Thursday was the 17th day of Operation Protective Edge and the 7th day of the ground operation (I think. It’s becoming hard to keep count).
The salient incidents of the day were as follows:
The FAA ban on flying in and out of Ben Gurion Airport was rescinded after it was initially extended for another 24 hours:
Just twelve hours after it renewed a 24-hour ban on US flights to and from Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport, the Federal Aviation Authority on Thursday withdrew the ban, setting the stage for US and international carriers to resume flights. Europe’s Aviation Safety Agency, which had issued a “strong recommendation” against flights to Tel Aviv, retracted its warning later in the day.
Following the American and European flight approvals, US Airways and United Airlines had decided to resume their flights and had informed the IAA that they would be landing planes on Friday at Ben Gurion to take off on Saturday morning. Delta Airlines also decided to renew flights, as did Air Berlin, Al Italia, Meridian, Air Mediterranee, Nios, Air Iberia, Niki, EasyJet, Veiling, Mistrel, Air Canada and FedEx, the IAA said.
As of the early evening, flights to and from Turkey, however, had not been renewed, according to the IAA.
Since the FAA ban on Tuesday, which followed the first successful Hamas rocket landing within the vicinity of the airport, hundreds of flights were canceled, and thousands of travelers stranded.
Israel lobbied heavily for the US to lift the restriction, which politicians called a victory for Hamas and terrorism. The FAA said it took into account “significant new information and measures the Government of Israel is taking to mitigate potential risks to civil aviation,” before making its decision, but stressed that its primary goad was to protect passenger on US airlines.
According to certain reports (h/t DavidinPT via The Muqata’s twitter feed) it wasn’t just, or even only, Israel’s “significant new security measures” that enabled the FAA ban to be lifted. Rather it was a threat by Israel to significantly ramp up its onslaught on Gaza in order to put an immediate end to the rocket threat that was the cause of the ban in the first place:
Israel reportedly told the United States that it understands the rules and the reasoning behind the FAA ban on US flights to Israel, according to Arad Nir of Israel Channel 2.
Israel reportedly told the US that this situation (of the FAA ban) can’t continue, so in order to resolve it, Israel will need to significantly and disproportionately ramp up its attack on Gaza, and put an immediate stop to all the rocket attacks, thus allowing US flight to Israel to resume.
Nir claims the message was understood and the FAA ban was rescinded.
I really hope this story is true. I love the subtle menace in that message. It matches the similar hidden threat behind the US’s flight ban. The Americans can’t complain either. If the ostensible reason was the rocket fire, then it’s only reasonable that Israel should want to bring the rocket fire to an end as quickly as possible and damn the consequences.
The “rescue” put on by El Al wasn’t all rosy however as the JPost report continues:
Though El Al and Arkia added capacity and new flights during the flight ban, Israeli customers were incensed by the high prices they were charging for tickets at a time of crisis, when so many people were stranded abroad. State Comptroller Joseph Shapira on Thursday said it would look into price gouging allegations in the incident.
The Tourism Ministry convened a meeting with the Finance Ministry to discuss potential damage to Israel’s tourist industry, which it feared could take a long-term hit as the operation drags on.
There were additional complications for Israeli tourists stranded in Turkey, since Turkey extended its flight ban until July 31st, and yet will not allow El Al to land at its airports in order to airlift Israeli passengers out.
I do feel sorry for those Israeli passengers, but honestly, what on earth were they doing going to Turkey in the first place? It is the most hostile country to Israelis outside of the Arab world. Why would any Israeli take a chance in travelling to that country unless for unavoidable business?
Moving on to the tragic bombing of a Gaza school in which 15 civilians died, first – the facts from the Times of Israel:
…15 civilians were killed and as many as 200 more were wounded Thursday afternoon in the bombardment of a UN school – an assault that both sides claim might well be the fault of the other.
“We can confirm that [Palestinian] terror rockets that were fired from that area landed in the neighborhood of the UN facility,” said Cap. Eytan Buchman of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, asserting that the death and destruction may have been caused by errant rockets fired by Hamas or another militant organization.
The veteran Arab affairs analyst on Israeli Channel 2 news went one step further. There were nine mortar shells fired from the area of the UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun, Ehud Ya’ari said, “and one hit the school.”
UNRWA Spokesman Chris Gunness seemed to confirm that Hamas projectiles were fired in the area, writing on twitter that it’s “being reported there were Hamas rockets falling in Beit Hanoun today.”
