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Israeli Tank, Infantry, Air Force Attack Gaza Bt DEBKAfile & The Times of Israel

Israel's military spokesman reports that Israel responded to the murder of an Israeli civilian, Saleh Abu Tayyel, Tuesday by a Palestinian sniper with tank and infantry raids and air strikes on three terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip.

According to Israel Radio, the IAF destroyed a Hamas military training facility west of the Khan Yunis refugee camp. The report added that Hamas targets in the Gaza neighborhood of Zaytoun and the Al-Bureij camp were damaged by the IAF as well. IDF tanks also fired shells at what it said were terror targets in the Gaza neighborhoods of Zaytoun, Shuja'iyya and the al-Bureij refugee camp.

Military sources said that the airstrikes are "limited in scope" and "are not ongoing." Aside from a directive given to farmers to avoid the fields in direct proximity to the border, the IDF Home Front Command has issued no further orders to civilians in the area.

According to Palestinian sources in the Strip, two people — a 3-year-old child named Hala Sabiha and her father — were killed during the Israeli strikes, and nine were injured. The father and daughter were killed during an airstrike on a target located in the central Gaza Strip refugee camp of Deir al-Balah, according to Palestinian Ma'an News agency. No casualties were reported as a result of the strike near Khan Yunis.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri condemned the IDF strikes in Gaza, calling them a "cowardly crime." The attacks, Abu Zuhri said, did not "deter Palestinian resistance fighters from carrying out their duty." The IDF had no immediate comment on the report of Palestinian fatalities.

Shortly before the air force strikes, the Hamas leadership ordered the evacuation of all security personal from their posts in Gaza for fear of an imminent Israeli attack. "Earlier today a Gaza sniper killed an Israeli civilian by firing a single bullet at his chest," said the IDF spokesperson's office in a statement. "The individual was shot while doing maintenance along the Israel-Gaza security fence in the northern Gaza Strip. This is the first Israeli civilian killed in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip since Operation Pillar of Defense" last year.

"In response, IAF aircrafts and IDF tanks and infantry retaliated and targeted terror sites in the Gaza Strip. The sites targeted were a weapon manufacturing facility and a terror infrastructure in the southern Gaza Strip, a terror site and another terror infrastructure in the central Gaza Strip, and a concealed rocket launcher in the northern Gaza Strip. Direct hits were confirmed."

The Israeli who was killed, 22-year-old Saleh Abu Tayyel from the predominantly Bedouin city of Rahat, was working between Nahal Oz and Kfar Aza as a civilian employed by the Israeli Defense Ministry on repairs to a section of the Israel-Gaza border fence damaged in last week's storm. The fence had collapsed in three locations due to the storm.

Following the sniper attack, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stressed that Israel will not stand silent in face of any assault on its citizen population. "This is a very serious incident," Netanyahu said shortly after the attack. "Our policy has been to foil terror attempts ahead of time and respond forcefully, and that's how we will act in this case as well," he said.

"We will not allow for daily life to be disrupted in the South," said Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, "and will respond aggressively and painfully to any threat that may compromise our sovereignty and harm our citizens and soldiers. I suggest that Hamas not test our patience, and assert its authority in the region. If there will be no peace in Israel, there will be no peace in Gaza. There is no direct connection between the terrorist attacks of the past two days and the shooting at the border of the Gaza Strip, which resulted in the death of an Israeli worker, but we treat all such incidents very seriously," Ya'alon added.

Only a few hours before the killing of the Israeli civilian, the prime minister commented on the recent increase of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, and vowed to put an end to such attacks. "We will not allow intermittent missile fire to turn into a storm," he said.

Two hours after the shooting, Gazan authorities reported that an 18-year-old Palestinian man was moderately wounded from IDF fire east of Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip. The young man was reportedly evacuated to the hospital. It was not immediately clear if IDF troops were operating in the area, which is located a few kilometers from the site of the sniper shooting. The IDF deployed additional forces to the Gaza border area after the shooting.

Israeli sources say Hamas has pointedly neglected its duties under agreements reached following last year's Operation Pillar of Defense, according to which Hamas was responsible for patrolling the Gazan side of the border and preventing attacks on Israel from the Strip.

Brig. Gen. (res.) Shmuel Zakai, former head of IDF's Gaza Division, told Israel Radio shortly after the shooting that there was "clearly an escalation of terror incidents" in recent weeks. Nevertheless, he said, "Israel must continue along the delicate path that intercepts the terror activity with good intelligence and precision operations, not with a response that is overly aggressive and could lead to a further escalation in the area."

On Monday, troops fired on a Palestinian man near the northern border of the Gaza Strip. According to the IDF Spokesperson, the Palestinian was spotted placing an explosive device near the border fence. Israeli soldiers fired at his lower extremities. The 20-year-old man suffered moderate gunshot wounds to the leg and abdomen, the Palestinian Ma'an News reported.

There have reportedly been several attempts to place explosives on the border fence in the past several days. Earlier in the day Monday, Gazans fired a rocket that landed near a children's bus stop in the Ashkelon area. The IDF said it would not change plans to ease restrictions on Palestinian Christians in the West Bank and Gaza for the Christmas holiday.

In the past two months, 4 Israeli soldiers have been killed and 15 attacks conducted against security personnel and civilians, including 6 stabbings. In the course of 2013, Palestinians perpetrated a total of 150 acts of terror - an average of one every two days.

