Israeli soldiers kill Jewish man they thought was terrorist, echoing Beersheba incident


Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Jewish man in Jerusalem that they believed to be a terrorist, echoing a similar case in Beersheba.

Hours earlier on Wednesday, four Jewish-Israeli men were arrested in the assault of an Eritrean man in the wake of a terrorist attack in Beersheba. The Eritrean was attacked after he was shot dead by a security guard who believed he was a terrorist.

The Jewish man was killed late Wednesday night. While on a bus in Jerusalem, he asked Israeli soldiers boarding the bus to show him identification, believing them to be terrorists.   The soldiers asked in exchange for his national identification card, according to Israel Police. He began to argue with the soldiers and then tried to grab the gun of one of them. One of the soldiers shot the man, believing him to be a terrorist.

The man reportedly yelled “I am ISIS” as he attempted to grab the soldier’s gun. The bus driver attempted to subdue him with a Taser before he was shot, according to the police.

In the Beersheba case, the arrests were made in the assault of Haftom Zarhum, 29, who was shot during the Oct. 18 stabbing attack in the central bus station. While Zarhum was lying in a pool of his own blood, he was kicked and taunted by bystanders who believed he was a terrorist.

The men arrested are not suspected of killing Zarhum; the results of an autopsy showed that he died as a result of the gunfire. On Thursday, they were released on bail.

An Israeli soldier was killed and 10 people were wounded in the Beersheba attack.

Soldier and Eritrean migrant killed, 11 people wounded in Beersheba attack


An Israeli soldier and Eritrean migrant were killed and at least 11 people were wounded in a shooting and stabbing terror attack at the Central Bus Station in Beersheba.

Police said the Palestinian assailant stabbed a soldier and grabbed his M-16 rifle, then opened fire on the bus station.

Migrant Haftom Zarhum, 29, was also shot by police and died hours later at Soroka Hospital in Beersheba. Video images show him lying in a pool of his own blood being kicked by bystanders who thought he was an assailant. Eleven others were wounded in the terror attack.

It is not known how the attacker entered the bus station in the southern Israeli city with weapons, since security guards are posted at all entrances.

Four of the wounded are police officers, according to police, and were taken to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba.

Bus and train service to the area was suspended.

Palestinian protesters rioted Sunday evening in the West Bank cities of Hebron and Tulkarem, throwing rocks, firebombs and burning tires at Israeli soldiers and security officers.

Israel’s Burning Man festival gets go-ahead


Beersheba police must allow the Israeli version of the Burning Man festival to take place, an Israeli court ruled.

The Beersheba Magistrate’s Court on Monday ordered police to provide a permit for Midburn, as the event in the Negev Desert is known, but laid out rules about indecent exposure. Police and festival organizers had been haggling over the permit for four months, according to reports.

Some 6,500 people are expected to attend Midburn, which is scheduled to take place May 20-24 in southern Israel.

The court ordered the festival to adhere to a number of police demands, including that nudity be allowed only in closed-off areas where minors are not permitted and closed-circuit TV cameras may not film inside tents and private areas, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Modeled after the annual weeklong event held in Black Rock Desert, Nevada, the festival sets up a temporary city “creating a platform which will allow a communal life style, creativity, art and radical self-expression,” according to the Midburn website.

On Sunday, the Beersheba court imposed a stop work order on the festival at the request of police, bringing to a halt work on more than 70 art installations and dozens of theme camps, according to the Times of Israel.

This will be the second Midburn event following two years of smaller-scale, unofficial events.

Rockets fired into Israel, violating cease-fire extension; IDF retaliates


The Israeli military struck sites in Gaza after rockets were fired from the coastal strip into southern Israel in violation of a cease-fire extension.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly also recalled Israeli negotiators from cease-fire talks in Cairo after the rockets from Gaza were  fired into Beersheba on Tuesday afternoon. Israeli government officials told Haaretz that the talks had collapsed.

The rockets broke a 24-hour cease-fire extension agreed to at midnight Monday. They landed in an open area; no injuries or damage were reported. The Iron Dome missile defense system did not attempt to intercept the rockets — the first targeting Israel in nearly a week.

Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon reportedly ordered the Israel Defense Forces to retaliate. One Israeli TV report said the IDF had hit 10 sites in Gaza.

“Yet again, terrorists breach the ceasefire and renew fire at Israeli civilians from Hamas ruled Gaza Strip. This continued aggression will be addressed accordingly by the IDF; we will continue striking terror infrastructure, pursuing terrorists, and eliminating terror capabilities in the Gaza Strip, in order to restore security for the State of Israel,” IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said in a statement.

Israel and the Palestinians had agreed to the extension of a five-day cease-fire reportedly because significant progress had been made on a long-term agreement.

 

 

Israeli man seriously injured in rocket strike


An Israeli man was seriously injured when a rocket landed in Kiryat Gat, located halfway between Tel Aviv and Beersheba.

The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted three other rockets above Kiryat Gat and another rocket over Tel Aviv in a volley fired from Gaza on Wednesday evening.

The injured man, 30, was treated on the scene and then taken to the hospital in moderate to serious condition, according to Israel Police.

Also Wednesday afternoon, nine communities in the Eshkol region bordering Gaza had their electricity cut off when a rocket hit a power station serving the area.

Rockets were fired throughout the day Wednesday into southern Israel, including Sderot, Ashkelon and other communities near the border with Gaza.

Rocket from Syria lands in Golan, Bedouin sisters injured near Beersheba


A rocket fired from Syria landed in the Golan Heights, and a rocket near Beersheba injured two Bedouin sisters.

The rocket that landed near Kibbutz El Rom in the Golan Heights on Monday evening started a fire. The Israel Defense Forces reportedly believes it was launched at Israel deliberately and not as part of the fallout from Syria’s three-year civil war. A separate rocket was fired early Monday morning from Lebanon.

The two Bedouin sisters, ages 11 and 13, were injured Monday evening by a rocket that landed in Lakiya, near Beersheba, according to the IDF. One is in serious condition and one is in moderate condition at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba.

At least two rockets were shot down over the heavily populated Tel Aviv at the start of the Monday evening rush hour and one reportedly landed in an open area. Sirens were heard in Tel Aviv as well as in the surrounding cities of Herzliya, Ramat Gan, Bnei Brak, Givatayim, Kfar Shmaryahu and Ramat Hasharon. Hamas claimed responsibility for the rockets fired toward Tel Aviv.

Meanwhile, Gaza terrorists fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli tank near the border with the northern Gaza Strip. The anti-tank missile was deflected by the tank’s protection system, causing no injuries. Despite this, Hamas’ military wing announced that it had destroyed an Israeli tank with anti-tank missile fire.

Also Monday evening, Hamas sent a text message to hundreds of Israelis warning that it will continue to rain rockets down on Israel until Israel agrees to its terms for a ceasefire.

“The stupidity of your leaders has placed all of Israel under fire and forced all Israelis to enter shelters. We will continue to shoot at every place in Israel until all our legitimate demands are met fully,” reads the text.

The demands include lifting the blockade on Gaza, releasing Palestinian prisoners freed in the Shalit deal that were rearrested in recent weeks and opening the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.

Six Palestinians were killed Monday through the evening by Israeli airstrikes, according to the Palestinian Maan news agency.

Palestinian prisoners riot in Israeli jails after inmate’s death


Palestinian prisoners rioted in at least four Israeli prisons after the death of an inmate from cancer.

Maysara Abuhamdieh, 64, died Tuesday at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba. Palestinian officials and Palestinian human rights organizations accused the Israel Prison Service of withholding medical treatment.

Prisoners reportedly banged on their cell doors and threw objects at guards upon hearing of Abuhamdieh's death, The riots occurred at Eshel Prison, where Abuhamdieh had been imprisoned, as well as at Ramon, Nafha and Ketziot prisons. Palestinians also threw firebombs and rioted in the Hebron area, according to Army Radio. 

Abuhamdieh, believed to be working for the terrorist group Hamas, was sentenced to life in prison for recruiting an operative to carry out a 2002 suicide bombing attack on a Jerusalem café.

He was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in February, and placed under medical supervision. The prison service last week requested a pardon for Abuhamdieh, after determining that his cancer was terminal. He died before the procedure could be completed, according to reports in the Israeli media.

Man behind Iron Dome addresses Milken students


Milken Community High School's middle and upper school students and teachers got a unique glimpse into the inner workings of some of the Israeli military’s most cutting-edge technology on March 7.

The best part? It was delivered by someone who had an integral role in bringing it into being: retired Brig. Gen. Daniel Gold, the mind behind the Israeli Iron Dome missile defense system.

Speaking with the assurance of a military veteran, Gold smiled with pride as he described to a packed auditorium the mechanics of Iron Dome and the breathing room that it gives to Israeli citizens, soldiers and politicians by defending Israeli cities from most of the rockets fired from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, as it did in November.

“We have systems, sensors, eyes all over Israel that monitor what is going on in our neighborhood. We know every launch, where the launch point is, where they are shooting from and where the landing point is,” Gold told the audience.

Iron Dome works as follows: Radar units across the country detect incoming rockets and calculate information about their speeds and trajectories. Those data are then relayed to the control center, or “brain,” as Gold put it.

The brain decides which rockets, if any, will hit civilian areas. It sends that information to soldiers in a command center, who in turn launch missiles from one of five deployed mobile launchers, each of which can hold up to 20 missiles. The intercepting missile — receiving updates from the control center and its own internal radar — then launches into the sky, tracking down the enemy rocket.

Gold played video footage of the Iron Dome intercepting rockets in November’s weeklong Operation Pillar of Defense. More than 1,400 rockets were launched into Israel during the conflict, threatening civilian centers such as Ashdod, Sderot and Beersheba. A few even made it as far as Tel Aviv, Israel’s largest city and economic hub.

Most of the rockets landed harmlessly in open areas, a handful evaded Iron Dome and hit Israeli cities and many — 421 to be precise — were shot down by Iron Dome missiles before hitting their targets, according to the Israeli military.

As they watched clip after clip of Iron Dome blasting Hamas rockets out of the sky, students and faculty burst into applause each time a ball of fire appeared, indicating that the target was hit.

Although Iron Dome wasn’t implemented until 2011, Gold made clear that it would have been useful during the 2006 Lebanon War between Israel and Hezbollah, when thousands of Katyusha rockets fired from Lebanon killed more than 40 Israeli civilians and displaced hundreds of thousands.

When Hezbollah terrorists fired rockets from a “civilian area site,” he said it was not the “Israeli way” to send in fighter jets. And a ground operation wasn’t ideal, especially if the rockets were deep into Lebanese territory, because of the risk it posed to Israeli soldiers.

Shying away from aerial bombings and ground operations left an obvious choice — anti-rocket missile defense. Although Iron Dome is now admired as a game changer for Israel, the Pentagon and Israeli military officials at the time didn’t take seriously a science-fiction type machine, one that could simply track down rockets — rockets that travel faster than bullets — and blast them to pieces.

As early as 2005, Gold and his team in the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv conjured up the idea that is now Iron Dome. He told a group of Milken math and science students after his speech that when the government refused to fund the research and development, he “bypassed” the Israeli bureaucracy. A 2009 report submitted by Israeli State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss accused Gold of moving ahead with the project without first receiving the required government approval.

When asked whether he was concerned about getting in trouble, he said confidently that his team completed its mission “very fast” and that he had worked around the bureaucratic process “15 times before.”

One of the advantages of Iron Dome is that in addition to shooting down dangerous rockets, it knows to not bother shooting down the harmless ones, missiles that Israel’s control center projects will land in the sea or in open fields. That becomes significant given that each interceptor missile costs between $50,000 and $100,000 (depending on the size of the purchase).

Of course, Gold told a group of students that there’s more to consider than the price tags or even the money saved by not resorting to an invasion.

“The calculation is not one-on-one,” he said. “What is the damage that you prevent? Because you prevent billions of dollars of damage [to] properties.”

One student asked Gold what role America plays in the Iron Dome. Gold responded by saying that only after Israel completed the research and development on its own did it request American aid to purchase mobile launchers and missiles. Since 2010, Congress and the Obama administration have provided nearly $300 million in Iron Dome funding, with an additional $211 million committed for this fiscal year.

Gold’s time with the students concluded with remarks from Metuka Benjamin, the organizer of the event and the president of Milken Community High School.

“I hope you feel as I do — proud of Israel to come up with such an invention that saves people’s lives,” she said. 

Israeli cities under fire after dozens of rockets fired from Gaza


Sirens wailed across southern Israel as Hamas gunmen fired barrages of dozens of rockets from Gaza. One Israeli woman was injured when a long-range Grad rocket slammed into a store in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba. Another slammed into a car, and there were reports of damage to several buildings.

The rockets came after an Israeli airstrike killed Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari, and at least 20 other Palestinians. Israeli launched a series of airstrikes aimed to limit Hamas’s military capability to strike back at Israel, and Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted many of the rockets aimed at Israeli populated areas.

Jabari was known in Israel as the man who masterminded the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006, and personally delivered him to Israel in October 2011 in exchange for more than 1000 Palestinian prisoners. Jabari had just returned from the haj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, one week ago.

Noam Shalit, Gilad’s father, said he had told his son the news of Jabari’s killing, but he did not react, saying “he is mainly looking ahead not thinking about the past.” Noam Shalit said Jabari is “a man with a lot of blood on his hands.”

In a sign that the Israeli operation may be prolonged, the Israeli security cabinet authorized a call-up of the army reserves and to expand the Gaza operation if necessary.

Hamas threatened to avenge the Israeli killing of Jabari.

“Our blessed hands will reach your leaders and soldiers wherever they are,” tweeted a member of the al-Qassem brigades of Hamas. “You opened Hell Gates (sic) on yourselves.”

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said army operations wiped out most of Hamas’s long-range Fajr rockets, which can reach the center of the country and Tel Aviv. Some one million residents of the south braced for more rocket attacks – school was cancelled and residents were told to stay within 15 seconds of a reinforced room.

Israelis living close to Gaza say they often do not even have 15 seconds to get to safe areas.

“They say you have 15 seconds to get to the safe room, but we’re so close to Gaza that we really have less than that,” Adele Raemer, a resident of Kibbutz Nirim just a mile from Gaza told The Media Line. “I think we need to hit them hard to stop the rocket fire.”

An Israeli army spokesman said over 12,000 rockets have hit Israel in the past 12 years, 768 of them in 2012.

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood government, which is close to Hamas, which is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, reacted sharply. Egypt called its ambassador home for consultations as a way to protest Israel’s actions. Egyptian officials also called Israeli officials, asking them to stop the rocket fire on Gaza. Israeli analysts said that the Egyptian reaction was expected.

“The Egyptian government is now headed by people who are associated with Hamas, but they won’t do anything to endanger their relationship with Israel or the United States,” Shmuel Bar, a security expert and former senior Israeli intelligence official.

Bar also said the killing of Jabari is a serious blow to Hamas.

“When you kill someone like Jabari, the main effect is that the person coming after him will be worried and therefore be less effective.”

Other analysts said the move was meant to reassert Israel’s deterrence vis-à-vis Hamas. The latest round of violence began when Hamas gunmen from Gaza fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli jeep on the Israeli side of the border. Military officials said the use of an anti-tank missile and the fact that it was fired while the troops were well inside Israel, showed that Hamas was not afraid of an Israeli response.

“The deterrence against Hamas had deteriorated and Israel needed to reestablish it,’ Mark Heller of the INSS think tank told The Media Line. “Israel’s failure to respond to rocket fire from Gaza led Hamas to think it could act with impunity.”

Israeli officials are warning that the operation could continue for several days, or even weeks.

“It won’t happen at once, but we will achieve the goals of this operation,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak said. “We are at the start of the incident and not at the end. In the long term, the operation will contribute to the strengthening of our deterrence.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu said he is convinced the operation will strengthen Israel’s security.

“Today, we hit Hamas strategic targets precisely. We have significantly debilitated their ability to launch rockets from Gaza to the center of Israel, and we are now working to disable their ability to launch rockets towards the south,” he said in a statement. ”The terrorist organizations – Hamas, Islamic Jihad and others – are deliberately harming our citizens, while intentionally hiding behind their citizens. On the other hand, we avoid harming civilians as much as possible and that is one fundamental difference between us. It also indicates the big difference between our objectives, and not only in our methods. They want to obliterate us from the face of the earth and they have no qualms about hurting civilians and innocents.

Today, we sent an unequivocal message to Hamas and the other terror organizations, and if need be the IDF is prepared to expand the operation. We will continue to do everything necessary to defend our citizens.”

Netanyahu visits soldier injured on Gaza border


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited an Israeli soldier who lost his hand in an attack on the Gaza border.

Netanyahu visited Capt. Ziv Shilon at the Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba. Shilon suffered life-threatening injuries while on routine patrol Oct. 23 at the Gaza border fence when a bomb believed to have been planted by terrorists exploded.

“The entire country embraces and supports you. I thank you on behalf of the entire nation. I am very impressed by your strength,” Netanyahu told Shilon.

Netanyahu gave the captain a copy of the book “The Letters of Yoni (Jonathan) Netanyahu,” the prime minister's brother who died during the Operation Entebbe in Uganda. The personal dedication read: “To an admired soldier and commander, for your bravery and your sacrifice in safeguarding the homeland. The Jewish people salute you.”

Shilon thanked Netanyahu, saying: “The State of Israel and its people need security, including self-sacrifice if need be. It was to this end that I joined the IDF.”

Rockets from Gaza continue to bombard southern Israel


Some 20 rockets fired from Gaza struck southern Israel on Sunday night and Monday morning.

The rockets landed in unpopulated areas and did not cause any injury or damage.

In response, Israel's Air Force early on Monday morning targeted what the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement were a rocket launching site and a terror activity site in the northern Gaza Strip as well as a terror activity site in the southern Gaza Strip.

Hamas' military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, claimed responsibility for the rocket fire. The attacks were “in response to the continued Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip,” the brigades reportedly stated.

The rocket fire came after three long-range Grad rockets struck Beersheba on Sunday morning, ending a three-day, Egyptian-brokered unofficial ceasefire.

Schools were closed throughout Beersheba on Sunday following the Grad attack at about 5:30 a.m.  Schools throughout the region were open on Monday.

More than 70 rockets and mortars were fired last week from Gaza at southern Israeli communities.

Over 615 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip hit communities in southern Israel since January, out of which more than 150 were in October alone, according to the IDF.

On Sunday, Israel's Cabinet unanimously approved full protection from rocket fire for all communities located up to 7 kilometers, or 4.3 miles, from the Gaza border, at a cost of about $70 million. Communities up to 5 kilometers, or 3 miles, previously were protected.

Israeli soldier injured in Gaza border blast


An Israeli soldier was wounded seriously in an explosion while on patrol near the Gaza security fence.

The soldier, who was on what the military called a “routine patrol,” is believed to have been injured by a roadside bomb in Tuesday morning's attack. He was treated at the scene and then evacuated by helicopter to the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility for the attack.

“Terror organizations continue their relentless attempts to harm Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers by using the area adjacent to the security fence for laying explosive devices and attempting to execute terror attacks,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

A week ago, an explosive device was detonated as Israeli soldiers patrolled the same area of the security fence near Kissufim in the central Gaza Strip, according to the IDF. That explosion damaged a military vehicle.

With rocket fire continuing, southern Israeli schools are closed


Schools were closed in southern Israel again as rockets fired from the Gaza Strip continued to strike despite a cease-fire.

The cities of Beersheba, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Kiryat Malachi and Gan Yavne canceled classes for Thursday after several rockets targeted Beersheba the day before. Schoolchildren in Netivot were sent home Thursday after a rocket landed next to a school that morning while it was in session.

At least half a dozen rockets were fired from Gaza at Israel by mid-afternoon Thursday. Two rockets fired at Beersheba were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

Islamic Jihad has denied responsibility for Thursday’s rocket fire, according to Haaretz. The military believes small, radical factions are firing the rockets.

Early Thursday morning, the Israel Defense Forces said it struck a rocket-launching site and what it called a “terror tunnel” in Gaza. “The targeting of these sites is in direct response to the rockets fired at Israel,” including rockets fired Wednesday night against Beersheba, an IDF statement said.

“Hamas uses other terror organizations to carry out terror attacks against the State of Israel and will bear the consequences of these actions in any future operation embarked upon by the IDF in order to eliminate the terror threat and restore the relative calm to the area,” the statement added.

Terrorist groups in Gaza began launching a barrage of rockets at Israel on March 9 after Israel assassinated Zuhir Mussah Ahmed Kaisi, leader of the Popular Resistance Committees in Gaza. The IDF believed Kaisi was planning a terrorist strike in Israel.

Since the violence began, more than 200 rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip. Tens of rockets have hit Israel since an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire was announced at 1 a.m. Tuesday.

Israeli retaliatory strikes hit Gaza amid cease-fire


Despite a cease-fire that has held for about a day, Israel’s military struck two sites in Gaza in retaliation for attacks on Israel following a cease-fire announcement.

Israel’s Air Force fired on what it called two “terrorist activity sites” in northern Gaza early Wednesday morning, some 24 hours after the announcement of an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire.

A statement from the Israel Defense Forces said the attack was in response to rocket attacks from Gaza that struck Israel following the announcement. One of the seven rockets and mortars fired from Gaza landed in a parking lot in Netivot, injuring one person and damaging property.

