A violent clash with Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip left dozens dead, including terrorists and a civilian family of eight.
That incident has sparked an investigation into the IDF’s targeting intelligence. As the shaky ceasefire brings calm, political tensions are not simmering down as just a few days remain for Gantz to form a government and pull the Knesset out of limbo. Plus, a massive undertaking to digitize thousands of Hebrew texts and make them available for the public is underway.
Islamic Jihad Rockets Rattle Israel, Retaliatory Strike Kills Family of Eight
After the Israeli assassination of an Islamic Jihad commander in the Gaza Strip, the terror group unleashed a furious barrage of rockets on Israel last week, igniting a blow for blow exchange that left dozens of Palestinians dead including a civilian family of eight.
The IDF said that the fatal airstrike that killed the family, including five children, was targeting an Islamic Jihad rocket squadron commander but later admitted that he was not killed in the strike.
“According to intelligence available to the IDF at the time of the attack, no civilians were expected to be harmed by the attack,” the military said in a statement. The Jerusalem Post reports that the IDF opened an investigation into the strike.
That strike occurred just hours before the ceasefire was declared and has captured much of the international attention in the fallout of the violent forty-eight hours. In that span, Islamic Jihad launched more than 450 rockets at Israel, but approximately 90 percent were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, according to the IDF. In Israel’s retaliatory bombing of Islamic Jihad targets, they reported about twenty-five terrorists were killed. In total, thirty-two Palestinians were killed in the Israeli strikes, and at least eleven were wounded.
Some rockets did make it past Israel’s Iron Dome, but there were no Israeli casualties. One dramatic moment was captured on a traffic camera as a rocket explodes on a busy highway, narrowly missing several cars.
Before the clash escalated further, mediators were able to secure a feeble ceasefire agreement, but mere hours after it was announced, a salvo of five more rockets was launched.
Unlike most flare-ups between Israel and the Gaza Strip in the last several years, this clash was entirely between the IDF and Islamic Jihad; Hamas held its fire and wasn’t targeted by Israel’s retaliatory strikes. Ordinarily, Hamas bears the brunt of the combat, but Islamic Jihad’s growing military ability has positioned as a powerful rival to Hamas, a factor that has already hindered attempts to return to normalcy in past negotiations.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz said Hamas’ absence from the last bout is “an achievement for Israel.”
Party Leaders Scramble to Form Government
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz is down to his final days to form a government and pull the Knesset out of a chaotic political tailspin that has thwarted every attempt by party leaders to form a ruling coalition since the government dissolved under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In a last-ditch effort, Gantz is reportedly considering seeking the backing of Arab members of the Knesset to assemble a minority government and put things back on track. That proposal, however, is riling his political opponents led by Netanyahu, who says such a government would create an existential threat for Israel. The Jerusalem Post reports that he said it would be even worse than calling a third election in one year. He pointed out that members of the Arab Joint List do not support the IDF and could complicate security issues.
The alternative option, one that the main parties have been dancing around since the first early election in April, is the formation of a unity government between political rivals—a prospect that has proven too daunting so far. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said he still thinks that option is possible and that the differences between the parties were “personal.”
“There is no need for an additional election,” Rivlin said. “I call upon Likud and Blue and White to get their act together and realize that the public does not want another election.”
[ Update: November 21, 2019. "Making unhappy history, Knesset enters 21-day grace period for forming coalition. After Gantz and Netanyahu fail to build government, never-before-used electoral law opens last window for any MK to win majority backing — or new elections will be triggered." — The Times of Israel ]
Google, National Library of Israel Digitize Thousands of Jewish Books
Israel’s National Library is undertaking a massive project with Google to digitize 120,000 books from its collection of Jewish texts and make them available for public use online.
The Associated Press reports that the effort will significantly boost the number of Hebrew books available through Google. Digitizing such a large number of texts is already a daunting task, but it’s further complicated by the fragility of many of the manuscripts, some centuries old. To start, the National Library is shipping 50,000 books to Google’s digitization center in Germany in climate-controlled shipping containers, but another 20,000 of the most fragile will be scanned in-house.
The content ranges from children’s books to news clippings to religious texts in Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino, Latin, English, German, French, Arabic, and Russian. After the project (estimated to take two years) is completed, the out-of-copyright Hebrew books will be available online and free to the public through Google Books, and the originals will be returned to storage in Jerusalem.