US Citizens in Israel Warned Not to Use Public Transport

By DEBKAfile and YnetNews.com

The US embassy in Tel Aviv issued an advisory to Americans Tuesday to refrain from using buses and taxis in Israel in the wake of the surge of Palestinian terror. The warning is in force for two weeks. This week, casualties were narrowly avoided when a bomb blew up on a Bat Yam bus which the driver had evacuated in the nick of time.

The embassy also ordered that US citizen employees of the embassy and their families are temporarily prohibited from using mini-bus shared taxi services (sheroots) in central Israel. The temporary prohibition is in effect for the next two weeks as the embassy will assess the security implications of the December 22 bomb attack on a public bus in Bat Yam.

"US citizens are encouraged to exercise caution and take appropriate measures to ensure their safety and security," the announcement read. US citizens should pay close attention to their surroundings and news reports, and follow the civil defense guidance provided by the Home Front Command."

The driver of Dan line 240 received a certificate of recognition from the city of Bnei Brak for his role in preventing loss of life in Sunday's bombing. "We wish that everyone should be so happy like him to save people whenever they can," the mayor said. The driver of the bus had spotted an unattended bag on board, stopped the vehicle and ordered passengers to disembark. The explosion occurred shortly after.

Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino said that he has sent out more troops to the streets due to the recent terror attacks. "The event in Bat Yam shows how the threat of terror is lingering in the background, specifically now that there are attempts to press on with negotiations."


Magen David Adom Tells Straight Man He Can't Give Blood Because He's Gay

By YnetNews.com

Israel's rescue service Magen David Adom has turned down a blood donation from a man in Haifa, telling him it was because he is registered on their computers as gay. And while Dekel Hasid, 30, says there is nothing wrong with being gay, he is actually straight - and even married.

Hasid is used to giving blood on a regular basis, without any difficulties, but the decision to register him as a homosexual man means that he is placed in an at-risk group, and therefore his blood is not wanted.

"I give blood every few months, and until now there has never been a problem," Hasid told Ynet on Tuesday. "Yesterday I went to the donation center in Haifa and suddenly I was told that there was a note on the computer and (the staffer) would have to clarify the issue. She came back and told me that they couldn't take my blood. I tried to tell her that I was straight, and had never had sex with another man, but it didn't help. She refused to take my blood."

According to Magen David Adom, gay men in Israel cannot give blood. If they do decide to donate, their blood is not used to save lives, but is either disposed of or used in research. There have been several debates on this policy recently, but both the Health Ministry and MDA have decided to continue with the ban.

"There is nothing wrong with being gay, but I am straight and have never slept with a man," Hasid said. "I have been married to a woman for a decade, and have never said or written down that I have had sex with a man. I don't know what made them decide to do this, be it my walk, way of speaking or the fact that I had a gay friend with me the last time I donated blood. but they decided of their own accord to mark me down as gay."

Magen David Adom declined answer to a question on how they label the sexuality of blood donors. The director of Magen David Adom Blood Service, Prof. Ayelet Shenar, told Ynet that the questionnaire given to donors includes a list of all the groups whose members are disqualified from giving blood for transfusions, without giving a specific reason. She said that Hasid's case would be investigated.

Earlier this month, Israel's Ethiopian community was outraged when Knesset Member Pnina Tamano-Shata was refused a blood donation on the grounds she had a "special kind of Jewish-Ethiopian blood." Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Tamano-Shata at the time that he would look into the incident.


161,000 Christians Live in Israel

By YnetNews.com

Data from the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) published Tuesday in light of Christmas indicate that some 161,000 Christians are living in Israel. The data show that 79.8% of them are Christian Arabs and the rest are either Christians that immigrated with their families from the former Soviet Union, or citizens from foreign countries.

According to the report, 84% of Christian Arabs live in northern Israel, including Haifa, and 9.5% reside in the Jerusalem district. The non-Christian Arabs are scattered among various provinces in the country. Approximately 38.8% live in the Tel Aviv district and its neighboring cities, and 34.4% reside in northern Israel and in Haifa.

The Israeli cities with the largest Christian populations are Nazareth (22,400), Haifa (14,600), Jerusalem (11,900) and Shfaram (9,600). The largest communities of non-Arab Christians are concentrated in three major cities – Haifa with 3,400 Christians, Tel Aviv with 3,100 and Jerusalem with 2,900.

The percentage of children and teenagers under the age of 19 is 29.6 %, slightly lower than Jews and much lower than that of the Muslims. Conversely, 10.3% of Christians living in Israel are aged 65 and older, compared with 12.2% among Jews and 3.6% among Muslims.


The data also show that the Christian population in Israel is in no rush to get married. The median age for first marriage of Christian grooms was 28.9 – a year older than Jewish and Druze grooms, and three years older than Muslim grooms.

In contrast, the median age of Christian brides was 24.4 – a year and a half younger than Jewish brides, two year older than Druze brides and three years older than Muslim brides. A Christian woman will bear 2.2 children during her lifetime, the bureau reported. As of now, this figure is the lowest among the various religious groups in the State.

Reports over the years gathering data on education show that the Christian Arabs have the highest rates of success in matriculation exams, both in comparison to the Muslim and the Druze, and in comparison to all students in the Jewish education system.


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