This week in the Israel News Recap, a Hanukkah attack in the West Bank wounds 6 and pregnant mother. Plus, Israel busts Hezbollah tunnels, and Yeshua’s baptismal site is finally being cleared of landmines.
7 Wounded in Shooting, Baby Saved
Editor’s note: The baby in this story passed away on Wednesday four days after being prematurely delivered from the wounded mother via Cesarean section . A statement from the hospital said the parents had met their baby son before his death. Both parents were also wounded in the attack and are now recovering.
A drive-by shooting in the West Bank on Sunday evening that left seven wounded has triggered a manhunt for the assailant and the story of the miraculous delivery of the baby of a pregnant victim.
The shooters opened fire on a group of civilians waiting at a bus stop near Ofra, a settlement in the West Bank. Two men in their 20s and four 16-year-olds were wounded in the attack, all with light to moderate injuries, according to Ha’aretz.
As the car sped away, IDF soldiers stationed nearby fired at the fleeing vehicle, but it escaped.
The shooting is being dubbed the “Hanukkah attack,” but is not without a Hanukkah miracle.
Also included among the victims is a 21-year-old pregnant woman 30-weeks along who was critically injured. After being rushed to Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem, doctors managed to miraculously deliver the baby prematurely and now have it in stable condition while the mother was still undergoing surgery, according to the Jerusalem Post.
The mother was still in surgery late Sunday and was “fighting for her life.”
“She arrived in a state of shock and had lost a lot of blood,” said Dr. Alon Schwartz, a surgeon at the hospital according to Times of Israel.
Some reports indicate that one of the men wounded at the bus stop was in fact the woman’s husband.
Security camera footage of the shooting, posted to social media, show a white car slowing down near the bus stop as bullets fly into the crowd who scramble for cover. The car, then speeds down the road as IDF soldiers are seen running to scene.
Though the shooter did manage to escape, Palestinian media reported that a large IDF force entered the village of Silwad, east of Ramallah in a raid searching for suspects.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attack and promised to bring justice.
"Everyone is praying for the safety of a young mother who is fighting for her life - her baby is saved, and we also wish a speedy recovery for all the wounded," Netanyahu said. "We will not rest until we find these murderous criminals."
Another recent attack in October left two Israelis dead and a third wounded in a different West Bank shooting in the Barkan industrial area. The IDF is still searching for that shooter as well.
37 Injured in Weekly Gaza Clash
In the 37th week of the ongoing Gaza border protests that frequently flare into riots or worse, 37 Palestinians were injured as an estimated 10,000 gathered at several sites.
The Jerusalem Post<https://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Dozens-injured-as-thousands-show-up-in-protest-on-Gaza-Israel-border-573774> reports that some groups engaged in stone throwing and attempts to damage the border fence - routine activities at the protests that frequently are met by Israeli tear gas, rubber bullets, and live fire. Of the 37 wounded this weekend, the Hamas-run Gaza Health ministry reported that 17 of those were wounded by Israeli gunfire.
The weekly clashes are led by Hamas and are a rallying point around land rights and against the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip after Hamas took power in 2007. Palestinian infighting and military clashes between militant and terrorist groups and the IDF has created a humanitarian crisis for civilians inside the strip.
The weekly clashes have left 175 shot to death, according to an Associated Press count, and thousands more wounded - a toll that is breaking Gaza’s meager medical facilities.
Still, the latter three week’s clashes have been relatively muted as Hamas leaders have shown restraint while working on Egyptian-brokered negotiations with Israel after the two nearly engaged in a full-scale war weeks ago.
Israel Busts Hezbollah Tunnels
A new IDF operation aimed at stemming Hezbollah incursions into Israel has already led to the discovery of multiple attack tunnels dug from Lebanon into Israel raising the risk of cross border conflict in Israel’s north.
Dubbed Operation Northern Shield, the IDF’s public attention to Hezbollah tunnels raises the specter of heightened security concerns on what has been a relatively quiet border for several years. Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed terrorist group at home in Lebanon, has been building its strength for years after a 34-day war with Israel in 2006.
In a preventative move to stop a Hezbollah advantage in another clash, Israel has detected three tunnels coming from villages on the Lebanese side and crossing into Israel. Though this operation is said to be limited to the Israeli side of the border, the Jerusalem Post reports that the IDF has warned occupants of those villages to evacuate now that the tunnels are packed with explosives for demolition.
The IDF believes that dozens of tunnels have been dug that will take more time to detect and would have been used to cut off northern border communities from the rest of Israel while Hezbollah forces take advantage of key overlooks. One of the tunnels identified was reported by the IDF as being 80 feet underground, 6 feet wide, 6 feet tall, and 130 feet into Israeli territory.
Though the tunnel operation is not expected to lead to a military engagement, Israeli troops have been reinforced along the border, along with Hezbollah troops on the other side.
The Jerusalem Post reports that on Friday, the IDF fired warning shots at three Hezbollah members dressed in civilian clothing who were approaching the border area where the IDF was carrying out tunnel excavation work. After being fired on they fled back to Lebanon but took advantage of bad weather to steal IDF equipment deployed to uncover the tunnels.
Israel has repeatedly struck targets in Syria emphasizing their strong stance against Iranian encroachment on Israeli borders through proxies such as Hezbollah, but the threat from Lebanon bears additional legal weight.
Ha’aretz reported that the IDF Chief of Staff met on Sunday with the commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and told him that the digging of the tunnels is a violation of UN Security Council resolution 1701, which was passed at the end of the Second Lebanon War. In addition, Israel asked the UN force in Lebanon to assist them in destroying the tunnel from their end inside Lebanese borders since it violates the resolution.
The UNIFIL Head of Mission Stefano Del Colo confirmed that he visited the location where the IDF discovered the second tunnel close to the border. In an official statement, UNIFIL confirmed that "based on the site inspection," it could confirm that a tunnel existed at the location and that they were pursuing follow up action.
Landmines Cleared from site of Yeshua’s Immersion
After years of negotiations, a team of sappers finally cleared more than 1,500 landmines from what is widely believed to be the site of Yeshua’s immersion at the Jordan River.
But the work isn’t done yet. The Israeli Defense Ministry and British anti-mine organization HALO Trust are just starting on the estimated 6,500 landmines and booby traps that line the holy site and have blocked access to seven churches in the area, reports the Times of Israel.
Fifty years ago in the aftermath of the Six-Day War, the monasteries at the Qasr al Yahud baptism site, near Jericho, became an active war zone when the Israeli military mined it to stop the location from being used to attack Israeli settlements.
WIth the current treaty between Israel and Jordan, the defensive mines are no longer necessary. There are major economic incentives to fully opening a pilgrimage site.
Jerusalem Post reports that Israel’s National Parks Authority is working jointly with the churches on whose land the monasteries sit to attract 2.4 million tourists annually to an area already visited by 800,000 people a year.