Israel ramps up pressure on Hamas in hunt for missing teens

admin   •   June 18, 2014   •   1707

Israeli soldiers take part in an operation to locate three Israeli teens near the West Bank City of Hebron June 17, 2014.
CREDIT: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD

(Reuters) – Israel decided on Tuesday to widen a crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank after troops detained more than 40 members of the Palestinian Islamist group in sweeps conducted in tandem with a search for three missing Jewish teenagers.

The Jewish state accuses Hamas of kidnapping the three youths after they left their religious school in a Jewish settlement in the occupied territory on Thursday. While neither claiming nor denying responsibility, Hamas has commented that abductions were a justified response to the plight of thousands of Palestinians imprisoned by its Israeli enemy.

The Israeli army has carried out house-to-house searches, round-ups of suspects and interrogations in Hebron, a Hamas stronghold, and then in other parts of the West Bank, in a mobilisation on a scale not seen in years.

“We are turning Hamas membership into a ticket to hell,” Naftali Bennett, a far-right member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet, told Israeli Army Radio on Tuesday.

The Palestinian Information Ministry accused Israel of inflicting collective punishment with its West Bank dragnet – a charge echoed by several international human rights groups.

“An entire population is being held hostage to the whims of the Israeli occupation,” the Palestinian ministry said.

Israel has said it does not know if Gil-Ad Shaer and U.S.-Israeli national Naftali Fraenkel, both aged 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19, are alive or what their captors’ demands might be.

At its meeting on Tuesday, Netanyahu’s security cabinet agreed to make more arrests, put up roadblocks and turn Palestinian houses into military observation posts to increase pressure on Hamas, which seeks the Jewish state’s destruction.

An Israeli official said ministers had also debated a proposal to deport West Bank Hamas leaders to Gaza.

Earlier, the army said it had detained 41 Hamas militants in overnight raids, raising to more than 200 the number arrested since Friday. Israel officials acknowledged the operation was two-fold – recovering the missing teenagers and weakening Hamas.

HAMAS ARGUES SELF-DEFENSE

Hamas and other militant groups have in the past seized Israelis to trade for jailed Palestinians. Scores of inmates are on hunger strike to protest against being held without charges.

“Regardless of the party which stood behind the (kidnapping) operation, our people have the right to defend themselves and to stand in solidarity with their prisoners,” Hamas said in a statement on Tuesday.

Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has condemned both the kidnappings and the Israeli dragnet.

Giora Eiland, a retired Israeli general and former national security adviser, said the abductions provided an opportunity to target Hamas in operations that could undermine a new Palestinian unity government formed after Abbas reconciled with his Islamist rivals in April following years of feuding. Infuriated by the surprise intra-Palestinian alliance, Netanyahu called off U.S.-sponsored peace talks with Abbas. “The fragile links between the (Abbas-led Palestinian) Authority and Hamas could become more of a crack,” Eiland told Israel Radio, a day after the Islamists condemned as a “knife in the back” PA efforts to help the Israelis locate the teenagers.

Mirroring scenes played out elsewhere in the West Bank, Israeli soldiers filed through a street of shuttered homes and shops in the town of Jenin on Tuesday, lobbing stun grenades and firing rubber bullets at Palestinians who threw rocks at them.

Israeli and Palestinian security sources said soldiers and police had wounded five Palestinians in Jenin and in confrontations near the cities of Ramallah and Nablus.

Israel showed photographs of what it said were hundreds of weapons, including guns, seized at some of the detainees’ homes.

“As long as our boys remain abducted, Hamas will feel pursued, paralyzed and threatened,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman.

Netanyahu has said the recovery efforts are complicated and could prove protracted. Many Israelis have shown solidarity with the teens’ families on social media and have held prayer vigils.

One of the youth’s mothers, Rachel Fraenkel, thanked her compatriots on a nationally televised broadcast, saying: “We just wish to hug our children home, Naftali, Eyal, Gil-Ad. We love you, we miss you, please be strong, hold on, be strong.”

(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Mark Heinrich)

Israel allows re-entry of foreign caregivers

Marje Pelayo   •   October 19, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The State of Israel’s Ministry of Interior (MOI) has allowed the entry and re-entry of foreign workers in the caregiving sector, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) said in an advisory.

