Gaza fighting continues into fifth day: Israel Update

May 14, 2021

The death toll continues to mount and rocket sirens blare after a week of the worst escalation of violence in Israel since the Second Intifada of 2000. All together, more than 2,000 rockets have been fired into Israel by Hamas and Palestinian terror organizations, forcing most of Israel’s population into bomb shelters, and resulting in death and injury of Israeli civilians, including children and soldiers. In response to the ongoing barrage of rockets, Israel has continued targeted airstrikes of Hamas military assets and infrastructure in Gaza.


Tensions have been rising for weeks, especially in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah (Nahalat Shimon) where Israeli settlers have claimed to own the property on which mostly refugee Palestinian families have lived for decades. The legal case, which was delayed due to exacerbated tensions, will be decided by the Supreme Court of Israel. After weeks of sporadic violence between Jews and Palestinians in Jerusalem, tensions reached a boiling point last Friday when Israeli police and Muslim worshippers clashed at the Al-Asqa Mosque in an incident that injured both Palestinians and Israeli police officers. The clashes continued into Saturday as tens of thousands of Muslim worshippers gathered in Jerusalem’s Old City to mark the "Night of Destiny," the holiest night in the Islamic calendar. Violence surfaced again on Sunday, when Palestinians in Gaza launched two rockets and several incendiary balloons towards Israel. In response, the IDF increased its troop levels in the West Bank and along the Gaza border, and also closed the fishing zone to Gaza fishermen. 


On Monday, violence escalated dramatically when over 150 rockets were launched from Gaza into Israel as Israelis celebrated Jerusalem Day. Israel’s military said it carried out strikes against armed groups, rocket launchers, and military posts in Gaza after militants there crossed what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a “red line” when they fired on Jerusalem for the first time since the 2014 war. On Tuesday, Tel-Aviv and the surrounding suburbs came under fire from a volley of rockets that injured at least 8. Tuesday evening, Israeli jets destroyed a 13-story residential building in Gaza City housing offices of Hamas' political leadership. Mass civil unrest emerged on Wednesday—most notably in the town of Lod—when Arab and Jewish mobs rioted, destroyed property, and attacked one another. Authorities have since declared a special state of emergency in Lod, a town of about 80,000. Hundreds of paramilitary border police have been repositioned from the West Bank and deployed across the city to keep the peace. Prime Minister Netanyahu visited Lod on Thursday and warned that the violence posed a greater danger to Israel than the attacks from Gaza. As of Friday morning, the barrage of rockets and retaliatory strikes from both sides continued, with no signs suggesting they will abate anytime soon


On the political front, Naftali Bennett has announced he will no longer seek an alternative government to oust Prime Minister Netanyahu—a dramatic shift that comes amid the fighting in Gaza and the clashes between Jewish and Arab citizens in Israel. Bennett made the announcement just as he was nearing a power-sharing deal with centrist opposition leader, Yair Lapid, that would have made Bennett prime minister for two years, after which Lapid would rotate into the job. Without Bennett, Lapid has no path to a majority and Israel will likely head to a fifth national election since 2019 with Netanyahu as prime minister. In addition to convincing Bennett to join forces with his center-left bloc, Lapid also needed the support of an Arab party to reach a majority. Thus, he was also negotiating with Mansour Abbas, the leader of the Islamist Ra'am party. Those negotiations were suspended after the fighting in Gaza started on Monday, presumably because Bennett no longer believes in a viable government with the Ra’am party. Lapid gave a speech shortly thereafter in which he said Bennett was making a mistake. Lapid further stressed he would continue to try to form a government for the 20 days remaining in his mandate.


Our Jewish Community Relations Council of Cincinnati has released a full statement on the current situation in Israel, Gaza, and surrounding areas, and will continue to monitor the rapidly evolving situation. Jewish Federations of North America continues to compile the latest information and analysis, and has launched a support fund that provides immediate relief to Israeli victims and their families; works with the recently arrived Ethiopian Olim who are experiencing severe trauma as a result of this violence; supports the MASA students who have just arrived in Israel; and helps the Israel Trauma Coalition, which is mobilizing again—much as they did during COVID—to help with a wide variety of important social services for disadvantaged Israelis.


Shabbat Shalom, 


Jackie Congedo, Director, JCRC


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