July 8, 2014
In response to the hundreds of rockets launched by Hamas and other terror groups in the Gaza strip in recent days, Israel has launched a retaliatory operation called “Defensive Edge” or “Protective Edge,” which, at this point, is confined to aerial attacks on rocket launching sites and Hamas command and control centers in Gaza.
In the past several days, Israel has suffered much damage from these rockets. Several people have been injured and there has been heavy damage to property (including a factory that was destroyed). Several Palestinians have been killed in retaliatory strikes, including the head of Hamas’ naval operations.
Israel has said in recent days that calm will be met with calm if Hamas would agree to a ceasefire, but an escalation occurred instead and now Israel has “taken the gloves off” and is preparing for a massive military engagement. Israel called up 40,000 reservists, indicating that it is preparing for a long and intense ground invasion of the Gaza strip.
While it might seem natural to relate this to what has been going on in recent days following the murders of the three Israeli boys and one Palestinian boy, it is much more complex and has as much to do with internal Palestinian politics as anything else. Hamas is facing some steep challenges. Since they supported the rebels in Syria over the Assad regime, Iran (Assad’s primary backer) has cut Hamas off financially. Additionally, since the dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt and subsequent crackdown on MB, Egypt has declared Hamas unwelcome. Furthermore, Hamas’ popularity has fallen considerably. This latest escalation by Hamas could be an attempt to win over the Palestinian street.
The rockets launched so far by Hamas have limited range, confined mainly to the Gaza periphery. But the threat of these rockets have put close to 1.5 million people in their bomb shelters for much of the day, with cities like Sderot, Ashdod, Ashkelon, and even Beersheva under threat. Israel expects Hamas to intensify attacks and attempt to reach as far as the outskirts of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Just today, sirens went off in Tel Aviv as Israel’s missile defense system shot down a missile directed at Tel Aviv.
I spoke with one community member who is in Tel Aviv for the summer and he said that while he feels quite safe, the atmosphere is very tense. Israeli summer programs and tours are continuing without interruption, indicating an ease with the present security situation in the center of the country, and as Israel is always quite prepared for these types of situations, we should feel comfortable about the security our many friends and families in Israel. International flights in and out of Tel Aviv continue to operate on schedule.
We are naturally concerned about our friends and family and all of Israel. Our community Shlicha, Dafna Chen, is keeping us apprised of her family’s situation and we are in contact with our friends in our Partnership 2gether region, the Western Galilee. I will closely monitor the ongoing situation and should it change, I will send out an alert.
We all hope and pray that tensions ease, talks of ceasefires ramp up, and peace will again return to the citizens of Israel.
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Jewish Community Relations Director