With all the fanfare about Hamas’s missiles and rockets it’s easy to overlook the danger of mortars, which seem to be little more than glorified stones – until they hit someone. In fact as many soldiers were injured or killed by mortar fire as they were by explosions within Gaza, and all the civilians killed so far have been victims of mortars.
On Friday the list of Israeli victims grew by another tragic figure: a 4-year old boy, Daniel Tragerman of Kibbutz Nachal Oz, was killed when a mortar hit his house. In a case of supreme bad timing, his family was packing up to leave for the safety of the center of the country when the mortar hit.
Gila Tragerman said a shell had exploded in their kibbutz, Nahal Oz, some time earlier, convincing the family to leave for her parents’ house in Kiryat Ono, near Tel Aviv.
“The suitcases were already packed,” she said. “A minute before the explosion I went out to take Uri’s baby carrier (her young son) from the clothesline and met the neighbor. I asked him if they were leaving and told him we were setting off now. I went inside and there was the Color Red siren.
“The children were playing in a tent inside the house, and from the moment of the siren to the explosion only three seconds passed. We didn’t have time to get the children and go into the protected room.”
At little Daniel’s funeral, his mother addressed the mourners:
“we were the happiest family in the world, and I just cannot come to grips with it. Daniel,” she says, “we want to thank you; you taught us how to love and you gave us so much joy. I find solace in the fact that you were a loved and happy child until your last minute.”
“We wanted to protect you but even the code red siren failed to save you,” she says. “You would always run first and call your little brother (to the shelter) and then in a second it ended. We don’t want to say goodbye. You are the love of my life, the perfect child, every parent’s dream: smart, sensitive, ahead of his age group and beautiful, so beautiful,” she adds.
Gila says, “We always said you’d be the youngest leader in the world, who would bring piece.” That didn’t happen in your lifetime, she says, so perhaps it will happen after you.
President Reuven Rivlin also speaks at the funeral, calling Daniel’s death, “the moment we so feared.”
The Tragerman family had previously left Nahal Oz in order to find safety during the Israeli-Hamas hostilities, but returned just days before their child was killed, during a ceasefire, on the safety assurances of IDF officials.
An IDF investigation showed that the mortar that killed Tragerman was fired from next to a Hamas-run shelter in Gaza.
What words of comfort can we say to a mother mourning for her little son who could not escape Hamas’s evil intentions? May Daniel’s memory be for a blessing for all of us and may his family be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
Because mortar-fire has little to no warning – unlike the “long” 15 seconds afforded by Kassams – Israelis have almost no chance to take cover against them. Today another 4 Israelis were injured at the Erez crossing by a combined rocket and mortar attack.
To give you an idea of the intensity of the massive rocket bombardment, the IDF announced that as of 2 p.m. today, Hamas had shot over 570 rockets over the last 5 days.
The rocket-fire is so bad that Ashkelon’s Barzilai Hospital has moved its pediatrics department underground.
Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon has transferred its children’s unit to an underground shelter. Due to the ongoing security threat, the director of the hospital, Dr. Hezi Levi, ordered the pediatrics unit to be moved to a secure location in the hospital for the indefinite future.
Compare and contrast with the way Hamas uses its children as human shields and “bait” for Israel’s return fire.
In other news of the war since Friday: an IDF soldier who came through the fighting in Gaza was critically injured while he was on leave:
Netanel Maman, 22, the soldier who was wounded by a rocket on Friday, is still in critical condition and remains in the intensive care unit in Bellinson Hospital in Petah Tikvah. Boaz Tadmor, assistant director of the hospital, says that Maman’s life is “still in danger.”
Maman was wounded when a Grad rocket exploded near his vehicle outside the southern town of Gan Yavne, near Ashdod on Friday night. He was struck in the head by shrapnel from the projectile. Maman was on leave from the IDF’s Ordnance Corps after having served in combat in the Gaza Strip.
From the above reports and so many more, it is clear that it is the civilian home front who are suffering the bulk of the casualties – which all goes to prove (in case anyone wasn’t sure by now) that Hamas are not out to defeat an army but to commit terrorism against civilians.
Residents of the south are understandably furious at the government for their inability to bring quiet to the south and for persuading them to return home too early, just before the last ceasefire was broken by Hamas last week. Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon met with representatives of the residents over the weekend:
He says the operation will end “only when there is calm in the south” and when there is no more rocket fire.
Until then, Israel will pound Hamas, “for now from the air” but Israel has “other ways” too.
Israel has hit key Hamas terror leaders, and is using all its intelligence capabilities to find them, “even when they are hiding out among women and children… We know to get to them.”
Ya’alon says Israel is “in the midst of a long, complex operation against a ruthless enemy.”
The harm done to Hamas “is unprecedented but we need patience,” he says. “There are no magic solutions.”
“The only consideration guiding us is the good of Israel and its residents,” he says.
He notes that he met Saturday with council chiefs and residents of the south — “who represent the best of Israel.”
