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Below are comprehensive daily reports from the Jewish Federations of North America’s Israel team about what is happening on the ground in Israel. We will update with the latest information as it becomes available.

 


Friday, May 21, 2021 | 9:21 am

Ceasefire in Israel. After more than 11 days of fighting, a ceasefire, agreed to by both sides, seems to be holding.

Click here to read the full report.

 


Thursday, May 20, 2021  |  9:45 am

Day 11: Operation Guardians of the Walls Continues May 20, 2021 With strong indications of an imminent ceasefire, and President Biden’s calls for quiet, the number of rocket attacks dropped significantly overnight.

Click here to read the full report.

 


Wednesday, May 19, 2021  |  12:03 pm

The Violence in Israel Continues May 19, 2021 Despite talk of a ceasefire, the rockets from Gaza have continued unabated, and the IDF has responded in kind. However, a measure of calm has returned to mixed Jewish-Arab towns, with considerably less rioting and violence.

Click here to read the full report.

 


Friday, May 14, 2021  |  9:03 am
From Jewish Federations of North America
Rebecca Caspi, Director General, Israel Office, Senior Vice President, Israel and Oversea

The onslaught of rockets from Gaza continued overnight, targeting cities throughout Israel. Seven Israelis have been killed, including a five-year old boy. In response, the IDF has stepped up its counter-strikes on terror targets in the Gaza Strip, and is now openly discussing the possibility of a ground offensive.

Click here to read the full report.

 


Thursday, May 13, 2021  |  7:02 am
From Jewish Federations of North America
Rebecca Caspi, Director General, Israel Office, Senior Vice President, Israel and Oversea

Rioting is being reported in many Israeli cities with Jewish and Arab citizens violently facing off In Bat Yam and Lod, near Tel Aviv, and other communities. Synagogues and motorists have been attacked.

The Israeli Defense Forces announced that they struck Hamas military intelligence offices in Gaza.

The IDF also reports that they attacked three more anti-tank missile batteries, like the one that killed Staff Sgt. Omer Tabib from our partnership region of Yokneam-Megiddo. Hundreds attended his funeral in his hometown of Elyakim.

Hamas rocket attacks are continuing, with sirens being reported in Tel Aviv at around 6:45 am Central this morning. One attack hit a civilian neighborhood in Petah Tikva, reportedly causing injuries and significant damage.

Media reports indicate that 90 percent of Hamas rockets have been stopped by the Iron Dome defense shield, but that more than 1,600 rockets have been fired at Israeli so far.

 


Wednesday, May 12, 2021  |  11:00 am
From Jewish Federations of North America

Rebecca Caspi, Director General, Israel Office, Senior Vice President, Israel and Oversea

Major Escalation in Israel – Tel Aviv Under Attack

Overnight, the violence from Gaza escalated significantly with a massive and unprecedented bombardment directed at the center of the country. Hundreds of rockets were fired at Tel Aviv, Herzliya, Ra’anana, Rishon LeTzion and other cities, leaving six dead and others injured. Millions of Israelis were forced to take refuge in shelters and safe rooms.

Click here to read the full report.

 


Tuesday, May 11, 2021  |  8:48 am
From Jewish Federations of North America

Rebecca Caspi, Director General, Israel Office, Senior Vice President, Israel and Oversea

Major Escalation in Israel

A major escalation in violence occurred overnight as Hamas fired hundreds of rockets at Israeli cities and towns, including the capital Jerusalem. At least 27 Israeli civilians have been injured. Schools in many areas of the country have been closed today as the attacks continue, and reserve troops have been called up.

