News Digest — 5/14/21

IDF Strikes Hamas Underground Tunnel Network In Non-Stop Assault On Gaza

The Israel Air Force bombed Hamas’ underground tunnel network late Thursday night (13th) in the northern Gaza Strip in what military officials said was one of the most aggressive aerial assaults in recent years.

On Friday morning (14th), the IAF intercepted another drone that crossed from the Gaza Strip into Israel, after the Iron Dome missile defense system had downed one the day before.

Earlier in the day as well, IDF fighter jets and aircraft attacked a number of underground Hamas terrorist launch sites in the northern Gaza Strip, as well as an aircraft launcher station aimed at the center of the country, and a number of terror observation posts in the north and center of the Gaza Strip.

Rockets continued to pound the Jewish state as the Israeli military pummeled Gaza in one of the largest bombardments of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad since the fighting started.

In a 40-minute long air campaign which began around midnight, some 160 aircraft dropped over 450 missiles on 150 targets belonging to a network of tunnels dug by the terror group known as “the Metro” under Gaza City.  

Speaking to reporters, IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman called the underground network a “strategic asset” to the group that used the miles of tunnels in northern Gaza to move weapons and fighters.

Israeli tanks, artillery cannons and troops from the Golani brigade stationed along the border also carried out barrages towards Hamas targets when terrorist fighters came out to launch attacks at Israel.  A total of some 500 artillery shells and another 50 tank shells were used.

“No troops crossed into Gaza – rather they stayed on the Israeli side,” spokesperson Zilberman said, clarifying earlier claims by foreign media.

“The bombardment by the IDF is aimed at pressuring Hamas,” Zilberman said.

Meanwhile, heavy rocket fire continued overnight from the Gaza Strip, continuing the pace since Monday (10th).  A total of over 2,000 rockets and mortars have been fired towards Israel since the fighting began.  Approximately one-third of the missiles landed in Gazan territory.

However, Friday morning (14th), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “Israel’s campaign against Hamas in Gaza will continue as long as necessary.” 

Even though Egypt offered to mediate a ceasefire, Israel declined Egypt’s offer, saying it was not interested in any ceasefire before eliminating Hamas’ military unit, according to Al-Arabiya.

Netanyahu’s word put to rest any hope of an immediate ceasefire saying, “I said that we would exact a very heavy price from Hamas and the other terrorist organizations.  We are doing so, and we will continue to do so with great force.  The last word has not been said and this operation will continue as long as necessary in order to restore quiet and security to the State of Israel.”

IDF officials also spoke of an extensive campaign against Hamas, which has forcibly used Gaza since 2007.  This newest campaign, dubbed “Operation Guardian of the Walls,” is the fourth following hostilities in 2014, 2012 and during December 2008 and January 2009.

In advance of a potential ground operation, Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Thursday (13th) called up 9,000 more reserve soldiers.

The IDF-Hamas violence comes amid intense clashes between Jews and Arabs across Israel.  Netanyahu spoke of how Israel was conducting a campaign on two-fronts: Gaza violence and civic unrest.

“The second-front – Israel’s cities.  I repeat what I said earlier today: We give 100% backing to the police, to the soldiers of the Border Police and to other security forces in order to restore law and order in Israel’s cities.  We will not tolerate anarchy.  We back the police in using all means with full powers, including in conjunction with the IDF and ISA.”

“We have given powers for an emergency situation here, and all of these measures are important, legitimate and necessary in order to halt this lawlessness in the State of Israel, “ Netanyahu said.

“I again call on the citizens of Israel not to take the law into their own hands – whoever does so, will be punished severely,” he added.



Rockets Fired From Lebanon Towards Northern Israel

Multiple rockets were fired from southern Lebanon into northern Israel Thursday evening (13th), according to Lebanese media outlets.

The Lebanon-based The Daily Star cited Lebanese security officials who said that four rockets were launched from southern Lebanon towards Israeli territory Thursday night (13th), apparently in a show of solidarity with terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

However, a journalist affiliated with the pro-Hezbollah Al-Manar outlet, said that three rockets were launched from southwest Lebanon towards Israel.

An IDF spokesperson said that three rockets had been observed being launched from south Lebanon toward the coast of northern Israel which landed in the sea.

Immediately the Lebanese army deployed forces to the area from where the rockets were launched.

Terrorists operating out of the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave have launched roughly 2,000 rockets at Israel since Monday (10th).

Hundreds of rockets have landed inside the Gaza Strip, including 30 of the rockets launched Thursday (13th).

Nine people have been killed in Israel by terrorist rocket and missile attacks since Monday, with more than 200 injured.

