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Latest News in Israel – 7th May

Updates from Israel and the Jewish World

Compiled by Dr Ron Wiseman

Netanyahu: Campaign not over, requires ‘patience and sagacity.’

Two days after Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) pummeled Israel with some 700 rockets, and Israel responded with a show of force not seen since Operation Protective Edge in 2014, an undeclared ceasefire held in the South on Monday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, made clear that this would not be the last round of fighting in the coastal enclave.

“Over the last two days, we struck Hamas and Islamic Jihad with great force,” he said in a statement. “We hit over 350 targets. We struck terrorist leaders and operatives and we destroyed terrorist buildings. The campaign is not over, and it demands patience and sagacity. We are prepared to continue. The goal has been – and remains – ensuring quiet and security for the residents of the South.”

Netanyahu’s statement said nothing of a ceasefire, which a Hamas-run television channel first reported would come into effect at 4:30 a.m. While no official comments came from Jerusalem announcing a ceasefire, directives issued by the IDF – saying that at 7 a.m. restrictions placed on residents of the South would be lifted – were an indication that an agreement had been reached.

The agreement was brokered, as previous ones were, by Egypt and the UN. Though the terms were not released, KAN News reported that they included Israel agreeing to the transfer of some $30 million from Qatar to Gaza to pay Hamas salaries, reopening the crossings into Gaza, and a return to the expanded fishing zone off Gaza’s coast. Hamas is expected to exert greater control over PIJ, limit the weekly “Great March of Return” riots along the border, and stop launching inflammable balloons and kites toward Israel.

PIJ, which is considered Iran’s proxy in Gaza, triggered the recent round of violence by sniping at two IDF soldiers along the Gaza border on Friday. Israel responded, hitting a Hamas position and killing four Hamas operatives. This was followed by the heaviest barrage of rockets from Gaza since 2014’s Operation Protective Edge.

Netanyahu – who on Monday did not publicly refer to the ceasefire agreement – said following a security briefing that Hamas understands that over the last two days, Israel has changed the rules of engagement in Gaza.

“In the past two days, we have renewed the policy of eliminating senior terrorists, we killed dozens of terrorists from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and destroyed terrorist towers,” he said.

“We have changed the rules of the game, and Hamas understands this very well. With that, it is clear that this is not the end of the campaign, and I therefore gave instructions to prepare for what will come next, and gave directives to leave armored and artillery forces around the Gaza Strip.”

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri responded to Netanyahu, saying that the prime minister’s comments were worthy of “scorn.”

“The resistance succeeded in deterring Netanyahu’s army,” he said, adding that Hamas’ message to Netanyahu is that “this round is over, but the confrontation will not end until our rights are achieved.”

According to figures reported on Channel 12, some 690 rockets were fired from Gaza, killing four Israeli civilians and hitting 21 homes. The Iron Dome system succeeded in intercepting 240 rockets, or about 85% of the projectiles that were on a trajectory to a populated or strategic area.

The IDF hit some 350 targets, killing 30 Palestinians, destroyed six multi-story buildings that served the terrorist organizations, carried out two targeted assassinations and destroyed one terror tunnel.

While the IDF’s Home Front Command announced the lifting of all restrictions for residents in southern Israel on Monday morning, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi warned that Israel would continue to strike if necessary.

“We will continue to strike forcefully, as many times as needed, wherever it is needed,” Kochavi said during a pre-Remembrance Day ceremony. “The terrorist army operating in the Gaza Strip, hiding among its own citizens, saw the strength of the IDF which destroyed hundreds of terrorist targets, including headquarters, weapons depots, infrastructures, and ostensibly civilian buildings that became terrorized.”

An IDF Spokesperson told The Jerusalem Post that there has not been changed in the build-up of troops deployed to the southern border on Saturday. Due to the violence in the South over the weekend, the IDF deployed the 7th armored brigade “which would be ready to act as an offensive force within the Gaza Division,” as well as the Golani Brigade. The Paratroopers Brigade is on standby to be deployed South if needed, the military said.

On Monday afternoon, the IDF announced that it will be closing all crossings to the West Bank and Gaza Strip for Remembrance and Independence Days this week, beginning at midnight on Monday until 12:01 on Friday morning.

