Operation Pillar of Cloud – updates for Day 3

Rocket damage to a house in Ashkelon

Rocket damage to a house in Ashkelon

In the Times of Israel’s live blog for day 3 of Operation Pillar of Cloud, we read that the IDF suspended its air attacks for 3 hours while the Egyptian Prime Minister visited Gaza:

IDF to suspend strikes on the Strip for three hours during Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil’s visit to Gaza today. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly agrees to the short ceasefire after Egypt requests it.

Kandil, being sent personally by President Mohammed Morsi, is scheduled to meet with Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. Four Egyptian ministers will accompany Kandil on the visit, which is meant to show solidarity with the residents of Gaza.

This is what Hamas terrorist leader had to say:

Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil holds press conference with Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh during a three-hour visit to the Gaza Strip.

Haniyeh tells reporters, “This historic visit will lead to the improvement of conditions for the people of Gaza. It will be impossible from now on to view the situation in Gaza as disconnected from the region.

“The message to the West and to the United States is that they must act in order to stop this bloodshed,” he adds.

Haniyeh thanks Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood for their support.

The Hamas chief says he is confident in a Palestinian victory, and that the aggression will end thanks to the efforts of Egypt and others around the world.

Kandil’s response:

Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil, in Gaza, pledges his country’s support to the Palestinian people.

“Egypt after the revolution will work toward an extended calm, and afterwards for the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. That is the only way to achieve stability in the region,” says Kandil.

The Egyptian prime minister urged all Palestinian factions to unite. “The strength of the Palestinan people lies in its unity. That is the way to achieve victory,” he says.

In response to this temporary one-sided cease-fire, those oh-so-considerate terrorists fired more rockets at Israel.

At least 12 rockets and mortar shells exploded in the Eshkol Regional Council after Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil arrived in Gaza, nixing hopes for a lull. Two rockets exploded in the city of Kiryat Gat. Meanwhile, two rockets that were fired towards Gan Yavne and Hof Ashkelon were intercepted by the Iron Dome. Dozens of rockets were launched on Friday morning and the count continues to climb.

Earlier Friday, two Grad rockets exploded in Ashdod, with one hitting a house’s yard. Several people suffered panic attacks, and great damage was caused on the scene. Another rocket hit a house in the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council, causing considerable damage and igniting a fire. No injuries were immediately reported.

Meanwhile, rockets continued to fall the Eshkol and Bnei Shimon regional councils, and air raid sirens sounded in Beersheba, Sderot, Ofakim and other towns in the vicinity. The Iron Dome intercepted several rockets fired on Beersheba and Ashkelon.

Some 250 terrorist targets, including underground launching pads, were hit in Gaza since Thursday night. An interior ministry building was bombed, according to Palestinian sources.

The IDF has struck more that 450 terrorist targets since the beginning of Operation Pillar of Defense. On Thursday, three Palestinians were killed in a strike on Beit Hanoun in the northern Strip.

Other interesting items from the ToI’s liveblog:

Diplomatic developments:

01.26: British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone on Thursday to say that he was “extremely concerned” by the violence in Gaza, AFP reports.

According to the report, Cameron affirmed that “Hamas bears the principal responsibility for the crisis” and added that “the rocket attacks from Gaza into southern Israel by Hamas and other armed groups were completely unacceptable and that the increasing frequency of rocket attacks in recent days was the immediate cause of the situation.” He made clear that “Hamas bears the principal responsibility for crisis,” according to a spokesman for Cameron.

03:30 Egyptian authorities have closed the Rafah crossing into the Gaza Strip, according to the Egypt Independent.

The crossing is an important transit point for people and goods.

05:56 Dennis Ross, a former senior Middle East adviser to US Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, tells The Washington Post that Egypt faces a stark choice on what kind of role to play in the Gaza conflict.

“If they don’t act to get Hamas to stand down, they may end up paying a major price in terms of assistance from the outside,’’ the Post quotes Ross as saying. “So is their ideology going to trump their economic needs?”

06:35  Egyptian officials have told Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip to institute calm, Israel Radio reports.

