News Digest — 5/13/21

Israel Shuts Down Airport To Incoming Flights – 3 Biggest US Carriers Suspend Service

American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Airlines have suspended flights to Israel amid massive rocket attacks from Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip and waves of violence launched by Arabs within Israel.

Israeli forces responded with airstrikes on terror targets in Gaza, where Palestinian groups continued to rain rockets on Israeli civilians on Wednesday (12th), including targeting the main airport near Tel Aviv.

On Wednesday (12th), Israeli officials closed Ben Gurion Airport to incoming flights.

To avoid danger to civilians from Palestinian rockets, incoming flights are landing at the Ramon Airport in southern Israel, where passengers disembark.  The empty planes are then flying to Ben Gurion Airport, where outgoing passengers can board flights.

Meanwhile, United Airlines canceled flights from Chicago, Newark and San Francisco through Saturday (15th).

American Airlines canceled its daily flight from New York to Tel Aviv on Wednesday and Thursday and offered to put passengers on flights at a later date.  Delta canceled flights from New York to Tel Aviv through Thursday.

Company reps said the airlines were monitoring the situation for the resumption of flights.



Israeli Ground Offensive ‘On Table’ As Rocket Barrages Continue

As the Israeli military intensifies its strike on Hamas, plans for a possible ground invasion of the Gaza Strip will be presented to IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi for approval later on Thursday (13th).

Speaking to reporters, IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Hidai Zilberman said that the plans are being put together by the Gaza Division and Southern Command and will then be given to Israel’s political echelon for approval.

The IDF has hit terrorist government targets and banks as well as senior leaders in the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror organizations.

“They are losing everything,” Zilberman told reporters on Thursday morning (13th).

“Last night we started destroying government targets in the Gaza Strip, such as central banks and internal security buildings.  Hamas is beginning to discover cracks and there is pressure in the organization, even among the Gaza public who is losing its patience and sees these ruins on the eve of the holiday of Eid al-Fitr,” he said.

Over 650 targets belonging to Hamas have been struck since the beginning of “Operation Guardian of the Walls,” such as those belonging to their police, Interior Ministry, banks, homes of commanders, including that of the battalion commander of Khan Younis, a naval commando unit and a defensive tunnel inside a school.

Three high-rise buildings were also destroyed by Israel Air Force airstrikes and some 60 Hamas operatives have been killed, including 10 senior commanders.

According to Zilberman, all options remain on the table and additional ground troops have been redeployed to the border ahead of a possible ground operation, including from the Paratroopers Brigade, Golani Infantry Brigade and 7th Armored Brigade.



Israel Rejects Hamas Truce Offer As Ministers Vote To Intensify Gaza Strikes

The security cabinet on Wednesday night (12th) approved a plan to intensify military attacks on Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in the Gaza Strip, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informed its members that Israel has officially rejected a Hamas proposal for a ceasefire.

Israel dismissed the offer of a truce made earlier in the day via the Russian foreign ministry which quoted a senior Hamas official as saying that the Islamist group was ready to halt attacks on a “mutual basis.”

Senior officials also said that the IDF had not been taken by surprise by Hamas’ capabilities in the round of fighting.

“We were not surprised, either by the scale of the rockets or by their capabilities,” one said.

More than 1,000 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip at Israel with a third of them falling inside Gaza.  Of the remaining 700, half fell in open areas and 90% of the remaining 350 or so rockets were intercepted.”

“The campaign is still far from over,” a cabinet member said.  “Whatever we don’t do now, we will have to do in six months or a year from now.”

The members of the cabinet were also asked to approve operational plans for the coming days.  “This will not end in the next few days,” said a cabinet member.

“Israel will not stop and has no interest in stopping.  It is all moving in the right direction.  We will act until they admit that opening fire was a mistake, just as Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah did after the Second Lebanon War in 2006,” he said.

“When we have hit all our targets and the other side has still not surrendered, we will launch a ground operation even though we do not seek it.”

The official said that Israel’s main achievement during the current campaign, dubbed “Operation Guardian of the Walls,” was the elimination of senior Hamas and Islamic Jihad officials earlier Wednesday (12th).