A Hamas statement in a Ma’an news article called the attack on the school an “ugly crime” for which the Israelis “will pay.”
Robert Turner, the director for UNRWA, told Al Jazeera that the location of the facility “was conveyed to the Israelis,” and that the school was “monitored [to ensure] that our neutrality was maintained.”
Last week in Gaza, 20 rockets belonging to one of the terror groups were found in an UNRWA school, a development that the organization said in a statement was a “flagrant violation of the inviolability of its premises under international law.”
Gaza Division commander Brig. Gen. Miki Edelstein said in a conference call with reporters that he was not yet familiar with the details of the incident, but that “we do not act against NGO facilities with no warning.”
“If,” he said, “if something happened, it is by mistake and not any other issue.”
A senior intelligence officer later confirmed that there had been Palestinian rocket fire from the area “very close to the school.” He added that “Israel could attack 10 times more Hamas activists” than it has thus far. But the reason it has held back, he said, striking “only one out of 10, is because they are hiding below, or very, very near, civilians.”
Israel Matzav notes that Hamas gunmen were shooting from the school:
Earlier today, UNRWA claimed that the IDF had fired on one of its schools in Beit Hanoun, which was being used to shelter civilians. Later, the IDF said it was investigating the incident, and still later it was reported that it was Hamas that shot the shells. Now, the IDF has investigated and concluded that terrorists fired from around the school and that the IDF returned fire.
The IDF Spokesperson’s Office said on Thursday night that an initial investigation into the shelling of a UN-run school in Gaza – which left at least fifteen dead, and dozens wounded – found that terrorists had opened fire from the vicinity of the school, and that the army returned fire.
At the same time, Hamas fired in the general direction of the school, the army said. Civilians in the school were asked to vacate the area, but refused, the army added.
The Elder of Ziyon also analysed the school bombing. He shows how a simple tweet of a rumour spread like wildfire until it became “fact” and made the headlines of major media outlets. Thus is Israel defamed before the truth has had a chance to put its boots on.
The Elder continues:
I had written at the outset of this war that the number one mistake reporters were likely to make is assuming that all Gaza casualties are the result of Israeli fire.
And that is exactly what happened.
As usual, the IDF was slow to respond. And they still have not responded definitively. But here’s what we know so far from them, facts that Chris Gunness and Hamas are unlikely to admit:
So either someone fired from the school and the IDF responded – unlikely, based on how careful the IDF was to ensure the Wafa hospital was empty before firing at it – or Hamas rockets hit the school, killing the innocent, or there was a mistake on Israel’s side with an “errant shell.”
Whatever the truth is, to make a blanket assumption that Israel is at fault is not reporting, but advocacy.
The media across the board assumed that this was an Israeli strike, based on sources known to lie and to be consistently biased.If it wasn’t an airstrike, why does the media think it is more likely that Israel shelled a UNRWA school than Hamas? Is it more inconceivable that Hamas would attack its own people than Israel deliberately attacking civilians? Who gains from such an action?
The only explanation for the headlines is that, to the world media, Israel is a bloodthirsty nation.
The logic is sickening.
If the media was remotely objective, there is no way that they would assume that the IDF had fired those shells. On the contrary, they would have been asking these questions of Chris Gunness within minutes of his first tweet, instead of slavishly retweeting it themselves (as many did.)
The IDF isn’t perfect, but if the IDF was as bloodthirsty as the headlines imply, then Gaza would have 70,000 dead by now, not 700.
There is no objectivity here. The a priori assumption of IDF guilt is evidence that the media truly thinks that the IDF is a sickeningly depraved army, the exact opposite of what has been seen over and over again even during this conflict (for those who care about the truth.)
Assuming that the IDF is morally depraved and at the same time not even entertaining the idea that Hamas, which brags that it targets civilians, could be behind this incident is proof positive that it is the media that is depraved and immoral.
The Elder of Ziyon nails it absolutely.
No doubt the international media and the anti-Israel NGO’s, not to mention the UN with all its institutions, will be dancing on this Gazan blood for months to come. Watch out for Goldstone II and III.
But we Israelis can rest assured that if it was by some terrible chance the fault of the IDF, it was done in error and only after strenuous efforts were made to save those Gazans’ lives by asking them to evacuate.
If any other proof were necessary, the Elder of Ziyon also brings to our attention that Hamas was shelling the field hospital set up by the IDF to treat wounded Gazans!
