The Jewish Federations of North America Israel office reports on Saturday night of the continued rocket fire falling on Israel and as Operation Pillar of Defense ends its fourth day.
Israel has now been hit by over 850 rockets since Saturday, November 10, 740 of which have been fired since Wednesday, the first day of Operation Pillar of Defense.
Nine rockets have landed in Ashdod so far today, injuring ten people. One hit a four story apartment block, one hit a front yard, one a vehicle, causing a fire, and another the front of a home. Three IDF soldiers were wounded, two lightly, one moderately, at 11 a.m Saturday after a Kassam rocket was fired at them from Gaza. The Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon reports treating 56 injured people.
As a sure sign that the violence has been ratcheted up significantly, two rockets were fired at Tel Aviv today, with one landing in a non-populated area and one intercepted by the IDF’s Iron Dome Missile Defense System. Tel Aviv mayor Huldai publically thanked the operators of the newest Iron Dome to be utilized in Israel’s protection. So far, during Operation Pillar of Defense, the Iron Dome units have successfully intercepted 90% of its targets.
Jay Sanderson, president and CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles is currently in the country, leading a senior delegation from the film industry in Hollywood. On Friday evening, Sanderson and the group joined thousands of regulars as Shabbat services began at the Western Wall. Within moments, a “Red Alert” was declared in the capital and the sirens sounded – the first time this has happened in Jerusalem since the 1991 Gulf War. All services immediately halted and the entire Kotel plaza completely evacuated as worshippers, tourists and others ran for cover.
According to Sanderson, “It was a completely surreal experience to see the Kotel evacuated, and in such record time. At the same time, we were able to further understand the feelings of vulnerability and insecurity that the citizens of Israel’s south have been experiencing on an almost daily basis for many years. It was extraordinarily disarming to see the havoc that terrorists can play on Israel, it’s cities, and our entire people. But we were also able to witness the calm and sensible, yet determined reaction of the crowds, who acted responsibly, took cover, and later returned to their prayers with what was clearly additional sincerity and fervor.”
A delegation of senior federation lay and professional leaders departs North American this evening for a solidarity trip to Israel. The group will meet with senior political and defense officials and will receive first hand reports on needs on the ground.
The rockets fired at Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and beyond are Fajr-5 rockets, which can attain far greater distance than the other rockets employed by Hamas.
JFNA’s Executive Committee voted on Thursday for Jewish Federations to commit up to $5 million to the Israel Terror Relief Fund for the immediate needs of the people of Israel, especially in the south, through both existing reserve funds and new contributions from Federations. Interested donors can also text ISRAEL to 51818 to donate to the fund. More information on the Israel Terror Relief Fund can be found on JFNA’s resource page.
On Friday, Egyptian President Morsi sent an emissary to negotiate a ceasefire between Hamas authorities in Gaza and Israel. Hamas has so far rebuffed this Egyptian proposal.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz has instructed the IDF to continue targeting terrorist units. Over 120 underground missile launchers and 20 smuggling tunnels have been destroyed.
Some 16,000 Israeli reserves have been called up for emergency military service, and the government has already approved the call-up of a further 60,000 reserves, should the need arise.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman asserted, “We are ready for a wide-scale ground operation, if necessary, but it should be noted that if the IDF enters Gaza, it cannot be stopped in the middle; it needs to go all the way.”
IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai reminded the public of the strategic difficulties the Israeli army faces in targeting Hamas terrorists as Hamas field operatives seek refuge in civilian hospitals and mosques. Prime Minister Netanyahu stressed Israel’s strong desire to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza.
Citizens are being reminded to adhere to Home Front commands and remain within distance of a shelter and in the event of an alarm, to head straight for safety. In places where there are no shelters, citizens have been advised to make for the second-floor stairwell of their apartment block, which is meant to be the most secure area, and stay there for ten minutes. Streets have emptied out even in the targeted cities as people remain away from public areas.
The IDF’s complete instructions on how to behave in the event that siren is heard can be seen in English here: http://www.oref.org.il/International/315-en/PAKAR.aspx
The Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and World ORT, along with the Israel Trauma Coalition, continue to provide assistance where possible, delivering immediate services and assistance on the ground throughout the south. Such services include trauma counseling, financial assistance, portable bomb shelters, and potentially other initiatives including bringing children in the strike zones out of harm’s way.
The cyber battle being waged became personal after 5,000 IDF soldiers received death threats via sms and email from Islamic Jihad. This form of psychological warfare was enabled after Hamas reportedly obtained the soldiers’ names, places of work, cell phone numbers, and e-mail addresses.
In addition, false messages are being propagated on social media channels. On Thursday, two men and a pregnant mother of three were killed after a rocket hit their apartment in Kiryat Malachi. In the attack, one baby was critically injured. This picture is now being claimed on Twitter as being that of a Palestinian baby wounded in an IAF air raid.
A new Hebrew Hamas video is being circulated, threatening Israelis. “We miss the suicide bombings,” says the Hebrew voice alluding to future violence, “We’ll see you on the buses, and at the cafes.”
Forty-three Palestinians are reported dead in Gaza from Israeli air raids. The IDF continues to maintain humanitarian aid to Gaza, sending over food and medical supplies via the Kerem Shalom crossing, and treating Palestinians in Israeli hospitals. Hamas is currently preventing the exit of over 22 foreign nationals, including nine Italians, six Japanese, one Canadian, one South Korean, a French national and two Turkish Red Crescent members. Israel is maintaining the Erez crossing into Gaza, allowing free passage to foreign press, diplomats and humanitarian workers.
More information on Operation Pillar of Defense can be seen here: