No Cease-fire: Israel Pounds Gaza After Hamas Reportedly Kidnapped Israeli Soldier

The Associated Press| Foxnews

Tank fire and airstrikes pummeled Gaza, as Israeli forces moved deeper into the West Bank, searching for a soldier apparently captured by Hamas militants, despite a three-day cease-fire that didn’t even last two hours Friday.

The suspected kidnapping occurred shortly after a heavy exchange of gunfire erupted in the southern Gaza town of Rafah. Militants reportedly emerged from a tunnel shaft before a suicide bomber detonated himself, one senior Israel Defense Forces source told The Jerusalem Post.

Hadar Goldin, a 23-year-old 2nd Lt. from the central Israeli town of Kfar Saba, was apparently captured during the ensuing mayhem and taken back into Gaza through a tunnel, while another two soldiers were killed.

Haaretz reported Saturday that Hamas’ military wing said it had no knowledge of the soldier’s whereabouts, but he could have been killed in an Israeli bombing after being nabbed by Hamas.

“We lost contact with the group of combatants that took part in the ambush, and we believe they were all killed in the bombardment,” the statement said. “Assuming that they managed to abduct the soldier during combat, we assess that he was also killed in the incident.”

At least 62 Palestinians and two Israeli soldiers were killed in the fierce fighting that quickly shattered an internationally brokered cease-fire.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Secretary of State John Kerry that Hamas militants will ”bear the consequences of their actions, ” after reports of the kidnapping. Netanyahu told Kerry by phone Friday that Israel will continue to defense itself against attacks, Jewish newspaper Algemeiner reported.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu told U.S. Secretary of State Kerry that Hamas and the other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip will bear the consequences of their actions and that Israel would take all necessary steps against those who call for our destruction and perpetrate terrorism against our citizens,” an Israeli government press office statement read.

Kerry issued a statement while traveling back to the U.S. from India Friday, condemning the violence in Gaza and possible kidnapping of the Israeli soldier, calling it an ‘”outrageous violation of the cease-fire. “

“Hamas, which has security control over the Gaza Strip, must immediately and unconditionally release the missing Israeli soldier, and I call on those with influence over Hamas to reinforce this message,” Kerry’s statement said.

“The international community must now redouble its efforts to end the tunnel and rocket attacks by Hamas terrorists on Israel and the suffering and loss of civilian life,” the statement concluded.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon blamed Hamas for violating the cease-fire and demanded the immediate and unconditional release of the missing soldier.

A Hamas spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum, would neither confirm nor deny the capture, saying it was being used — along with news that two Israeli soldiers were killed in the Rafah area — as a cover for a “massacre.”

The Israeli military said the heavy shelling in Rafah that followed was part of operational and intelligence activity designed to locate Goldin. 62 Palestinians died and at least 400 were wounded in Rafah, Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said. Rescue workers were searching for people buried under the rubble, he added. He did not say whether those killed were civilians or militants.

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor sent a letter to U.N. Secretary –General Ban Ki-moon Friday, calling for the U.N. to condemn Hamas for violating the cease-fire and preventing humanitarian assistance in Gaza.  The letter also demanded Hamas be held responsible for murdering and kidnapping Israelis, and called for the missing soldier’s safe return.

“While Israel agreed to this cease-fire to allow humanitarian relief for the people of Gaza, Hamas agreed so that it could plan and carry out an attack and kidnap a soldier.  Hamas has sent hundreds of suicide bombers into our cities and towns and kidnapped our children.  In the last month, Hamas has also launched 3,073 rockets into Israel. How much more evidence is needed before the United Nations will finally designate Hamas as a terrorist organization and call for its disarmament?” the letter read.

Britain’s Channel 4 News reported that the soldier is from a family of British-Jewish immigrants and is a cousin – either second or third – of Israeli’s defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon.

The cease-fire took effect at 8 a.m. local time and was expected to last for a period of 72 hours.  Both Israel and Hamas accused each other of breaking the cease-fire within two hours of its start.

