A rocket from Gaza struck a synagogue/school just before another violent weekend on the Gaza border. Israel never comments on its nuclear capabilities, but a new report indicated that Israel has around one hundred nuclear weapons. Israel paid tribute to Trump in the Golan Heights with a large sign for a small community, and Sara Netanyahu plead guilty to a criminal offense.
Weekly Gaza Update
Palestinian media reported that last Monday around twenty Israel Defense Forces commandos attempted to enter the Gaza Strip but were quickly engaged in a firefight with Hamas forces before withdrawing back to Israeli territory.
The Times of Israel reports that there were no reports of casualties, but Israeli sources have not confirmed the incident or provided any more details. Palestinian media sources have not released proof of the incident either. If it is true, this flare-up comes as representatives from Israel and Hamas are negotiating the implementation of a ceasefire deal that promises to prevent a full-scale war and ease the frequent extreme escalations of violence.
Despite the ongoing talks, sporadic clashes have continued including the weekly border protest calling for an end to the twelve-year-long blockade of the Gaza Strip. Last weekend, the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry reported that forty-six Gazans were injured along the border as they and hundreds more protested, rioted, and faced off against Israel security forces on the other side of the fence. On the Israeli side, firefighting teams scrambled to extinguish seven separate fires that broke out in border communities because of incendiary balloons launched from the Strip, according to Ha’aretz.
Those clashes came one day after a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip struck a Chabad building with a synagogue and school leaving damage but no injuries, according to the IDF. No Palestinian group has taken responsibility for the attack. In response, the IDF launched an air raid against Hamas targets in Gaza.
Nevertheless, conditions of the truce move forward including deliveries of Qatari cash into the Gaza Strip. Last week, A Qatari delegation entered the Gaza Strip with $25 million to be distributed to needy families in Gaza and fund UN work programs, according to the Times of Israel. The cash injections were first going to be used to pay Hamas employees, but political opposition in Israel stopped that short.
The latest news from the ongoing negotiations as reported by Palestinians is that Israel was demanding that Hamas renew talks on returning the bodies of fallen Israeli soldiers, a request they say Hamas refused. Hamas is believed to have the remains of Israeli soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin who were killed in the Gaza Strip during the 2014 war.
Israel Reveals Symbolic Trump Heights
Emblazoned in gold letters across a large sign in both English and Hebrew is the name of a small settlement in the Golan Heights: Trump Heights.
Unveiled in a photo-op ceremony on Sunday, the very large sign marks the inauguration establishing a settlement named after U.S. President Donald Trump in a gesture of appreciation for recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the contested land. Trump tweeted his thanks and U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who attended the ceremony flanked by his wife and the Netanyahus, said, “It’s absolutely beautiful,” according to the Associated Press.
President Trump announced White House recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights in March just weeks before Israeli elections. It was only the latest in a series of symbolic and tangible moves that support Israel and instigated international backlash and fueled protests.
The proposal for Trump Heights states, "We must acknowledge the large contribution of the United States to the security of the State of Israel, a contribution that grew substantially during President Trump’s years in office."
Critics and opposition politicians have called the new name a “cheap PR stunt” and purely symbolic, noting that the “new” community currently called Bruchim is more than thirty years old and has a population of ten people, according to the AP. Israel is hoping the rebranding will help expand the community. Another hurdle is that the current Israeli administration is only temporary pending new elections in September after Netanyahu’s failure to form a coalition, so it will be up to the next administration to do anything involving this project beyond administrative work.
Sara Netanyahu Fined after Criminal Guilty Plea
Sara Netanyahu, wife of Israeli Prime Ministry Benjamin Netanyahu, signed a plea deal last week for intentionally exploiting another person’s mistake, and will pay $15,000 in fines.
The plea and fine come at the end of years of corruption and fraud investigations into Sara Netanyahu. She was originally charged with aggravated fraud, fraud, and breach of trust and although through the court ruling and a year and a half of negotiations, her offense no longer counts as fraud, it is still criminal. Ha’aretz reports that the indictment was first issued in June 2018, alleging that Sara ordered around $100,000 worth of catered meals to the Prime Minister’s residence, paid for with public funds, while concealing the fact that they employed a private cook.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has blasted the investigations and charges saying that she was only charged and scrutinized because of a political target on him. Netanyahu himself is under alleged corruption investigations and in February Israeli police recommended he be indicted for bribery in two cases, a drawn-out process that he has also brushed off as a politically motivated witch hunt.
Study Claims Israel Has 100 Nukes
A new report by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) claims that Israel has close to one hundred nuclear weapons.
Israel has never publicly denied or admitted whether they have nuclear weapons, but it has long been suspected and widely assumed that Israel has nuclear capabilities. The extent of those capabilities, however has always been an unknown. The Jerusalem Post reports that the study indicates that there are approximately thirty nuclear gravity bombs, which can be delivered by fighter jets equipped for nuclear weapon delivery, and approximately fifty warheads that can be delivered by land-based ballistic missiles.
The full report had a much broader focus than just Israel. The report says that at the start of 2019 there were approximately 13,865 nuclear weapons in the hands of nine states - the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea noting that Russia and the US collectively account for over 90% of global nuclear weapons.
The full report can be found here.