Exceptions will be made for humanitarian, medical and exceptional cases approved by the IDF’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the military said.

The closure of crossings is a standard move ahead of Israeli religious and civil holidays.  (Jerusalem Post) Herb Keinon

Netanyahu: Israel changed rules of engagement in Gaza

Hamas understands that over the last two days Israel has changed the rules of engagement in Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday after a briefing on the security situation at the Southern Command Headquarters.

“In the past two days we have renewed the policy of eliminating senior terrorists, we killed dozens of terrorists from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and destroyed terror towers, ” he said.

“We have changed the rules of the game, and Hamas understands this very well. With that, it is clear that this is not the end of the campaign, and I therefore gave instructions to prepare for what will come next, and gave directives to leave armored and artillery forces around the Gaza Strip,” he said.

Netanyahu met for a security assessment with National Security Council head Meir Ben-Shabbat, Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen Eyal Zamir, OC Southern Command Major General Herzi Halevi, Gaza Division commander Brigadier General Eliezer Toledano, and The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Major General Kamil Abu-Rukun.

Before the briefing, Netanyahu visited wounded IDF soldier at Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba. (Jerusalem Post) Herb Keinon

Residents of Rocket-Battered Southern Israel Express Dismay Over Gaza Ceasefire

After several days of unrelenting rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, residents of Israel’s south expressed frustration and anger on Monday with the announced ceasefire and the ongoing stalemate with Hamas.

Hundreds of rockets were fired at Israel over the weekend, killing four Israelis and critically wounding several others. The IDF responded with major retaliatory strikes in Hamas-ruled Gaza, but a ceasefire declared on Monday appeared to leave things as inconclusive as ever.

The Hebrew news site Mako quoted Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi as saying, “Finally, we saw that it is possible to return to the policy of targeted killings and I’m happy that it happened,” a reference to Israel’s assassination of Hamas commander Hamad Al Khodori, who was reportedly responsible for transferring Iranian funds to the Islamist terrorist group.

“But yesterday a serious mistake was made,” Davidi said of the ceasefire. “Anyone who spoke about deterrence didn’t achieve it.”

“We will arrive at a situation in two or three weeks where a terrorist may fire at one of our soldiers, and we’ll be back on the same merry-go-round,” he added.

“If I were prime minister,” Davidi asserted, “I would have said to Hamas and Islamic Jihad: ‘You want to shoot at Tel Aviv, shoot at Tel Aviv; you want to shoot at Jerusalem, shoot at Jerusalem; but we will continue to hit your highest officials and we will not hesitate.’”

Ordinary residents also expressed frustration and even rage at recent developments.

“This is a government of disgrace and failure,” said a resident of Kibbutz Kerem Shalom. “Hamas and the government of Israel are playing a game of, ‘Whose is bigger,’ and the residents are the ones getting hurt.”

A resident of Kibbutz Nirim was equally outraged, saying, “This is a morning of crisis and shame. After 700 rockets, four dead, and three critically wounded … you chose to fold, to manage the conflict as a situation in which they will continue to burn our fields every other day, explosive balloons, border infiltrations, snipers 100 meters from the border fence.”

Ongoing riots on Israel’s border with Gaza have seen terrorists launching incendiary balloons and other devices into Israeli territory, causing millions of dollars in damage to local agriculture. There have also been numerous attempts to infiltrate southern Israel.

“This is a ceasefire to serve Eurovision,” the resident asserted. “A white flag before a group of murderers.”

Many analysts have said that Israel did not go to war against Hamas this time because the Eurovision song contest is slated to take place in Tel Aviv later this month.

Baruch from Ashkelon told Yediot Ahronot, “I think this is a failure for Netanyahu and I am sorry I convinced people to vote for him.”

Referring to the bodies of Israeli soldiers and two living Israelis held by Hamas in Gaza, Baruch asked, “What did we get? The soldiers’ bodies? The prisoners? No. We got 700 rockets and terrified children. We didn’t sleep at night for two days, we didn’t work, and we hid in our homes, and what did Netanyahu do? Arrived at a ceasefire with them.”

“Gaza decides when to start a war and when to stop it,” he stated.

