News Digest — 5/10/21

Hamas Keeps Up Terror In The South With Rockets And Firebombs

Palestinian terrorists in Gaza fired three rockets at Israeli towns early Monday morning (10th), sending tens of thousands of Israelis running for bomb shelters as the Hamas terror group said Israel would “pay a heavy price” for blocking Palestinian violence in Jerusalem.

The IDF Spokesperson’s office confirmed that three rockets were fired in the direction of six Israeli communities just before 6:30 Monday morning (10th) .  One of the rockets was intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system and the others missed their targets and exploded in open areas.  There were no reports of injuries and damage.

Once radar detects a rocket launch and determines the trajectory, the Red Alert alarms are triggered in the cities and towns near the Gaza Strip, allowing residents only 15 seconds to seek shelter before the short-range rockets used by Palestinian terrorists explode.

The Iron Dome system is programmed only to intercept rockets that may hit populated areas, but given the extremely short time span involved, sirens are triggered in all the communities along the flight path.  In the past 20 years, terrorists in Gaza have fired over 20,000 rockets at Israeli towns and cities that have killed at least 28 people and wounded hundreds, while causing millions of dollars in property damage.

The IDF said that in response to the rocket fire, IDF tanks attacked Hamas military positions in the Gaza Strip.

In an apparent move to gain popularity points with Palestinians in Judea and Samaria and interrupt Jerusalem Day celebrations in the capital, Hamas leaders voiced their support for Arab rioters confronting Israeli police in Jerusalem.

Hamas spokesman Mohammed Hamadeh said that Israel “will pay a heavy price as a result of its incursion into the Al Aqsa Mosque and its worshipers,” after police in Jerusalem were forced to use riot control methods to disperse Arabs who had stockpiled rocks and bottles to hurl at police and Israelis gathered at the Western Wall below the mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Following the ongoing attacks that have seen more than 50 rockets fired at Israel in the past two weeks and scores of aerial firebombs sparking blazes, Israel on Monday (10th) closed the Erez border crossing with Gaza except for humanitarian cases as well as the Gaza offshore fishing zone.    

The moves were taken “following the rocket fire and the continued launching of incendiary balloons from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, which constitutes a violation of Israeli sovereignty,” said a statement from the COGAT civil administration.  “The terrorist organization Hamas bears responsibility for everything that is done in and out of the Gaza Strip against the State of Israel, and it will bear the consequences of the violence perpetrated against the citizens of the country.”

On Monday (10th), residents of the area in southern Israel surrounding Gaza braced for another day of tension after volunteers extinguished some 40 brush fires that were ignited Sunday (9th) by aerial fire bombs launched from Gaza.



Israel Marks Jerusalem Day Celebrating 54 Years Of Reunification

With most of the coronavirus health crisis behind them and able to gather outside again, Israelis flocked Sunday (9th) to the Western Wall of the Old City to mark the start of Jerusalem Day, celebrating the reunification of the city 54 years ago.

There was a heavy police presence in the city following several days of unrest, and leaders of the Palestinian terror group Hamas called for more violence, but security forces were keeping a close watch as celebrations began at sundown with dancing at the Western Wall of the ancient Jewish Temple.

Split in half during the 1948 War of Independence, Jerusalem was reunited in 1967 when Israeli forces pushed the Jordanian army out of the city.  The reunification opened up Jerusalem’s famous Old City and its holy sites, with Jews once again able to pray at the Western Wall, revered as the holiest site in Judaism next to the Temple Mount.

Under Israeli rule, access to the holy sites for all religions has been steadfastly preserved, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promising earlier in the day not to let Arab rioters deny access to the city.

“We will not allow any extremist element to undermine the quiet in Jerusalem.  We will uphold law and order – vigorously and responsibly.  We will continue to guard freedom to worship for all faiths but we will not allow violent disturbances,” Netanyahu said.

“For 54 years, Jerusalem has been united under the rule of the democratic State of Israel.  When one looks back over thousands of years of Jewish rule under the state of the Jews, only under the sovereignty of Israel has full and consistent freedom of worship been ensured for all faiths, and thus we will continue,” Netanyahu added.

Jerusalem Day celebrations began with a traditional prayer at the Western Wall plaza followed by singing and dancing.  Other events will include concerts, special displays at Jerusalem museums and receptions.

The annual traditional flag parade is scheduled to begin Monday afternoon (10th) with tens of thousands marching through the center of Jerusalem to the Old City and the Western Wall.

Tourism Ministry officials are hoping that Israel’s emergence from the pandemic will help boost the city’s economy, which normally accounts for almost 22% of the total employment in the city of almost one million residents.

Jerusalem is the most popular destination for tourists in Israel, and in the record year of 2019 attracted about 3,6 million tourists before the coronavirus pandemic brought worldwide tourism to a standstill.

“Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, is a city with history, depth, variety and spectacular beauty, and it is also the favorite destination for tourists from abroad,” said Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen.  “I sincerely hope that in the near future we will be able to see tourists roaming the Old City.”

“In years past, Jerusalem was a magnet for millions of Christians from around the world,” the minister noted.  “I have no doubt that, in the coming years, it will also attract Arab and Muslim tourists from the Emirates, Morocco Bahrain and other countries.”

Hospitals across Israel have all closed their coronavirus wards and only 150 Israelis remain hospitalized with the virus.  The economy has gradually opened up and the country is hoping that as other nations catch up to Israel’s vaccination levels, the tourists will return to boost Jerusalem Day next year.



Netanyahu: Israel Reserves The Right To Build In Jerusalem

“Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and Israel reserves the right to build there,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared on Sunday (9th) at the opening of a special cabinet meeting to mark Jerusalem Day, held at the Jerusalem Municipality.

He was apparently responding to a statement by France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom condemning Israel’s construction in the Har Homa neighborhood in Jerusalem.

The statement issued on Thursday (6th) called on Israel to revoke its decision to promote the construction of 540 houses in the Har Homa area and to “cease its policy of expanding settlements in the ‘occupied’ Palestinian territories.”

The Har Homa neighborhood was established in 1997 and is home to 30,000 Israelis.  Some of the land in the area was purchased by Jews in the 1940s.

Netanyahu stated that “Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for thousands of years.  Our roots in Jerusalem date back to the biblical period, and our continuous connection to Jerusalem has been preserved throughout the generations.

“Every archaeological find indicates the strength of this affinity.  We reveal the past of Jerusalem, and at the same time we secure the future of Jerusalem,” he noted.

“When scanning back thousands of years of Jewish rule and then of foreign rule, and today again – rule of the Jewish state – only under Israeli sovereignty has there been full and consistent religious freedom guaranteed to all religions and so we will continue to do so,” he underscored.

Relating to the calls by European countries not to build in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said that “we are pushing hard against the pressures not to build in Jerusalem.  And unfortunately, these pressures have been increasing lately.  I also say to our best friends: Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.  As every nation builds its capital, we too have the right to build in Jerusalem.  This is what we have done and this is what we will continue to do.”



IDF Chief Sends 3 Additional Battalions To Judea And Samaria In Wake Of Escalation

In the wake of the ongoing disturbances by Palestinian rioters in Jerusalem and the increased tension with Hamas, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) will increase its troop presence in Judea and Samaria.

Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi said the buildup will comprise three battalions, on top of the four that had already been sent in recent days to the area, which has seen a recent uptick in violence, including a deadly drive-by shooting and a failed attempt to kill soldiers at a checkpoint.

The decision to bolster the troops in the area was made by Kochavi following a meeting with senior commanders at the checkpoint where three terrorists tried to kill Border Guard troops on Friday (7th).  The incident ended with two terrorists dead and one wounded.

“Thanks to our fighters here, and particularly thanks to the Border Guard Police, an attack was prevented; thanks to their hands being on the trigger.  They thwarted a terrorist plot that could have affected the entire nation, and I want to express my appreciation to the fighters and commanders who have trained the soldiers for such scenarios,” Kochavi said during his visit to the site, where he was briefed on the incident by senior commanders.

IDF officials are bracing for increased unrest this week as Eid al-Fitr, the three-day holiday marking the end of Ramadan, coincides with Jerusalem Day.  On top of that, the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah has become a new flashpoint following a court decision that requires Arab residents to vacate homes owned by Jews.

This case has resulted in repeated confrontations with police over the weekend, including on the Temple Mount, and at one point, Israeli authorities stopped buses of Muslim worshipers before they could reach Jerusalem, as intelligence suggested they were going to engage in more riots and disturbances.



Former Israel Ambassador To US Ron Dermer Urges Israel To Strengthen Ties With Evangelical Christians 

Former Israeli Ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer lauded Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday (9th), calling Netanyahu an “asset” for Israeli-US relations.

Speaking at a Makor Rishon conference Sunday (9th), Dermer warned that if Netanyahu is unable to form a government and is replaced, US-Israeli relationship would undergo a “significant change.”

“There is no question at all that without Netanyahu, there will be a significant change in the US-Israel relationship,” Dermer said.

“Americans know Netanyahu because of his lengthy tenure and because of his public relations abilities.  Netanyahu is an asset for everything that has to do with public relations.  That’s not just what is said to the US President or Congress, it is also in terms of his understanding and ability to address the public, based on the understanding that doing so is no less important.  Netanyahu is unique,” he noted.

Dermer also said that Israel must work to maintain its ties with the Christian Evangelical community in the US, alongside efforts to bolster ties with American Jews.  

“Much more support came from Evangelical Christians, than American Jews, in our struggle against the nuclear deal and moving the embassy to Jerusalem, so I think we are obliged to invest in more support from the Christians,” he added.