JFNA Briefing: Update on Situation in Israel - Wednesday November 21, 2012
Soon after noon today (Israel time), a terrorist placed a bomb on a Tel Aviv bus before escaping. Two people have been seriously wounded and one is in a moderate condition. Others are lightly injured. Twenty-one people have been taken to nearby Ichilov Hospital. As of this writing, police are still investigating one remaining suspicious item in the vicinity of the attack.
The bomb exploded one stop before Tel Aviv’s Arlozoroff Train Station. The Azrieli Center, one of Tel Aviv's largest malls, was temporarily closed by police as a security precaution. The driver of the Dan 142 bus said that he did not notice anything suspicious before everything was obscured by smoke.
The attack comes as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton conducts talks in Israel on a possible ceasefire."
The Jewish Federations of North America CEO Jerry Silverman, speaking from JFNA’s Israel office, stated, "This attack has shaken the Israeli population who fear that it may signify a new chapter in the current round of violence. In our communities we must continue to do everything we can to demonstrate our love and support for Israel – and the country’s right to defend itself – at this time."
Just days ago Hamas had threatened of future terror attacks, saying, "We miss the terror attacks on the buses, in the cafes" and is reported to be celebrating news of this terror attack in Gaza.
After one week of Operation Pillar of Defense, 6 Israelis have been killed, 5 have been critically injured, 8 moderately injured, 112 lightly injured, and 281 suffering from panic attacks.
162 Palestinians are reported killed in Gaza, two thirds of whom have been Hamas operatives.
IDF soldier Yossi Fartuk (18) from the Haredi settlement of Emmanuel was killed, Tuesday and will be buried in Jerusalem today.
A Bedouin man (33), name undisclosed, a construction worker for the Ministry of Defense from Lekiya was also killed and another seriously injured after a Grad rocket exploded near Beersheva, yesterday.
An Israeli woman, Tziona Kala (60), driving near the West Bank village of Hussan was moderately injured yesterday in a Palestinian stoning attack. Since the start of the operation, clashes and attacks have become more frequent between Palestinians and IDF soldiers in the West Bank.
In a lucky escape yesterday, a bus driver in Beersheva prevented a probable catastrophe when the air raid siren was heard. He quickly stopped his bus and evacuated passengers to shelter before his bus was hit by a rocket.
World leaders are currently visiting Israel to mediate a ceasefire. Attempts to reach a ceasefire yesterday did not bear fruit.
According to Israeli government sources, Hamas has been hit very hard and is in trouble. With little to show for their efforts, they are hoping to achieve political gains in any ceasefire agreement. The general population of Gaza is suffering and is thus putting pressure on Hamas to end this round of fighting.
Hamas has very few long-range rockets (capable of hitting Tel Aviv or Jerusalem) left. They have enough mid-range (Beersheva, Ashdod) rockets to continue the current pace of fire for around two more weeks.
The Egyptians are enjoying their role as mediators, which grants the new regime some international legitimacy. However, from Israel’s perspective, this is a far cry from the days of Former President Hosni Mubarak and his negotiator Omar Suleiman, who were far more evenhanded in their approach.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, visiting Israel to negotiate a ceasefire, said, "The goal must be a durable outcome that promotes regional stability and advances the security and legitimate aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians alike."
Some Israelis on the street:
Rachel Isacharov (25), Beersheva, "We don't want Netanyahu to agree to a ceasefire. We want to go [into Gaza] as powerfully as possible to arrive at a point where they'll stop firing rockets at us. I've got two small children at home who live in fear."
Sima Deutsch (75), Beersheva, hospitalized because of a fall rushing to a shelter, "If only they'd be a ceasefire. It's not worth taking soldiers into Gaza; it won't put an end to the whole story. Our pilots have done a great job up 'til now."
Ronen Sheffy (41), Tel Aviv, "If there's a ceasefire, Hamas will grow stronger. If there isn't one, then soldiers will get killed and we'll never defeat the terror. There will only be a solution via state intervention – peace is not coming any time soon."
Yossi Fartuk, killed yesterday, had written on his Facebook wall, "Go into Gaza or return us all home."
The Iron Dome defense system has intercepted over 380 rockets since the beginning of the operation. The Iron Dome operators have been filmed giving a personal message to Israeli citizens. You can read key facts about the Iron Dome here.
The Jewish Agency for Israel has been providing respite care to thousands of children, taking them out of immediate rocket range. Read and see pictures of the children at the Interdisciplinary Centre (IDC) in Herzliya, dancing and playing with volunteers from Israel's Scouts.
Immigrant children from the Ibim Absorption Center near Sderot enjoyed a fun day at Jerusalem's Biblical Zoo. See pictures here.
Masa participants are participating in an International New Media Center in Jerusalem, from which they will use social media to tell their hometowns their perspectives on the situation in Israel.
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is providing recent updates on their activities here and World ORT here.
