by: Ilse Strauss
Monday, 16 July 2018 | A non-stop rain of rockets, air raid sirens screaming incessantly, a family home, children’s playground and synagogue hit and nearly 24 hours spent in bomb shelters. This is what Saturday was like for Israelis living near the Gaza border.
The traumatic Shabbat started in the pre-dawn hours. Hamas, the terror organization ruling the Gaza Strip, fired the first of a barrage of rockets and missiles on Israel, jarring thousands from their sleep and giving them 15 seconds to rush from bed to bomb shelter. By 6:34 a.m., the rocket count stood at 34. The Israel Defense Forces retaliated by striking military targets in four Hamas military compounds throughout the Strip, a high-rise building used as a Hamas training facility and a tunnel dug under the building used for underground war training. Hamas’s answer came in the form of 160 more rockets. Air raid sirens rang out relentlessly throughout the course of the day and families were forced to spend Shabbat in the safety of shelters.
By Saturday night, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist groups announced that they have agreed to a ceasefire with Israel—thanks to mediation from Egypt and other international bodies. Despite the supposed ceasefire, the terror groups shot another four missiles over the border into Israel.
By 1:33 a.m. on Sunday morning the sirens stopped wailing and a semblance of calm returned to the Israel-Gaza border. The tally for the traumatic Shabbat was staggering: 200 rockets fired, 173 red alert sirens, 30 Iron Dome missile defense system interceptions, a home, synagogue and children’s playground hit, four Israelis injured and thousands traumatized. Moreover, Israel conducted its largest daytime operation against Hamas since Operation Protective Edge in 2014 with fighter jets hitting 40 terror targets throughout the Gaza Strip.
The weekend’s clashes have many wondering: Are Israel and Gaza teetering on the brink of another war?
Speaking after a situational assessment on Saturday, IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis said, “There are three vectors here that we see in severity and cannot allow them to continue: fire terrorism, terrorism along the fence and rocket fire. We intend to stop it.” Manelis concedes that “it’s too early to talk about a broad military operation,” but adds that “we have understood in recent weeks that this day will come, and once relevant conditions have been created, we will act.”
Manelis refers to the three particularly violent months on the Gaza border, marked by infiltration attempts, waves of rocket attacks and droves of incendiary kites and balloons sent over the border by Hamas. The kites and balloons have sparked horrific fires in southern Israel and thousands of acres of wheat, barley, passion fruit and oranges as well as a nature reserve and natural forests have been torched, while wildlife perished in the blazes. The damage is estimated to amount to tens of thousands of shekels.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the weekend’s conflict during yesterday’s cabinet meeting. “Our policy is clear,” he said. “Whoever hurts us, we will hit them with great strength. This is what we did yesterday. The IDF dealt Hamas the harshest blow since Operation Protective Edge. I hope that they got the message; if not, they will get it later.”
Netanyahu also clarified Israel’s stance regarding the mediated ceasefire that seemed to have prevented a full-scale war. “I heard it being said that Israel has agreed to a ceasefire that would allow the continuation of terrorism by incendiary kites and balloons. This is incorrect. We are not prepared to accept any attacks against us and we will respond appropriately.”
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman concurred, warning Hamas that it would “pay a heavy price” for continued attacks. “We have been through a stormy weekend. With regards to the rest of the week, it is important to emphasize that we have no intention of tolerating this—not rockets, not kites, not drones —nothing.”
Despite the ceasefire, the IDF announced yesterday that it will deploy additional Iron Dome missile defense batteries across southern Israel and to the Tel Aviv region. Reservists from the relevant air defense units have also been called up to man the additional batteries.
Yesterday came and went without any rocket attacks. The incendiary balloons did, however, not stop. And as warned, Israel responded to Hamas arson attempts by targeted terror squads engaged in launching burning balloons.
In the meantime, the residents of southern Israel are making every attempt to live a normal life. “That’s the norm in the south. We are attacked and then we go back to our normal life,” an 18-year-old resident of Sderot told The Jerusalem Post. Another confided, “We live here in a state of war—all the time—with waves that go up and down.”
Posted on July 16, 2018
Source: (Bridges for Peace, 16 July 2018)
Photo Credit: Twitter/IDF@IDFSpokesperson
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