News Digest — 11/15/19
Rocket Fire Rattles Fragile Truce, IDF Strikes Islamic Jihad Posts In Gaza
The Israeli Air Force struck several Islamic Jihad targets in the Gaza Strip in the predawn hours of Friday morning (15th), in response to four rocket attacks by the Iranian-backed terrorist group, which violated a ceasefire announced on Thursday morning (14th).
According to the military, the targets included a munitions factory and the Khan Younis headquarters of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad “in which were several offices belonging to PIJ commanders.”
“The IDF views with great severity the violation of the ceasefire and the firing of rockets at Israel. It is at high alert and will continue to act, as necessary, against attempts to harm Israeli citizens,” the IDF said.
The Egyptian-mediated truce went into effect 5:30 a.m., (Israeli time) Thursday morning (14th) following 48-hours of massive rocket fire by PIJ terrorists at southern and central Israel.
The latest flare-up followed the targeted killing of top Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Ata in his Gaza home on Tuesday (12th), for which the Iranian-backed terrorist group vowed an ‘unprecedented response.”
Foreign Minister Israel Katz told Army Radio Thursday (14th) that Israel will follow suit if Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip hold their fire and cease cross-border attacks.
“Quiet will be met with quiet,” Katz said, stressing that the “State of Israel will not hesitate to strike at those who try to harm it, from the Gaza Strip or from anywhere else.”
(gglz.net; israel hayom.com)
Netanyahu Visits Shin Bet Command Center Which Targeted Abu al-Ata
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the special forces command center in the General Shin Bet headquarters on Thursday (14th) from which the operation to assassinate Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Baha Abu al-Ata, was carried out on Tuesday (12th). Netanyahu was accompanied by the Shin Bet chief, Nadav Argaman.
The two met with the workers and employees from the operational technological and intelligence units who played a major role in the operation. The prime minister praised the units and congratulated the successful operation.
He said that the strike represented “a unique operation in which they showed extraordinary courage and creativity, which resulted in a very successful outcome for Israel’s security.”
“On behalf of the citizens of Israel, I salute you,” he added.
On Tuesday (12th), the Israeli Air Force attacked Abu al-Ata’s home in Gaza. He was killed in that attack. The IDF stated the building in which he was staying was hit, adding that the senior PIJ official was responsible for many terror attacks against Israel, including shooting rockets and missiles from Gaza into Israel, and that he was considered a “ticking time bomb.”
Knesset Erupts As Netanyahu Slams Arab MKs For Defending Terrorists
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was verbally attacked by Arab MKs in the Knesset Wednesday (13th) while explaining the government’s decision to assassinate Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) senior commander Baha Abu Al-Ata in the early hours of Tuesday morning (12th).
The PIJ reacted to the targeted killing by firing over 450 rockets at Israel in two days, which led to multiple IDF airstrikes in response that eliminated more than two dozen additional terrorists.
Netanyahu emphasized that he had nixed the operation until the IDf could assure him that there would be little to no collateral damage, and then noted, ”That is completely different from what those terrorists do, and there are Knesset members here who are defending them when they deliberately target civilians – deliberately target residential neighborhoods.”
He then castigated and angered Joint Arab List MK Ahmad Tibi for a rally in which one of his colleagues “sought every possible way to condemn us as war criminals.”
Tibi approached the podium where Netanyahu stood and shouted, among other things, “You are lying, you are an inciter, you are a liar.”
When he would not stop his diatribe, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein had him removed from the plenum, and the entire Arab List left the hall in protest.
Netanyahu then lashed out at his accusers.
“This is insufferable, I think the time has come to tell the truth about what we are doing and also about what others say we are doing,” he stated.
“We spare no effort to avoid harm to innocents. No other army in the world makes such an effort. We are trying to hit the target with unmatched surgical precision, and we proved that [yesterday]. The IDF’s operation in the Gaza Strip was an operation that will be studied – and is already being studied – by armies around the world, in order to achieve this distinction.”
“What some Knesset members are doing is inconceivable,” he continued. “Those who do respect the laws of war – IDF soldiers, IDF commanders, and the Israeli government which sends them – are defined as war criminals, thus distorting the entire moral basis of justified and necessary fighting in the face of terror.”
Communities Near Gaza Nix School Friday Over Ongoing Rocket Fears
Israeli communities closest to the Gaza border preemptively canceled school for Friday (15th) following multiple breaches of a ceasefire meant to end two days of fighting, local officials said Thursday (14th).
Several rockets were fired at Israel Thursday morning (14th) and afternoon, puncturing a tense calm, and leading to fears of a resumption of violence. Pieces of one projectile landed in the yard of a daycare in Netivot.
The decision was made out of concern for the students and teaching staff,” the communities said Thursday (14th) in a joint statement. Earlier, the Israeli Military Forces’ Home Front Command announced it was removing all safety restrictions on the area in place since Tuesday (12th), allowing studies to resume and businesses to reopen, despite the sporadic fire.
“We are in touch with the IDF and are assessing the developing situation,” a community statement said.
The closings cover the Eshkol, Sdot Negev, Shaar Hanegev and Hof Ashkelon councils, as well as the city of Sderot.
Netivot, which is in the same area, did not announce schools would be closed, though most parents kept their kids home on Thursday (14th) even after the city’s schools were opened.
“It’s like this here, one day there is war and the next day peace,” Revital Lev said as she dropped off her 10-year-old son at school in the city on Thursday (14th).
“We get used to it – we have no choice.”
Bur some expressed ire at the city and army officials for okaying schools to reopen, especially after the city was targeted before noon.
Despite an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire announced by Islamic Jihad taking effect at 5:30 a.m., rockets were fired three times from Gaza during the day, violating the agreement.
After a fourth rocket launch into Israel Thursday evening (14th), Israeli military and political officials held emergency meetings to determine how to proceed with the shaky ceasefire agreement.
Gaza Fighting Highlights Differences Between Hamas And Islamic Jihad – Prof. Hillel Frisch
→ While Hamas views the use of violence as a means to increase the volume of trade with Israel and secure the inflow of Qatari money to enhance the welfare of the Gaza population, Islamic Jihad seeks confrontation as part of an Iranian strategy to deflect attention from its Syrian military buildup and regional expansion.
→ Hamas must take into consideration its popular base, which includes 50,000 men and women whose salaries depend on Hamas’ retention of control of Gaza.
→ Most Gazans live in a society that is almost exclusively Sunni and suspect Islamic Jihad members of being Shiites in disguise. This is why in elections in Gaza universities and trade unions, Islamic Jihad secures a mere 2-3% support.
→ At Abu al-Ata’s funeral procession just hours after his killing, it was hard to count more than 100 participants. No flags or other Gaza organizations were visible.
→ Islamic Jihad’s paltry popular base means its dependence on Iran is all the greater. Moreover, PIJ can operate purely as a fighting arm without the need to take into account the welfare of the Gaza population.
→ Hamas leaders are keenly aware of who wags Islamic Jihad’s tail, the reasons behind its activities, and the ways its strategy contradicts Hamas’ current agenda. However, Hamas can only constrain rather than stop Islamic Jihad because it needs Iran as well.
The writer is a professor of political and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University and a senior research associate at its Begin-Sadat Center.