47 buildings have been directly hit by rockets in the past week. Tuesday, an 18 year old from Beersheva calmly reported on the radio that her house had just been directly hit by a rocket while she and her family were in their reinforced room. They felt the impact of the hit and came out of the intact shelter to find the rest of the house completely destroyed.
This video (watch here) shows the IDF entering an apartment that has just been hit by a Hamas rocket. The soldiers are seen marveling at how the protected room “the mamad” remained completely unscathed, without a crack in the wall, or even furniture moving.
In Rishon Letzion, Israel's fourth largest city with a population of over 250,000 and in Ashkelon, shelters saved the lives of those in two apartment blocks when rockets scored direct hits. In Rishon Letzion, an Iranian Fajr-5 rocket with 90 kilos of explosives destroyed a six-story block. The residents were rescued from the obstructed shelter by rescue workers. See a picture here.
In Ashkelon, the Vaknin family's apartment was destroyed. “My wife and my four children, aged 23, 18, 11 and 8, were in the safe room where they were supposed to be, and they’re all fine," said Yossi Vaknin. "My wife called me, hysterical, to say, ‘Yossi, we’re stuck in the safe room.’ They couldn’t get the door back open after the rocket strike.”
Israel's tax payers are playing a part in helping citizens of the South rebuild their homes. The Israel Tax Authority is exercising understanding regarding filings from those in the South and providing compensation for damage incurred through rocket attacks.
Ashkelon's Barzilai Hospital has moved its emergency room to its fortified basement after the Iron Dome intercepted a rocket and shrapnel landed near the hospital’s maternity ward.
This audio clip, (listen here) recorded from Israeli radio today, gives a taste of life here at the moment and the conflict has entered life. Listen from the 2 minute mark where a song is playing, and then a woman’s voice interrupts. The song continues before a second interruption. The woman is announcing cities and towns where air raid sirens are being sounded and letting people know that they need to enter a shelter immediately. Government statements
Our Israel office represented federations today at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a meeting hosted by senior Ministry personnel, for representatives of some of the major Jewish organizations. In addition to receiving updates on the military, political and hasbara fronts, considerable time was spent reporting on what the major Jewish organizations have been doing. Federations were well represented and described our solidarity mission, financial commitment, updates, committees, rallies, conference calls and support for our partners; all of which was very well received and welcomed by the Ministry.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel’s "hand is extended in peace to any of our neighbors who are willing to make peace with us, while our other hand is holding a sword to confront those who want to remove us from this land."
PM Netanyahu told Secretary Clinton, "I want to also thank you especially for your support of Iron Dome. It has been saving lives, and we are in a battle to save lives. One of the things that we are doing is trying to resist and counter a terrorist barrage which is aimed directly at our civilians and doing so by minimizing civilian casualties, whereas the terrorist enemies of Israel are doing everything in their power to maximize the number of civilian casualties. Obviously, no country can tolerate a wanton attack on its civilians.
“Now if there is a possibility of achieving solution to this problem through diplomatic means, we prefer that, but if not, I'm sure you understand that Israel will have to take whatever action is necessary to defend its people."
Netanyahu told UN Secretary Gen Ban Ki-Moon, who is also in Israel, "I know you're very concerned about the civilian casualties on both sides.Well, we share your concern, and that is why, in fighting terror, our military always tries to avoid civilian casualties. In fact, I'm not sure that there is another military on Earth that goes to such great lengths to keep innocents out of harm's way.Israel is, I think, remarkable in that, when you consider the conditions that we're facing, I think that something almost without parallel in history is taking place.We're conducting these surgical operations against terrorists at a time when our own population is being bombarded by rocket attacks."
Solidarity Mission Planned
JFNA is organizing another solidarity mission to Israel for Dec.4 – 6. For more information, click here. Registration must be complete by Nov. 28.
After the solidarity mission led by Michael Siegal, Chair of the Board of Trustees of JFNA, Oren Lavi, Chief of Staff of the Ministry of Homefront Security sent a message to the group, "You and the Federations deserve thanks for the holy work which you are doing on behalf of the State of Israel, both routinely and in emergencies, and especially now. Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter was very pleased to meet the group that came from North America. The meeting was important for him, no less that it was for the Federation leaders and representatives who came in solidarity with the situation in Israel and to help on a personal level. I wish all of us, and in particular, residents of the South that quiet will return to our midst."
Israel Terror Relief Fund
Interested donors to the JFNA Israel Terror Relief Fund can text ISRAEL to 51818 to donate. More information on the Israel Terror Relief Fund can be found on JFNA’s resource page.
A recording of yesterday's JFNA teleconference with David Siegel, Israel’s Consul General in Los Angeles, can be found here. JFNA together with JCPA invites you to another teleconference today also with Dr. Michael Oren, Ambassador of Israel to the United States.
Date: Wednesday, Nov. 21 at 2 p.m. EST
Dial-in number: 1-800-399-0118
Israel Dial-in number:1-809-457-877 or 1-809-315-362
Conference ID: 73771658
Later today, the Israel office will also represent federations at a meeting of the Prime Minister’s Office National Information Directorate to discuss Operation Pillar of Defense information.