Shula, a Sderot resident, said, “There’s tension and fear in the air. We had a very hard few days.”

“I don’t believe in this ceasefire,” she noted. “We always have hope, this isn’t the first time, and we’ve lived with this reality for so many years, but the scope of the latest round was unusual even for us.”

In the meantime, students began to return to school, though Hebrew news site Walla reported that, in one Sderot school, only 20 percent of students arrived for morning classes.

Many of the children spoke about their experiences.

“There was a red-alert siren and we did not have protection,” said a first-grader. “I lay down with my family on the sidewalk and covered my head with my hands.”

Another student talked about being forced to stay in a fortified room, saying, “I’m tired of sitting there all day, it’s hard.”

A mother whose children attend the school said, “This is a strange return to routine. We were sure there would be a long battle, but it’s always good to get back to normal.”

“It was very difficult to get the children organized this morning,” she added. “We hope, of course, that the quiet will continue, but the fear still exists.”

“We’re sure they will come back,” she said of the rocket attacks.

School director Dina Huri said, “The important thing that needs to be done after an escalation is dialogue, to examine every child and their personal story. We have to be a place that listens.”   (the Algemeiner) Benjamin Kerstein

‘My two loves went up in flames’

Iris Eden has twice lost the “love of her life” in violent acts of war.

Her husband, Maj. (res.) Yasys Eden, 44, was among the 73 soldiers killed when two Israel Air Force helicopters collided mid-air in southern Lebanon in 1997.

On Sunday, just days before the country’s Remembrance Day for fallen soldiers, her second love, Moshe Feder, 68, was killed by an anti-tank missile as he drove on a road near the Gaza border in southern Israel. He was buried Monday evening in their home city of Kfar Saba.

“My two great loves went up in flames, one on the plane and one in the car,” Iris told Army Radio on Monday morning. “I spent 17 years with this wonderful man, who was the second love of my life,” Iris lamented.

“We shared a lot of happy moments together,” she said, adding that Feder “was everything to her.”

Feder was a shoulder to lean on; and a person she could consult and love, she said. He was generous, modest and humble and had helped her raise her three sons from her first husband.

He “loved life” and lived each moment to its fullest. She had warned him not to travel down south when there was tension, but he didn’t listen.

Moshe Feder with Iris Eden

President Reuven Rivlin on Monday paid condolence calls to the families of the four rocket victims: Moshe Agadi, 58; Feder, 68; Pinchas Menachem Prezuasman, 21; and Ziad Alhamamda, 47.

Alhamamda was a member of Israel’s Bedouin community and lived in an unrecognized village outside of Ashkelon.

Rivlin told his family: “All the tribes of Israel are together for better for worse, in hopes and in hardships. Regardless of the tribe to which we belong – haredi, secular, religious, traditional, Jews or Arabs – terror ism strikes without discrimination, without mercy, and we will never give in to it.

“We are together in our joys and in our pain, and I fervently pray that none of you will know further sorrow,” Rivlin said.

When Rivlin visited the Prezuasman family, he was accompanied by Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman who, like the deceased, is a Gerrer Hassid. The rocket victim was in his early twenties, and the father of two young children. He was running for shelter when he was struck. “I know that we say ‘Blessed is the True Judge’” said Rivlin, “but we all know that there is no comfort in the face of such a terrible tragedy.”

He was accompanied to the home of the Alhamamda family by Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel who has a very close relationship with the Bedouin community, and has been instrumental in trying to improve their living conditions.

Rivlin told the mourners that he does his utmost to visit all sectors of Israeli society, especially when terror is the cause of a family’s bereavement.  (Jerusalem Post)

234 Israelis injured in the latest round of Gaza violence

Since the start of Saturday’s rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into Israel, some 234 patients have been treated at Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon and Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba.

This comes after 690 rockets were shot into Israel by terrorists from Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in a 48-hour period. Israel responded with targeted air strikes at observation posts, warehouses, Hamas offices and weapons facilities.

Four Israelis died during the continued rocket attacks.

In a statement on Monday morning, Barzilai Hospital said there were still 17 people hospitalized, spokeswoman Ayelet Kedar confirmed. She said in total the hospital, since Saturday, the hospital had treated 74 people who were lightly injured, three people for moderate injuries and three people for critical injuries.

She confirmed that three people had died of their wounds at the hospital. The fourth, Moshe Agadi, was killed after being critically injured when a rocket hit a building in Ashkelon.

Seventy-two others were treated for shock during the latest round of violence, the hospital said.

Meanwhile, Soroka Medical Center said that it had treated 79 people since the start of the rocket attacks.

Inbar Guter, a spokeswoman for the medical center, said that 11 people were still hospitalized with injuries ranging from serious moderate to light

She said that over the 48-hour period of rocket fire, the hospital had treated 39 people for anxiety, 36 people for light injuries, three for moderate injuries and one person in critical condition.

Guter added that one person remained in critical condition in the intensive care ward, whilst an infant, as well as two other woman, were in the pediatric ward and the women’s ward.

A ceasefire was attained with the help of Egypt and the United Nations at 4.30 a.m. on Monday morning.

Some 25 Palestinians were killed – among which nine were known members terrorist factions in Gaza – and 154 others were injured during the violence.

This was the bloodiest round of hostilities since the 2014 Gaza War. (Jerusalem Post) Tovah Lazaroff and Greer Fay Cashman

Israel’s population tops 9 million, including 45% of world Jewry

On the eve of its 71st Independence Day, Israel’s population stands at 9,021,000, crossing 9 million for the first time, according to figures released on Monday by the Central Bureau of Statistics.

The data show that 6,697,000 Israelis are Jewish (74.2 percent) and 1,890,000 are Arab (20.9%). In addition, there are 434,000 people who are non-Arab Christians or members of other ethnic groups. Seventy-five percent of the Jews in Israel were born in the country.

Since last Independence Day, the population of Israel has grown by 177,000 (an increase of 2%). During that period, 188,000 babies were born, 47,000 people died and 31,000 immigrants arrived in the country.

Since the establishment of Israel in 1948, 3.2 million immigrants have moved to Israel, with around 43% of them arriving after 1990.

According to the data, the country’s population is expected to reach 15.2 million people by Israel’s 100th Independence Day in 2048.

In 1948 there were just 806,000 people in Israel and at the time, the global Jewish population was 11.5 million, and just 6% were in Israel. Today, 45% of the world’s Jews live in Israel.

Independence Day celebrations begin on Wednesday night, as the country transitions from Memorial Day — 24 hours of mourning for its fallen soldiers and terror victims.  (the Times of Israel) Staff

On Independence Day eve, 82% of Israelis happy with country’s achievements

Some 82% of Israelis say the country’s achievements outweigh its failures, according to a report by the Israel Democracy Institute.

Released Monday, on the eve of Israel’s 71st Independence Day, IDI’s new “Israeli Voice Index” survey found that among Jews, a majority (60%) think there were “much more” successes than failures, and one quarter said there were “somewhat more” successes than failures.

According to Dr. William Cubbison, a researcher with IDI’s Guttman Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research, the results this year are similar to those around the time of the 66th and 70th Independence Days.

In 2018, 80% of Israelis said they were satisfied with Israel’s achievements, an increase from 71% as compared with in 2014.

This year, among Arab Israelis, the numbers who think there have been much more successes was 42%, while those who say there were somewhat more successes is 27%.

Similarly, last year, there was a gap between Jews and Arabs, with 87% of Jewish Israelis satisfied with Israel’s achievements prior to the 70th Independence Day, compared to just 40% of Arab Israelis.

A segmentation of the Jewish sample by religiosity (self-definition) revealed that among the religious, the rate of those who view the successes as greater than the failures is the highest (93%), versus 80% among the secular.

Similarly, the Right stands at 90%, versus 79% on the Left.

The survey was conducted between April 30 and May 2, before 700 rockets rained down on Israel from Gaza killing four citizens in a 48-hour escalation. Then, when IDI asked, “How do you feel about Israel’s security situation in the foreseeable future?” the organization found that more than half (58%) of Jews and Arabs (51.5%) were optimistic about the future of Israel’s security.

Likewise, most Israelis (54%) are optimistic about the future of democratic governance in Israel. However, only 39% of Arab Israelis are optimistic of the future of the country’s democracy.