Rocket Attacks

  • More than 250 rockets and mortar shells were fired at Israel overnight, with the onslaught beginning at exactly 6:00pm local time (11:00am ET). See here for video of multiple rockets being launched from populated civilian areas of Gaza, and here for footage of the rockets reaching Israeli towns.
  • Hundreds of sirens sounded across the Jewish state throughout the night, and millions of Israelis spent time in bomb shelters. See video here of an Israeli city under rocket attack.
  • Most rockets were fired at cities and towns in Israel’s south, but a number of longer-range rockets were launched against cities further away, including Israel’s capital, Jerusalem. This is the first time that Jerusalem has been targeted by rockets since the 2014 war in Gaza known as Operation Protective Edge. See here for video of the sirens in Jerusalem.
  • In this video, an older brother is protecting his young sister during a rocket attack on the southern Israeli city of Sderot.
  • At around 6:00 am on Tuesday, an unusually large barrage of rockets was fired at the major southern Israeli city of Ashkelon. Hamas has threatened to turn the sea-side town “into hell.”
  • About 1/3 of all the rockets fired since last night fell short of their targets including many in Palestinian territory, or landed in unpopulated areas. Of the remainder, Israel’s anti-rocket defense system – the Iron Dome – successfully intercepted 90% of incoming projectiles.
  • See here for video of the Iron Dome intercepting multiple incoming rockets during the dawn attack on Ashkelon.
  • Unfortunately, a number of rockets did successfully hit their targets:
    • One of the rockets struck a family home in Ashkelon. The father(40) suffered moderate-to-serious head injuries, the mother (39) was in moderate condition and the children (11 and 8) suffered light injuries. All are currently in hospital. See here for video of IDF troops examining the home after the injured were evacuated.
    • During the same barrage, a rocket hit a second home in Ashkelon, lightly injuring two people who are also currently hospitalized. See footage here.
    • Another rocket struck a house in NirAm, in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council, shortly after midnight on Monday night, but no injuries were sustained.
    • Ananti-tank guided missile fired from Gaza struck an Israeli vehicle near Sderot, causing light injuries to the civilian driver who was sheltering several feet from his vehicle. He was also transferred to hospital for treatment.
    • One rocket landed near a home in a community outside Jerusalem, causing light damage, but no injuries. Some of the others sparked fires in the forests surrounding the capital, which were quickly extinguished.
    • See here for video of damage from a rocket that hit a Magen David Adom Ambulance.
    • At least 27 Israelis have been injured in total. Of these, five were children. In addition to those hit by rocket fire, a number of people were hospitalized for injuries sustained while running to bomb shelters, and seven people suffered acute anxiety attacks brought on by rocket sirens.
  • Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad have taken responsibility for the attacks.
  • The rocket attacks continue at the time of writing.

Israeli Response

  • In response to the rocket fire, Israel struck some 130 targets in Gaza, mainly hitting terrorist infrastructure belonging to Hamas. The wave of counter-attacks began after the security cabinet authorized “significant airstrikes” in the Gaza Strip. See here for video of Israel Air Force planes preparing to launch attacks on Hamas targets.
  • The IDF response has been named Operation Guardian of the Walls (Shomer HaChomot).
  • Targets hit by Israel include the home of a Hamas battalion commander in a multi-story building, the organization’s military intelligence headquarters, an arms factory, military complexes belonging to Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, as well as two terrorist attack tunnels that were close to the border fence with Israel. See here for video of IDF precision attacks, (filmed from the planes), hitting terrorist infrastructure in Gaza.
  • In one attack, the IDF bombed a Hamas team preparing to fire an anti-tank guided missile.
  • Palestinian sources claim that a total of 24 people, including children, were killed in the strikes and a further 103 were injured. Israel has said that it has killed at least 15 Hamas terrorists in its attacks.
  • IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Hidai Zilberman said that while Israel always “takes precautions” to minimize possible harm to non-combatants during its military operations, Hamas “deliberately places its military assets in the heart of the civilian population in Gaza.” He added that many of those killed in Gaza, were struck by “errant rockets fired by Hamas,” and not by Israeli airstrikes.
  • On Tuesday morning, the IDF sent additional artillery batteries to the Gaza border, possibly indicating that the military is preparing for a potential wider conflict.
  • The IDF says that is has not ruled out a ground offensive into Gaza.
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and top military personnel spent most of the night at the Kirya, Israel’s military headquarters in Tel Aviv. See here for a photo of Israel’s chiefs of staff meeting last night, and here for a photo of political and military leadership meeting.
  • At noon on Tuesday, Defense Minister Gantz authorized the call-up of 5,000 reserve troops.

