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Israel launches air and missile strikes in the Gaza Strip despite ceasefire

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Israel launched fresh strikes against Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza, the army said early Friday, weakening a ceasefire put in place after fighting this week killed 34 Palestinians in exchanges of fire.

The ceasefire began Thursday morning following two days of deadly violence in the Gaza Strip triggered by an Israeli strike on an Islamic Jihad commander.

But Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said in a WhatsApp message to reporters that new overnight strikes were under way on Islamic Jihad, the second most powerful Palestinian militant group in Gaza after Hamas.

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“The IDF is currently striking Islamic Jihad terror targets in the Gaza Strip,” it said.

It came after five rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza — also after the ceasefire came into effect — with two of them intercepted by air defences, according to the army.

During the day on Thursday, normal life had resumed quietly in Israeli regions near the Gaza border, while in Gaza, citizens had also embraced the return of a relative calm.

“We hope for peace, we don’t want war,” said Mahmoud Jarda, an inhabitant of the enclave.

The ceasefire brokered by Egyptian and UN officials, the usual mediators between Gaza and Israel, was agreed as the flare-up raised fears of a new all-out conflict in the territory.

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Bomb shelters

The escalation began early Tuesday with Israel’s targeted killing of a top Islamic Jihad commander, Baha Abu al-Ata, whom it accused of being behind rocket fire and other attacks.

The violence came at a politically sensitive time for Israel, with no new government in place since a September election ended in deadlock.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Abu al-Ata “was killed alongside dozens of terrorists” after the strike on his home, adding: “Our enemies got the message: We can reach anyone, even in their bed.”

That strike triggered almost immediate retaliatory rocket fire from Islamic Jihad at Israel, setting off air raid sirens and sending Israelis rushing to bomb shelters in the country’s south and central regions.

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Israel’s military had said some 450 rockets had been fired at its territory since Tuesday morning and air defences had intercepted dozens of them in fireballs high in the sky.

No Israelis were killed, though one rocket narrowly missed speeding cars on a busy highway. Israeli medics said they had treated some 63 people as of Wednesday night for mild injuries and stress.

Israel responded with air strikes, saying it targeted more Islamic Jihad militant sites and rocket- and missile-launching squads.

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Violent escalation

Islamic Jihad had said several more of its members were among those killed in the fighting this week.

Palestinian officials said eight members of the same family, including five children, were killed in an Israeli strike in Deir al Balah in the central Gaza Strip.

Israel’s military said the man targeted and killed in that strike was an Islamic Jihad rocket unit commander.

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“He, like many others, had the tactic of hiding ammunition and military infrastructure in their own residence,” said military spokesman Jonathan Conricus.

“Of course we try always to minimise the amount of non-combatants killed or injured.”

But relatives, neighbours and an Islamic Jihad spokesman disputed that he belonged to the militia, with some saying he had previously worked as a Palestinian Authority (PA) military police officer.

PA employees have not worked in Gaza since the Hamas takeover in 2007 but continued receiving salaries.

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“This is a war crime,” said neighbour Adan Abu Abdallah. “You are killing innocent children, sleeping at home.”

Weekly protests

Unusually, Israel has singled out Islamic Jihad rather than hold Hamas — the Islamist movement that rules Gaza — responsible for the violence.

Israeli analysts said it was a clear signal the army sought to avoid a wider conflict in Gaza, where Israel and Palestinian militants have fought three wars since 2008.

Hamas repeatedly said it would not abandon its ally, but its decision not to join the fight helped maintain a fragile truce with Israel that has seen tens of millions of dollars in Qatari aid flow into the impoverished Gaza Strip since last year.

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An Egyptian official said the ceasefire had included an agreement that Palestinian groups in Gaza work to prevent violence by demonstrators during weekly protests near the border fence.

In return, Israel agreed to stop hostilities and commit to a ceasefire during the weekly demonstrations, according to the official.

Israel did not confirm any of those claims.

Netanyahu did not comment publicly on the ceasefire, but had warned a day earlier that Islamic Jihad must stop its rocket attacks or “absorb more and more blows”.

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He added that Israel did not want a further escalation but, if necessary, was prepared to respond “without mercy”.


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Mississippi Republican who lost to Democrat by 14 votes files request for state House to void the election and declare her the winner

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On Thursday, Mississippi Today reported that state Rep. Ashley Henley, who lost her bid for re-election to Democrat Hester Jackson-McCray by just 14 votes, has filed a request for the GOP-controlled state legislature to overturn the results of the election and seat Henley for another term.

Henley cites what she claims are several irregularities in voter signature collection, and ballots that are "unaccounted for/missing."

Jackson-McCray has dismissed Henley's challenge as nonsense. “Elections are elections. It's not a guaranteed position. Anybody could come along and beat you. I just beat you fair and square. Hard work just beat you this time. She has the right to go through the technicalities, but I think if people read this notice she’s putting out, it looks like she's arguing that her own party didn’t manage the election right. The election was run by Republicans. The DeSoto County election commissioners are Republicans. The Secretary of State is a Republican."

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Trump’s campaign manager mocked for proudly sharing poll that suggests Dems will keep the House in 2020

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On Thursday, President Donald Trump's campaign manager Brad Parscale posted a poll that was meant to warn Democrats off of their impeachment efforts, by showing how it was hurting their prospects in a competitive House race.

Specifically, the "confidential" poll showed freshman Rep. Kendra Horn (R-OK) down seven points against a generic Republican, and impeachment opposed 52 percent to 45 percent:

Nancy Pelosi is marching members of her caucus off the plank and into the abyss.

Impeachment is killing her freshman members and polling proves it.

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Two House Democrats push a clever plan that calls Republicans’ bluff on their Biden attacks

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Democratic Reps. Katie Porter of California and Max Rose of New York introduced a clever plan this week that will expose whether Republicans’ criticisms of former Vice President Joe Biden in the Ukraine scandal reflect good faith — or if, as many assume, they are just a shameful distraction and a bluff.

The lawmakers announced a bill on Wednesday called the Transparency in Executive Branch Officials’ Finances Act. It has two key components:

First, it would require all politically appointed executive branch officials, as well as the president and the vice president, to “disclose any positions they or any members of their extended families hold with foreign-owned businesses, any intellectual property they own that is protected or enforced by a foreign country, and whether any members of their families have stakes in companies that engage in significant foreign business dealings.”Second, it will “require the President and Vice President to disclose their tax returns for the previous five taxable years and prohibit political appointees from accepting payments from foreign entities.”

What’s clever about the proposal is that it latches on to two important issues, creating a wedge for Republicans. As part of the GOP’s defense of President Donald Trump in the Ukraine scandal, Republicans have argued that the president’s patently corrupt efforts to get a foreign country to investigate Biden, a political rival, were legitimate because the former vice president’s son created a conflict of interest by taking part in business in Ukraine.

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