IDF says overnight sirens, explosions resulted from Israeli strikes in Syria

Israeli warplanes struck several targets in Syria, the IDF said early Friday, an attack that led to sirens and sounds of explosions in Israel in the middle of the night.

At approximately 3 a.m. local time, Code Red sirens, which warn residents of Israeli towns of incoming rockets, sounded in the Jordan Valley. At least two distinct explosions were heard as far west and south as Jerusalem.

Initial reports said the sirens and explosions were believed to be from rocket launches in either the West Bank or Jordan.

But according to the news site Walla, the sirens sounded when Israeli missile defense systems detected a missile launched at the Israeli Air Force planes during their strike against unnamed targets in Syria.

The explosions, the army said, were launches of Israeli air-defense missiles against an incoming Syrian anti-aircraft missile.

The IDF statement said neither civilians on the ground nor IAF pilots were in any danger at any point during the incident.

The sirens sounded at 2:43 a.m. near the Jordan Valley communities of Gitit, Mesoa, Yitav and Yafit in the Arvot Hayarden regional council, which straddles the Jordan River in the West Bank.

IDF ground forces in the area initially launched a search for fallen rockets in the mountainous terrain.

There was no word about the nature of the targets struck by Israel in Syria, but the IDF has regularly attacked weapons convoys in the war-wracked country in recent years that were destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Read more: Times of Israel

IDF strikes two Hamas facilities after rocket fired from Gaza at Netivot

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Israeli Air Force jets struck two Hamas installations in the north of the Gaza Strip early Thursday in response to the latest rocket fire from the territory at Israeli communities nearby, the army said.

There were no immediate reports about damage or casualties from the Israeli strike.

Less than two hours before the strike, a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed in an empty field in the Sdot Negev Regional Council near Netivot.

The rocket exploded on impact. No one was hurt and no damage was reported from the explosion.

The “code red” siren did not trigger, as the army’s sensors determined the rocket would not land near a populated area.

Security forces combed the area.

Initial assessments suggested that the rocket was not fired by Hamas, which rules Gaza, but by radical Salafist groups in the strip, according to Hebrew media reports citing military sources.

A rocket was last fired at Israel from Gaza in late February, leading the IDF to launch air strikes against five Hamas installations in the territory.

Israel holds Hamas responsible for all rocket fire and other attacks emanating from the territory.

Read more: Times of Israel

Tillerson: UN Human Rights Council must reform or US will leave

“reiterate our strong principled objection to the Human Rights Council’s biased agenda against Israel.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is vowing that the U.S. will leave the United Nations’ Human Rights Council if the organization does not undertake “considerable reform.”

“While it may be the only such organization devoted to human rights, the Human Rights Council requires considerable reform in order for us to continue to participate,” he wrote in a letter to nine nonprofit organizations this week, according to Foreign Policy.

Tillerson told the U.N. advocates and human rights groups that the U.S. “continues to evaluate the effectiveness” of the council but is skeptical about being in a group with nations such as China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which have poor human rights records, Foreign Policy reported.

Tillerson added that the U.S. would keep participating in the 47-member council’s ongoing session while U.S. officials would “reiterate our strong principled objection to the Human Rights Council’s biased agenda against Israel.”

Multiple State Department aides told Foreign Policy that U.S. withdrawal from the council is not imminent but remains a real possibility.

“If they don’t make these reforms, we’re going to question the value of our membership,” a senior aide to Tillerson said. “We’re not taking withdrawal off the table. Our aim is to fix the organization.”

Foreign Policy noted Tillerson was responding to a Feb. 9 letter from the nine groups including the Better World Campaign and Freedom House, among others.

The collection argued the U.S. could better help Israel by remaining on the council and added the organization has helped hold the world’s worst human rights abusers accountable.

“American leadership in the Council over the last seven years has helped shift that dynamic,” they wrote, referencing the Obama administration’s move to join the U.N. council in 2009.

“Since 2009, the Council has increasingly trained a spotlight on rogue regimes and terrorists, commissioning independent investigations that have exposed serious human rights abuses in North Korea, Iran, Syria, [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] and Boko Haram.”

President Trump’s administration has told State to cut more than 50 percent of U.S. funding to U.N. programs, according to reports on Monday.

The U.S. spends about $10 billion annually on the U.N., and the cuts could have the greatest impact on peacekeeping, the U.N. development program and UNICEF, which are funded by State’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs.

Read more: The Hill

Israeli government dresses up for Purim

Israeli government dresses up for Purim
Getting in the spirit of Purim, government ministers and Knesset members dress up and show their humorous side.

Shedding their business attire, Israeli ministers and MKs take part in Purim festivities, showing off their more lighthearted side.

Without looking too much into the meanings behind their chosen costumes, here are some of their holiday takes on alternative identities:

DJ Minister of the Interior, Aryeh Deri be jammin'

DJ Minister of the Interior, Aryeh Deri be jammin’
A common target of satire, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman turns the tables, dressing as a character of Assi Cohen, who frequently imitates Lieberman
A common target of satire, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman turns the tables, dressing as a character of Assi Cohen, who frequently imitates Lieberman

 

Minister of Sport (except baseball apparently) and Culture Miri Regev decides to clown around

Minister of Sport (except baseball apparently) and Culture Miri Regev decides to clown around

 

MK Oren Hazan and his wife decide to go green

MK Oren Hazan and his wife decide to go green

 

Yair Lapid goes for a distinguished tribe elder look

Yair Lapid goes for a distinguished tribe elder look

 

Ayelet Shaked is a deer with her daughter at the Megillah reading

Ayelet Shaked is a deer with her daughter at the Megillah reading

 

MK Yael Cohen Paran is a tempest in a tea cup, perhaps?

MK Yael Cohen Paran is a tempest in a tea cup, perhaps?

 

MK Yehiel Bar reaffirms societal ideals of masculinity while apparently looking for parking

MK Yehiel Bar reaffirms societal ideals of masculinity while apparently looking for parking
Read more: Ynet