 

Defensive Precautions

  • The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has deployed additional batteries of Iron Dome systems due to the heightened security situation, and ground forces around Gaza have been significantly bolstered.
  • Under orders from the IDF Home Front Command, local councils in Israel’s south (within a 25 mile radius of the Gaza Strip) shut schools today and banned large public gatherings. Under the restrictions, only 10 people can gather outside and 50 inside, as long as there is a bomb shelter nearby that can accommodate all participants.
  • In the center of the country, large gatherings have been banned.
  • With rockets reaching the center of the country, councils have also closed schools in other cities, including Rishon Lezion, Holon, Bat Yam, Rehovot, Lod and Ness Ziona.
  • Public bomb shelters have been opened in many locations in the center of the country, including Tel Aviv-Yafo, Bnei Brak, Givatayim and Ramat Gan.
  • A number of roads near the Gaza border have also been closed and farmers have been instructed to stop all work near the border.
  • Train lines between Ashkelon and Beersheba and to Sderot, Netivot and Ofakim were halted on Monday afternoon.
  • A major IDF drill set to begin this week has been postponed. The drill, known as “Chariots of Fire,” was meant to be the army’s largest ever peace time exercise and would have involved large sections of the IDF.
  • Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin has opened his official residence to children from the area around Gaza and the south of the country today. Groups from the areas under rocket attack have been invited to Rivlin’s home to enjoy educational and experiential tours.

Background

  • The latest escalation began late yesterday following days of Palestinian rioting, when Hamas threatened major retaliation if Israel did not remove all police from the Temple Mount and other areas of Jerusalem by 6:00pm. The first barrage of rockets struck at exactly that time.
  • Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, declared that “Jerusalem has called and Gaza has responded. We will continue as long as Israel does not stop the aggression and terrorism in Jerusalem and at the al-Aqsa Mosque.”
  • For full details on the rioting and the factors that have led to the violence, see JFNA’s update here.
  • In the hours before the rocket attack began, Israel made a number of moves to try to de- escalate the situation, including barring Jews from entering the Temple Mount during Jerusalem Day celebrations and re-routing the annual Jerusalem Day flag parade away from heavily Arab- populated areas of Jerusalem. Among other changes, this involved removing the traditional Damascus Gate portion of the parade. Later, the parade was cancelled outright. The sensitive Supreme Court decision on the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood was postponed a day earlier.
  • Since the rocket attacks began, riots have continued throughout Jerusalem and Israel’s Arab Israeli community with at least 30 Israeli Arabs arrested for violent disturbances overnight.
  • Early Tuesday an Arab protestor was shot dead during rioting after he threw rocks at Jewish bystanders. According to initial reports, a Jewish civilian shot the protestor after coming under rock attack. The Jewish civilian has been arrested in connection to the shooting.
  • Eight companies of Border Police reserves have been called up to assist with riot control and other tasks in Israel as a result of the increased tensions. The Border Police are the para-military branch of the civilian police force that traditionally deals with significant violent incidents.
  • See here for Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs background to the current fighting.

Reactions

  • US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said, “While we urge de-escalation on all sides, we also recognize Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself, to defend its people and its territory.” See video here.
  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the rocket attacks from Gaza against Israel should stop “immediately,” and he urged all sides to take steps to reduce tensions.
  • An IDF spokesperson’s message can be seen here.
  • Defense Minister Benny Gantz said the IDF would continue striking Hamas and other terrorists in the Strip until “long-term and complete quiet” is restored.

Jewish Federations and Partners

  • The Jewish Federations of North America has been closely monitoring the situation on the ground and has activated our Emergency Situation Protocols.
  • We are in close contact with the government, security forces, our partners, and individual Federation representatives in the areas under attack.
  • See here for JFNA’s statement following the initial attacks.
  • The Jewish Agency for Israel has placed its Fund for the Victims of Terror into Emergency Mode.
  • The Fund is in contact with the families of the homes that were directly damaged in Ashkelon and the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council, as well as others who have been injured, to determine whether emergency funds are needed and will distribute as appropriate.
  • The Ashkelon Resilience Center, whose team were extensively trained by Federations’ partner the Israel Trauma Coalition (ITC), has just begun operating, and is functioning at full emergency capacity. Teams were on emergency duty throughout the night and are preparing to provide reinforcement for local staff in line with any future developments. At the same time, ITC’s national trauma hotlines have received very heavy traffic since the escalation began. ITC has also been working with therapists in the East Jerusalem area, who are reporting difficulties in coping with a large number of requests from Arab families for help with teens who have joined the rioting. Anxiety victims are also being treated by ITC in the areas around Jerusalem, where a number of long-range rockets fell yesterday.
  • At the time of writing, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) are convening their emergency situation team and are assessing the situation on the ground and needs.