Also Wednesday, Palestinian officials said an 8-year-old boy hurt in an Israeli attack Monday died of his injuries. A teenage boy had died in the same attack.

Terrorist groups in Gaza began launching a barrage of rockets at Israel on March 9 after Israel assassinated Zuhir Mussah Ahmed Kaisi, leader of the Popular Resistance Committees in Gaza. The Israel Defense Forces believed Kaisi was planning a terrorist strike in Israel.

More than 200 rockets were fired from Gaza on Israel.

At least 27 Palestinians, including Wednesday’s death, a 14-year-old and three other civilians, were killed in the Israeli attacks. The majority of those killed were terrorists, including 14 from Islamic Jihad, according to the IDF.

At least eight Israelis and foreign workers in Israel have been wounded, two seriously, and dozens have been treated for shock, according to reports.

Schools that had been closed for three days in cities and towns including Beersheba, Ashkelon and Ashdod reopened on Wednesday, though in some communities up to half of the students did not show up.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Treasury in consultations with the Histadrut Labor Federation agreed to compensate employers and their employees for missed work due to the rocket fire.

Netanyahu pledges decisive response as rockets slam southern Israel


As southern Israel was barraged by rockets for a fourth straight day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was hitting back “strongly and decisively,” and its Iron Dome anti-missile defense system was intercepting many of the rockets coming from the Gaza Strip.

“The IDF is continuing to—strongly and decisively—attack the terrorists in the Gaza Strip,” Netanyahu said Monday at the Knesset. “Whoever intends to harm our citizens, we will strike at him.”

Israel has responded to the barrage of missiles with more than 30 attacks on rocket-launching sites and weapons facilities. At least 20 Palestinians, including two civilians, have been killed since the recent violence began. Several dozen Palestinian civilians, including several children, reportedly have been wounded in the strikes.

More than 200 rockets have been fired at Israel since Israel assassinated a terrorist leader from the Popular Resistance Committee. Israel’s military said the PRC leader, Zuhir Mussah Ahmed Kaisi, was planning an attack on Israel through the Sinai.

At least eight Israelis have been injured, two seriously, in the attacks by the PRC and Islamic Jihad. Hamas, which rules Gaza, has not launched missiles in the latest round of attacks.

At least two dozen rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel on Monday. The Iron Dome system intercepted at least eight fired at Beersheba and five at Ashdod.

One rocket fired Monday struck an empty kindergarten building, a day after a rocket landed in a school courtyard. One rocket Monday struck Gadera, located 24 miles south of Tel Aviv.

Also Monday, rockets fired from Gaza struck the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza, which has remained open throughout the hostilities. The crossing was closed for about half an hour before operations were continued. A truck and a van on their way to deliver goods to Gaza were hit, according to a statement by Israel’s coordinator of government activities in the territories.

“Despite the continuous barrage of mortars and artillery shells from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, the IDF and COGAT continue to honor Israel’s commitments to transfer goods through the Kerem Shalom crossing to the people of Gaza in an efficient and secure manner,” the statement said.

Schools were closed for a second day on Monday in cities and towns located up to 25 miles from the Gaza border, affecting about 200,000 children. Classes at colleges and universities in the area also were closed.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday that he is “very concerned” by the new round of violence, saying that civilians on both sides are paying a heavy price.

Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel remains on alert against an attack from Sinai. The prime minister commended the security and intelligence services in the airstrike that killed Kaisi and another member of the Popular Resistance Committee.

“We have exacted from them a very high price,” he said. “Naturally we will act as necessary.”

Netanyahu praised the Iron Dome missile defense system, which according to the IDF has intercepted 90 percent of its targets.

“We will do everything in our power to expand the deployment of this system” in the months and years ahead, he said.

Netanyahu also lauded the residents of the southern Israeli communities for their resilience in the face of the rocket barrage. He met Sunday with with 30 municipal leaders from the area and received their staunch backing.

“In the end, the strongest force at our disposal is the fortitude of the residents, of the council heads, of Israelis and of the government,” he said.

On Sunday afternoon, a rocket that landed in a residential neighborhood of Beersheba damaged 15 homes; another rocket that landed near a Beersheba school caused damage to the structure. Pieces of a rocket intercepted by Iron Dome also hit a car and a water pipe in the city, according to Ynet.

