Today, the 21st day of Operation Protective Edge, began on a less intense note. There had been no rocket fire overnight, and although no official ceasefire had been declared, Israel had made the decision to extend the humanitarian truce while continuing search-and-destroy mission against the terror tunnels. Hamas persisted with dribble of rocket fire until around 4 p.m. this afternoon, when they suddenly went ballistic (if you excuse the pun).
It started with the sudden news that Shifa Hospital had been shelled, and at least 10 civilians killed, amongst them children. My initial reaction was happiness that the IDF had attacked the main Hamas headquarters, the Shifa Hospital itself where the cowardly terrorist leaders hide. I was only surprised that the IDF hadn’t called for the hospital to be evacuated first.
All became clear very soon when, for a change, the IDF almost immediately denied responsibility and laid it squarely where it belonged: Hamas had tried to launch a Fajr missile at central Israel and had misfired.
The Israeli army said it was not operating in the vicinity of Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza on Monday, where an explosion reportedly killed and wounded dozens of Palestinians.
“A short while ago Al-Shifa Hospital and Al-Shati Refugee Camp were struck by failed rocket attacks launched by Gaza terrorists,” the army said in a statement sent to reporters.
The failed attempt to fire the projectile apparently hit a car near the center, according to Israel’s Channel 2 News, causing the casualties.
The station said that a “Hamas Fajr-5 rocket aimed at central Israel, which was fired from a playground outside the Shifa hospital and exploded on the site causing casualties, had at least a 100 kg (220 lbs) warhead,” according to The Times of Israel.
Reporter Nir Devori of Channel 2 and analyst Ehud Yaari confirmed the carnage was most likely the result of a failed Fajr rocket launch — aimed at central Israel.
Palestinian reports are claiming at least seven dead and dozens wounded in a “failed rocket launch” by terrorists from the vicinity of the medical compound, according to Israeli Channel 1 reporter Yoram Cohen.
Palestinian sources at the Al-Shati Refugee Camp, said an airstrike killed children, a claim the army denied.
I wonder whether the media will accurately report the IDF denial, or whether it will blame Israel in its usual knee-jerk fashion. In this respect it is of great interest to read the last part of the above Algemeiner article, regarding Hamas intimidation of civilians and reporters:
Additionally, some reporters trying to cover events in the coastal enclave say Hamas is limiting coverage and threatening them for reporting anything unflattering to the Islamist terrorist group.
Radjaa Abu Dagga, Gaza correspondent for France’s Libération, told the newspaper‘s readers on Tuesday how Hamas refused his requests to leave Gaza and how he was interrogated by Hamas members from their headquarters inside Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital.
Blogger Elder of Ziyon published a translation of his harrowing account on Thursday.
Posting a photo to Twitter of a Hamas spokesman being interviewed on camera, Nick Casey, The Wall Street Journal‘s Middle East Correspondent, wondered how patients there might feel about Hamas using the hospital as a “de facto headquarters for Hamas leaders, who can be seen in the hallways and offices,” as reported by The Washington Post last week.
On Monday, Casey wrote: “You have to wonder [with] the shelling how patients at Shifa hospital feel as Hamas uses it as a safe place to see media.”
The Shati refugee camp was also hit by an errant Hamas rocket, which of course was also blamed on the IDF. The IDF fired back – verbally:
Immediately after the Shifa Hospital explosion Hamas launched their latest rocket barrage, reaching as far north as Zichron Yaakov.
Amongst this onslaught they also shot mortars over the border – against which no Code Red alarm or Iron Dome can protect because the distance and the time-span is so short, and four soldiers were killed in this attack. A fifth soldier was killed today fighting in Gaza:
Five soldiers were killed Monday in and near the Gaza Strip.
Four of the soldiers were killed by a mortar that struck a group of soldiers near the Gaza border. This is the same mortar strike that was reported earlier as killing four “Israelis.” The “Israelis” have been identified as soldiers.
Six other soldiers were seriously wounded by the mortar shell.