Segmentation revealed a correlation between levels of religiosity and the aforesaid optimism, in that the more religious one is, the more likely he or she is to be optimistic about the future of Israel’s democracy.

More than three-quarters (77%) of haredim, 83% of the national-religious, 65% of traditional religious, 61% of non-religious and 36% of secular people are optimistic about the future of democratic governance.

From 2003 to 2018, the Israel Democracy Index asked respondents if they were proud to be Israeli.

Over time, Jewish Israelis have consistently expressed more pride in being Israeli, although in 2018 a majority of Arab Israelis also said they were proud to be Israeli.

In 2018, 88% of Jewish Israelis said they were “very proud” or “had quite a lot of pride,” compared to 51% of Arab Israelis.

Moreover, Israelis are very satisfied with what the country has achieved.

“The past decade and a half has seen a significant rise in positive assessments of the country’s overall situation,” said Cubbison.

“But, when looking ahead towards the future, Israelis are less optimistic: large gaps exist between Arab and Jewish Israelis and between Right and Left, both with regard to their pride in being Israeli, and on the future of the state.”

The Israeli Voice Index was conducted by Internet and telephone and reached 621 people who were interviewed in Hebrew and 163 in Arabic.             (Jerusalem Post) Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman

Why the Gaza rocket fire? Because Hamas thinks Israel is vulnerable to extortion

Ahead of Independence Day and the Eurovision Song Contest, Gaza’s terrorist rulers see a rare opportunity to pressure Israel, which it knows is desperate for calm

by Avi Issacharoff     the Times of Israel


At some point overnight Friday-Saturday, Hamas evidently decided to launch a controlled escalation of rocket fire into Israel. It began with rocket fire at Israeli communities near the Gaza border, continued north to Ashdod, and seems set to widen further, as of this writing, given that Beersheba has decided to open its municipal bomb shelters.

This escalation of violence is not solely in response to the deaths of two Hamas terrorists on the Gaza border Friday afternoon, following a Gaza sniper’s fire that injured two Israeli soldiers. Rather, it reflects the decision by the terror organization to try to gain from what it recognizes as a situation in which Israel can be pressured into significant concessions, most especially regarding the transfer of Qatari funds into the Gaza Strip.

Hamas is clearly prepared to take the risk of a still wider conflict, gambling that Israel desperately wants a ceasefire at this moment.

The next 10 days are thus going to be extremely complicated for Israel. The Gaza terror group smells blood.

In four days time, the State of Israel will mark Memorial Day and then Independence Day, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not want to be marking those occasions in the midst of a major escalation with Gaza. In 10 days time, the Palestinians will mark Nakba Day, the anniversary of what they consider the catastrophe that befell them with the establishment of the State of Israel, while Israel will be hosting the semi-finals of the Eurovision Song Contest. Huge numbers of people around the world will be turning their attention to Tel Aviv.

Hamas recognizes that given the imminent Eurovision festivities, it has a real opportunity to create pressure points and obtain significant concessions on the ground. In other words: to blackmail Israel.

Hamas wants money and more money. And some of this appetite can be traced back to the decision by Netanyahu six months ago to allow the monthly transfer of $15 million in cash from Qatar to the Hamas coffers.

The key to a calming of the current situation, as ever lies, in Egypt. In Cairo, the heads of Hamas and Islamic Jihad have been holding discussions with Egyptian intelligence officials on a longer-term ceasefire — talks that were continuing even as the current escalation gathered pace. The key demand in those Cairo discussions is that Israel allow the ongoing transfer of the Qatari millions in return for ongoing calm and concessions. Hamas calls this “the second stage” of the understandings — the continuation of the secret agreement reached between Hamas and Israel, with Egyptian mediation, on the eve of Israel’s elections. This agreement, whose full details have never been disclosed, achieved relative calm on the Gaza border. The fishing zone was expanded. There were some easing of restrictions on the transfer of produce.

It’s not clear whether further Qatari cash transfers would be carried out via the United Nations, and allocated for salaries or for poor families. But one way or another, the Hamas demand is the same: Show us the money.

Given the past policies of the Netanyahu government, it seems likely that this time, too, the money will be forthcoming, possibly shortly before Independence Day.