Update – Afternoon

  • In the early afternoon on Tuesday, two buildings in Ashkelon and one in nearby Ashdod suffered direct hits from a massive barrage of rockets from Gaza. At least two of the rockets sparked fires. Two rockets landed in Ashdod, and six in Ashkelon. So far, it seems that three people were injured including a 12-year-old who was hit by shrapnel in Ashkelon.
  • One of the buildings hit was an Ashkelon school, which was empty as lessons had been suspended due to the attacks. See photo and video footage here.

For more information, please contact JFNA’s Dani Wassner, Director of Israeli Government Relations.

Sources: IDF Spokesperson, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Government Press Office, Office of the Prime Minister, N12 Israel News, The Times of Israel, Galei Tzahal Radio, The Jerusalem Post, Ynet, i24 News, Stand With Us, Alma.

 


Sunday, May 9, 2021 | 9:47 am
From Jewish Federations of North America

Rebecca Caspi, Director General, Israel Office, Senior Vice President, Israel and Overseas

Violence in Jerusalem and Beyond

Recent days have seen significant clashes between Palestinian protestors and Israeli security forces. While the violence has centered on Jerusalem, it has now also spread to other parts of Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.

Clashes in Jerusalem and the West Bank

  • Since Friday, more than 300 Palestinians as well as least 25 police and security officers have been injured in violent clashes.
  • On Saturday night, the main protestors emerged from a crowd of more than 90,000 Palestinians who gathered on the Temple Mount for prayers to mark the Muslim holiday of Laylat al-Qadr.
  • While violence has centered on the area of the Temple Mount, it has also spread to other areas of Jerusalem, especially the Old City’s Damascus Gate and the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
  • In addition, violence has now reached beyond the capital, with clashes taking place in many locations, including Jaffa and Hebron.
  • Israel Police have also thwarted a “major attack” in Jerusalem, when three Palestinians opened fire at troops in the West Bank on Friday. According to police, the terrorists had planned to commit a “major attack” against civilians in Israel.
  • Israel Channel 12 reported that there are acute alerts of other potential terror attacks in the West Bank and Jerusalem in the coming days.
  • In the current unrest, Palestinians have hurled stones bottles, fireworks and more at police, and in at least one incident, shots were fired at Israeli security services.
  • Israel Police has significantly bolstered the number of officers in Jerusalem, and the IDF has deployed additional troops throughout the West Bank.

 

Response

  • Police have tried to limit their response by using non-lethal crowd control devices such as tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets. In a sign that this policy is succeeding, despite the severity of the rioting, no rioters, or police, have been killed.
  • In an attempt to control the situation on Saturday, Israel Police stopped numerous buses traveling to Jerusalem in an attempt to prevent additional young Arabs from heading towards the Old City. However this caused further anger with claims that Muslim worshippers were being prevented from reaching their holy sites, and all buses were eventually permitted to continue.
  • Also, as a result of the bus stoppages, major traffic jams were reported on the roads leading into the capital, with traffic coming to a complete standstill at the main entrance to Jerusalem, Highway 1.
  • In a statement, the police said that they “respect all religions and will continue to allow freedom of worship. At the same time, (we) will not allow protesters to arrive in Jerusalem for the purpose of participating in violent disturbances.”
  • Prime Minister Netanyahu similarly stated, “We are acting responsibly to ensure law and order in Jerusalem while maintaining freedom of worship at the holy sites.”

