in exchange for the transferring of humanitarian aid to the Ruta area near the Syrian capital of Damascus.

They released photos of the captured peacekeepers, along with their ID’s.

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Dozens of peacekeepers rescued from Syria, additional 44 detained

Dozens of peacekeepers rescued and brought to Israel; a reported 75 fled to Israel Saturday morning as clashes between Syrian army and rebel forces escalate

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UNDOF forces near Quneitra (Gil Eliyahu)

Three dozen of the Filipino peacekeepers held by Islamic militants in Syria since Thursday were rescued by Irish UNDOF soldiers on Saturday and brought to Israel. A UN official confirmed the report on Saturday evening stating, “Irish forces secured a route for the captured UNDOF troops to retreat to, and escorted them until they reached safety. They were safely extracted, nearly three dozen of them.”

A gun battle erupted near the Quneitra crossing from the Rwihana base Saturday morning when Nusra fighters ordered the peacekeepers to surrender. A reported 44 Filipino peacekeepers were detained and are still trapped by rebel forces in Syria, Islamist militants claiming it is “for their own protection” amidst heavy clashes between rebel forced and the Syrian army.

A statement from the UN following the reports of the detained peacekeepers stated, “The United Nations has received assurances from credible sources that the 44 peacekeepers from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force who were taken from their position on the morning of Thursday, 28 August, are safe and in good health.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the detention and called on the rebel groups to release them immediately.

Earlier on Saturday morning, 75 UNDOF peacekeepers were able to flee from Syrian territory to safety in Israel when rebel forces attack their positions.

On Thursday 43 peacekeepers were kidnapped, as al-Qaeda linked Syrian rebel forces took over the Quneitra crossing just 200 yard from the border with Israel. A coalition of Islamic groups including the Al-Nusra Front also surrounded Rwihanna and Breiqa encampments trapping peacekeeping forces as rebel forces gain control of southern Syria.

 

 

 

 

43 peacekeepers kidnapped as rebel groups gain control of southern Syria

Syrian militants kidnap 43 peacekeepers; Coalition of Islamic groups, including al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra gain control of Quneitra crossing as Syrian civil war comes as close as 200 yards to Israel’s border; ISIS reports it killed over 250 Syrian soldiers

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A group of 43 peacekeepers of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) were been kidnapped by Syrian rebels Thursday afternoon. Syrian militants have been fighting with Al-Nusra Front (Jabhat al-Nusra) on the Quneitra crossing as the was in Syria escalates and grows closer to Israel’s border. The UNDOF peacekeepers are from the Philippines.

The UN Press office released the statement “During a period of increased fighting beginning yesterday between armed elements and Syrian Arab Armed Forces within the area of separation in the Golan Heights, 43 peacekeepers from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) were detained early this morning by an armed group in the vicinity of Quneitra” and stated that they are in talks and working intensely for their return.

The Al-Nusra Front is al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria commonly referred to as “Al-Qaeda in Syria.” Syrian rebels and a coalition of Islamic groups including the Al-Nusra Front have currently joined forces in fighting and have nearly taken control of southern Syria. The groups have additionally nearly gained control of Syria’s international airport.

The takeover of the Quneitra cross, which is the only border crossing into Israel, brings al-Qaeda as close as 200 yards to Israel’s border. Israel has stated repeatedly it will do all it can to avoid the Syrian conflict, however, mortar fire and shelling into Israel have become more common as the internal fighting in Syria intensifies.

On Thursday ISIS in Syria reported it executed at least 250 Syrian soldiers at an air base in the northeastern city of Raqqa. ISIS claimed on August 19th to have killed over 600 government soldiers gaining control of al Tabqa air base. 

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The UN peacekeeping forces monitor the demilitarized zone between Israel and Syria. UNDOF, the body responsible for monitoring the border, was established in 1974 following the Yom Kippur War in 1973. UNDOF have been monitoring since then.

Earlier this week the Philippines announced it be recall its 331 member peacekeeping force due to the increase in violence and fighting in the region, as well as airstrikes close to UNDOF’s position.

Last year, 21 Filipino UN peacekeepers were kidnapped by Syrian rebels and were released after a weeks times.

Syrian planes attack Golan Heights border post captured by rebels

Al Qaida’s Syrian wing, Nusra Front, together with moderate rebel militias, captured the Quneitra crossing on Wednesday

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Syrian jets have shelled rebel positions near a border crossing close to the Golan Heights that was seized by rebels in some of the heaviest clashes in the strategic area this year, rebels and residents said.