A fifth soldier, First Sgt. Moshe Doino, 20, of Jerusalem, was killed in the course of fighting inside Gaza in the early afternoon.
Since the campaign in Gaza began, 48 IDF officers and soldiers were killed.
May their memories be for a blessing and may Hashem avenge their blood.
A short while later, in a terrifying replay of previous tunnel infiltrations, residents of several Israeli border communities were put in lockdown and roads were closed because of an infiltration by terrorists through a tunnel into one of the communities. The IDF located the terrorists and killed them:
Five terrorists infiltrate into Israel through a cross-border tunnel in southern Israel, Channel 2 reports.
Israeli troops locate the gunmen and kill them.
Sweeps of the area to ensure no other terrorists successfully infiltrated are ongoing.
This is the sixth attempt by Hamas to send terrorists into Israel through the tunnels this month.
The thwarted attack underlines that Hamas still has tunnels through which it can try to attack Israel, even though the IDF has located more than 30 such tunnels in the past week and a half.
The IDF has resumed its aerial and artillery onslaught on Gaza terror targets after warning residents of Beit Hanoun, Beit Lahiya and Jabaliya to evacuate.
The day is not yet over, but for now I’ll conclude with the short press briefing held by PM Netanyahu, Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon and Chief of Staff Benny Gantz: (emphases added):
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed Israeli citizens on live television Monday evening after Hamas fired a mortar shell that killed four people in southern Israel.
“We knew that we would have difficult days,” he said. “This is a hard and painful day.”
“Patience and determination are required in order to fight a terror organization that seeks to destroy us,” the prime minister added. “We will not complete the operation without neutralizing the tunnels whose only purpose is to annihilate our children and our civilians.
“The action against the tunnels is the first step in demilitarizing Gaza,” Netanyahu declared. “The discussion about demilitarizing Gaza must be a part of any solution, and the international community must demand this with fervor, instead of letting money that enters Gaza to reach Hamas, and allowing concrete that enters to be used in tunnels.
“There must be an end to this,” Netayahu said. “It is unacceptable the citizens of Israel will live underthreat of death. Killing from above and killing from below.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed the nation in a televised press conference Monday night, saying that Israel must be prepared for a long mission in Gaza, as the operation would not be over until all the terror tunnels are destroyed.
“There is no war more just than this one,” he said. “We will not end the operation in Gaza without neutralizing the terror tunnels.”
“Hamas is a cruel enemy, not only to us, but to their own citizens,” Netanyahu continued. “They have rejected numerous cease-fires. We are prepared for an extended operation.”
Earlier on Monday Netanyahu slammed a UN Security Council statement calling for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza, saying during a phone conversation with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that the statement addresses the needs of a murderous terrorist organization, but not those of Israel.
Israel accepted a UN request for a humanitarian cease-fire three times, he said, while Hamas violated each one.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, speaking after Netanyahu, echoed the premier, saying Israel will not hesitate to expand its actions against Hamas in a manner that will harm the terror organization.
He stressed that Israel would not compromise the security of its citizens.
“We won’t be deterred from fighting for our home and citizens,” he said in a press conference.
Ya’alon vowed that quiet would be returned to the citizens of Israel, although he noted that the military’s campaign in Gaza could be prolonged.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz wrapped up the conference, saying the IDF was making “excellent” progress in its operations in Gaza, which he said would continue for as long as needed.
Gantz said the IDF was taking all possible measures not to cause civilian casualties in Gaza, but reiterated Israel’s warning for Palestinian civilians to distance themselves from the areas where Hamas is operating.
Turning to the Israeli front, the IDF chief called for public support to remain strong. “I have no doubt we can succeed,” he stressed.
It sounds like the top political and military echelon are united in their determination to carry this operation through to the bitter end – at least a bitter end for Hamas. For Israel it will be a sweet day indeed when Hamas is eradicated. We just have to stand firm and hold our nerve in the face of international pressure and condemnation.
I have no doubt that we are capable of this.
May tomorrow bring better news.
May Hashem protect our soldiers and watch over us.
הנה לא ינום ולא ישן שומר ישראל