Update on Operation Protective Edge and Federation Response
July 9, 2014
I have just arrived on the ground in Israel. The atmosphere here is what we have grown to expect. Israelis are resolute, focused and committed to both protecting those within the range of fire and keeping the activities of daily life going. But now that the vast majority of Israelis are within rocket range—just hours ago a rocket hit near Zichron Yaakov, 39 miles north of Tel Aviv, far from the cities of the South that have been plagued by attacks for more than a decade—the entire country is on edge.
Over the next several hours, we will be consulting with Federation leadership as to whether to activate a continental emergency mobilization including fundraising and solidarity missions. Stand by, we will report on that this afternoon. Already, our partner agencies are in high gear responding to the rapidly escalating situation.
In the meantime, here is a summary of events curated by our Israel team that reflects what is happening on the ground. We have included embedded links for additional information and videos.
- More than 45 rockets were fired by Hamas last night and this morning, including at Israeli major cities, as far north as Zichron Yaakov, 39 miles north of Tel Aviv and 72 miles north of Gaza.
- Of the 160 rockets that have been fired by Hamas since Monday, July 7, 116 have struck Israel. 23 were intercepted by the Iron Dome Defense system. Note that rockets on track to hit open areas are not intercepted by Iron Dome which has a very high cost per-fire.
- Amongst the rockets Hamas has fired is the Iranian M-302 rocket,which can reach up to 90 miles away. Israel’s northernmost point is only 138 miles from Gaza. You can see an illustration of the different types of rockets and their range here and more information on the Home Front site (English).
- Hamas continues to attempt other acts of terrorism; the Israeli Navy repelled an attempt to infiltrate Israel’s coastline and a reported attempted kidnapping near Jerusalem that failed.
- Overnight, the IDF targeted approximately 160 terror sites throughout the Gaza Strip, including 118 rocket launching sites, 10 terror and smuggling tunnels, 6 Hamas official facilities, and 10 terror command positions.
- In just under two days, since the start of Operation Protective Edge on July 7, the IDF has targeted approximately 440 targets.
- One of the many challenges in facing Hamas terror is their use of human shields. Israel is calling Palestinian civilians in Gaza to warn them to evacuate minutes before they perform airstrikes. Five of the weapon manufacturing facilities the IAF has targeted overnight were concealed within mosques. See an extract of the delicate procedure the IAF takes in targeting terrorist sites.
- The IDF Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Major General Yoav Mordechai called on Hamas to immediately stop firing rockets into Israel.
- “Calm will be answered with calm,” Mordechai said, stressing that escalation would only lead to more escalation and a harsh IDF response. He said Hamas had taken the decision to wreak havoc on the Gaza Strip during Ramadan as distraction from its own economic and social problems.
- There have been no serious physical injuries to Israelis due to rocket fire, but much property has been hit, and significant psychological damage sustained.
- The escalating conflict with Gaza has already caused nearly three million dollars in property damage, and collateral business damage and that number is increasing.
- Weddings were disrupted last night as rocket fire directly threatened the participants’safety. This video shows one wedding in Ashdod fall apart in screams as the siren sounds. At 0.25 seconds you can hear the announcer shouting for everyone to enter the shelter immediately and one second later, the rocket explosion. Some weddings were cancelled.
- Children’s summer camps are continuing as much as possible, as detailed in the partnership work below. In order to lessen the trauma involved, children are encouraged to sing the ‘tzeva adom’ song. See a video of Israeli school children learning to cope with the traumatic reality of rocket fire.
- Israel Railways also been affected by the barrage of rocketscausing disruptions of service across the country. There is no train activity between Ashkelon and Sderot.
- Some 2,400 young scouts were evacuated, Monday, during a camping trip, east of Ashdod.
- Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Sapir College, the Shamoon College of Engineering and others have suspended all classes and exams until further notice.
IMPACT ON OUR PARTNERSHIP WORK
- Currently has over 4500 young adults in Israel on short term immersion experiences, and an additional 3,000 on long term.
- Security briefings have been provided for all tour operators and participants, and none are currently within 24 mi. of Gaza (an Onward group from Be’er Sheva was moved northward).
- Programs operating between 24-49 miles north of Gaza must brief participants on how to act if sirens sound, and must remain within proximity of safe shelter.
- Parents of all Onward participants (270 currently in Israel), have been contacted and other programs either have already sent or will be sending communications shortly.