Hamas’s attempts at extortion also stem from its recognition that the Gaza populace is expecting economic and civilian achievements from its Islamist rulers. The fishing zone was cut back again after rocket fire earlier in the week. The economic situation in Gaza continues to be dire.

The Gaza unemployment rate has crossed 50%, and among graduates it is close to 70%. These are astonishing numbers, and combine with the reduction in salaries for Palestinian Authority officials in Gaza (as well as in the West Bank) and the US cuts both in aid to various projects in Gaza and to the Palestinian refugee welfare organization UNRWA.

Hamas fears a further deterioration in the economic situation, and now sees an opportunity to get Qatari money via Israel to at least partially alleviate that.

It does not, however, intend to cut back its own activities, by reducing the budget of its military wings, for example. Indeed, Hamas continues to impose a variety of taxes on the residents of Gaza, which fund its activities including those of its military wing.

Now, with the major rocket fire flare-up, Gaza is hoping to extract further funding, from Qatar, via Israel.

The next round of rocket fire is coming soon

The rounds of violence keep on taking the Israelis by surprise, although there is nothing surprising about them.

by Shimrit Meir    The Jerusalem Post


A day after the ceasefire that ended one of a short but brutal round of violence in Gaza, both the Israelis and the Palestinians are extremely grumpy.

This frustration is understood, especially among those Israelis who leave in the southern part of the country and experienced almost 700 rockets in three days.

But the situation on the other side of the border is much worse, as the Muslim Palestinians in Gaza just entered the month of Ramadan under fire, with buildings collapsing after being targeted from the air.

The Israeli side, from obvious reasons, neglected to share the nature and details of the ceasefire agreement with Hamas. The Palestinian side, however, is talking about a leak that a dramatic increase in the Qatari monthly aid is due, and it will now reach $40 million monthly. The direct link between peace and payment makes it even more obvious that it was all about the money to begin with.

The rounds of violence keep on taking the Israelis by surprise, although there is nothing surprising about them.

Despite some positive economic developments in recent months, the Gazans are desperate for cash. On the eve of Ramadan, the markets might be full with merchandise, but nobody can afford it. The excuses vary, but here’s a general rule: each time there is a setback in the transfer of money, trouble is on its way.

Why did we have to reach this point of crisis, less than a month after Netanyahu had to abruptly leave Washington days before Israel’s general elections, skipping his annual speech at AIPAC’s policy conference, for a previous escalation?

If Israel’s strategic choice is a long-term ceasefire in Gaza, why let it collapse every few weeks?

Not only are Israelis who are critical of the government asking these questions, Gazans are, too.

As opposed to previous rounds of war, there was very little enthusiasm or militarism in the street. People just failed to understand what was going on and how we got to this tipping point again.

Added to the general sense of gloom was that there was  very little support from outside: the West Bankers, under Abbas’ rule, were minding their own business. Only a handful of people showed up to a rally in the center of Ramallah to show solidarity with the other half of the Palestinian people.

Maybe people were too busy shopping for Ramadan? Maybe they preferred not to be seen as supporting Hamas? Or maybe they just didn’t care enough?

What was formerly known as “the Arab street” acted similarly. It was hardly a leading news item, and the Saudi affiliated media /social media, kept on blaming Hamas and its allies Iran and Qatar, for the situation: “How many Iftar meals could you buy with the money it cost to launch all these rockets toward Israel?” asked a Lebanese TV star.

The indifference in the Arab world might also have bad implications: The people in Gaza feel isolated and deserted.

The Iranians are likely to push the Islamic Jihad and Hamas to punish Israel as things get harder for them with the Trump administrations. The Qataris are mostly playing the role of an “ATM machine,” and the Egyptians have their own interests in the game, that sometime collide with Israeli ones.

Add to all this the internal pressure Hamas is facing from hungry Gazans, backed by the Palestinian Authority, you can rest assured that unless the broken diplomacy will be dramatically fixed, the next round of rockets is on its way.

Gaza ceasefire leaves Israel and Hamas exactly where they were before

The latest flareup and truce were born of Jerusalem’s past capitulation to extortion by the rulers of the Strip

by Avi Issacharoff                    The Times of Israel


The morning after the latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas looks exactly like the morning before it began. It’s as if nothing had happened.