Al-Qaeda’s Syria wing Jabhat al-Nusra, alongside moderate rebel groups who had launched the attack early on Wednesday, were “holding ground” despite the heavy bombardment, according to a source in the Islamist Beit al Maqdis brigade, whose fighters were involved in the fighting.

The spillover of the Syrian conflict, though limited, rattled nerves, coming just a day after Israel and the Palestinian militant faction Hamas agreed to a truce after a 50-day battle in the Gaza Strip.

Abu Iyas al Horani, a spokesman for another rebel group operating in the area, said at least six rebels were killed.

The crossing is monitored by the United Nations.

During the fighting, two Israelis were wounded by stray bullets, a soldier and a civilian, both in the Golan Heights. Israel responded with artillery fire at two Syrian army positions, the Israeli military said on Wednesday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 20 Syrian soldiers and 14 rebel fighters were killed in the clashes.

Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner,said the crossing was no longer controlled by Syrian government forces.

However a UN spokeswoman earlier said the organisation’s peacekeepers could not confirm whether the rebels had seized the crossing, “as fighting is ongoing” at one of its gates.

Lieutenant Colonel Lerner said the Israeli army had declared a closed military zone in the border area and had “substantial forces” in the area holding defensive positions. However, he and other officials signalled Israel’s determination to avoid being drawn into Syria fighting.

With heavy explosions and gunfire audible from across the Syrian frontier, Israeli authorities ordered farmers to stay away from orchards and fields near the Quneitra crossing and closed some tourist sites and lookout posts to civilians, Israeli media reported.

Rebels, who included al-Qaeda inspired militants hostile to the Jewish state, last year briefly took the Quneitra border crossing with Israel and now control many villages in the area.

Syria lost the strategic Golan Heights to Israel in the 1967 war. Israel later annexed the area, but left Quneitra.

Rebels say a stretched Syrian army fighting on several fronts that has already lost control of large parts of the countryside in southern Syria wants to ensure it does not lose control of the towns of Nawa and Quneitra in the Golan foothills and the city of Deraa, along the border with Jordan. The southern front’s potential as a launchpad for an offensive against the capital means it could ultimately pose the main challenge to Syrian President Basah al-Assad.

The Syria conflict is now in its fourth year with an estimated death toll in excess of 190,000.

 

Reuters, Los Angeles Times, New York Times

Netanyahu on Operation Protective Edge: Hamas did not achieve any of its demand

PM addressed Operation Protective Edge and its “no guarantee of long-term truce

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Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke of Operation Protective Edge alongside Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz Wednesday evening addressing the successes of the operation and eventual ceasefire agreement with Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip. He spoke of the operation as one with “no guarantee of a long-term truce” as Hamas violated 11 ceasefires.

Netanyahu, Ya’alon and Gantz address Operation Protective Edge

Netanyahu, Ya’alon and Gantz address Operation Protective Edge

He summarized the operation and affects on Hamas stating that the terrorist organization did not ”realize how strong and united our nation is. It’s wonderful.”

He stated on the 50-day military operation that, “Hamas was hit hard” and that the terrorist organization “did not achieve any of its demand. They demanded a sea port and did not achieve this; they demanded an airport and did not achieve this; they demanded the release of prisoners placed back under arrest following the murder of the three murdered Israeli boys; they demanded monetary compensation and salaries which they did not receive; they demanded that negotiations be conducted by Turkey or Qatar and this they did not get.”

He stated that as a result of Operation Protective Edge, “Hamas suffered its greatest blow since the organization’s founding.” He stated that any possible terror threat from Hamas on the State of Israel would not be tolerated, stating, “We won’t tolerate even a sprinkle of rocket fire at any part of Israel. We would respond even more vigorously than before” adding that any future attack would be responded by “sevenfold.”

He spoke of the accomplishments of Operation Protective Edge stating, “A thousand Hamas terrorists were killed, many of them commanders. Thousands of rocket arsenals launch sites and weapons caches were destroyed along with hundreds of command centers.” Over 32 terror tunnels were destroyed during the operation.

Netanyahu addressed Hamas’s extremism stating, “Hamas, ISIS, and al-Qaeda are all part of the same family.”

He spoke of the efforts and measures taken to protect the IDF soldiers serving stating, “After the mission was achieved, the soldiers were pulled out to prevent Hamas from having the opportunity to inflict casualties or carry out kidnappings of soldiers.” He added, “and when the dust settles Hamas will realize that it has gained no achievements.”

On the future and security of the State of Israel the prime minister stated, “We live in the Middle East and we may have to return to the battlefield, and if we do, we will pound Hamas in the same way we did during this operation.”