As for that glorious institution, the EU, their Foreign Minister Baroness Ashton expressed her deep concern at the violence in Israel and Gaza:

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on Friday she was deeply concerned at violence in Israel and Gaza, calling for rocket attacks by Hamas to end and urging Israel to ensure its response was proportionate.”I am deeply concerned at the escalating violence in Israel and the Gaza Strip and deplore the loss of civilian lives on both sides,” Ashton said in a statement.

“The rocket attacks by Hamas and other factions in Gaza which began this current crisis are totally unacceptable for any government and must stop,” she said.

“Israel has the right to protect its population from these kinds of attacks. I urge Israel to ensure that its response is proportionate,” she said.

Ashton said she had spoken about the situation to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the Egyptian president’s office, as well as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The question is what does she consider a “proportionate response”? A rocket for a rocket? Somehow I think Israel would be accused of massive war crimes, and justifiably.  Why don’t these politicians think before they open their mouths?

The other major news of the day is that the IDF Chief of Staff has called up 16,000 reserve troops (out of the 30,000 permitted to him by the Defense Minister) ahead of a possible ground invasion:

Ahead of a possible Israeli ground operation in Gaza, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz on Friday agreed to call up 16,000 reserve troops – half the amount of soldiers requested by Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
“The IDF is gearing towards a calling in reserve forces ahead of a ground operation in the Gaza Strip,” IDF spokesman Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai said. “The Military Intelligence continues to make efforts to discern additional targets.”

The Jerusalem Post adds:

Most of the reservists serve in the IDF’s Engineering Corps.The engineering corps would play a vital part in any ground operation into the Gaza Strip, enabling armored vehicles to move across the border into Gaza. The IDF operation to root out terror in the coastal territory has consisted of air raids on terror targets thus far.

The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee unanimously authorized on Thursday Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s request to enlist up to 30,000 reservists.

The IDF will issue “order nine,” which is an irregular order in cases of emergency for reservists to immediately report to duty.

The final item for today’s update is that the Defense Ministry will be deploying a fifth Iron Dome battery to protect Israel from the Palestinians’ missiles.

Since Shabbat is fast approaching and I won’t have time to blog again today, I suggest that for further updates you visit the Times of Israel live-blog or the Muqata’s live-blog.

May Hashem protect our soldiers, reservists, the citizens of the south and all the people of Israel. May we all have a Shabbat Shalom – literally, a Sabbath of Peace. Amen.

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4 Responses to Operation Pillar of Cloud – updates for Day 3

  1. Earl says:

    Typical prevarication from “Call me Dave”- what a muppet. So, Hamas is the “principal cause” of the current violence?, ie., the easy inference is that he believes that IL is a “secondary” cause. He just couldn’t bring himself to state, unequivocally, that Hamas is the “sole cause” of the violence. Pafetic, innit?

  2. It would be helpful to know why a ground invasion is necessary. Hamas has no capacity to respond to Israel’s technology, other than to engage in ineffective rocket launches, which it will continue irrespective of a ground invasion. Therefore, a continued, unrelenting naval and air attack would seem to be the most “cost” efficient strategy – especially if it can be transferred to armed UAV’s operating on ground intelligence. It should not subside until Hamas agrees to a protected, unlimited inspection of its territory to insure all weapons and military infrastructure is dismantled. Admittedly, this will take a long time, during which the most important side element will be Israel’s ability to retain international support. That should be a given so long as Israel is able to focus attention on Hamas’s policy of targeting civilians and Israel’s herculean effort to avoid civilian casualties.

    • anneinpt says:

      If Israel wants to root out the terrorists from the top down, or bottom up, there is no choice but to go in. Bombing from the air has its limitations. Israel, as a moral army, won’t bomb in civilian areas and Hamas know that which is why they hide amongst and within the civilian population, even placing their rockets in private homes, schools, mosques and hospitals.

      Bombing from the air permanently is only possible for a nation without scruples or a nation on whom the eyes and media of the world are not focused with a microscope.

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