Rocket fire continues amid internal unrest

Incoming rockets:

  • Over 1,600 rockets have been fired towards Israel in the last three days, with over 130 rockets fired since midnight.
  • The majority of the rockets have targeted Israeli communities close to the Gaza Strip. A five-year-old boy sustained critical injuries when a rocket hit an apartment in Sderot, died from his injuries last night. He had been in the shelter but was hit by shrapnel that broke through the window. His mother is in critical condition.
  • Dozens of rockets did reach as far north as the Jezreel Valley as well the Tel Aviv area. As a result, incoming flights to Ben Gurion Airport have been cancelled, including BA flights from London today.
  • In Petah Tikva, nine people were injured from rockets that hit three residential buildings. Two sustained moderate injuries and the others sustained light injuries. Several cars were damaged.
  • The IDF confirmed that yesterday morning 21-year-old Staff Sgt. Omer Tabib was killed a result of an anti-tank missile fire at his jeep in Netiv Ha’asara on the Gaza border.
  • Seven Israelis have been killed in the last three days. The Hamas-run Health Ministry says the death toll in Gaza stands at 87, including 17 children, though a majority of the fatalities are thought to be Hamas operatives.

IDF Activity: 

  • So far IDF fighter jets have struck over 650 military targets, including a 14-story building in the southern Gaza Strip. The building housed Hamas military intelligence offices, and communication rooms. Prior to the strike, the IDF warned civilians in the building, and provided them sufficient time to evacuate the site.
  • The IDF has also carried out several targeted killings against senior Hamas operators, including those responsible for research, development and manufacturing of rockets. Overall, 16 high ranking Hamas military officials have been killed.

Jewish-Arab violence inside Israel:

  • There were violent clashes last night between Jews and Arabs at various locations across the country, with dozens of civilian and police officers injured. The police arrested more than 400 suspects throughout Israel.
  • In the Israeli-Arab city of Umm el-Fahm a Border Policeman sustained moderate injuries from gunshots. In the riots there, a firebomb was thrown at police who were standing near the police station.
  • In the Mahane Yehuda open-air market in Jerusalem, a 24-year-old Arab man was stabbed by Jews. He sustained moderate injuries.
  • In the mixed Jewish Arab city of Akko, a 30-year-old Jewish man was attacked with stones and bats and sustained critical injuries.
  • In Bat Yam, a Jewish mob attacked an Arab driver last night and severely beat him causing life-threatening injuries.

What the leaders said:   

  • President Reuven Rivlin called last night on all the leaders and people of influence in the Jewish and Muslim communities to take steps to stop the unrest throughout Israel. Rivlin said: “We are abandoning ourselves to a war that can only be called a civil war … now is the most important time to let the army to do its job without interference and to let the police to be in charge of law and order in the streets, at a time when missiles were falling on Israel’s cities.”
  • Prime Minister Netanyahu said: “What is happening in Israel’s cities over the past few days is unacceptable. We have seen Arab rioters set fire to synagogues and vehicles and attack police officers. They are attacking peaceful and innocent citizens. This is something that we cannot accept; it is anarchy. Nothing justifies this and I will tell you that nothing justifies the lynching of Jews by Arabs and nothing justifies the lynching of Arabs by Jews….To the citizens of Israel I say that I do not care if your blood is boiling. You cannot take the law into your own hands. You cannot grab an ordinary Arab citizen and try to lynch him – just as we cannot watch Arab citizens do this to Jewish citizens. This will not happen. This is something that I am certain is shared by most citizens of Israel. We are in a fight on two fronts, on one front against Hamas and we are all united and Hamas is firing missiles and rockets that hurt Jews and Arabs alike. Let us come together and do the task that is necessary for us as citizens of our state – to restore governance, eliminate this anarchy and maintain and restore the security and quiet that we all deserve.”
  • Leader of the Islam Raam Party Mansour Abbas said last night that the mob attacks and the riots were regrettable and ought to trouble everyone, Arabs and Jews alike. He called on all the politicians and the leaders, the mayors and the religious clerics to set all their disagreements aside and to do everything to stop the raging tide of violence and insanity.
  • Leader of the Religious Zionist Party, Bezalel Smotrich wrote on Twitter: “I just watched a video that I can’t post of Jews lynching an innocent Arab passer-by and I am shocked and ashamed to the depths of my soul. We are in difficult days, under attack, standing frustrated in the face of police impotence and distorted legal rulings. But how the hell can Jews be capable of being that cruel?! Awful”

Reaction from the International Community:

  • UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has spoken to Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh and released a statement saying: “We are appealing for calm, an end to the Hamas rocket attacks, and a de-escalation of the violence on all sides which is costing lives.” Yesterday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged Israel and the Palestinians to “step back from the brink” and called for both sides to “show restraint.” “The UK is deeply concerned by the growing violence and civilian casualties and we want to see an urgent de-escalation of tensions,” Johnson tweeted.
  • US President Joe Biden confirmed to reports that he had spoken to Prime Minister Netanyahu. “My expectation and hope is that this will be closing down sooner than later, but Israel has a right to defend itself when you have thousands of rockets flying into your territory,” he added.
  • German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has said: “The rocket attack on Israel is absolutely unacceptable and must end immediately. Israel has in this situation the right to self-defence. This escalation of violence can be neither tolerated nor accepted.”
  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spokesman said the secretary-general was saddened by “the increasingly large numbers of casualties, including children, from Israeli air strikes in Gaza and of Israeli fatalities from rockets launched from Gaza. “Israeli security forces must exercise maximum restraint and calibrate their use of force. The indiscriminate launching of rockets and mortars towards Israeli population centres is unacceptable,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Context: Israel is facing dual challenge: the unprecedented volume of incoming rockets and domestic strife between Jews and Arabs inside Israel.

  • In three days Hamas has launched around 1,600 rockets. In the summer of 2014, Hamas fired around 4,000 rockets during a conflict that lasted 50 days – at its height, there were around 200 rockets in a day.
  • As well as rockets and internal violence, there was also a shooting attack in the West Bank last night. Two soldiers were moderately injured but were able to return fire and kill the assailant.
  • The targeting of Hamas weapons experts is aimed at depriving Hamas of the technological knowledge of being able to produce rockets in the future.
  • The IDF has also targeted rocket launchers and warehouses, hoping to limit their capacity to fire longer range rockets, though they are thought to still possess tens of thousands of short-range rockets.
  • The death of the Israeli soldier killed by advanced Kornet anti-tank missile is the second time they have targeting an Israeli vehicle this week. It could be seen as a warning to the IDF against a ground incursion.
  • Israel has asked US energy giant Chevron to shut down operations at the Tamar offshore platform. Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz’s office said the request on Tuesday to halt operations at Tamar was given as an “extra precaution”. Hamas said on Wednesday that it had targeted the natural gas field.
  • For further context on how the latest escalation in Gaza started, see yesterday’s Morning Brief here.

Looking ahead:  With no cessation of violence yet in sight the US are in dialogue with Israel and other regional partners in effort to restore calm.

  • The US is sending Hady Amr, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Israel and Palestinian affairs, to meet with leaders from both sides in coming days.

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