As you are aware, recent days have seen ongoing serious security incidents and acts of terrorism in Israel. We wanted to ensure that you have a concise and clear picture of the situation.
Below is an update from Rebecca Caspi, Director General of the Jewish Federations of North America’s Israel Office. We will continue to share additional updates should they be needed.
CEO, Jewish Federation of Western Connecticut
Recent days – the beginning of the Passover holiday – have been marred by violence, tension and tragedy in Israel and along its borders.
At the end of last week, multiple rockets were fired at Israeli civilian targets from both the Gaza Strip as well as from Lebanon (see our initial update here). Some 34 rockets were fired from Lebanon – the largest attack from that country since 2006 (see details hereand background here). The Hamas terrorist organization seems to have carried out the attacks from both Gaza and Lebanon, which resulted in some property damage, but no serious injuries to Israelis, although hundreds of thousands were forced to take refuge in shelters. In response to the heavy rocket fire, the Israel Defense Forces launched multiple retaliatory strikes against terror targets in both territories.
On Saturday night, rockets from a third territory, Syria, were launched against Israel, also causing no significant damage or injury, but requiring Israeli citizens in the region to run to shelters, as the Iron Dome defense system was activated to knock incoming rockets out of the sky. In response, the IDF hit military targets near Damascus and other Syrian territory. (Additional details here).
In the same time-period, two major attacks took place on the ground in Israel, both carried out by Palestinian terrorists. In the Jordan Valley, a gunman opened fire on a car carrying a British-Israeli family from the town of Efrat. Tragically, two sisters (aged 20 and 15) were killed, and their mother is in critical condition, fighting for her life. Their father, a well-known rabbi from London, was traveling ahead in a second car and witnessed efforts to save their lives. Read more here. A few hours later, a car ramming attack on the Tel Aviv promenade claimed the life of an Italian tourist and left seven others injured. The family of the terrorist, an Israeli citizen, father of six, and resident of Kafr Qassem, east of Tel Aviv, claim the incident was an accident.
Israel’s government and top-military officials have been meeting in emergency sessions and have ordered a massive bolstering of security measures and personnel. (See photosand videoof the IDF Chief of the General Staff conducting an assessment of the security situation along the Lebanese border.) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quoted as saying that he wanted to avoid a significant escalation. Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant briefed the US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, and Prime Minister Netanyahu invited Opposition Leader Yair Lapid to a special security briefing at the Prime Minister's office.
Earlier today, the prime minister briefed the mayors of local councils in Israel’s southern region and, under IDF orders, a holiday concert planned for this evening in Sderot was canceled. In addition, the Knesset Foreign Affairs Sub-committee on Intelligence convened in special session in Tel Aviv for a briefing by security officials and to discuss recent events.
The wave of attacks were apparently carried out in response to Israeli police actions that attempted to quell Palestinian riots on the Temple Mount, where tens of thousands of Muslims had gathered to mark the month of Ramadan. Police have been preparing for potential problems on and around the Temple Mount as Ramadan coincides with Passover (and Easter), when tens of thousands traditionally come to the Western Wall for the priestly blessing ceremony, and some also ascend the Temple Mount. Last night, hundreds again barricaded themselves inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Following critical Jordanian statements condemning Israel’s earlier actions, Israel called on Jordan publicly to act through the Waqf guards to remove the extremists inside. So far, the day has proceeded without any significant incidents in the city.
While the situation remains tense, the Israeli government has taken a series of measures to reinforce security across the country, and says it is committed to de-escalation. Jewish Federations are very closely monitoring the situation and will update as needed.
Senior Vice President Israel and Overseas
Director General, Israel Office