News Digest — 5/17/21
Gaza Terrorists Launch 60 Rockets In Overnight Attack As IDF Pummels Hamas Tunnel System
Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired an estimated 60 rockets at Israel overnight Monday (17th) marking the fewest number of projectiles launched at the Jewish state over the last week.
According to the IDF, at least 10 of the projectiles failed to cross into Israeli territory and landed in the coastal enclave.
The IDF estimates that some 3,150 rockets have been fired by Palestinian terrorists since fighting began last Monday (10th).
This relative decrease comes amid growing pressure by the US and world powers to reach a ceasefire agreement between Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
At the same time the Israeli military struck Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad infrastructure targets in Gaza, after a week of violence in the Jewish state.
Overnight Sunday (16th) to Monday (17th), Israel launched dozens of strikes in the space of a few minutes across the coastal Palestinian enclave controlled by Islamist group Hamas.
The strikes caused widespread power cuts and damaged hundreds of buildings, with no casualties immediately reported.
The strikes also targeted the terror group’s underground tunnel system in the northern Gaza Strip, dubbed “the metro.”
Fifty-four fighter jets pounded nine miles of tunnels in 20 minutes, which the army has previously acknowledged runs through civilian areas.
Army chief Aviv Kochavi said Israel had reacted with unprecedented force. “Hamas misjudged the strength of our response,” he said.
Determined To Complete Operation Against Hamas, Israel Rejects Ceasefire Proposals
The political echelon expects the international community to begin pressuring Israel and Hamas to agree to a ceasefire, the government said Sunday (16th).
Egypt attempted to broker a ceasefire on Friday (14th), but failed. An official involved in the talks told Israel Hayom that both sides rejected all proposals for a truce, especially Israel. According to the official, the IDF is intent on completing its operations against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and only then would be open to a ceasefire.
As of Sunday afternoon (16th), no country had pressured Israel to stop its operation in Gaza. In fact, many expressed full support for the country’s right to defend itself.
On Tuesday (18th), European Union foreign ministers will hold urgent video talks on the escalating fighting between Israel and Hamas, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell announced on Twitter.
On Saturday night (15th), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with US President Joe Biden by phone.
“The president reaffirmed his strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza. He condemned the indiscriminate attacks against towns and cities across Israel,” the White House said in a statement afterward.
“Biden updated Netanyahu on high-level US engagement with regional partners on the issue. The US President also raised concerns about the safety of journalists and reinforced the need to ensure their protection,” the statement added.
Biden condemned intercommunal violence across Israel and commended the government’s efforts to hold rioters accountable and establish order. The two agreed to be in touch in the days ahead.
‘Thanks To Iron Dome, We Can Celebrate Shavuot’
President Reuven Rivlin spoke Sunday afternoon (16th) on the IDF communications network, speaking to the IDF General Staff’s command center and conveying best wishes of the Israeli people to all IDF soldiers standing guard on land, sea and air.
“Our wonderful soldiers, men and women, this is Kodkod (commander) Ruvi,” said the president.
“No words can express the appreciation and love we have for you. Today, you won’t be sitting around the holiday table with your families, but the whole of Israeli people is with you. You make it possible for us, all of us, to enjoy a happier, safer holiday. Through you, I would like to thank all IDF soldiers and security forces. You are our light, you are our pride, you are in our hearts at every moment. On behalf of the entire Israeli people, I would like to say thank you. Take care of yourselves, my dears, and take care of us. We trust you.
Col. Moran Omer, commander of the operations unit in the command center at the Kirya General Staff HQ base, via which the president’s message went out to the IDF’s command posts, spoke to the president and said, “Thank you Mr. President for your words. We see protecting and defending Israel as a great privilege during this complex time and take this opportunity to wish you and all Israel a happy Shavuot holiday, with as much quiet as possible. Again, thank you for your time and the opportunity for us to hear you.”
The president made his remarks while on his way to visit an Iron Dome battery escorted by the commander of aerial defense Brig.-Gen. Gilad Biran and commander of battalion 947 Lt.-Col.Yehonatan Shabatai, who briefed the president on the sector and on the Iron Dome batteries deployed around the country.
The president then thanked the men and women of the battery he visited, saying “I came here and I see that the guardians of Israel neither slumber nor sleep. You are the guardians of our walls. I see the professionalism with which you are running this campaign, and I am proud of you. All of Israel trusts you.”
The president brought a cheesecake with him for the soldiers, as Nechama (Rivlin’s wife) used to do with soldiers, and said, “I came here ahead of Shavuot because I knew you wouldn’t be home and that your parents will be missing you. Many of them are involved themselves, as the homefront has become the front-line. You are the irrefutable answer to the homefront that has become the front-line, and now we can live safely and be protected. Chag Sameach, my dears, to you and your families, on behalf of all citizens. Thank you. Thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Nechama, my wife of blessed memory, would go between security forces who had stayed back to guard us on the holidays, and give them a slice of her famous cheesecake. Now I am here to carry on that tradition,” the president concluded.
(The Shavuot Jewish holiday, also called the Feast of Weeks, began Sunday, May 16 at sundown and will end at nightfall on Tuesday, May 18.)
Report: The UAE Demands Hamas Stop Rocket Attacks
The UAE has reportedly threatened Hamas that it will cease all infrastructure and economic investments in the Gaza Strip if it fails to come to a ceasefire agreement with Jerusalem in the near future.
“We are still ready and willing to promote civil projects in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority and under UN management in Gaza, but our necessary condition is calm,” an unnamed UAE official told the financial daily Globes over the weekend.
“If Hamas does not commit to complete calm, it is dooming the residents of the Strip to a life of suffering. Its leaders must understand that their policies are first and foremost hurting the people of Gaza.”
On Friday (14th), Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan voiced his country’s concern over the escalation of Israeli-Palestinian violence and called for a ceasefire and the start of a diplomatic dialogue, state news agency WAM reported.
Al Nahyan offered condolences for all victims of the fighting.
“The UAE is alarmed by the escalating spiral of violence in the fighting in Israel and Palestine. We express our condolences to all victims of the recent fighting, and join others in calling for a cessation of hostilities,” he said.
“We reflect on the promise that the Abraham Accords hold for current and future generations, to live with their neighbors in peace, dignity and prosperity,” he said, offering his country’s support to all efforts to de-escalate tensions.
Evangelicals Donate Bomb Shelters To Israeli Communities
Christians around the world have donated nine portable bomb shelters to communities near the Gaza border that are under constant rocket attack presently. The shelters are meant to be delivered in the coming days.
In addition another six shelters have been ordered and will soon be sent to communities located near the Lebanese border.
“Christians around the world want to do something positive to help Israel now,” David Parsons, ICEJ vice president and senior international spokesman told The Jerusalem Post. “They are praying and standing up for Israel in their own countries but feel this is something that they can do to really make a contribution to the security and peace in Israel.”
He said “the more people that are sheltered, the less casualties there will be, and the more futile Hamas will feel in attacking Israel like this.”
Some 20 Christian legislators from around the world have also signed a statement calling on the international community “to condemn the perpetrators of violence, Hamas, who through their actions are limiting the possibility of a future peace in the region.”
“We call on Hamas to immediately cease its barrages of rockets against Israeli civilians, and to remove its operating bases from within Gaza neighborhoods and densely populated civilian areas which disproportionately increases the death toll of civilians and endangers the lives of noncombatants,” the legislators wrote.
The parliamentarians, each the head of an Israel Allies Caucus in their country, represent countries including Hungary, Slovakia, Lithuania, Finland, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Italy, Uruguay, Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala, Suriname, Venezuela, South Africa, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.