The Gaza Strip’s Health Authority reported 87 dead from Israeli retaliatory strikes, along with 430 injured.



Anti-Netanyahu Coalition Crumbles As Bennett Goes Back To PM

The “coalition of change” of political parties determined to end Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year reign as prime minister seemed to be crumbling Thursday night (13th) as Yamina leader Naftali Bennett told associates he believed the option of such a government was no longer viable.

According to Bennett, such a government would be unable to deal with the ongoing violent clashes between Jews and Arabs and would also be unable to rely on support from Islamist Ra’am party leader Mansour Abbas, whose four Knesset seats were key to a majority government.

“Security matters must come first,” Bennett was quoted as saying.

The Likud party has offered Bennett the option of joining a government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which he would serve as defense minister and Yamina No. 2, Ayelet Shaked would become foreign minister.

The offer is conditional on Bennett first supporting a change to the Basic Law: The government that would reverse the changes made by Netanyahu to give his now alienated Blue & White coalition partners equal power in the government.

If Bennett agrees, Blue & White leader Benny Gantz would immediately be “outed” as defense minister and his party colleague Gabi Ashkenzi would be dismissed as foreign minister.



As Rockets Land, So Do Olim Who Want To Make Israel Home

Despite the recent flare-up with Hamas, some 100 olim have continued with their plans and arrived in Israel this week.

The arrivals of the new Israelis continued non-stop since “Operation Guardian of the Walls” on Monday (10th), with as many as 131 landing on Tuesday (11th) alone.  By the weekend, another 90 will arrive, the Aliyah and Integration Ministry said on Wednesday (12th).

At least 30 of the immigrants hail from the US and Canada, while 26 are French citizens and eight are UK nationals.  Another four are Ukrainian, one is from Brazil and another one is from Australia.

Upon arrival, the new immigrants were greeted by ministry officials at the Ben-Gurion International Airport and were briefed on the complicated situation in their new home and on what procedures they should follow when hearing the sirens, including on how to find a protective space when rockets land.

At least one oleh is now living in Ashkelon, one of the most severely hit cities in the recent escalation.  Many others have also been willing to settle in cities and towns not far from the Gaza Strip despite the likelihood of having to endure constant rocket fire.

Aliyah and Integration Minister Penina Tamanu-Shata said: “I welcome their arrival in these difficult times, which demonstrates that Israel is strong against its enemies.  I salute them for not being deterred from the situation and for deciding to build their new home in Israel.  Continued aliyah bolsters our national resilience.”

The ministry has set up a new center to aid olim in their adjustments, together with the Mashabim Center.  These are multiple-language centers and will operate until midnight every night.



US Evacuates Personnel From Israel As IDF Eyes Ground Operation

The US has pulled out 120 personnel from Israel, as terrorist rocket attacks on the Jewish State continue, CNN reported Thursday (13th).

According to the report, the personnel include both military service members and civilian workers.  The personnel departed Israel via a C-17 transport aircraft, flying to the Ramstein air base in Germany.

An Israeli military spokesman said that the IDF is amassing forces on the border with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, and that Israeli forces are preparing themselves for ground operations,” The Independent reported.

Earlier on Thursday (13th), Defense Minister Benny Gantz green-lighted the call up of an additional 9,000 army reservists.

Some 2,000 rockets have been launched at Israel from the Gaza Strip since Monday (10th), including 200+ rockets launched on Thursday (13th).



Pro-Hamas Signs Hung On Temple Mount

Muslims hung giant signs in support of Hamas leaders on the Temple Mount, Thursday (13th), in a move offering further proof of the terrorist group’s influence on violent activities by Muslims at the site and across Jerusalem in recent weeks.

Thousands of Muslim worshipers arrived at the Temple Mount for Eid al-Fitr prayers, Thursday morning (13th), at the conclusion of the Ramadan holy month.  Some of those in attendance expressed support for Hamas and called for the Gaza Strip to “stand strong” in the face of the IDF operation there.

Posters bore images of Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar and Ismail Haniyeh, with one captioned: “Jerusalem is a Red Line.”

One of those in attendance at the Temple Mount wore a shirt that read: “Palestine in Opposition.  Save East Jerusalem.  We are all Gaza, Jerusalem will rise.”

Maor Tzemach, chairman of the Lach, Yerushalayim [“For You, Jerusalem”] group, said: “The time has come to embark on Operation Guardian of the Walls in Jerusalem.  Last week, Hamas activists in Jerusalem tried to prove they control the Temple Mount and Jerusalem streets.  Israel must fight this terrorist organization in Jerusalem with daily arrests.”