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Israeli and Hamas Source Confirm 'Indirect Contacts'


An Israeli source confirmed on Tuesday night there had been indirect contacts between Israel and Hamas, hours after sources in the terrorist group said Israel and Hamas have been holding indirect contacts about ideas for cementing a long-term truce in Gaza. "There are contacts with Egypt and other elements over an easing of the blockade and the entry of materials to Gaza in exchange for quiet," the Israeli source told AFP.

"But Hamas is finding it difficult to control Islamic Jihad and other elements in order to do this," he said, referring to the recent flurry of sporadic rocket fire from Gaza, most of which have been claimed by a small Islamic extremist group bent on challenging the ruling Hamas movement.

A source with Hamas told AFP earlier that the contacts with Israel have gone through a number of Arab and European channels in a bid to firm up an informal ceasefire agreement that took hold last August, ending a 50-day war in Gaza started when Hamas escalated its rocket attacks on Israeli civilian centers. "There has been indirect contact between Israel and Hamas, messages passed via Arab channels as well as through European and Turkish sources," one of the sources said, describing it as "an indirect exchange of ideas."

The Egyptian-brokered truce came into effect on August 26, with the sides pledging to resume indirect contacts within a month to pin down a lasting ceasefire and discuss crunch issues. But the follow-up talks were delayed several times and never formally resumed. "We are ready for an agreement. Hamas wants to solve the problems in Gaza," the source said. But he insisted the contacts were purely informal and that there was no formal initiative or proposal on the table.

Tuesday's report confirms an earlier report from May which said the sides were holding secret negotiations on finding a way to deliver goods more efficiently to Gaza. Those reports described the talks as being directly between Israel and Hamas, and taking place in various European capitals, under the authority of Turkey.

Even as it negotiates an extension of the ceasefire, Hamas has been secretly rebuilding its terrorist attack tunnels into Israeli territory and developing its domestic rocket arsenal for its next attack against Israel; last summer's war was the group's third attempt to destroy the Jewish state.

The contacts have gone through a number of Arab and European channels in a bid to firm up an informal ceasefire agreement that took hold last August, ending a 50-day war in Gaza started when Hamas escalated its rocket attacks on Israeli civilian centers. "We are ready for an agreement. Hamas wants to solve the problems in Gaza," the source said. But he insisted the contacts were purely informal and that there was no formal initiative or proposal on the table.

The Hamas source said the discussions were about an agreement of five to 10 years, and focused on key issues for Hamas such as ending Israel's "blockade," which has been allowing hundreds of trucks with materials in every day, and the establishment of a sea passage between Gaza and the outside world that Israel has firmly rejected so as to prevent the influx of weapons certain to follow from the move. He did not say whether other Palestinian Arab factions were involved in the talks, such as the Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas which was heavily involved in the Egyptian-brokered talks that ended the conflict.

IDF Declares 'Closed Military Zone' in Golan, Then Cancels

By DEBKAfile, &

The IDF on Tuesday afternoon temporarily declared a region in the north-east of the Golan Heights near the border with Syria as a "closed military territory," but just a short time later cancelled the closed zone opening it back up to the public. The order had blocked access for citizens who do not live in the region, so as to allow IDF forces to freely move in routes adjacent to the border.

"The IDF is closely following the developments in the fighting in Syria and on the Golan Heights border," the IDF released in a statement. It added that the army "is working to preserve the security in the area."

Despite the statement focusing on Syrian fighting, the security services stressed that the closure of the area was meant to prevent gatherings of Israelis adjacent to the border barrier which would interfere with ongoing routine IDF activities, and stated that the move was not directly taken as a countermeasure to the fighting in Syria. There have been numerous instances of "spillover" of mortar shells and machine gun fire as rebel forces, regime forces and Islamic State (ISIS) duke it out over the border in the Syrian side of the Golan.

In April, Iranian officials reportedly told the visiting Syrian defense minister to heighten tensions against Israel and open a war front on the Golan Heights, in a bid to further spread the regional influence of the Shi'ite Islamic regime. The call was followed by several more "spillover" incidents.

Experts have revealed Iran is spending $35 billion a year to prop up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, and is likewise deploying thousands of its troops in the country. The reason for this is that Iran needs to maintain a route of access through Syria to the Mediterranean by which it can supply weapons to Hizbullah and strengthen its growing regional influence.

Israel's Druze community in the north has been protesting over the last week, calling on the government to assist family and friends in Syria who face danger from advancing Islamic State and al-Qaeda affiliated militants.

IDF Chief Gadi Eisenkot said Tuesday morning, without explicitly mentioning the Druze, that the IDF would prevent the massacre of refugees in Syria if a large number of them fled to Israel's border. Eisenkot's comments were made at a meeting of the Knesset's Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee.

Eisenkot said that millions of refugees are in Syria and Jordan, while 1.8 million are in Lebanon, sending demographic and economic ripples throughout the region. Therefore, he said, the IDF is very concerned about the situation in the Golan Heights and within Syria, particularly because of the possibility that the IDF will have to deal with refugees arriving from Syria at the Israeli border.

The Chief of Staff brought committee members up to speed about ongoing changes in the region, saying that without intervention by Hizbullah and Iran in Syria, the Assad would likely fall. As of right now, he said, thousands of Hizbullah militants are fighting in Syria, and the group is Israel's primary immediate threat. Hizbullah, said Eisenkot, armed itself with sophisticated weapons such as unmanned aerial vehicles, missiles, rockets, and anti-aircraft guns.

Eisenkot also emphasized that Hizbullah is investing strength on the Syrian front and has lost hundreds of its fighters. An estimated one hundred fighters have been killed in the last month alone, and the organization as a whole is said to be in a dire strategic situation.

Unique 3,000-Year Old Hebrew Inscription Found Near Jerusalem

By DEBKAfile &

The name "Eshba'al Ben Bada" came to light after the fragments of a pot found at the Hurvat Kiyafa dig at Emek Ha'Elah - led by the Hebrew University's Prof. Yosef Garfinkel and Saar Ganor of the Antiquities Authority – had been painstakingly assembled. This and other findings at the site were presented to the public Tuesday.

The name is found in the Bible in only one period: the reign of King David. Samuel II Ch. 3-4 refers to Eshba'al (identified as Ish-Boshet) as David's rival in Judea. His name on a clay container attests to his having been a landowner important enough to have his product packed in containers bearing his name.

Clearly, the early days of the Israelite kingdom saw the emergence of a much more ordered society than once believed as well as a wealthy class. Only few Hebrew inscriptions were found from 10th century BCE Judea until recently. But the few discovered in the last five years revealed the existence of a kingdom run on organized lines employing clerks and writers.

The ceramic jar, that was broken into numerous shards, was discovered in 2012 in excavations carried out there by Garfinkel and Ganor. Letters written in ancient Canaanite script could be discerned on several of the shards, sparking the curiosity of researchers.

Intensive restoration work conducted in the laboratories of the Israel Antiquities Authority Artifacts Treatment Department, during which hundreds of pottery shards were glued together to form a whole jar, solved the riddle – the jar bears the inscription: Eshba'al Ben Bada'al. Dr. Mitka Golub and Dr. Haggai Misgav were among the team of researchers involved in deciphering the text.

"This is the first time that the name Eshba'al has appeared on an ancient inscription in the country. Eshba'al Ben Shaul, who ruled over Israel at the same time as David, is known from the Bible. Eshba'al was murdered by assassins and decapitated and his head was brought to David in Hebron (II Samuel, Chaps. 3-4)." Professor Yosef Garfinkel of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University and Saar Ganor of the IAA stated. "It is interesting to note that the name Eshba'al appears in the Bible, and now also in the archaeological record, only during the reign of King David, in the first half of the tenth century BCE," Garfinkel and Ganor said

Researchers suggest that Eshba'al was important, due to his prominence enough to be inscribed on the pottery. He was apparently the owner of a large agricultural estate and the produce collected there was packed and transported in jars that bore his name. This is clear evidence of social stratification and the creation of an established economic class that occurred at the time of the formation of the Kingdom of Judah.

"In II Samuel there was apparently reluctance to use the name Eshba'al, which was reminiscent of the Canaanite storm god Ba'al, and the original name was therefore changed to Ish-Bashat, but the original name of Eshba'al was preserved in the Book of Chronicles," Garfinkel and Ganor added. "Thus, for example, the name of the warlord Gideon Ben Joash was also changed from Jerrubaal to Jerubesheth."

'Terminator' Voices Waze Directions


Drivers using the Waze application can now receive directions from none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Austrian-born actor and former California governor lent his persona as the famed Terminator from the movie franchise to the Israeli-developed community-based traffic and navigation app. The new feature will last through mid-July.

"I'm a Terminator Cyberdyne Systems Model 101, and you're coming with me," Schwarzenegger says as you hit the road. According to USA Today, Schwarzenegger is using the Waze gig to promote his next movie, "Terminator Genesis", opening July 1.

The muscular actor required a one-hour recording session to provide the automated prompts for Waze – from simple commands such as "turn left" to unforgettable quotes such as "Hasta la vista, baby" at the end of the journey. "It is an added entertainment. Where I come in, I'm bringing the Arnold twist," Schwarzenegger said. "Even in the recording studio, people were laughing at every single line when I put the Arnold spin on it."

He added that the voice gig was sweet redemption after being told early in his career that he could not be a leading man because of his thick accent. "Here we are 40 years later and my accent is a big asset. When I dreamt of a career, I had no idea that one day I would be telling 50 million drivers (where) to drive," Schwarzenegger said, adding that he was a fan of the app and would be programming his Waze to Terminator mode.

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