- Staff from a Jewish Agency subsidiary, Amigour, are performing damage assessment caused by rocket fire for the National Property Tax Authority.
- Better Together, which serves children and youth has activated program managers in communities in the 24 mi.range. Activities for children have been suspended and large public gatherings are now prohibited in those areas. Currently the BT staff are putting together alternative activities that can be offered, with an emphasis on what can be done to keep the children occupied should there need to be extended stays in public shelters.
- There has been a 150% increase in those seeking help for shock and anxiety.
- The overly demanding work of the previous weeks is already wearing down the professional staff who have been dealing with a spike in demands for help, related to the abduction of the three teenage boys. Over 100 therapeutic workshops have been set up to provide support to the population of the South, especially to parents and a show is being put on for children to educate them about safe responses to the situation.
- Currently there are 3,600 Birthright participants in Israel. BRI reviews all security measures and implements the most stringent security recommendations throughout the trip to ensure comprehensive safety. No effort or expense is spared as it relates to the security of participants.
FEDERATION VOICES ON THE GROUND
- We are collecting information on the impact of the situation on Federation partnership cities.
- The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia,’s Israel representative, Talia Lidar, reports that Philadelphia’s partnership city, Netivot, which has been heavily impacted. Nothing communal is operating, the kids are at home with no activity, and the shopping centers are empty.
- Arie Levy, Federation CJA Montreal, reports that “Beersheva is empty today with shops closed and all educational activities shut down. There are some children’s activities in shelters. There is no talk of evacuation; this is not a region that is easily evacuated. The authorities have implemented their emergency protocols for volunteers and staff. The Trauma Center is open in the Teacher’s Center.”
JFNA RELEASED THIS STATEMENT TUESDAY EVENING
Jewish Federations Condemn Rocket Attacks from Gaza and Express Support for Israel
New York – As missiles continue to rain down on southern Israel from Gaza and with reports of sirens as far as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the worldwide Jewish community expresses its unending support for Israelis living again under terror in their own midst. The Jewish Federations of North America condemns Hamas and other terrorists in Gaza in the strongest possible terms for these attacks, making it clear that the North American Jewish community stands with Israel during this difficult time.
“Jewish Federations unequivocally support the Government of Israel in its response to the indiscriminate attacks launched against its people. As long as Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza continue to target innocent Israelis, Israel must be able to do whatever is necessary to protect her citizens. We commend President Barack Obama for his continuing support of Israel’s right to self-defense and we pray that calm will again be restored as quickly as possible.”
As a reminder, please encourage your leadership to participate in today’s special briefing sponsored by JFNA/JCPA with David Horovitz, editor of the Times of Israel, who will provide an up-to-the-minute update on the situation on the ground in Israel. Please use the following numbers: 1-800-399-0118. No conference ID is needed for guests calling in from the USA/Canada.
For more information:
July 8, 2014
Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on July 7, 2014 after the security cabinet met for the fourth time over the past few days and decided to intensify defensive efforts against Hamas and restore stability to the country’s south.
During such times, JFNA Israel represents Federations at the Non-Profit Emergency Situation Roundtable under the auspices of the Ministry of Defense and collaborates with our primary partners – The Jewish Agency and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee – as well as others to ensure that whatever may come, we are working in the most efficient and informed manner possible on your behalf.
OPERATION PROTECTIVE EDGE
Israel’s response to the intense rocket fire from Gaza over the past month, which has been dubbed “Operation Protective Edge” (“Tzuk Eitan” in Hebrew), launched last night. Since Monday morning, over 100 rockets have been fired at Israel. Hamas terrorists in Gaza have claimed responsibility for many of the attacks which are activating “Code Red” sirens deep into central Israel.
WHAT’S BEEN HIT
More than 240 rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza since June 12, the day on which the three Israeli teenagers were abducted and murdered. A nursery school was hit (July 3), two factories in Sderot were razed (June 28) and a number of homes and cars have been damaged by other rockets striking open areas. In addition, a terrorist armed with a grenade tried to enter an Israeli village (June 22) and there have been several cross-border attacks.
The projectiles being fired at Israel include a combination of military-grade Grad missiles, locally-made “Kassam” rockets and mortars. Rockets fired can reach over 50 km affecting more than a million Israelis. This map illustrates areas within rocket range and detailing the maximum time available for finding shelter in each location.