The United States said it was “deeply concerned by the renewed violence in southern Israel,” U.S. State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said in a statement issued Saturday. “We condemn in the strongest terms the rocket fire from Gaza by terrorists into southern Israel in recent days, which has dramatically and dangerously escalated in the past day. We call on those responsible to take immediate action to stop these cowardly acts.

“We regret the loss of life and injuries, and we call on both sides to make every effort to restore calm,” the statement concluded.

Egypt’s ambassador to the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Othman, told the Palestinian Ma’an news agency Sunday that Egypt was working to halt the escalation of violence between Gaza and Israel. He said his country was in contact with both sides in an attempt to stop the violence in order to “to avoid undesirable developments.”

Othman called Israel’s offensive “unjustifiable and a breach to the truce sponsored by Egypt.”

The Popular Resistance Committees promised revenge for Kaisi’s assassination.

“All options are open before the fighters to respond to this despicable crime,” said Abu Attiya, a PRC spokesman. “The assassination of our chief will not end our resistance.”

It is believed that the short-range rockets are being launched by the Popular Resistance Committee, according to the IDF, while the long-range and midrange rockets are being launched by Islamic Jihad.

Palestinian Authority spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaina said that “Israel’s escalation creates a negative atmosphere and increases the tension, which leads to the increase in violence in the region,” according to CNN.

The IDF issued a statement saying that it holds “Hamas responsible for the recent incidents since the terror organization currently has jurisdiction in the area [Gaza].” The statement said that “The Hamas movement, although not the one performing the launchings, is not doing anything to prevent it either.”

Palestinians suspected of planning attacks arrested in Beersheba


Two Palestinians suspected of planning to carry out attacks on Israeli civilians in Beersheba were arrested.

The suspected terrorists, from Jenin and Gaza, were arrested in two different locations Wednesday morning, according to reports.

One suspect was arrested in an apartment in Beersheba in coordination with police, border police and the Shin Bet security service. Weapons were found in the apartment.

The second suspect was arrested at a security checkpoint near Beersheba.

Beersheba school hit, resident killed as Gaza rockets pound Israel


A school in Beersheba was hit by a Grad rocket, one day after a city resident was killed as rockets from Gaza continue to slam into southern Israel. 

The school in Beersheba was empty during Sunday morning’s strike, with the start of school just two weeks away. At least six rockets were fired at the city; at least one was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

Six rockets were also fired in the direction of Ashkelon, damaging a building. Three were intercepted by Iron Dome, according to reports.

In all, nearly 100 rockets have been fired at Israel since terrorist attacks killed 8 Israelis and wounded more than 20 on Aug. 18, according to the Israel Defense Forces spokesman. More than 30 struck Israel on Saturday alone. More than 1 million Israelis are in range of the rockets, according to the IDF.

Israel’s Air Force targeted a terror cell in northern Gaza on Sunday morning, the first such strike in 24 hours, according to the IDF.

One man was killed and at least three severely injured when several Grad rockets struck Beersheba Saturday night. The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted one rocket over Beersheba. Two children, including an infant, were wounded when four Grad rockets landed in Ofakim, several miles west of Beersheba.

The Popular Resistance Committees and Hamas claimed responsibility for the attacks. Hamas later recanted its involvement but praised the attack. Early on Saturday, Hamas announced on a Gaza radio station that it was cancelling its truce with Israel.

Following Saturday night’s attacks, the Israeli Air Force attacked a cell of terrorists in the northern Gaza Strip, the fifth such terrorist squad responsible for targeting Israel struck by Israel’s military since Aug. 18, according to the IDF. Also since Aug. 18, Israel’s Air Force has targeted fifteen terror sites across the Gaza Strip, including: terrorist infrastructures, outposts, smuggling tunnels, terror tunnels used for storage of weapons and rockets and to attack Israel, and manufacturing facilities.

“Over the last two days, Israel has been hitting back hard at those responsible for the attack in the south, and is acting with efficiency against the launching of Grad missiles and rockets from Gaza in order to protect the citizens of Israel,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Saturday.

Barak announced an IDF investigation into the deaths of members of Egyptian security forces during the Aug. 18 terror attack, as well as a joint investigation with the Egyptian military.

Barak expressed regret at the deaths of the five soldiers, averting a crisis with Egypt over the incident

“The Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty has great importance and much strategic value for the stability of the Middle East,” Barak said.