U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken said Friday if the soldier was, in fact, kidnapped by Hamas militants, it was a “barbaric violation of the cease-fire agreement,” and he must be immediately released.

“We urge those with influence over Hamas to exercise that influence to get Hamas to return the soldier that has been taken hostage and to live up to the agreements that were made just yesterday,” Blinken said.

“There’s no doubt that that soldier should be returned unharmed and immediately.”

Read the complete post at Foxnews

Rockets Fired; Israel-Hamas Truce Appears Over

Karl Penhaul, Chelsea J. Carter and Ray Sanchez| CNN

A tenuous cease-fire in Gaza appeared to be over Saturday, with militant rockets again hurtling towards Israel as diplomats pushed for a longer truce in a conflict that has killed more than 1,000 people — mostly civilians.

Israel had agreed to extend a humanitarian 12-hour cease-fire for four hours Saturday, but Hamas spokesman Abu Zuhri said there would be no extension.

The cease-fire started at 8 a.m. Saturday (1 a.m. ET). The temporary truce enabled Palestinians to move medical supplies into Gaza, families to emerge from shelters and people to dig the dead from piles of rubble.

The prospect of an extension faded quickly as the Israel Defense Forces accused militants of exploiting the humanitarian window by firing at Israel for the second time, with three rockets hitting the Sha’ar HaNegev regional council. Earlier Saturday, moments after the cease-fire officially ended, another three mortars were fired from Gaza and hit Israel in the Eshkol regional council. No casualties or damage were reported.

The IDF said many Gaza residents were returning to previously evacuated areas despite repeated warnings, placing themselves at risk. It said operations against the tunnel threat continued and defensive positions were being maintained.

Israeli government officials told CNN that the United Nations has asked for a 24-hour humanitarian cease-fire extension. As a first stage, the Cabinet approved four additional hours until midnight, giving the Israeli Cabinet time to convene and discuss the request.

“We owe to the people of both Israel and Gaza our renewed effort to consolidate this pause in fighting into a more sustainable ceasefire,” U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in statement, reiterating his call for seven-day humanitarian cease-fire.

Palestinians found more than 100 bodies in areas that have been too dangerous to enter in recent days because of Israeli bombardment, Dr. Ashraf al-Qedra from the Gaza Ministry of Health told CNN Saturday.

More than 1,000 Palestinians have been killed and over 5,840 wounded since the start of an Israeli operation, al-Qedra said.

There are news reports of Israel agreeing to extend the truce by four hours. But the possibility of a longer truce seemed remote, according to comments from the Hamas camp.

“There won’t been any talks about extending the cease-fire as long as there aren’t talks about breaking the siege,” said Israa Al-Mudalal of the Gaza Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Read the complete article at CNN

Netanyahu Orders Israeli Military To Prepare For ‘Significant Expansion’ Of Gaza Ground Offensive

Associated Press | FOXNEWS

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the military Friday to prepare for a “significant expansion” of its ground operation against Gaza militants.

Netanyahu said the military’s primary goal would be to destroy underground tunnels used by Hamas to attack the Jewish State. The announcement came hours after Israeli ground troops and tanks struck more than 100 terror targets in Israel’s first major ground offensive in Gaza in just over five years.

The offensive follows an Egyptian effort earlier this week to halt hostilities. Israel accepted the terms, but Hamas refused, demanding that Israel and Egypt first give guarantees to ease the blockade on Gaza.

“Since there is no way to deal with the tunnels only from the air, our soldiers are doing it now from the ground,” Netanyahu said at the opening of an emergency cabinet meeting in Tel Aviv, the Jerusalem Post reported. “We decided to launch the action after we tried all the other ways, and with an understanding that without this operation the price we will have to pay later would be much higher.”

