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After Two Rocket Attacks, IAF Strikes Targets in Gaza

By The Times of Israel and DEBKAfile

The IAF launched airstrikes on several targets in the Gaza Strip Thursday night, hours after a rocket was fired from the Strip fire at the western Negev. At least one Palestinian was injured in the strikes, according to initial reports from Gaza. "IAF aircraft targeted terror infrastructure in the Gaza Strip," according to a statement from the army. "A weapon manufacturing facility was targeted in the Central Gaza Strip, and a weapons storage facility was targeted in the Northern Gaza Strip. Direct hits were confirmed."

Palestinian sources said one target was located in Gaza's Sheikh Radwan neighborhood. Israeli aircraft also attacked a training facility used by one of the Palestinian organizations in the Strip, Hamas's television station reported. The strikes were apparently in retaliation for a rocket fired from the Strip earlier Thursday. The rocket fell in an open field in the Eshkol regional council, causing neither casualties or damage.

"Terrorists, under the Hamas rule, have turned Gaza into a heinous sanctuary for rocket terrorism employed against innocent Israeli civilians," IDF spokesman Peter Lerner said. "The manufacturing of rockets in Gaza has no other purpose except to target Israel and its sovereignty putting thousands of lives at risk. We will not tolerate daily aggression from the Hamas ruled territory and are morally obligated to act against those threatening our communities, our towns and our cities."

Thursday's rocket attack was the second in 24 hours. Late Wednesday night, a rocket was fired from Gaza and slammed into an open area near Ashkelon. There were no injuries and no damage in that attack either, officials said. The area has seen heightened tension in recent days between Israel and the Palestinians, with a string of attacks against Israeli civilians, police officers and soldiers, and Israeli retaliatory strikes in Gaza.

Israel holds Hamas responsible for recent attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip and will make the terror group face the consequences, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Thursday. Speaking at an IAF flight course graduation ceremony, Netanyahu praised the retaliatory actions of the air force, which, he said, showed that Israel "will not hesitate to strike those who threaten to damage our existence." The prime minister promised to "act strongly," including using preemptive methods, against "any attack" against Israel. "Israel holds Hamas responsible" for the recent surge in attacks against Israel, he added, promising to "cripple" those who fire on Israel and "those who sponsor them."

On Thursday, it was revealed that security forces had earlier this month arrested a Gaza man, in Israel on a permit to seek medical help, on suspicion that he had planned to carry out a terror attack upon his return to the Strip.

The IDF deployed two Iron Dome rocket-interception batteries to the area near the southern cities of Beersheba, Sderot and Ashdod over Wednesday and Thursday. To meet rising tension from the Gaza Strip, Israel has deployed six Iron Dome anti-missile batteries in the southern towns of Eilat, Ashdod, Be'er Sheva, Netivot, Ashdod and Rehovoth. Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Wednesday that Israel "is fully prepared for a possible escalation from Gaza. Iron Dome is deployed and other preparations made." He spoke while inspecting an exercise by the Givati Brigade, and added: "The [terrorist] attacks in Judea and Samaria are the natural consequence of incitement to hate the State of Israel, for which the Palestinian Authority is responsible." Ya'alon also said that Israel may review the question of liberating jailed Palestinian terrorists next week in the light of events.

New Palestinian Terror Weapon: the Austrian Steyr .50 Assassin's Rifle from Hizbullah

By DEBKAfile

The Palestinians are using a new weapon in their current campaign of terror against Israel. It is the Austrian single-shot Steyr 50 caliber sniper rifle which has an effective accurate range of up to 1,500 meters. DEBKAfile's counter-terror sources report that Palestinian terrorist planners intend to expand its use in the hands of highly-trained marksmen to keep pace with deliveries by Iran's Lebanese proxy Hizbullah of the Iranian-made version of this assassin's weapon to the Gaza Strip.

The Lebanese Shiite Hizbullah has already tested the Steyr 50 on the Syrian battlefield for picking off rebel targets. Appreciating its effectiveness, the Iranian Al Qods Brigades chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani recently ordered Hizbullah to start smuggling these rifles into the Gaza Strip, presumably by sea. This new acquisition was sent over to reinvigorate the violent campaign waged against Israel by the radical Palestinian Hamas, Jihad Islami and their allies.

According to our military sources, one of the newly-trained snipers murdered the 21-year old civilian Saleh Abu a-Tayyel this past Tuesday with a single deadly shot. He is a member of the local Popular Resistance Committees which functions under Hamas command. A scout belonging to the Iran-backed Jihad Islami helped him heft the rifle, which is 4.5 feet long and weights 48.4 pounds, into position.

The new features of the current wave of Palestinian anti-Israeli terror are disturbing Israel's military chiefs: It is orchestrated from Istanbul and Gaza by a new command made up of released Palestinian prisoners; Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas has not made the slightest effort to deploy his US-trained security forces to curb the rising violence; and finally the advent of snipers trained to kill with a single accurate bullet fired from a high-powered weapon.

In 2005, the Austrian Steyr Mannlicher shipped 800 of these long-range bolt action anti-materiel rifles to Iran, causing US concern lest they find their way to Iraq for use against coalition forces. Copies of the Austrian Steyr 50 made in Iran were indeed supplied to pro-Iran Iraqi Shiite clandestine groups then fighting the US. Today those groups are sending forces to Syria. There, the Steyr turned up first a year ago, used against Syrian rebels by snipers attached to Iranian special units.

Three months ago, Hizbullah forces began using this sniper's weapon extensively on the Syrian battlefield. Its transfer to Palestinian terrorists for use against Israeli targets may be seen as yet more deadly spillover from the Syrian war.

Shin Bet is Looking for Chinese Speakers to Become `Field Coordinators'


The Shin Bet security agency, ordinarily known for monitoring Palestinian and Israeli terror threats, is now looking to hire fluent Chinese speakers. In an ad posted to its website, the Shin Bet said it was seeking a highly qualified "Chinese-speaking field coordinator" to fill "challenging" intelligence-gathering positions.

Candidates must speak fluent Chinese — the ad didn't say whether Mandarin or Cantonese — and have good English, and also hold an undergraduate degree. They should also be veterans of combat units or former army officers, the ad said.

According to Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, the agency seeks to monitor and gather intelligence on Chinese foreign workers in Israel in order to ascertain that they are not communicating sensitive information to Beijing. China, a close ally of Iran, exports tens of thousands of foreign workers to Israel each year, where they work in construction, the hospitality industry and a variety of other occupations.

But fearing that the People's Republic might send spies to Israel under the guise of laborers, the Shin Bet has apparently identified the stream of workers as a potential threat that it now seeks to monitor more closely. Israel last week hosted China's Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Beijing in May.

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