Newsletter : 14fx0116.txt
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Iron Dome Downs Five Rockets Aimed at Ashkelon
Warning sirens wailed in the southern city just before 2 a.m. local time, alerting
residents to quickly find shelter. Ashkelon and other southern Israeli cities near Gaza
were the targets of constant rocket fire for years before Operation Pillar of Defense in
November 2012. Rocket fire from the Strip was reduced dramatically following the 8-day
On Thursday at least five rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip in the direction
of Ashkelon,. The Iron Dome missile defense system most likely intercepted all
No injuries or damage were reported. A red alert siren sounded in and around Ashkelon
prior to the interceptions. The IDF is combing the area to see if another rocket launched
at the region had hit an open area.
On Monday, only a short time after leaders from Israel and the world left the northern
Negev ranch where former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was laid to rest, two rockets were
launched at the area. There were no injuries or damage reported.
13,000 Teenagers Complete Hamas Training Camps to Emulate `Suicide Martyrs'
By The Times of Israel
The Hamas government in Gaza celebrated the graduation on Monday of paramilitary camps
geared at training high-school children "to follow in the footsteps of the suicide
martyrs." The camps, titled "the pioneers of liberation," are run by Hamas's ministries of
education and interior. Some 13,000 students in grades 10-12 participated in the one-week
training camps this year, compared to 5,000 last year when the program was launched,
Israeli sources with knowledge of the program said.
The corps of instructors consists mainly of active members of Hamas' security forces,
and the curriculum includes weapons training, first aid, self defense, marching exercises
and "security awareness" classes on identifying Israeli spies.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, Interior Minister Fathi Hammad and Education
Minister Usama Mzeini attended the graduation ceremony, each delivering fiery speeches
stressing the importance of military training in developing a new generation of
Palestinian combatants. "Beware this generation," Haniyeh said, addressing Israel. "This
is a generation which knows no fear. It is the generation of the missile, the tunnel and
the suicide operations."
The Hamas prime minister added that female trainers are also on staff "to oversee the
training of the young women to follow in the footsteps of the female suicide
Hammad, the interior minister, said the training was in preparation for the coming war
with Israel. "This generation is a sapling from God on earth. It will harvest the enemies
of God and be the pride of all nations," he said.
Hamdi Shaqura, deputy director of program affairs at the Palestinian Center for Human
Rights, a Gaza-based watchdog, said that his organization issued no statement on the
training. "To the best of my knowledge no other organization in Gaza issued a statement
either," he told The Times of Israel.
Omar Dawabha, an eleventh-grader who took part in the training, was quoted on the
website of Hamas' interior ministry saying that "he learned how to safeguard our rights
and principles." Another student, Mohammed Abu Nar, addressed the Al-Aqsa Mosque in
Jerusalem at the graduation ceremony. "We are the pioneers of liberation, we are coming to
purify you from the Zionists," he said.
Israel Closely Eyes Dismantling of Syria's Chemical Weapons
By Reuters and Israel Hayom
The internationally monitored convoys removing Syria's chemical weapons are at little
risk of being seized by rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad or by his Lebanese
Hizbullah allies, a senior Israel Defense Forces officer said on Tuesday.
The statement suggests that Israel, which according to foreign reports bombed targets
in Syria last year to prevent suspected transfers from Assad's arsenal to hostile
terrorists, is holding fire as tons of toxins are trucked out, in some cases through war
zones not under Assad's control.
"We are not poised for a situation in which a convoy encounters rebels. This is
something being addressed by the international forces that are there," the officer told
Reuters, referring to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which is
overseeing the disarmament process.
He said the organization's role would also prevent Hizbullah, which has fighters in
Syria helping Assad in the almost three-year rebellion, from redirecting trucks to
Lebanon. "I reckon such a scenario is not possible," said the officer, who declined to be
named under military secrecy.
Syria agreed to abandon its chemical weapons by June under a deal worked out by Russia
and the United States after the Aug. 21 sarin gas attack near Damascus, which Western
nations blamed on Assad forces. The Syrian government blames rebels for the attack.
Around 1,300 tons of Syrian chemical weapons are slated for decommissioning. Some are
to be shipped from Latakia port for destruction on a specially converted U.S. vessel.
Syria loaded a first batch of chemicals onto a Danish cargo vessel last Tuesday, a week
after missing the original Dec. 31 target to ship out all the deadliest chemicals. The
OPCW has called on Assad's government to speed up the process. An official contacted by
Reuters on Tuesday declined to say whether any further cargoes had been loaded onto ships.
Israel has welcomed the stripping of Syria's chemical arsenal while warning world
powers that Damascus could renege. "We are very preoccupied by places [in Syria] where --
perhaps -- the weapons have not been dismantled, and remain, and may end up in Lebanon,"
the Israeli officer said, without elaborating. "We are looking very closely for this, and
we really do not want it to happen."
Regional security sources said that on at least three occasions last year Israel bombed
convoys or depots in Syria that it believed held advanced weapons destined for Hizbullah.
Israel has not formally confirmed carrying out those raids, which drew retaliation threats
from Damascus. While not commenting on specific actions, the Israeli officer acknowledged
that intervening militarily now could upset a disarmament campaign coordinated by numerous
"I know that, as of now, no convoy has been harmed. I don't know what will happen
tomorrow, but I am not preparing for a situation in which I would be the one 'protecting'
these convoys," the officer said.
Asked if the possibility of inadvertently harming foreigners accompanying the convoys
might stay Israel's hand, the officer said: "Yes, unequivocally. We very much do not want
to undermine this process of the chemical weapons being dismantled. It is a dramatic event
in terms of Israel's security outlook. It is, without a doubt, an achievement."
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