On July 7, a farm was destroyed, and staff at the Soroka Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Beer Shevarushed newborns to a protected area. A retirement home in Yavne was also hit, and a large fire broke out in Ashdod when a rocket hit an empty house.
That same night, two Ashdod residents were out sailing when rockets were fired in their direction. This video shows the rockets, the Iron Dome response and their reactions. This short clip shows children running out of a swimming pool to shelter, leaving no room to question the impact of life under fire.
Once again, the preventative measures in place are helping mitigate the situation. As disconcerting as the sound of sirens wailing can be, residents in southern Israel are used to the need to move quickly and have been following the instructions of the military and civilian authorities, rushing to protected rooms and safe areas whenever needed.
These measures, together with the deployment of the highly effective Iron Dome defense system, have kept physical injuries to a minimum (primarily shrapnel wounds and shock), even as psychological and social support services are seeing a big spike in calls to help lines and other requests for assistance.
School vacation started last week. Yet in some locations, children are returning to schools with protected space to which camp programs and other activities have been relocated. The situation for preschoolers is more complicated, as few daycare centers have sheltered space and facilities between 7 and 40 kilometers from Gaza have been closed under orders from the Home Front Command. Farmers tilling fields on the Gaza border have been ordered to stop work due to the threat of sniper fire. Additionally, the Home Front Command has prohibited gatherings of more than 500 people across the affected zone.
Needless to say, all citizens have been instructed to remain close to a shelter at all times. This means intercity traffic is very light and is having a significant impact on local business.
The Israel Air Force struck over 50 targets Monday night across the Gaza Strip, including rocket launchers, a weapon storage facility, training bases, terror tunnels and other key objectives. Some 1,500 IDF reservists were called up for duty yesterday, with breaking news of a further draft of some 40,000 now approved.
Israel continues to deploy the Iron Dome defense system, which is reported to have an 85% success rate against incoming rockets.
Many Israelis across the country, including those living outside the immediate range of the rockets, and Israel supporters abroad have downloaded the ‘tzeva adom’ phone app, which alerts users when a rocket is being fired at Israel. Supporters of Israel are being encouraged to download the app to raise awareness. Social media reports are trending under #israelunderfire and #protectiveedge.
In the past week as tensions have escalated, our partners at The Jewish Agency and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee have been mobilizing and are already swinging into action. Thanks to core unrestricted funding and hard-earned experience from past emergencies, early assistance efforts are now underway. Below is information detailing some of that vital work.
The Jewish Agency is working with the National Insurance Authority and local municipalities via the SOS Fund to help meet urgent needs of three families from Sderot whose houses took direct hits. They have been evacuated to hotels and each family has been granted $1,000 to buy basic supplies, medicines, etc. We anticipate that additional similar requests will come through in the upcoming days as rocket fire increases.
Staff from The Jewish Agency is working together with Amigour – Israel’s leading sheltered housing company – to provide guidance and emotional support for elderly residents living in facilities in areas under fire. They are also assisting new immigrants living in absorption centers in dealing with the current crisis.
JDC approved a special grant yesterday to fund an emergency coordinator position at the Center for Independent Living in Beer Sheva. This facility serves a large population of young adults with significant disabilities living in the community. They face unique challenges in coping with emergency guidelines, in particular the need to move quickly to safe space.
The JDC Israel staff is working with Centers for Young Adults across southern Israel as they switch into emergency mode as they already have in Sderot. Where protected space is available, plans are being developed to welcome young adults as well as children and families, should the emergency situation continue.
Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, from the IDF Spokesman’s Bureau, released a statement saying, “In the past weeks, residents of southern Israel were forced into an unbearable reality – a situation they haven’t encountered in these scales since November 2012. In light of these circumstances, the IDF commenced Operation Protective Edge. We are determined to lay a significant blow on Hamas’ terror capabilities and infrastructure, eliminate any threat on Israeli sovereignty emanating from the Gaza Strip and restore stability to the southern region. Terrorists perpetrating the aggression against Israel have a personal price to pay and will bear the consequences of their actions.”
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said, “This operation will not be over in a matter of days….We will not tolerate rocket fire over Israel and we are prepared to expand the campaign with every means at our disposal to continue to strike against Hamas. I would like to reinforce the southern residents, mayors and councils who demonstrate leadership and responsibility, helping us to continue the offensive effort.”
As Minister of the Interior Gideon Sa’ar said “I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of rockets at Tel Aviv.”