These include Filipino caregivers who were not able to return to Israel due to the travel restrictions amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. 

“The re-entry policy covers licensed foreign caregivers who left Israel to visit their home country prior to the country’s March 18, 2020 travel restriction as a preventive measure against the spread of COVID-19,” the POEA said.

Israel’s Ministry of Interior also expanded the entry outline of foreign workers in the caregiving section including issuance of work permits for foreign caregivers entering Israel for the first time. 

“The entry of both vacationing and new caregivers will be subjected to an official application from the employer/patient’s family with the Population and Immigration Bureau, as well as required to follow all the conditions on their quarantine,” the agency explained. 

As such, upon arrival in Israel, the caregiver must undergo quarantine for 14 days in a facility which is not at the employer/patient’s home. 

The expenses and financial needs of the caregiver during the entire quarantine period will be shouldered by the employer, while the worker will not be paid of his/her salary during the quarantine.

53 Filipinos stranded in Israel back in PH – DFA

Robie de Guzman   •   October 6, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – A group of 53 Filipinos who were repatriated from Israel has arrived in the country, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.

In a statement on Monday, the DFA said the repatriates landed in Manila on Friday after leaving Istanbul on Oct. 1.

The Filipinos were assisted by the Philippine Embassy in Tel Aviv under the voluntary repatriation program (VRP) of Israel’s Population and Immigration Authority (PIBA), the department added.

The flight included six senior citizens, a student, a lady with a medical case, and a one-and-a-half-month-old baby born in Israel who was issued an emergency travel document by the embassy.

The embassy said Filipinos have long wanted to go home but were stranded in the country due to the global pandemic and the series of lockdowns imposed by the Israeli government.

“Many of them have overstayed their visas in Israel, and I am glad that they will be able to at last reunite with their families after a long absence,” Philippine Ambassador to Israel Neal Imperial said.

Imperial said the embassy and Israel’s immigration authority have been working together since last year to ensure orderly treatment for Filipino with no valid visas to enable their return to the Philippines.

“The embassy evaluates the applications and endorses them to PIBA, for further assessment and approval,” he said.

“VRP grantees are exempt from arrest and detention, and are provided free plane tickets to the Philippines,” he added.

The ambassador also expressed gratitude to Filipinos who have provided assistance to stranded fellowmen and those affected by the lockdowns.

The DFA said the second batch of 36 VRP grantees from Tel Aviv is expected to arrive in Manila on Tuesday, Oct. 6.

Like Pac-Man, innovative Israeli coronavirus mask gobbles food

UNTV News   •   May 19, 2020

Israeli inventors have developed a coronavirus mask that allows diners to eat food without taking it off, a device that could make a visit to a restaurant less risky.

A squeeze of a lever, much like a cyclist operates a handbrake, opens a slot in the front of the mask so that food can pass through.

The process could get messy with ice cream or sauces, but more solid morsels can be gobbled up in a flash in the style of Pac-Man in the iconic video game.

“The mask will be opened mechanically by hand remote or automatically when the fork is coming to the mask,” said Asaf Gitelis, vice president of Avtipus Patents and Inventions, who demonstrated the device at its offices near Tel Aviv.

“Then you can eat, enjoy, drink and you take out the fork and it will be closed, and you’re protected against the virus and other people sitting with you.”

The company said it plans to start manufacturing the mask within months and had already submitted a patent. It said it would likely sell at a 3 to 10 shekel ($0.85 to $2.85) premium above the price of the simple pale blue medical masks many Israelis wear.

Outside a juice bar in Tel Aviv, Reuters showed a cellphone video of the mask in action. Opinion was divided.

“I think this mask that enables me to eat while I’m still wearing it, it’s a must have,” said Ofir Hameiri, a 32-year-old graduate student.

But maskless and eating an ice cream cone, Ron Silberstein, a 29-year-old musician, said: “I don’t think this mask could hold this kind of ice cream – it’s dripping all over. I wouldn’t want to wear it afterward”.

Israel has largely reopened its economy after a dramatic drop in cases of the novel coronavirus. But restaurants are open only for takeout for the time being. (Reuters)

(Production: Eli Berlzon, Rami Amichai, Rinat Harash, Jeffrey Heller)

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