Their “hard feelings” about the situation “are justified,” he says, “and we will help them… We are obligated to restore quiet and security to their lives.” They face “not a ‘drizzle’ of rocket fire” but “daily attempts at murder,” says Ya’alon.
PM Netanyahu addressed the weekly cabinet meeting about the situation in the south:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, opening the weekly cabinet meeting, says that Israel will not halt Operation Protective Edge until security and calm have been restored.
He says Hamas will pay a heavy price for the crimes it is committing. “I call on Gaza residents to leave any location from which Hamas is conducting terror activities,” he says. “Every such place is a target for us. We have seen in recent days that there isn’t, and won’t be, any immunity for someone who fires on the citizens of Israel.”
Operation Protective Edge will continue “until its goals are achieved. I said on the first day of the operation that it can take time and we’re prepared for the possibility that the campaign will last even until after the start of the school year.”
Netanyahu speaks now “to the dear residents of the Gaza periphery, the villages and kibbutzim. I admire your fortitude, I admire your suffering, and I share your pain. We will do everything to help you get through these difficult days. In the next cabinet meeting we’re going to approve an extraordinary package of aid to your towns. We are with you, and we will stay with you until the quiet is restored, and afterward as well.”
He adds: We embarked on Operation Protective Edge in order to restore for you and all Israel’s residents the quiet and security, and not to end the operation until this goal is achieved.”
“The more determined we remain, the more we demonstrate patience, the sooner our enemies will understand that they will not succeed in wearing us down,” says the prime minister. “While they try to tire us out, they are being crushed. I think anyone who observes [Hamas’s losses] in recent days understands this concept. The IDF continues to deliver, and to increase, its painful blows against Hamas and the terror groups in the Gaza Strip, and will continue to do this until the goal is achieved.”
He also compared Hamas to ISIS (Da’ash in its Hebrew acronym) and hoped the world would understand that we are are fighting the same fight.
As if rockets on the south and center are not enough, it seemed for a while last night that a new front had opened up in the north as a rocket was shot from Lebanon, striking near Akko (Acre), damaging a property. Shortly afterwards 5 rockets were fired from Syria into the Golan, injuring several Israelis. It’s not clear if the rockets were spill-over from the Syrian civil war, or were a deliberate provocation against Israel.
Israel issued a complaint to UNIFIL but warned that this is the last time:
The IDF chose to turn to UNIFIL in response to the overnight rocket into Israeli territory from Lebanon, but will not do so in the case of future attacks, the army says. The next time the IDF will respond, and “the Lebanese government should not count on future restraint from Israel.”
And just in case we forget the violence from local Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, a stoning attack on an Israeli car near Hebron caused the car to flip over, injuring the driver and passenger:
An Israeli vehicle driving near Beit Ummar, north of Hebron in the West Bank, was targeted by Palestinian rock throwers overnight, the IDF says.
The vehicle overturned; one person was moderately injured and two others were lightly hurt.
Security forces were searching for the perpetrators of the attack. The injured were evacuated for medical treatment.
To conclude today’s depressing update, Iran claims to have shot down an Israeli drone over Natanz:
Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard said it has brought down an Israeli stealth drone above the Natanz uranium enrichment site in the centre of the country.
“A spy drone of the Zionist regime (Israel) was brought down by a missile… This stealth drone was trying to approach the Natanz nuclear zone,” the corps said in a statement on its official website sepahnews.com.
This act demonstrates a new adventurism by the Zionist regime… The Revolutionary Guard and the other armed forces reserve the right to respond to this act,” the statement added.
Natanz is Iran’s main uranium enrichment site, housing more than 16,000 centrifuges. Around 3,000 more are at the Fordo plant, buried inside a mountain and hard to destroy.
Israel has often threatened to attack Iranian nuclear installations.
In 2010, the Israeli Air Force launched an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), dubbed “Eitan,” “Heron TP” or “Heron 2”, which can stay in the air 24 hours and can reach Iran.
“The ‘Eitan’ marks a technological breakthrough and a new level in the Air Force’s ability to operate against threats, near and far, in its every day missions and during emergencies,” IDF spokesmen said.
Military officials declined to say whether the new UAV was designed for use against Iran and did not specifically mention the Islamic Republic, but foreign news services noted that the Eitan can fly as far as Iran.
“The launching of this airplane is another substantial landmark in the development of unmanned aerial vehicles.” Maj.-Gen. Nehushtan said. “They have gone from the humble beginning of their development, with initial operational results during the first Lebanon war, to the substantial and professional apparatus that now accompanies almost any air force operational frame work.”
The Eitan was grounded for much of 2012 following a mysterious crash during test flights.
Hmm. Is it good news or bad? If an Israeli drone really made it all the way to Iran that’s excellent. Shot down? Bad. Unnerves the Iranians? Good.
Stay tuned for more.
Meanwhile, the azakot (red alerts) are coming thick and fast over the radio, so many that the broadcasters can hardly read the news or continue their talk shows. We still have a long way to go until we can say Hamas has been completely defeated.