For the past day, we have witnessed a significant escalation of violence on the ground in Israel. A rocket fired from the Gaza strip made a direct hit in the Sharon area in central Israel, destroying a home and injuring at least 7 civilians (including two infants).
As of a few hours ago, no terror group had yet claimed responsibility for the rocket launch. Retaliatory strikes by the Israel Defense Force have commenced, hitting targets on the Gaza Strip.
According to our contacts in Israel, at this very moment, we know that our friends in the Sha’ar HaNegev region are under missile attack. Red Alert sirens are going off throughout the Negev region, and there is an order to open shelters in the center of Israel as well.
Even before the recent rocket attack in HaSharon area, over the past week, the border with Gaza by Nachal Oz and Kfar Aza has become increasingly tense. Every night -- starting at 7 pm -- a group of Palestinians showed up by the border fence with drums and trumpets to demonstrate AND to throw homemade grenades at IDF soldiers. According to our contacts at the Jewish Agency, the noise has been unbearable, making it almost impossible for residents to sleep or feel at ease. At this point, the schools and Sapir college are closed until further notice.
Prime Minster of Israel, Bibi Netanyahu, will be cutting short his visit to Washington DC and planned speech at the AIPAC Policy Conference to return back to Israel to deal with the aftermath of the attack.
As always, our Federation is in close contact with our partners and is monitoring the situation closely. You can read a more detailed report from Jewish Federations of North America below. You can also follow the news through the many news outlets available online including The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz or Times of Israel .
UPDATE FROM JFNA
Thousands of residents of Israel’s center were awoken as sirens sounded warning of an incoming rocket strike. A powerful J-80 rocket – which has a range of 75 miles – hit a home in a moshav near Kfar Saba called Mishmeret. The house was engulfed in flames and has been completely destroyed. Seven people were injured in the attack. One 59-year-old woman was moderately injured, with light burns, shrapnel wounds and trauma from the blast. A 30-year-old woman was also moderately wounded, with shrapnel hitting her leg. The other people in the building — a 30-year-old man, 12-year-old girl, 3-year-old boy and 18-month-old baby — sustained light wounds. This attack on Mishmeret was the farthest-reaching rocket attack from Gaza since the 2014 Hamas-Israel war. Footage of the destroyed house, filmed by the Israel Police, can be seen here.
A map depicting Mishmeret:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is currently in Washington for the AIPAC conference, announced that he will return to Israel early, immediately following his meeting with President Trump in a few hours’ time. He added that Israel’s response to the attack would be “harsh.” In the meantime, two infantry brigades (comprising over 1000 soldiers) have been called up and are currently making their way to the Gaza border. The two border crossings into Gaza have both been closed.
Less than two weeks ago, rockets were launched from Gaza towards Tel Aviv. At the time, Hamas said that those rockets were launched in error; a claim that was seemingly accepted by Israel. Hamas has repeated this claim today, but it is less likely that Israel’s defense officials will accept this excuse a second time. In a tweet a short time ago, the IDF said it holds Hamas responsible. Following the attack, Palestinian terror groups began evacuating their positions throughout the Gaza Strip ahead of expected Israeli counter-strikes.
Recent weeks have seen increased violence from Gaza, including numerous incendiary balloons, a bomb thrown at Israeli troops guarding the border, riots at the fence and more. In retaliation, Israeli jets have struck numerous targets inside Gaza.
In addition, Hamas authorities have been facing significant rioting by Gazan residents unhappy with price hikes, and some Israeli commentators suspect that Hamas may be trying to divert attention away from this rioting by striking Israel. Similarly, the Hamas leadership may believe that Netanyahu would be wary of any significant military activity (the results of which are always unpredictable) immediately before elections.