November 16, 2012
As night fell on the third day of Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense, rockets continued to rain down on Israel into an ever-expanding area.
For the first time since 1970, two rockets were reportedly fired at Jerusalem late Friday. Police confirmed one rocket landing in open area in Gush Etzion, directly south of the city, with no casualties reported. Hamas took credit for the attack, claiming to have shot “an improved Kassam,” which it called an M-75.
Air raid sirens again sounded in Tel Aviv on Friday, for the second time since the 1991 Gulf War. Reports indicate that Tel Aviv’s streets are relatively bare, as many residents leave the city for places out of maximum rocket range.
Since Operation Pillar of Defense began Wednesday, more than 550 rockets have been fired toward Israel, of which 26 exploded in built-up areas in the southern region and the greater Tel Aviv area. Iron Dome defenses has intercepted 197 rockets since the start of the operation.
Through Friday evening, the IAF struck 613 targets in Gaza, focusing on rocket depots and launchers to impair the terrorists’ rocket launching capability.
The Home Front Command has asked local authorities in the south to prepare for a seven-week period of combat and to ready emergency supplies accordingly. The Home Front Command estimates that terror organizations in the Gaza Strip are capable of launching long-range rockets even further than a 75-kilometer range, and instructed the Tel Aviv metropolitan area and southern residents located in a range of between 40-75 kilometers from the Gaza Strip to enter nearby, protected spaces the moment blasts or sirens are heard.
On Friday evening, Defense Minister Ehud Barak approved the IDF’s request to increase the amount of reservists enlisted beyond the 30,000 already approved. Earlier Friday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz issued draft orders for 16,000 more reservists. Most of the reservists serve in the IDF’s Engineering Corps, which would play a vital part in any ground operation into the Gaza Strip.
Also Friday, Israel Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told CNN that Gaza may have a day or two before ground troops move in. “We are kind of reluctant warriors. We don’t want to get into Gaza if we don’t have to. But if they keep firing at us… a ground operation is still in the cards…. We have very simple, specific goals,” he said. “If we will see in the next 24 to 36 hours more rockets launched at us, I think that would be the trigger.”
Rockets have directly hit homes and vehicles, and many Israelis are suffering emotionally, mentally and physically. So far, three Israelis have been killed by rocket attack, and many others injured. Earlier today, three soldiers were wounded in a Kassam rocket attack on the Eshkol Regional Council, one moderately and the others lightly. Elsewhere, 25 Israelis were rescued after a building collapse.
During a meeting this afternoon between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, the prime minister said Israel will continue targeting Hamas, but do everything in its power to avoid civilian casualties.
“We will continue to strike hard at the missiles targeted at Central and Southern Israel,” he said. “Hamas deliberately targets our children, and they deliberately place their rockets next to their children.”
Added Peres: “Those who preach to us about morality should offer an alternative way to stop the rocket fire from Hamas. No country would agree for its children to live in that intolerable situation.”
North American Jews have rallied to support Israel during this time of crisis and Jewish Federations are joining in the community-wide effort. JFNA started a new Israel Terror Relief Fund, to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Israel at this critical time. This new fund will help support the more than 1 million residents of Israel’s south, who have been living in siege, under rocket fire from terrorists in the Gaza Strip.
JFNA’s Executive Committee yesterday voted 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.
Jewish Federation partners, The Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and World ORT, along with the Israel Trauma Coalition, are 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.
Jewish Federations are working in close coordination with the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ), and others across the Jewish community who are uniting to come to Israel’s side through the Israel Terror Relief Fund.
Late yesterday, JFNA delivered this letter to President Obama, thanking him for supporting the State of Israel during this critical time. “We look forward to your continuing deep engagement to bringing about peace and security for the innocents in Israel who have been living amidst the nightmare of bomb shelters and missile alerts, as well as your strong support for the State of Israel and the people of Israel during this ongoing crisis,” said Michael Siegal, chair of JFNA’s Board of Trustees, and Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of JFNA, who authored the letter.
Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, head of the International Media & Communications Branch of the IDF Spokespersons Unit, encouraged the global Jewish community to “go to a media war,” during a call yesterday hosted by JFNA and the Jewish Council of Public Affairs. It’s critical to promote Israel in both mainstream outlets and social media, she said, to counteract the “false rumors and false pictures” being disseminated from the Palestinian side.
“The Israeli point of view must be represented,” Leibovich said. “With our joint efforts, we can influence the narrative.” Listen to the full recording of the call here.
Up to 20 Federation lay leaders and executives will leave for Israel this weekend to assess the needs on the ground and see firsthand the work of our partner agencies. The mission will tour Israel’s southern region, and include meetings with Israeli leadership and visits to those affected by the rocket attacks.
JFNA continues to monitor the situation in Israel and will send regular updates as needed.
Read recent news coverage of the situation in Israel:
- LIVE BLOG: Rockets slam into Israel’s south in third day of IDF operation in Gaza (Haaretz)
- IDF: Tonight will not be calm in Gaza (JPost)
- Pillar of Defense By the Numbers: 613 Targets Struck (Israel National News)