So much for their intense concern for the Gazans’ well-being. I didn’t notice this story splashed all over the mainstream media though. Did you?
On the diplomatic front, PM Netanyahu spoke eloquently to the British Foreign Minister Phillip Hammond who arrived on a short visit, and compared Israel’s situation to Britain during the Blitz:
Both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman drew parallels during meetings Thursday with visiting British Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond between Israel fighting Hamas and Britain battling the Nazis.
Netanyahu, after meeting Hammond who has been in office only nine days, said that considering its experience in World War II, Britain has a historical understanding of what Israel is undergoing.
“There has only been one other instance where a democracy has been rocketed and pelleted with these projectiles of death, and that’s Britain during World War II,” Netanyahu said.
Hammond said that Britain has been very clear that Israel has the right to defend itself, but is “gravely concerned by the ongoing heavy level of civilian casualties.”
Netanyahu assured Hammond that Israel was doing “its best” to limit civilian casualties. “All the civilian deaths there, and we regret every one of them, are the responsibility of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad,” he said.
While using human shields is “grotesque,” Netanyahu said, “what is equally grotesque is that Israel was condemned by the [UN] Human Rights Council.” Although a “travesty of justice and truth,” he said, it will “not prevent us from continuing to act to defend our people.”
Netanyahu thanked British Prime Minister David Cameron for “standing up for Israel’s right to defend itself.” And he also noted positively that British Airways continued to fly to Israel, even as the US airliners and some other airlines from around Europe and the world temporarily stopped their flights. He thanked Britain for its “moral focus and moral clarity,” and said “we will need it in the days ahead.
The happiest event of the day was the swearing-in ceremony of Reuven Rivlin as the new President of Israel, in place of Shimon Peres who steps down after 7 years:
Wearing a kippa with the text “I will raise Jerusalem above my foremost joy” – given to him by a Holocaust survivor – Rivlin said the Sheheheyanu blessing for special occasions.
The inauguration was a ray of light in a difficult time, despite Rivlin and Edelstein’s decision to cancel the cocktail party and music that usually follow such events.
During the ceremony, air raid sirens went off in eight areas in the South, while southern mayors, who were invited to the Knesset in honor of their residents’ resilience, sat in the plenum.
Rivlin, Edelstein and outgoing President Shimon Peres all paid tribute to soldiers taking part in Operation Protective Edge and sent condolences to families of the fallen.
Edelstein opened the ceremony with a prayer for IDF soldiers.
In Rivlin’s first speech to the nation as president, he said the inauguration was taking place as scheduled “not solely in the name of the law, but to deliver a clear message to our enemies – you cannot and will not defeat us. We are determined to protect the pillars of our regime, as well as the character of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, even in time of war, against terrorism.
“The Jewish nation has proven its stamina. For 2,000 years we waited to return to our homeland, and today we are safely ensconced here.
“A day will come when the darkness of terrorism will be eradicated from the land. A day will come when we will live here in tranquility and peace, side by side. A day will come when peace will be established between Israel and all its neighbors.
“Today, just as before, even in a time of turbulence and pain, we refuse to abandon our cause; we do not give up the hope to build here the society we dreamed of,” he said.
“Long live the State of Israel!” Rivlin concluded, in tears, and was given a standing ovation.
I think Rivlin will be a very fitting and successful President. We wish him Mazal Tov and much success in his new role.
Peres took a hard line on Hamas in his last speech as president, while expressing hope for peace with the Palestinians in the future.
Peres expressed surprise that “even this time, after we were hit by missiles meant to hurt civilians…after we exposed murderous hidden tunnels used to enter the heart of our towns and rain fire on mothers and children, we would still have to warn the world of the dangers of insane terrorism.
“Terrorism wants to spill our blood and leads to blood flowing in the streets of its people,” he said. “Hamas put hundreds of thousands of Gazans on the war front. They turned Gaza, after over 3,000 years of history, into a man-made tragedy…They forced their children to serve as shields and sent them to burn.”
Peres said farewell to the presidency: “I am leaving my job without leaving behind my deep faith that Israel is a model country.
We are a nation that experienced endless suffering and we are a nation that reached lofty heights.”
“Next to [first prime minister David] Ben-Gurion I saw [Israel] fighting for its life with few resources and endless dangers.
Today I see it [as] strong, safe, blooming, growing in every area.
