Israel news has dominated the global media headlines for the last week as the protests on the Gaza border culminated in their bloodiest day yet while Iran and Israel came to blows in Syria. As usual, when the top headlines are coming out of Israel, inaccurate reporting and deeply biased opinions swirl around the web. As always, this weekly Israel News Recap (without the rhetoric) will stick strictly to the facts.
For weeks hundreds to thousands of Gazans have been camping near the border fence with Israel in an ongoing mass protest that was scheduled to stretch from March 30 to May 15, Nakba Day.
The Gaza Riots’ Bloody End
The Hamas-organized protests have lasted more than six weeks now, and nearly every weekend has seen mass riots as protestors, some Hamas members, some armed, attempt to breach the Gaza border fence. Every weekend, those who get too close to the fence or engage in violent behavior are met with rubber bullets, tear gas and frequently live ammunition.
Hamas, which has total control of the Gaza Strip, presents the protest to the world as a non-violent demonstration against Israel’s blockage of the border while Gaza continues to fall into desperate economic conditions. Israel’s consistent explanation for their defense of the border is that they are defending the border from terrorists such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
For weeks these routine clashes have been a recurring story, but on Nakba Day, the culmination of the riots, the death toll pushed the issue to the front page. Here are the facts.
- For weeks, Gazans have protested the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza.
- 60 Gazans were killed, and more than 2,200 were wounded at the border on May 15, according to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry. Israel has not disputed these numbers.
- Of the dead, Hamas says at least 50 were their members.
- About 40,000 protesters gathered at the border according to an IDF estimate.
- All attempts to breach the fence were repelled.
- One Israeli soldier was slightly injured, none were killed.
- The IDF also struck Hamas military positions in Gaza with airstrikes and artillery.
At the end of the day, Israel declared victory having held all positions at the fence and not allowing any attacks inside Israel. Gaza leadership declared days of mourning for the funerals of those killed at the border. Whether or not a high death toll was a Hamas goal in encouraging thousands of Gazans to charge the fence, that was the result. As expected, the fallout included condemnation of Israeli use of force from many states, U.S. government blaming of Hamas for pushing the protesters to riot and risk their lives, and sixty dead.
Israel firmly defended its use of force by publicizing Hamas instructions to infiltrate and attack Israeli civilians, and by reminding the world that they first use non-lethal methods and dropped pamphlets warning protesters away from the fence. The IDF also took to Twitter to report that they had sent a large aid shipment into Gaza, which was returned by Hamas.
Thousands took to the streets in Arab and other countries to show support for the Palestinians. Demonstrations were also held in the West Bank and other cities in Israel but did not escalate to the level of violence seen in Gaza. Officially, the protests were set to conclude after Nakba Day, but some reports say that Hamas officials are pushing for them to continue.
War with Iran
As the Gaza riots blazed, Israel also stepped into a near-open war with Iran as both sides exchanged airstrikes for missile salvos. Below are the details.
- On May 10, Iran’s proxy militia, Hezbollah, launched a 20-missile attack on the Golan Heights in Northern Israel.
- Most of the missiles fell short and landed in Syrian territory, and the four heading to Israeli territory were snuffed out by the Iron Dome defense system.
- Israel responded with a massive response, striking over seventy Iranian targets in Syria.
While the attack’s results are unremarkable, the message sent was not. This is the first large-scale attack on Israeli targets in Israel from Iranian forces in the current conflict. Up until now, Hezbollah (read Iran) has been building their forces for years but not directly engaging Israel in combat. This attack marked a change in tactics. Keeping Iran away from Israeli borders, the long-stated Israeli goal might become more complicated when facing open attacks like this.
For months, Israel has carried out strikes against both Iranian and Syrian targets, but for the most part they have been preemptive attacks and targeting military infrastructure while keeping a relatively low enemy casualty rate. This allows Israel to carry out its goal without having to take territory in Syria. If Hezbollah and Iran carry out more direct attacks, successful or not, it may demand a stronger Israeli response and escalate into a full-scale war. On the other hand, Israel’s threats to eliminate Syria’s Assad if Iran gains more ground may limit the conflict to an airstrike war for Israel.
Another dangerous escalation could take place if Hezbollah launches any missiles from its stronghold of Lebanon which could open a third border war.
U.S. Opens Jerusalem Embassy
Amid the security concerns and deadly clashes on Israel’s southern and northern borders, Jerusalem opened the doors to the brand-new U.S. embassy cementing the U.S. recognition of Israel’s capital city last week.
First announced by President Trump months ago, the embassy opening was attended by the president’s eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, and Jared Kushner along with a gaggle of high-level U.S. officials. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli politicians lauded the long-awaited ribbon cutting. Jared Kushner spoke at the event and used the platform to reaffirm the U.S. support for Israel and a commitment to finding peace in the Middle East, but one where the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.
Elsewhere in Jerusalem protesters decrying the embassy celebration clashed with police. The celebration also coincided with Nakba Day and provided broadcast television a unique, split-screen narrative between the violence on the Gaza border and the jubilation in Jerusalem.
Following the U.S. embassy opening, Guatemala and Paraguay also moved their diplomatic headquarters from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Romania, the Czech Republic, and Honduras are also reportedly considering making the switch.
What You Missed: Other Israel News
Behind the front page are dozens of important news stories that don’t get the attention they should. We’ve compiled other Israel news items here that are worth your time.
- Politics: A new bill could change enlistment rules for Haredi Jews
- Economy: Israel economy stays strong in 2018 Q1
- Archaeology: Earliest Physical Evidence of Blood Vengeance Found in Jerusalem Hills
Or follow our news stories in the Israel News category.