In two days of conflict, more than 700 rockets were fired toward Israel; four Israelis were killed, along with 29 Gazans (at least 11 of them members of the terror groups); and considerable damage was done to Hamas and Islamic Jihad infrastructure in the Strip.

But as usual, Israel and Hamas find themselves in a shaky truce without the situation having changed in the slightest. As they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Neither side has any substantive achievement to boast of, nor have they made a move that has altered the status quo.

Hamas has shown that its military capabilities have improved, with the lethality of the rocket attacks and their ability to overcome the Iron Dome missile defense system on multiple occasions, as well as the minimal harm sustained by members of the terrorist organization.

This attests to constant improvements to the terrorists’ military wing in the run-up to the next campaign.

On the other hand, the Israel Defense Forces improved its list of targets and managed to hit important Hamas military facilities. It also showed its ability to carry out a targeted assassination against a member of the terrorist group who had tried to remain under the intelligence radar, with a missile strike on the car of Hamed Hamdan al-Khodari, who funneled Iranian money to Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip.

There are, nonetheless, many causes for concern on the Israeli side.

It is clear that Hamas has learned to defend itself. Most of its senior operatives took cover in the subterranean bunkers and tunnels the terror group has dug underneath the enclave, and escaped the flareup unharmed. Its missile launch and command and control capabilities were impressive.

All of these things should ring warning bells in Israel.

The big problem for Hamas is that on the first morning of the holy month of Ramadan, it cannot present any hope of an economic solution to the people of Gaza — and certainly not of a political one.

This failure on Hamas’s part comes despite the fact that many Gazans expressed willingness for a major military operation, if only to bring about a change in their situation.

While Qatari money may enter Gaza in the coming days, it will not alleviate the overall crisis: Unemployment stands at 51 percent and there is abject poverty

Hamas does nothing to help the local population. Instead, it imposes more and more taxes, which it uses for military infrastructure (including the aforementioned tunnels and bunkers for senior Hamas officials) rather than improving the overall situation in Gaza.

Gazans are starting to show signs of discontent with Hamas — although not enough to bring them out to the streets as was the case earlier this year. But there is now criticism of the terrorist organization on social networks.

The latest round of fighting was likely also an attempt by Hamas to divert Gazan public anger away from the organization and toward Israel.

Ultimately, both sides are hostages to Israel’s decision six months ago to approve the transfer of Qatari money to pay the salaries of Hamas employees.

That money was interpreted in Gaza in only one way — an Israeli surrender to Hamas’s extortion.

It is clear that whoever on the Israeli side made the deal with Hamas — whether they were from the Mossad or the Prime Minister’s Office — did not understand this.

What appeared to those on the Israeli side as an opportunity to cut a deal with Hamas was interpreted on the other side as sign of a weakness that could be exploited.

Thus, when the Qatari money was delayed last weekend, not due to any fault of Israel, Hamas immediately triggered a broader conflict than usual, thinking and believing that what had worked six months ago would work again this time.

And it seems that Hamas was right.

While the Qataris didn’t get involved initially, the money is expected to be transferred to Gaza shortly — just in time to ensure a Ramadan kareem.

Israel, Palestinians Used New Methods of Warfare in Latest Round – Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)

The current flare-up in Gaza is characterized by new methods of warfare used by both sides.

Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other smaller terror groups have introduced a new locally-produced rocket which can reach only a few kilometers into Israel but is tipped with a uniquely heavy warhead. These rockets – called Burkan – were first developed in Syria and their warheads usually contain dozens of kilograms of explosives.

The terror groups thought the rocket would surprise the residents of Israeli communities near the Gaza border, but due to the rockets’ lack of precision, most of them landed in open spaces or failed to make it into Israeli territory altogether.

The IDF has attacked almost exclusively what are labeled “power targets.” These include multi-storey buildings with military installations, buildings serving as headquarters for the terror groups, and even private homes of the factions’ leaders, leaving them without a roof over their heads on the eve of the Ramadan holiday.

The IDF also strikes terror cells launching rockets and has killed at least eight terror operatives.