It’s no secret that news about the State of Israel can be colored by anti-Israel political agendas, but on the other side of the coin, pro-Israel news sources are sometimes guilty of churning out propaganda, too. Where can you get a balanced report? First Fruits of Zion offers you a weekly recap of the Israel News—just the facts.

Over one hundred American, British, and French missiles rained down on Syrian chemical research facilities and military infrastructure early on Saturday morning in retaliation to the Syrian regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons.

Israel Praises Syria Strike

An Israeli official told Reuters that the U.S. gave Israel a 24-hour notice of the impending attack, but that he did not believe Israel helped choose targets. The combined western attack comes less than a week after Israeli jets struck Iranian targets in Syria. Russia has condemned the Israeli and U.S. strike and promised their own turn of consequences in a potential game of escalating tit-for-tat retaliation.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lauded the missile attack saying it demonstrated the U.S., British, and French commitment to action in Syria beyond rhetoric, a noted change in American policy.

The weekend strike came after U.S. President Trump promised consequences of a deadly attack on rebel-held territory that killed forty or more civilians. Russia claims that seventy-one missiles were intercepted, but the U.S. is announcing a successful destruction of the Syrian military’s chemical weapons infrastructure. The Syrian government and rebel operations frequently result in civilian casualties, but the use of chemical weapons crosses a line for the U.S., France, and the UK.

No casualties were reported showing a clear effort by the western forces to toe the line between reprimanding Assad and igniting an open war with Russia.

Netanyahu also said that the presence of Iran in Syria further endangers Syria. Israel’s military action against Iranian targets in Syria has escalated since a drone carrying explosives was shot down over Israeli airspace in early February.

Not long after the missile attack, large explosions were reported at one of the largest weapon depots in Syria that is reportedly being used by Iranian backed Hezbollah forces. Conflicting reports say the explosions were from unidentified jets, but the Lebanese news service, al-Mayadeen, denies a military strike and claimed the explosions were controlled detonations.

The U.S., UK, France, and Israel are preparing for any Russian retaliation ranging from military action to aggressive cyber-attacks.

Gaza Conflict Continues to Boil, New Tunnel Destroyed

The Hamas-fueled riots and protests on the Gaza border are entering their third week after another bloody week marked by Israeli airstrikes and Israeli and Hamas gunfire exchanges.

The ongoing mass protests started at the end of March marking Palestinian Land Day and are scheduled to continue until May 15. Thousands of Palestinians have raged, venting their anger at Israel regarding the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza that is somewhat ironically caused in part by Hamas.

This weekend conflict occurred at five points along the Gaza border. Ha’aretz reports that one Palestinian was killed by Israeli fire with hundreds more wounded, bringing the total death toll to thirty-four according to most sources. Last week, Palestinians burned thousands of tires to create a thick, toxic smoke. This week, they continued to burn tires and also intensified firebomb attacks including a creative attack where firebombs were strapped onto a kite and dropped onto Israeli fields.

Earlier in the week, a military bulldozer detonated an explosive device at the border fence. In response, the IDF fired on Hamas outposts east of Gaza City. This gives more credence to the IDF claim that the protests are being used as a cover for Hamas to commit terrorist attacks.

On Wednesday night the Israeli Air Force struck a Hamas target in Gaza killing one Hamas member. Hamas machine gun fire targeting the plane triggered rocket sirens in southern Israel and struck a home in Shaar Hanegev. The plane was not hit, and no injuries were reported.

Not only does the IDF seem to be effectively suppressing and holding back Hamas, but this week they also announced the destruction of what is being hailed as the longest and deepest terror tunnel detected. The tunnel crossed from Gaza into Israel but did not yet have an exit. Israel has detected and destroyed at least five major tunnels in the past several months using high-tech, secret technology that may be rendering the terror-tunnel method, which was a scourge to IDF troops in the 2014 war, ineffective.

Even without Israeli attacks, terrorists in Gaza have inflicted several casualties on themselves. One report states four members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad were killed in an explosion during a training exercise. The deaths were initially blamed on Israel, but later reports revealed it was an accident.

Israel to Celebrate 70th Birthday

Amid the conflicts surrounding the borders, Israel is preparing to hold nation-wide celebrations to mark the seventieth anniversary of independence.

The festivities kick off on Wednesday, April 18 and continue into Thursday. The Jerusalem Post compiled a list of galas and revelries that promise to be entertaining.

Musical performances by artists such as Mashina, Eden Hason, and other local artists will be followed by fireworks at the New Station in Afula, a city in northern Israel. Beach parties with non-stop music and dancing are being planned across Israel’s beaches. Those seeking a uniquely religious experience can join a gathering Wednesday eve at 8 p.m. at the Western Wall for special festive prayers followed by live music and dancing. 3D videos showing Zionist culture and Israeli history will be projected on walls, and a Virtual Reality experience will be available in Tel Aviv.

To see the full list and more details, click here.

Fun fact: Legendary film director Steven Spielberg was offered the chance to light the Diaspora torch for the independence ceremonies. He said he would have been happy to come, but was already booked to be filming in Japan at the time.

As with most things in Israel, security concerns must be taken into account alongside celebration. Starting on Monday, the IDF is blocking all border crossings into Israel from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. They will reopen Thursday night, and only crossings for humanitarian purposes will be allowed.

Prior to the independence celebrations, Israel will be holding a memorial for fallen soldiers on Tuesday night leading into the independence celebrations. Israel also held a somber, annual national commemoration of the Holocaust this week.