Tanks, infantry and engineering forces were operating inside the coastal strip. In a statement, the military said it targeted rocket launchers, tunnels and more than 100 other targets. Throughout the night, the thud of tank shells echoed across Gaza, often just a few seconds apart. Several explosions from Israeli missile strikes shook high-rise buildings in central Gaza City. Pillars of smoke could be seen from the Israeli side of the border.

At Gaza’s main Shifa Hospital, casualties quickly began arriving, including several members of the same family wounded by shrapnel from tank shells. Among those hurt were a toddler and a boy of elementary school age, their bodies pocked by small bloody wounds.

Read the complete article at Foxnews 

Israel Deploys Ground Troops in Gaza

Associated Press |  Foxnews

Israel warned residents of the northern part of the Gaza Strip to evacuate their homes before briefly deploying ground troops there for the first time early Sunday as part of a widening offensive that has killed more than 160 Palestinians.

Neither Israel nor Palestinian militants show signs of agreeing to a cease-fire to end their weeklong conflict, despite calls by the United Nations Security Council and others that they lay down their arms. With Israel massing tanks and soldiers at Gaza’s borders, some fear the latest Israeli threats could signal a wider ground offensive that would bring even heavier casualties than the 166 Palestinian deaths already registered.

“All our ground forces are ready,” a senior Israeli military official said Sunday. “We have been training for this. We will exploit our ability the moment a decision is made to do so.”

Early Sunday, Israeli naval commandos launched a brief raid into northern Gaza to destroy what the military described as a rocket-launching site, an operation it said left four of its soldiers slightly wounded.

The Israeli air force later dropped leaflets warning residents to evacuate their homes ahead of what Israel’s military spokesman described as a “short and temporary” campaign against northern Gaza to begin sometime after 12 p.m. (0900 GMT). The area is home to at least 100,000 people.

It was not clear whether the possible attack would be confined to stepped-up airstrikes or whether it might include a sizeable ground offensive — something that Israel has so far been reluctant to undertake.

As the ultimatum drew near, hundreds fled Beit Lahiya, one of the communities the Israeli announcement affected. Some raced by in pickup trucks, waving white flags.

“They are sending warning messages,” resident Mohammad Abu Halemah said. “Once we received the message, we felt scared to stay in our homes. We want to leave.”

Adnan Abu Hassna, a spokesman for the U.N. agency in charge of aiding Palestinian refugees, said eight schools were opened as temporary shelters, and about 4,000 people had moved in. He said more schools would be opened if needed.

Essam Al Sultan, 46, a farmer from Beit Lahiya said he had taken the decision to flee the area because the youngest of his eight children had been terrorized by the constant sound of explosions in and around their community.

`For me I don’t fear death because we are dying every single moment of this war but I left because I want to protect my family,” he said.

Ignoring international appeals for a cease-fire, Israel widened its range of Gaza bombing targets Saturday to include civilian institutions with suspected Hamas ties. One strike hit a center for the disabled, killing two patients and wounding four people. In a second attack, an Israeli air strike flattened the home of a cousin of Gaza police chief Taysir al-Batsh and damaged a nearby mosque as evening prayers ended, killing at least 18 people. Fifty were wounded, including al-Batsh himself, who had earlier received warnings that he was an Israeli target and had moved away from his own home.

On Sunday, hundreds chanting “God is Great” joined the funeral procession for 17 members of al-Batsh’s extended family who were killed. Among the dead were his cousin and her husband, along with the couple’s seven children, ranging in age from 13 to 28. A neighbor also was killed.

Mourners carried the bodies, wrapped in the green flags of the Islamic militant Hamas, through the streets on stretchers.

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Massive West African Ebola Outbreak ‘Now In A Second Wave’

Javier Panzar | Los Angeles Times

The Ebola outbreak is devastating West Africa and will spread to more countries unless more aid is provided, an official with the group Doctors Without Borders said Friday.

The outbreak has been linked to 337 deaths across Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia and is now the deadliest on record, according to numbers released by the World Health Organization.