“This was an amazing achievement by Shin Bet security service, which managed to trace these officials in just two days.”

Wednesday (12th) marked the third consecutive day of rocket fire from Gaza at Israeli population centers, in a round of attacks that began Monday evening (10th) with a volley of rockets launched at the Jerusalem area after days of clashes in the city between Palestinians and Israeli security forces.

That initial attack was followed by ongoing, near continuous heavy rocket fire on southern communities, which left two dead in Ashkelon and dozens wounded.  And on Tuesday night (11th), two massive salvos were fired at central Israel, killing one person in Rishon Lezion and a father and his teenage daughter in Lod.

Israel has responded to the rockets with repeated air and artillery strikes on what it says were terror targets in Gaza.

A total of six people have been killed on the Israeli side by rocket fire, including the first death of an Israeli soldier in this round of conflict.  Dozens more have been wounded..

The death toll of Gaza rose Wednesday (12th) to 53, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-run enclave.  At least 320 have been wounded.



Rivlin: ‘No Country In The World Would Allow Such Brutal Attacks, And We Won’t Either’

In light of the recent upsurge in violence and in order to forestall condemnation of Israeli actions, President of Israel Reuven Rivlin made a round of calls with his counterparts around the world, beginning Wednesday morning (12th).  So far, the president spoke with presidents of Germany, Austria and Bulgaria, and with the president of the European Council.

In the conversations, Rivlin emphasized that “after several days of disorder on the streets of Jerusalem, Hamas has fired close to a thousand rockets on Israel, targeting our capital Jerusalem, and houses on the outskirts of the city have been damaged.  Hundreds of thousands of children and their families – most of Israel’s population – are in bomb shelters even now.”  He added, “the rockets do not distinguish between Jews and Arabs,” and that “the high level of compliance by our citizens and the Iron Dome system is what is preventing many more deaths and casualties.”

The president added that the State of Israel is absolutely clear that the rocket fire from Gaza is with Iranian involvement, and that “we are also looking north, to Iran’s northern proxy in our area – Hezbollah.”

In all his conversations, the president stressed that the world must stand with the State of Israel’s self-evident right and duty to protect its citizens, saying, “No country in the world would allow brutal attacks like this and we will also not stand by.  We will defend our citizens in every way necessary, and we will not stand by while we are being fired upon.  We will continue to attack those firing incessantly on our innocent civilians, and we will silence them,” he added.



19 Cities Across The US Rally In Favor Of Israel Amid Escalations  

Pro-Israeli rallies took place across the United States Wednesday evening (12th) in 19 cities in solidarity with Israel amid the recent escalations and rocket attacks entering the country from the Gaza Strip.

Organized by a number of Jewish American groups alongside the Israeli-American Council (IAC), the events took place in a handful of cities including New York City and Washington, DC.  The theme of the events was “Standing Up Against Terror,” according to the IAC.

“We needed to be there for Israel, and for our brothers and sisters, who are under brutal attack by terror organizations,” said IAC Co-founder and CEO Shoham Nicolet.

This comes after pro-Israel and anti-Israel protesters clashed on Tuesday (11th) in New York City,  with social media footage of the event going viral.



US Blocks United Nations ‘Biased Statement’ On Mideast Violence

For the second time this week, the United States blocked a UN Security Council joint statement on the continued violence between the Israelis and Palestinians.

According to diplomats, it did so out of the idea that it would not help de-escalate the violence, according to the Anadolu Agency.

The Security Council met on Monday (10th), when the United States blocked a statement that did not seem even-handed.

As one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, it has veto power over any action by the 15-member council.

The opposed statement had “expressed deep concern about the latest situation in Gaza and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities,” and further “expressed concern about the tensions and violence in East Jerusalem, especially in and around the holy sites.”

The US usually supports Israel in international forums, where the Jewish state is often disproportionately singled out for criticism.  According to reports, it appears that US officials were concerned that the proposed statements on the situation did not adequately address Israeli concerns.

“The United Nations is working with all relevant parties to de-escalate the situation urgently,” UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said on Tuesday (11th).