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Gaza tunnels air strike: Israel-Palestinian tensions at highest since 2014 war

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Palestinian militant groups have vowed to respond to an Israeli attack on a militant tunnel that killed seven people and injured nine more in the most dramatic ratcheting of tensions between the Gaza Strip and Israel since 2014’s Operation Protective Edge. 

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said that Monday night’s rare strikes on the border, which has remained tense but quiet since the last war, had targeted an “active tunnel” which had reached Israeli territory. 

It is believed to have been operated by the Islamic Jihad Movement,  five members of which were among those killed and injured in the attack, according to Gaza’s health ministry. The two others who died were part of Hamas’ Izz Eddine al-Qassam Brigades. At least one senior commander is believed to be among the dead. 

Gaza marks 10 years of Israeli blockade

“We affirm our right to respond to the aggression of the occupation today,” the Islamic Jihad Movement said in a statement overnight.

Hamas, the militant organisation which rules the Strip, said in a Twitter post that the attack constitutes a “a new war against Gaza people“.

Egyptian mediators are reported to be working to calm the situation, but Israel is on high alert in case of a retaliatory attack.

While the IDF did not elaborate on how the tunnel was destroyed,  Palestinian news agency Wafa reported five missiles hit the tunnel east of the town of Khan Younis, two kilometres (1.2 miles) away from the border wall.

Israeli military spokesperson Ronen Manelis said that the tunnel had been under surveillance for some time and was destroyed in a defensive operation.

He added that the strike had not intended to cause fatalities, and most of those killed had died because of smoke inhalation when they tried to enter the tunnel to rescue people after the attack. 

In the last round of fighting in 2014, Hamas used a large tunnel network to try and facilitate attacks on Israel, although none of the incursions managed to reach civilian areas. 

Destroying the underground system has since become a top priority for the IDF. 

“Those who try to harm us, we harm them,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement, praising the state-of-the-art technology being used to target tunnels. “Today we detected a tunnel and destroyed it and we will continue to do so.” 

The Palestinian Authority’s Fatah, in the West Bank, called for a dialogue with its Gaza rivals to discuss responses to the Israeli strike. 

“I am that girl”: Huda Ali Ghalia, who was filmed after family was killed on Gaza beach, graduates

The two parties announced earlier this month they had struck a reconciliation deal creating a unity government to once again administer both the West Bank and Gaza after the rift caused by Hamas’s takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007. 

As such, the timing of the strike may put pressure on the agreement, widely viewed as the biggest step forward for internal Palestinian relations in a decade.

The coastal enclave has since been subject to both an Israeli blockade and Fatah strangulation of electricity and other resources, crippling its economy and leaving much of the territory’s population of 1.8 million dependent on aid. 

Independent

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Middle East

15 Civilians Killed, Injured in Turkish Strikes on Afrin: Official

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ERBIL — At least two civilians were killed and 13 others were wounded on Sunday as a result of the Turkish military assault on Afrin, northwest of Syria, a local official said.

Osama Sheikh Issa, co-chair of Afrin local administration told Kurdistan24 that what Turkey is trying to achieve is having revenge on the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection (YPG) and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) fighter’s victory against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria.

“All of the casualties of the Turkish attacks were civil people who had nothing to do with the war” he pointed out.

Issa also asserted that the residents of Afrin are confidently staying in their city, but the displaced Syrian people who had found refuge in Afrin are in danger because of the Turkish assault on the city.

He further ensured that “none of the YPG and YPJ units have been targeted by the Turkish strikes, in deed all the attacks have been aimed at the homes of civilians in Afrin”.

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Middle East

Iran Calls on Turkey to Halt Afrin Operation

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ERBIL — The Islamic Republic of Iran has called on Turkey to halt the Afrin operation and respect Syria’s territorial integrity, said a spokesperson for Iranian Foreign Ministry.

According to Mehr News Agency, Bahram Ghasemi said that Iran is closely and concernedly following the current developments in the city of Afrin.

“Iran hopes that the operation will immediately come to an end to stop the deepening of the crisis in the border areas of Turkey and Syria” he added. 

“The continuation of the crisis in Afrin may further strengthen the takfirist-terrorist groups in the northern Syrian regions, and flare up the fires of war ” warned the Iranian foreign ministry.

Qasemi also drew attention to the Astana peace talks and stated that all countries, especially Turkey, are expected to remain committed to the political solution, especially Astana peace process, for the Syrian crisis and continue observing their commitments and playing their constructive role in the resolution of the crisis.

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Middle East

[Watch]: YPG Destroys Turkish Tank near Afrin

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ERBIL — The US-backed Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) released a footage on Sunday which shows them destroying a Turkish tank near the border city of Afrin.

The YPG fighters appear in the video destroying a Turkish tank with an anti-tank missile.

Turkey on Saturday launched a new air and ground operation on Afrin, a Kurdish city in the northwest of Syria, dubbed as the “Olive Branch Operation”.

The assault has so far left dozens killed and injured, including civilians and fighters from the both sides.

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