The Arab League on Sunday called on the United Nations to force Israel to end its retaliatory air strikes on Gaza.

On Saturday night, some 25,000 social justice protesters in Tel Aviv held a silent march carrying candles and flashlights, which was purposely kept low-key due to the Gaza rockets bombarding the south.

U.S. to help Israel buy more Iron Dome systems


The United States will help Israel buy four more Iron Dome short-range anti-missile systems, a Pentagon official said.

Lt.-Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, the head of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency, told the Senate Appropriations Defense subcommittee Wednesday that the agency has included in its budget a proposal to pay for four more of the protection systems, which each cost about $50 million.

The system, which has been deployed near Beersheba and Ashkelon, has intercepted rockets fired from Gaza on southern Israeli communities.

Israel’s state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. developed the Iron Dome on its own, but the United States reportedly believes its troops could benefit from a similar system.

Iron Dome intercepts first missiles from Gaza


Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system for the first time intercepted rockets fired from Gaza.

Ashkelon’s Iron Dome intercepted two rockets fired Thursday on the southern Israeli city. The unit had been set up three days earlier.

Last week’s first deployment of the $200 million system in Beersheba is being called an “operational trial” by the Israel Defense Forces. The deployment came earlier than expected due to a rise in attacks on southern Israel from Gaza.

One unit also is set up in Haifa; another soon will be put up in central Israel.

A barrage of rockets hit southern Israel on Thursday following a rocket that hit an Israeli school bus near Kibbutz Sa’ad, near the border with Gaza, injuring a teen seriously and the driver, and leading to an Israeli retaliation on Gaza terror targets.

Israel Buries Beersheba Bombing Victims


Avital Etash stares out from the front pages of Israel’s newspapers, a 4-year-old boy in a striped shirt and dark blue kippah, his dark eyes wide and curious.

Etash was the youngest of 16 people killed in Tuesday’s double suicide bombing in Beersheba. His mother lies in the hospital, still fighting for her life.

Again Israel turns to mourning the dead, but this time the list of those killed has been slow in coming. As the bombs used in suicide bombings become more sophisticated, producing deadlier and deadlier blasts, it takes more time to identify the remains of the dead.

But with every hourly news broadcast, the list of names grows longer.

Among the first to be buried Wednesday was a 23-year-old named Karin Malka who was on her way to her job with the Jewish Agency for Israel, working with Ethiopian immigrants at Beersheba’s absorption center. Her friends remember her as always cheerful, always smiling. In photographs she is seen grinning, her almond-shaped eyes sparkling.

Malka’s family recalls her eerie comments that seem now like a premonition: She told them she would likely die in a terrorist attack, and at last night’s Shabbat dinner she spoke at length about death and what might await in the next world.

Curious, her family had asked why she thought God so often lets young people die.

Malka, who about a year ago became observant, told them, "He wants to see them in the next world," Yediot Achronot reported.

Malka also was studying engineering at a nearby college.

"She was an amazing young woman … she gave her all working with the kids here," Tali Ya’akovin, the absorption center manager, told Ma’ariv. "It will be hard to explain to the children that she won’t be coming back."

Beersheba’s absorption center suffered a second loss with the death of Troint Tekleh, a 33-year-old mother of six who was also killed in the attack. Tekleh and her family had immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia about a year ago. They had been living in the absorption center but planned to move soon to an apartment of their own.

Tekleh’s youngest child was a 1-year-old baby boy. Members of the Ethiopian community quickly gathered to help, taking the family’s children home to rest while their father went to the hospital to identify her body.

The hero of the day was hailed as Ya’akov Cohen, the driver of bus No. 12, the second bus to explode. He said he stopped his bus as soon as he heard the first explosion.

"I opened the doors, the people asked me to, and I did it immediately," he said. Several people were able to escape before the second suicide bomber, sitting somewhere on Cohen’s bus, detonated his explosives belt.

On bus No. 6, the first to explode, a 65-year-old barber named Nissin Vakanin offered his seat to Tamara Batershuli, also 65.

A few minutes later the blast ripped through the bus. When Vakanin looked back, he saw the seat he had given up to the woman, saw that she was dead — and that the body of the man next to her was in shreds.

"I saw the body of the guy next to her and it was all ripped up. Then I realized he was the suicide bomber," Vakanin said, according to the Washington Post.

"My conscience is not quiet," Vakanin added. "I feel guilty that she died and not me."