Deadly clashes between Israel and Hamas and Islamic Jihad has left four dead Israelis and more than twenty dead Palestinians in the deadliest bout of fighting since 2014.
Rumors of ceasefire float around, but both sides are poised for further action. In other news, Israel remembers the Holocaust victims and survivors, and reaches a new population milestone.
Weekend Gaza Fight Leaves Dead on Both Side
In the deadliest fighting between Israel and Palestinian terror groups based in the Gaza Strip since the 2014 war, four Israeli civilians and twenty-three Palestinians have been killed in rocket attacks and air strikes over the weekend.
This most recent clash was sparked on Friday when two Israeli soldiers on the Gaza border were wounded by Islamic Jihad snipers, members of an Iranian-backed terror group that is allied with but works independently of Hamas. Israel struck back, killing two Palestinian fighters. That clash triggered wave after wave of rockets from Gaza and hundreds of retaliatory air strikes from Israel. Here are the most recent numbers.
- Rocket strikes have killed four Israelis and wounded sixty-six.
- Israeli strikes have killed twenty-three Palestinians (including civilians and Islamic Jihad or Hamas members).
- At least 690 rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel.
- The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted approximately 240 rockets.
- Israel has struck more than 350 targets in the Gaza Strip.
In Monday morning’s early hours reports from Palestinian sources came in that a cease fire had been reached between Gaza factions and Israel, but as of Monday morning there is no confirmation of a ceasefire from Israel. Hamas officials said that they have no interest in another open war with Israel, but on Sunday night, Islamic Jihad said that they were ready to wage an “open confrontation” with Israel and that Israeli military strikes “will be met with a similar and large-scale response.” Historically, Hamas has held most military power in the Gaza Strip, but recent ceasefires have failed because of their failure to control the Islamic Jihad faction.
If the alleged ceasefire holds, it will bring respite to the southern border communities in Israel that have been under unceasing tension as residents have scrambled to bomb shelters time and time again. A Ha’aretz timeline of the weekend documents rocket strikes and injuries inflicted, including the fatalities.
The indiscriminate rocket barrages from Gaza have struck across the southern border communities, many falling in Ashkelon where a fifty-eight-year-old Israeli father of four, was fatally struck in the chest by shrapnel. Also killed were a forty-nine-year-old man when a rocket hit an Ashkelon factory, a man in his vehicle that was destroyed by an anti-tank missile near the Gaza border, and a thirty-five-year-old man whose car was hit by a rocket in the southern city of Ashdod, according to the Associated Press.
The Israeli retaliation has included targets such as an Islamic Jihad command center set up in a mosque, a cyber operations center, rocket launch sites, ammo storehouses, and the targeted killing of Hamed Ahmed Khudari, the man the IDF says is “responsible for transferring Iranian funds to Hamas & PIJ in Gaza, helping fund their rocket fire at Israelis.”
Social media sites have widely circulated images of rockets, people running to shelters in Israel and explosions in Gaza. Every time violence flares, innacurate information also circulates online. One contested detail from Saturday’s violence is that the Palestinians said a thirty-seven-year-old pregnant woman and her fourteen-month-old niece were killed in an Israeli airstrike. The Israeli army denied involvement in those deaths, saying instead that they were killed by a failed rocket launch inside Gaza.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said that a return to calm is possible with the condition that Israel abide by the Egyptian mediated ceasefire and that "the slow pace of the implementation of the understandings and the attempt to gain time have created an increased state of tension among our people in Gaza because of the crimes committed by the occupation during the current aggression," according to the Jerusalem Post.
Israeli officials ordered the IDF on Sunday to “continue massive attacks against terrorist elements in the Gaza Strip” and reinforced the units around the Gaza Strip with armor, artillery and infantry. There has not yet been an official recognition of cease fire from Israel.
Israel Remembers the Holocaust
At exactly 10 a.m. on May 2, a siren wailed for two minutes across Israel and people stood still to remember the six million Jews who were killed in the Holocaust.
The act is a solemn vow never to forget, and it plays out in this dramatic, sobering manner across the nation once a year on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. Iconic images of drivers pulling over and getting out of their cars to stand on highways, and streets full of people standing motionless were the prelude to memorial ceremonies across Israel.
One of the most prominent, reports the Jerusalem Post, is the Holocaust Heroes’ and Martyrs’ Remembrance Day ceremony at the Hall of Remembrance at Yad Vashem, attended this year by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin. At that ceremony, Six Holocaust survivors Bela Eizenman, Shaul Lubovitz, Fanny Ben-Ami, Menachem Haberman, Sara Shapira and Yehuda Mimon, lit the remembrance torches. Read their full stories here. There are an estimated 200,000 elderly Holocaust survivors living in Israel today, a quarter of whom are living in poverty according to Aviv for Holocaust Survivors, an advocacy organization for Holocaust survivors.
Israel is set to celebrate Independence Day this week on Wednesday night and Thursday celebrating seventy-one years of statehood.
Israel Reaches Nine Million
A new census report released last week marks a new milestone for Israel as the population summited nine million people.
The Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics report officially puts Israel’s population at 9,009,000. Of those, about 6,665,500 Israeli citizens are Jews, or roughly 74 percent of the whole population.
In the past ten years, the Jewish population of Israel has grown by one million. The remaining minority comprised of Muslims, Christians and Druze, stood at 1,878,600 people, about 21 percent of the population with a remaining 5 percent of other religious and ethnic minorities, according to the Jerusalem Post.