I see my land promising a great future for its sons and daughters,” he said.
Peres thanked the nation for giving him the privilege to serve them.
“I love you all. Thank you from the depths of my heart,” he said.
Rivlin and Edelstein paid tribute to Peres’s decades of service to the country in their speeches.
Then, as the baton of the presidency was passed from Peres to Rivlin, Edelstein recited the prayer for the changing of the guard at the Holy Temple: “May love, brotherhood, peace and friendship dwell among us.”
I watched the ceremony on TV and to my surprise I found it fascinating and very moving. We can be proud of our country that can manage to hold such an important event with dignity and the just right amount of celebration in light of the war we are in. Kol hakavod to all the organizers, the Knesset, and yes, even to the politicians.
And to close today’s roundup, here’s a summary of today’s other incidents plus some later updates:
There was sporadic rocket fire on the south and center of the country during the day, and late tonight a rocket on Eilat – maybe aiming for Ovda Airport?
The IDF’s summary of Thursday’s events:
Since the beginning of the ground phase of Operation Protective Edge, IDF soldiers have uncovered 31 tunnels used for terror, 11 of which were subsequently destroyed by IDF forces. Throughout the morning, the IDF has targeted approximately 90 terror activity sites in Gaza. Among them were concealed rocket launchers and surveillance posts.
In the early morning hours, IDF soldiers detained 2 militants who were identified emerging from an access shaft of a tunnel used for terror.
In a separate incident, soldiers identified a suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt in the southern Gaza Strip. The soldiers fired at him, confirming the threat neutralized. Subsequently, the force located 2 tunnel access shafts adjacent to the scene.
Attached is a map specifying the locations of several of the tunnels uncovered by IDF soldiers in the Gaza Strip during the course of Operation Protective Edge.
Later on, armored forces identified a squad of armed militants and fired at their direction, confirming a hit.
Additionally, 150 Hamas members surrendered to the IDF and were taken to Israel for questioning. About half of them were later released.
The day ended with huge Palestinian protests in and around Jerusalem, with two Palestinians killed:
Violence broke out Thursday night near the Kalandia checkpoint, located in the West Bank between Jerusalem and Ramallah, as residents of the West Bank village clashed with police in protests against the IDF’s operation in the Gaza Strip.
Some 10,000 Palestinians protested near the checkpoint, throwing rocks, firebombs and fireworks at Israeli security forces, and setting tires ablaze. The IDF forces and Border Police were using crowd dispersal means on the masses.
According to the Palestinian reports, two demonstrators were killed by Israeli security forces and dozens wounded. Thirteen Israeli police officers were lightly injured.
The IDF Spokesperson’s Office did not confirm the Palestinian casualties. The military was checking reports of live fire targeting Israeli forces at the checkpoint.
The protest erupted after allies of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement marched from the West Bank city of Ramallah to the edges of Jerusalem in protest against Israel’s 17-day-old campaign against Hamas militants in Gaza.
Police so far arrested 39 Arab suspects during the protests.
Earlier on Thursday, Israel Police arrested nine suspects in east Jerusalem, for disrupting the peace and attacking police officers, near the Old City. The police said it used crowd dispersal methods to restore order.
At the same time, near the Temple Mount, dozens of east Jerusalem residents threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at police forces. The police said said they have arrested 10 suspects, and that two police officers were lightly injured during the clash.
As police prepared for Friday prayers, they planed to heighten security in the Old City and throughout Jerusalem, as Operation Protective Edge enters its third week, fueling already heightened tensions between Arabs and Jews in the capital.
Citing anonymous threats of Arab rioting expected near Damascus Gate, National Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Thursday that hundreds of officers will be on hand near the east Jerusalem entrance Friday to ensure no incidents take place.
“Police are making preparations for the thousands of people expected to the Old City to pray during Ramadan,” he said. “We have received information that there will be disturbances, so we are leaving nothing to chance to ensure the safety of residents.”
To that end, Rosenfeld said no Arabs under 50-years-old will be permitted to enter Damascus Gate, and undercover teams and various other elite units will blanket the area to respond immediately to any violence.
Since the brutal revenge murder of Mohammed Abu Khedeir earlier this month, several communities in east Jerusalem, have been embroiled in rioting, resulting in dozens of arrests and the destruction of municipal property, including two light rail stations.
Let us hope that tomorrow will be calmer and will bring better news.
May Hashem protect our soldiers and watch over all of us.