 

Gaza and Israel’s North

  • In response to the rioting and in “solidarity with the protestors,” a rocket was launched toward southern Israel from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. No injuries or damage were reported as the rocket landed in an open field.
  • In response to the rocket fire, the Israel Air Force struck a Hamas military target in the Strip.
  • Palestinians in Gaza also launched numerous incendiary balloons which flew over the border.
  • One landed in the backyard of an Israeli family, but caused no significant damage.
  • In addition, major confrontations took place along the border with Gaza on Saturday night.
  • Thousands of Palestinians rioted near the border fence, hurling explosive devices and other objects at Israeli troops, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. There are no official reports of the number of injuries, although some media are reporting Palestinian protestors who were injured after having been shot by rubber bullets.
  • The tensions above also come as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) prepares to launch its largest ever exercise on Sunday called “Chariots of Fire.” The four-week long exercise will simulate war on multiple fronts, including with Gaza and Hezbollah. Lebanon-based Hezbollah has raised its alert level as a result of the exercise. Hezbollah leaders reportedly fear that the maneuvers could be used as a smoke-screen to launch an attack, and have deployed additional forces in both Lebanon’s south and in Syria, where the terror group also operates.

 

Backdrop and Causes

THE CALENDAR

The current clashes come at a moment when an unusually large number of occasions are all coinciding due to the differences in the Muslim, Jewish and Gregorian calendars. (Some have described this week as a “perfect storm brewing.”) Many of these events mark a time of heightened sensitivity among both Muslim and Jewish worshippers.

  • May 7, when the main rioting began, was the last Friday of Ramadan, and tens of thousands gathered on the Temple Mount for prayers.
  • Saturday night was known as Laylat al-Qadr, which marks the day in Islam in which it is believed that the Quran was first sent to the world from Heaven.
  • Tonight (Sunday), Yom Yerushalaim begins according to the Jewish calendar. This day marks 54 years since the city’s reunification under Israeli rule and is usually celebrated with tens of thousands of Jewish worshippers parading with flags through the Old City and ending at the Western Wall.
  • This Wednesday will mark Eid El Fitr, a major Muslim holiday marking the end of Ramadan.
  • Also, coming later in the week, is May 14, which is known by Palestinians as Nakba (Catastrophe) Day, which is the anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel in the civil calendar.
  • Finally, International Quds Day is an annual event held at the end of Ramadan that was initiated by the Iranian regime in 1979 to express support for the Palestinians and to oppose Zionism and Israel.

 

OTHER CAUSES OF CURRENT TENSION

  • Israeli yeshiva student Yehuda Guetta z”l, who was shot in a terror attack at Tzomet Tapuach last week, died of his wounds on Wednesday night. The IDF has now arrested a suspect in his killing.
  • Israel’s Supreme Court has ruled in favor of two Jewish non-profit groups claiming ownership of homes in the predominantly Arab, Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. The decision could potentially lead to the eviction of the Arab families currently living in the building, (around 70 people in total). For more information and detailed background, see here.
  • Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas last week announced that he was cancelling the long awaited Palestinian elections, blaming Israel for not allowing polling stations to be set up in Jerusalem. Elections for the Palestinian presidency have been cancelled on numerous occasions, and were last held in 2005.
  • Political uncertainty in Israel has also led to instability. Many Palestinians are nervous about the prospect of Naftali Bennett, a long time Israeli hawk, becoming prime minister.

 

International Reactions

  • The United States’ State Department spokesperson Ned Price urged both sides to “exercise decisive leadership and work cooperatively together to lower tensions.”
  • The EU’s senior diplomat, Josep Borrell, called for a de-escalation in tensions, saying “Violence and incitement are unacceptable and the perpetrators on all sides must be held accountable.”
  • The UAE, which normalized relations with Israel last year, “strongly condemned” the clashes and the potential Sheik Jarrah evictions. UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Khalifa al-Marar, urged Israeli authorities to reduce tensions.
  • Hamas has threatened to attack Israel if the eviction of from Sheikh Jarrah goes ahead. JFNA’s Israel office is keeping a close watch on events on the ground, and will keep you apprised of developments.

 

For more information, please contact JFNA’s Dani Wassner, Director of Israeli Government Relations. Sources: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Yisrael Hayom, N12 Israel News, The Times of Israel, Galei

Tzahal Radio, The Jerusalem Post, IDF Spokesperson, Ynet, i24 News.