International governments and aid organizations need to send more health experts to the area and step up education efforts tocurb the outbreak, Bart Janssens, director of operations for Doctors Without Borders in Brussels, told the Associated Press on Friday.

“The reality is clear that the epidemic is now in a second wave,” Janssens said. “And, for me, it is totally out of control.”

He said it was the first Ebola epidemic in which Doctors Without Borders teams “cannot cover all the needs, at least for treatment centers.”

It is the deadliest outbreak of Ebola hemorrhagic fever since the first reported outbreak in 1976 killed 280 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the WHO.

“This is the highest outbreak on record and has the highest number of deaths, so this is unprecedented so far,” Armand Sprecher, a public health specialist with Doctors Without Borders, told the Associated Press.

Read the complete article at The LA Times

Thousands Cheer Pro-Russia Rebels At Ukraine Rally

ASSOCIATED PRESS |  Foxnews

Driven out of their key stronghold in eastern Ukraine, pro-Russia separatists regrouped Sunday in the city of Donetsk, vowing to renew their fight against the government in Kiev before thousands of cheering supporters at a rally.

Ukrainian troops on Saturday forced the rebels out of Slovyansk, a city of about 100,000 that had been the center of the fighting. The government’s success there suggested it may finally be making gains in the months-long battle against the insurgency.

President Petro Poroshenko said, while it was not a total victory, purging Slovyansk of the armed insurgents had “incredible symbolic importance.”

It was not yet clear, however, whether the rebels have been permanently crippled and their setback will also increase pressure on Russia to do more to help them.

Rebel fighters from Slovyansk and other towns taken over by the Ukrainian army moved freely Sunday around central Donetsk, a city of 1 million and the capital of a region where the separatists have declared independence in the name of the Donetsk People’s Republic.

The insurgents control the regional administration building and checkpoints on the city outskirts, but Ukrainian forces demonstrated their superior firepower in repelling a rebel attempt to take control of Donetsk airport in late May. That battle left dozens of rebel fighters dead.

Igor Girkin, the defense minister of the separatist republic, told the Russian television channel Life News on Sunday that he would keep up the fight from Donetsk.

“We will continue the combat operations and will try not to make the same mistakes that we made in the past,” said Girkin, a Russian also known by his nom de guerre, Igor Strelkov. Ukrainian authorities have identified him as a veteran of the Russian military intelligence agency.

At the rally Sunday afternoon on a square in Donetsk, people waved flags from Russia and the Donetsk People’s Republic.

“We will begin a real partisan war around the whole perimeter of Donetsk,” Pavel Gubarev, the self-described governor of the Donetsk People’s Republic, told the crowd. “We will drown these wretches in blood.”

But he said the insurgents could easily die in Donetsk if Russia did not come to their aid.

They were forced to flee Slovyansk because several commanders had betrayed Girkin and left his forces vulnerable to attack, Gubarev said.

Despite the bravado in the city, the mood was dire Sunday at a rebel checkpoint on the outskirts of Donetsk.

“We will fight to the end because we have nowhere left to retreat,” said one of the masked fighters, a 32-year-old former coal miner who would give only his first name, Artyom, due to fears of retaliation. “I don’t want to fall into the hands of the Ukrainian authorities, those fascists.”

He said the insurgents still hope for help from Russia “but the hope grows weaker with every day.”

Ukraine and the West have accused Russia of fomenting the insurgency by sending troops and weapons, including tanks and rocket launchers. Moscow has denied providing soldiers or military equipment, saying that Russians fighting in the east are private citizens. The insurgents have shot down Ukrainian aircraft, but the military has a clear superiority in firepower.

Rebel leaders have pleaded with the Kremlin for military assistance, and some prominent Russian nationalists have taunted President Vladimir Putin for failing to send troops to the Russian-speaking area.

Putin has so far resisted, wary of having more Western sanctions slapped on Russia.

Nina Yakovleva, a 45-year-old accountant and resident of Donetsk, said she expected nothing good to come of the convergence of rebels in the city.

