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A Weekend of Violence on the Gaza Border

August 19, 2019

by: Ilse Strauss

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Violence erupted along the Israel–Gaza border over the weekend (illustrative).

Monday, 19 August 2019 | On Friday evening—as Israelis settled in for the day of rest on the Sabbath—rocket sirens screamed throughout the south of Israel, giving communities in the Gaza border region 15 seconds to find shelter from an incoming rocket from the coastal enclave.

When the aerial assault was over and Israelis emerged from their bomb shelters, everybody hoped the rest of the weekend would pass peacefully. However, the siren proved a harbinger for the violence to come. Instead of a peaceful weekend, the south of Israel suffered multiple rocket attacks, violent riots and a terrorist infiltration attempt.

The tone for the weekend of violence was set earlier on Friday, when some 5,600 Palestinians flocked to the border fence to riot and hurl stones, hand grenades and explosive devices at the Israeli soldiers on the opposite side of the fence. A number of rioters made a dash for the fence itself, prompting the troops to respond with riot dispersal methods. After the riots quieted down, the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry claimed that 16 Palestinians had been injured.

The first rocket of the weekend came hours later at approximately 9:00 p.m. Israel’s Iron Dome aerial defense system intercepted the missile, and there were no reports of injury or damage. Israel responded by targeting two Hamas underground terror infrastructures overnight on Friday.

“The attack was carried out in response to the rocket fire launched from the Gaza Strip earlier this night,” the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Spokesperson’s Unit spelled out the reason behind the strike in a statement.

The army continued to clarify the context of the exchange of fire via Twitter: “The rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome before it could reach its target: Israeli civilians. We just responded with strikes on Hamas’s underground infrastructure in Gaza. Israel’s target: Terror.”

Hamas, however, had a different take on reality. Conveniently ignoring the rocket fired on Israeli civilians, the spokesperson for the terror group in complete military control of the Gaza Strip attempted to spin the retaliatory strike as an Israeli tactic “aimed to divert attention from the brave actions in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria],” referring to a car ramming attack in Judea and Samaria earlier on Friday that left two teenage siblings injured, one seriously.

The next rocket attack came some 24 hours later, when Palestinian terrorists from Gaza launched a volley of three rockets, causing sirens to wail throughout southern Israel for the second night in a row. The Iron Dome intercepted two of the three projectiles. Shrapnel from one of the rockets struck the yard of a civilian home in the border community of Sderot. Multiple people were treated for injuries sustained while running for the safety of a bomb shelter or for acute anxiety attacks. One of them, a 76-year-old woman, had to be hospitalized.

Hours later, armed Palestinian terrorists attempted to breach the border and infiltrate Israel. Israel thwarted the infiltration attempt. “A short while ago, IDF troops spotted armed suspects near the security fence around the northern Gaza Strip,” the army said in a statement. “An IDF attack helicopter and a tank fired at them.”

According to the IDF, the group of would-be infiltrators comprised five terrorists. The health ministry in Gaza said that three of the men were killed and a fourth injured. No mention was made of the fifth terrorist.

The Jerusalem Post reported that the bodies of the three terrorists were returned to Gaza early Sunday morning. They were buried later yesterday, wrapped in the flags of various Palestinian terror groups.

Palestinian media identified the three terrorists as members of the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the second largest terror group in the Gaza Strip. While Islamic Jihad did not take responsibility for the infiltration attempt or lay claim to the three terrorists as their own, the terror group lamented their death and used the opportunity to lambaste Israel for its supposed “heinous crimes against the Palestinian people.”

Again, the terror group had a different take on reality. Conveniently ignoring the fact that the men armed with rifles were killed as they tried to sneak through a border fence under the cover of darkness—arguably not to wish sleeping Israeli civilians in the communities located a stone’s throw from the border a good night—Islamic Jihad described the three terrorists as “rebellious youth” acting out.

Fearing reprisal attacks from Gaza, various cities and communities in the south of Israel opened municipal bomb shelters and the Magen David Adom ambulance service went on high alert, according to the Jerusalem Post. However, following the drama of Friday and Saturday, Sunday passed without any air raid sirens or infiltration attempts. The situation remains tense, with many wondering if the terror groups in Gaza are biding their time.

For his part, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Sunday that he would not shy away from a full-blown military operation in Gaza if that is what it takes to keep Israel safe—despite the Israeli elections taking place next month. “I have heard talk to the effect that I have refrained from embarking on a wide-ranging operation based on electoral considerations. This is incorrect. If it proves necessary, we will embark on a wide-ranging campaign regardless of the elections. With or without the elections, we will do what is necessary for the security of Israel.”

Posted on August 19, 2019

Source: (Bridges for Peace, August 19, 2019)

Photo Credit: euronews (in English)/YouTube/screenshot

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