News Digest — 4/26/21

Israel Intercepts Rockets Over Sderot As Terrorist Fire From Gaza Continues

Residents of the western Negev endured an uneasy night on Sunday (25th) as terrorist factions in the Gaza Strip stepped up the pace of rocket attacks on southern Israel.

Early Monday morning (26th), three rockets were fired at Sderot and communities adjacent to the Gaza border fence.  Israel’s air defense intercepted two, and the third landed inside Gaza.

Three Israeli civilians sustained minor injuries while running for shelter.

On Sunday evening (25th), another rocket aimed at Israel also landed on the Gazan side of the fence.

Following the rocket attacks, Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Maj. Gen Ghassan Alyan announced a closure on the Gaza fishing zone.  An official from COGAT stated that “The decision was made due to the repeated terrorist actions from the Gaza Strip against Israeli civilians in recent days, which violates Israeli sovereignty.”

“Hamas bears responsibility for everything that happens in and out of the Gaza Strip towards Israel, and it will bear the consequences of the violence perpetrated against the citizens of Israel,” Maj.-Gen. Alyan stated.

Hamas politburo leader Ismail Haniyeh declared Sunday evening (26th) that “Gaza emphasizes that Jerusalem is not alone and never will be.  Gaza is prepared for resistance and its rockets will defend our people at Al-Aqsa.”

Haniyah also said that “Today, resistance is stronger and the people are determined to continue – it doesn’t matter who the victims are – this is our obligation.”

The Hamas leader threatened: “There is no quiet with the occupation if the Zionist entity continues the aggression on Jerusalem.  We are standing before a new chapter and a historic moment.  We will continue on our path and not stand by idly.” 

Now, after a weekend that saw terrorist operatives in Gaza fire some 46 rockets at Israel within 72 hours, the Israeli defense apparatus is again announcing that “calm will be met with calm,” and the IDF response was comparatively low-key.  



Sunday: Hamas Urges Gaza Terrorists To Prepare Missiles For Attacks On Israel

The Hamas terror group on Sunday (25th) called on the various Islamic factions in the Gaza Strip to prepare for a potential flareup with Israel, amid renewed tensions in Jerusalem and southern Israel.

The various armed groups in Gaza should “close ranks … and continue to gather in the Old City of Jerusalem and preserve the prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Hamas said in a statement.

The terror group went on to praise the factions for “coping with the oppressive Zionist regime through determination” and added that they must “keep the finger on the trigger by preparing the missiles and training fighters on the enemy’s bastions and essential installations.”

The statement comes in the wake of clashes in Jerusalem between Jewish and Arab protesters over the past several days and amid renewed rocket fire on Israeli communities in southern Israel.

The statement went on to call on the factions to “reach the Al-Aqsa Mosque and hold prayers in front of the military checkpoints that are preventing entry to Jerusalem.  You must hold a presence all over Palestine during the night, and make sure the settlers don’t infiltrate.  We must confuse the Zionists.”



Israel Is Ready For Any Scenario In Gaza, Said Netanyahu After Rocket Attack

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held talks with top security officials about Gaza and Jerusalem on Saturday (24th) after Palestinian terrorists fired 36 rockets at Israel early Saturday morning.

He instructed officials to be ready for “every scenario” in Gaza.

In Jerusalem, he said Israel would guarantee “freedom of worship” for everyone, and he appealed for calm.

“We ask now for people to obey the law and I call for calming of tempers on all sides,” he added referring to violent nightly riots launched by Arabs during the Muslim month of Ramadan.

The UN envoy to the region, Tor Wennesland, condemned the violence and said the United Nations was working with all sides to restore calm.

“The provocative acts across Jerusalem must cease.  The indiscriminate launching of rockets towards Israeli population centers violates international law and must stop immediately,” he said.  I reiterate my call upon all sides to exercise restraint, particularly during the holy month of Ramadan.”

Meanwhile, Israeli Chief of Staff, Lt-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, is weighing “a series of steps for possible responses,” and preparations if the situation continues to escalate, the military said in a statement.

He also postponed a trip to the United States that was scheduled for Sunday (25th).

In response to the rockets launched at Israel Saturday (24th), Israeli fighter jets and helicopters struck a number of Hamas targets in Gaza, including an underground facility and rocket launchers.

Hamas did not claim responsibility for the rocket fire, but because the terror group holds itself up as the ruling faction in Gaza, Israel holds it responsible for all fire emanating from its territory.



Mossad Chief Heading To US, But White House Says Position On Iran Won’t Change

The IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi canceled his participation in a top Israeli defense and security delegation expected to arrive in the United States this week, the military said Saturday (24th).

The IDF said that owing to increased tensions from a rocket bombardment over the weekend by the Hamas terror organization, in Gaza, Lt.-Gen. Kochavi would remain in Israel to handle security issues.

However, Mossad spy agency head Yossi Cohen, the head of the National Security Council, Meir Ben-Shabbat, and the head of IDF intelligence Gen. Tamir Hayman, are expected in Washington for a last ditch effort to get the Americans to back off from a direct return to the Iran nuclear deal.

It will be Cohen’s second trip to Washington this month.  He is expected to discuss intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program while pressing the Americans to add changes to the Iran nuclear deal, formerly known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

In Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with the Israeli delegation on Thursday (22nd) together with Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi to discuss the points Israel will make to US officials.

Netanyahu reportedly stressed that because Israel was not a signatory of the nuclear deal it was not bound by it in any way.

Meanwhile, in order to ramp up pressure on the Americans, in a further violation of the JCPOA, Iran this month started enriching uranium up to 60% purity, a move the European Union condemned because its use would only be for nuclear weapons.

“There is no credible explanation or civilian justification for such an action on the side of Iran,” said European spokesperson Peter Stano.

Nevertheless on Friday (23rd), White House Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the Biden Administration was firm in its position that the US would rejoin the Iran nuclear deal despite Israeli objections.



Locust Plague Strikes Israel’s South

Residents of Eilat and the Arava have awakened in recent days to the sight of huge swarms of locusts spreading over their gardens and public areas.

The Israel Hayom newspaper reported that swarms of yellow locusts had spread over all the fields and crops.  In Moshav Hatzeva, residents managed to capture some of the locusts in net traps before the pests could raid the fields and crops.  Kibbutz Samar and Kibbutz Elifaz in the southern Arava are also worried about the future of their crops.

In Eilat, the locusts settled in the area of a field-school close to the sea, and parts of swarms were seen all over the city and in private gardens.

According to Amir Balaban, director of urban nature at the Society for the Protection of Nature, “the locusts are an important food source for local wildlife, which will help the problem.”

“Hundreds of bee-eater birds were seen in recent days in the Kibbutz Lotan area, making their way from Africa to Europe.  They will climb over fences of settlements and hunt the migratory locusts that land in the area.  For the desert wildlife, too, it’s a crazy ‘protein festival,’ and like them, a lot of migratory birds feed on locusts as they migrate north during this season,” Balaban added. 

Eilat residents and those of the Arava are hoping this will help end their locust infestation quickly.