“We are afraid that Donetsk will be left in ruins like Slovyansk,” she said. “The rebels have brought us war and fear.”

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ISIS Joins Forces With Saddam Loyalists In Bid To Take Baghdad

Benjamin Hall | Foxnews

For 10 years, members of Saddam Hussein’s Baathist party — including many of the dead dictator’s top generals — have hidden in the shadows of Iraq, persecuted by government in Baghdad and plotting, praying and preparing for the chance to reclaim their country.

Now they are back, paired in a bloodthirsty alliance with the brutal jihadis of the Islamic States of Iraq and Syria/Levant. These vicious Islamic radicals fighting alongside top officials from Hussein’s dictatorship, are working to seize control of the battle-scarred nation. For now, their objectives converge.

 “[We are] unified by the same goal, which is getting rid of this sectarian government, ending this corrupt army and negotiating to form a Sunni Region,” a senior Baathist leader told FoxNews.com.

After the invasion of Iraq, thousands of Baathist’s lost their jobs: teachers, doctors, professors, soldiers. Banished from holding any public-sector positions, many found themselves unable to support and feed their families, and their anger grew. This purge is considered one of the major blunders of the invasion, and although it was partly overturned in 2008, the damage had been done.

For a decade, tensions in the Sunni regions simmered under these conditions, as Maliki’s Shia government sought retribution for decades of Saddam’s brutal rule. Many who once were part of the regime found it hard to put food on the table, their anger building as their communities suffered. That the Maliki government continues to shell rebel held cities today, despite the fact many within are innocent civilians, further isolates Sunni communities and pushes them into the sphere of Sunni rebels.

Ultimately it was the failure of Maliki’s government to reach out to these elements that created the ISIS alliance in Iraq. It has drawn comparisons to Syria, where ISIS forces joined with the Free Syrian Army with the intention of toppling Bashar al-Assad’s regime; but in Syria the alliance imploded. The patriotic group fighting to liberate Syria, eventually faced off against the violent jihadists seeking to carve out an extreme fundamentalist state, and today they are at war.

Much has been written about ISIS’s blitzkrieg across northern Iraq, but it is unlikely the fighters would have been as successful without the Baathists. Three of Saddam’s former generals led the takeover of Mosul, and eight of the top 10 generals in the ISIS army are believed to be Baathists. Izzat Douri, a former military commander who Saddam considered to be like a brother, is widely rumored to be in Mosul, overseeing the conflict after hiding out in Qatar and Syria for a decade.

In addition to their military training, the Baathists have been able to tap strong tribal ties in the region to command countless followers. That’s helped to keep the conquered territory in ISIS hands while the army of terrorists and freed soldiers moves forward toward the prize: Baghdad and the holy Shia cities of Karbala and Najaf.

Read the complete article at Foxnews

Pakistan Army Launches ‘Major Offensive’ In North Waziristan

Asia | BBC WORLD

It comes hours after fighter jets carried out air strikes against militant strongholds in the area.

Officials said scores of insurgents were killed in the air raids but this has not been independently confirmed. Among them was a suspected Uzbek leader of the deadly attack on Karachi airport a week ago, they added. At least 28 people were killed in the airport attack, as well as all 10 gunmen.

The BBC’s Mike Wooldridge in Islamabad says a large-scale military offensive in North Waziristan has long been mooted and air strikes in the region have intensified since the attack on Karachi.

It is not clear how many ground troops will be involved, he adds, but military experts warn it will be a complex and challenging operation.

The US has long pressed for such an operation in North Waziristan, one of the last areas in the restive north-west where a large-scale push against insurgents has not taken place.”On the directions of the government, armed forces of Pakistan have launched a comprehensive operation against foreign and local terrorists who are hiding in sanctuaries in North Waziristan,” a military statement said.