Hamas sees the end of the operation and truce as a victory for the Palestinians, specifically Hamas. The Gaza Strip has been full of celebration since the start of the ceasefire, marches and parades through out Gaza. A spokesman for the terrorist organization stated on the truce, “Gaza achieved victory because it has done what major armies failed to do. It forced the enemy to retreat. We must know that no voice is louder than the voice of the resistance.”

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon stated on Wednesday that “They [Hamas} too know they were dealt a serious blow and took a ceasefire on terms they didn’t want. And the next blow will be harsher still if necessary. We set Hamas back by years.”

 

IDF officer injured as Syrian fighting nears closer to Israeli border

Syrian rebel forces take over Quneitra; Internal fighting in Syria grows closer to Israeli border; IDF officer wounded by stray bullet; 5 mortars land in Golan Heights; Citizens on high alert

IDF officer evacuated to hospital injured by stray bullet from Syria

IDF officer evacuated to hospital injured by stray bullet from Syria

An IDF officer was wounded in an outpost in the Golan Heights adjacent to the Quneitra crossing by a stray bullet from fighting between Syrian rebels led by al-Qaeda and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The officer is reportedly in moderate condition suffering a bullet wound to his chest.

Israeli farmers have been warned to leave the area close to the border, residents reporting hearing explosions and mortar hits from fighting in Syria. Citizens of the Golan Heights have been put on high alert as the heavy fighting continues along the border with Israel and tourist sites in the region have been closed.

View of fighting between Syrian forces and rebel forces from Golan Heights, Israel

View of fighting between Syrian forces and rebel forces from Golan Heights, Israel

Over six mortars fired from Syria landed in the Golan Heights, the IDF unsure whether the mortars fired were intentional or a result of internal fighting.

The IDF has so far responded to the mortar fire, hitting two Syrian army positions.

The Quneitra border crossing has reportedly been taken over by rebel forces and the Syrian flag has been removed, one of the only remaining regions in Syria that were controlled by Assad.

The Syrian Revolutionary Front, Al-Nusra Front Ansar al-Khalifa Brigades and Ansar al-Islam are reportedly all clashing with Syrian forces.

Abbas to announce Gaza truce and statehood initiative

Islamic Jihad and Hamas accept Egyptian ceasefire, reported to begin this evening; Israel agrees to ceasefire; Abbas to announce initiative to Palestinian statehood; US General meets with top Israeli officials; Operation Protective Edge on its 50th day; Heavy rocket fire on Israel despite ceasefire announcement; One of six injured from mortar attack dies

Senior Hamas leader Abu Marzouk

Senior Hamas leader Abu Marzouk

According to sources from Egypt, the Palestinian Authority confirmed on Tuesday afternoon that an extended ceasefire is to take place starting at 7:00pm. A Palestinian Authority will make an official statement before the ceasefire begins. Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad have accepted the Egyptian ceasefire reportedly and “are awaiting Israel’s answer.”

Israel has reportedly agreed to the ceasefire.

Senior Hamas official, Moussa Abu Marzouk stated on Tuesday that “negotiations are over and we have reached an understanding” after he stated on Tuesday afternoon that, “The new Egyptian document’s wording is acceptable, but we’re still discussing its details with the Egyptian side.”

Despite the announcement of agreement on a ceasefire, heavy rocket attacks continue on Israel, 6 civilians injured from a mortar attack in southern Israel in the Eshkol region. One of the injured was just pronounced dead.

Reports also claim that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will announce a diplomatic initiative to establish a Palestinian State. Following reports earlier this week, Abbas proposed an internationally accepted deadline for Israel to withdraw from the 1967 borders and if they do not comply, would be taken to the International Criminal Court.

According to reports, the Rafah crossing will be opened and supervised by Abbas’s security forces. The truce will also include expansion of permitted fishes zones. Reports claim that the agreement will provide a framework to end the blockade of the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian official stating, “The contacts that have been going on have agreed a permanent ceasefire, a deal to end the blockade and a guarantee that Gaza’s demands and needs will be met.”

US General John Allen arrived in Israel today. The four-stat marvel and former commander of the US forces in Afghanistan met with top Israeli officials to discuss the renewal of peace talks with the Palestinians once Operation Protective Edge ends.

As Operation Protective Edge enters its 5th day, over 4,450 rockets and other projectiles were fired into Israel from Gaza. 3,555 fell into Israeli territory and 221 of them in residential areas. The Iron Dome intercepted 714 rockets. 5 rockets were fired from Syria into Israel, and 4 from Lebanon.

The IDF reportedly struck over 5, 226 terror targets within Gaza since the beginning of the Operation.