The army later said troops had encircled militant bases in the towns of Mirali and Miranshah but it was unclear if fighting was under way. Afghan security forces have been asked to to seal the border on their side, officials said. The operation is said to involve the air force, artillery, tanks and ground troops.

A further statement from the office of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the government had tried to resolve the crisis through dialogue – a reference to peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban that began earlier this year – but it had been frustrated by continued attacks.

Sunday’s air strikes that preceded the ground offensive were in the mountainous Dehgan area of North Waziristan.

Read the complete article at the BBC

US Aircraft Carrier Repositioned In Case Needed In Iraq

DEFENSE | Foxnews

The Pentagon said Saturday that the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush will be repositioned to provide President Obama ‘additional flexibility’ in Iraq.

An Al Qaeda splinter group, known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), has been on the move. The group has been conducting an offensive in the western region of the country and threatens stability in Baghdad.

Obama said Friday his administration would not send U.S. troops into combat. He made clear that any U.S. involvement likely would be limited, pressing the embattled Iraqi government to develop a “political plan” and make a “sincere effort” to resolve sectarian divisions.

“We can’t do it for them,” Obama said.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel ordered the carrier to be moved Saturday from the North Arabian Sea to the Arabian Gulf. The ships are expected to arrive in the area sometime this evening. The air craft carrier will be accompanied by a guided-missile cruiser and a guided-missile destroyer, Rear Adm. John Kirby, a Pentagon press secretary, said. The USS George H.W. Bush, a Nimitz-class carrier, was in the region since February.

The ships carry Tomahawk missiles, which could reach Iraq. The Bush is carrying fighter jets that could also easily get to Iraq, where a fast-moving Islamic insurgency is gaining territory.

Meanwhile, hundreds of young Iraqi men poured into volunteer centers across Baghdad, answering a call by the country’s top Shiite cleric to join the fight against Sunni militants advancing in the north.

Dozens climbed into the back of army trucks, chanting Shiite slogans and hoisting assault rifles, pledging to battle the ISIS, which has launched a lightning advance across the country.

The massive response to the call by the Iranian-born Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, issued via his representative Friday, comes as sectarian tensions are threatening to push the country back toward civil war in the worst crisis since U.S. forces withdrew at the end of 2011.

Read the complete article at Foxnews

500,000 Iraqi Civilians Flee Mosul Fighting, Migration Group Says

Nic Robertson & Laura-Smith Spark | CNN

A day after taking over Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, militants gained nearly complete control of the northern city of Tikrit, witnesses in the city and police officials in neighboring Samarra told CNN.

Heavy fighting erupted inside Tikrit — the hometown of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein — as the military tried to regain control of the city, the sources and a police official in Baghdad said.

According to the witnesses in Tikrit and the Samarra police officials, two police stations in Tikrit had been set on fire and a military base taken over by militants, who are believed to be from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, an al Qaeda splinter group also known as ISIS and ISIL.

The governor of Salaheddin province, of which Tikrit is the capital, was missing, according to the Tikrit and Samarra sources.

Suspected ISIS militants raided the Turkish Embassy in Mosul on Wednesday, capturing 48 people, including diplomats. They also seized parts of Baiji, the site of Iraq’s largest oil refinery, police officials in Tikrit told CNN earlier.

Meanwhile, explosions struck three Shiite areas in Baghdad on Wednesday, killing 25 people and injuring 56, police officials told CNN. The deadliest attack was in Sadr City, where a car bomb exploded near a funeral tent, killing 15 people and wounding 34, police said.

The clashes come on the heels of a sudden and danger-fraught exodus from the fighting in Mosul, which fell to militants Tuesday.

More than 500,000 people have fled the fighting there, the International Organization for Migration said Wednesday.

The group, whose teams have been monitoring the plight of those caught in the onslaught, said the violence had resulted in “a high number of casualties among civilians.”

The northern city’s four main hospitals are inaccessible because of fighting, and some mosques have been converted for use as clinics, the IOM said.

Read the complete article at CNN