Long-range rockets strike Eilat


Two long-range rockets fired from the Sinai Desert struck the Israeli resort city of Eilat.

The rockets launched Wednesday morning fell in open areas in the southernmost Israeli city, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Israeli forces found the remnants of the two rockets. One landed in a construction site in south Eilat.

A Sinai-based Islamist group claimed responsibility for the attack. Magles Shoura al-Mujahddin said in a statement on its website that the rockets were retaliating for the Israeli army's actions against protesters demonstrating over the death of a Palestinian prisoner, Haaretz reported.

Local residents and tourists had been ushered into bomb shelters following a warning siren before the two explosions.

An Iron Dome missile defense system battery deployed in the Eilat area tracked the rockets but did not operate to shoot them down, according to reports.

Following the attack, the Eilat airport was closed for several hours.

Jordan denied reports that at least two other rockets fired from the Sinai hit Aqaba.

A rocket last landed in Eilat in April 2012.

Israel closes Gaza crossing after rockets fired


Israel closed the Kerem Shalom border crossing with Gaza to the passage of goods after three rockets were fired at southern Israel from the coastal strip.

One rocket fired from Gaza struck southern Israel on Sunday night as the national ceremony for Holocaust Remembrance Day was taking place at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. The rocket also struck just hours after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Israel to push the reopening of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Two other rockets fired on Sunday night reportedly missed their targets and landed in Gaza.

Southern Israel suffered three days of rocket attacks from Gaza last week, a number of the handful of rocket attacks from Gaza that have come since an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire agreement following Israel's Operation Pillar of Defense, which ended in early December.

On Sunday, Israeli troops detained a Palestinian teen near Nablus who was carrying several firebombs and two more sophisticated explosive devices.

Rockets fired on Israel from Gaza for third day


A rocket fired from Gaza struck southern Israel, the third day in a row that rockets have been fired at Israel from the coastal strip.

Several rockets were fired from Gaza on Thursday morning, but only one landed in an open area in southern Israel. The rest exploded within Gaza's borders. No damage or injuries were reported.

On Wednesday morning two rockets fired from Gaza landed near Sderot as children were making their way to school on the first school day since the Passover holiday. Wednesday's attacks came after Israel on Tuesday night struck what the military called   “two extensive terror sites” in the northern Gaza Strip, following the firing of three mortar shells on Israel from Gaza on Tuesday,

Four rockets also were fired on Israel during President Obama's visit last month. One was found Tuesday crashed into the roof of a kindergarten building.

There have been a handful of rocket attacks from Gaza on southern Israel since an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire ended the Gaza conflict, Israel's Pillar of Defense operation, in November.

Hostilities flare along Israeli-Gaza border


Israel pressed Hamas on Wednesday to rein in rocket-firing militants in the Gaza Strip after the most serious outbreak of cross-border hostilities since a ceasefire ended an eight-day war in November.

The Israeli military said two rockets fired from the Gaza Strip struck southern Israel on Wednesday, causing no casualties, hours after it launched its first air strikes in the Palestinian enclave in four months.

Israeli planes had gone into action on Tuesday, targeting what the military described as “two extensive terror sites in the northern Gaza Strip”, after three rockets were fired into Israel earlier that day, causing no casualties or damage.

An al Qaeda-linked group, Magles Shoura al-Mujahadeen, claimed responsibility for Tuesday's rocket salvo, saying it was responding to the death earlier in the day of a Palestinian prisoner in an Israel jail. There was no immediate claim for Wednesday's rocket fire.

Palestinian officials accused Israel of failing to provide timely medical treatment for the prisoner, Maysara Abu Hamdeya, 64, who died of cancer in an Israeli hospital. Israel denied the allegation.

Israel said groups other than Hamas, an Islamist movement that rules the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip, were behind the rocket attacks. But it put the onus on Hamas to stop them.

“(Israel's armed forces) decided to attack overnight in order to signal to Hamas that we will not suffer any strike on the south. And any shooting will meet a response, in order to restore quiet for the south soon,” Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai, the chief military spokesman, said on Army Radio.

“I assess that Hamas has no interest in seeing the situation deteriorate,” he said.

Hamas has at times cracked down on hardline Islamist Salafi groups, seeing them as a threat to the stability of the impoverished, Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip.

Tuesday was the third time since the November truce that rockets from Gaza have hit Israel, in attacks that have caused no casualties.

But with a new government and defence minister now in place after weeks of coalition-building that followed a January election, Israel seemed keen to show resolve.

“After five months that were the quietest since the disengagement, the Israeli armed forces decided not to resign themselves to (fire from Gaza) even … on a very small scale,” Mordechai said, referring to Israel's 2005 troop and settler pullout from the enclave.

Egypt mediated the ceasefire after fighting in which some 170 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed. Israel launched its Gaza offensive with the declared aim of ending Palestinian rocket fire into its territory.

Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip from Western-backed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement in 2007 after winning an election a year earlier.

Palestinians want to establish a state in the enclave along with the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

Editing by Alistair Lyon

Islamist group says it fired rockets at Israel from Gaza


A small Islamist group claimed responsibility for firing rockets on Thursday at an Israeli border town from the Gaza Strip during U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to the region.

The small Salafi group called Magles Shoura al-Mujahddin said in an Internet statement that it fired the rockets to show that Israeli air defenses could not stop attacks on the Jewish state during the visit.

Police said there were no casualties but some damage in the attack on Sderot near the Gaza frontier.

“Responding to the bragging of the Roman dog and the war criminals of their so-called Iron Dome, we assert that all their military techniques will not stop God's destiny of tormenting them,” the statement, posted on the Ansar al-Mujahideen website, which is used by Islamist militants, said.

It was referring to the U.S. president, who is on a visit to Israel and the West Bank and who had mentioned the town in a speech on his arrival in Israel a day earlier.

The group had previously claimed a deadly attack in June 2012 on Israel from Sinai.

The Islamist Hamas group, which rules Gaza since 2007, has conducted sweeps against the armed Salafis, who espouse an austere form of Islam and who often try to fire rockets into Israel in defiance of de facto Palestinian truces.

Reporting by Ahmed Tolba in Cairo, writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Alison Williams

Truth and consequences: When Hamas targeted The Holy City


Jerusalemites have an age-old custom of ushering in the holy Sabbath earlier — a full 36 minutes before sunset — than anywhere else in the world. So, last Friday evening, I rushed through the Old City’s Arab souk, weaving my way past Christian pilgrims, Korean tourists and Israeli bargain hunters to reach the Kotel, aka the Western Wall. There, under the joyful supervision of Jerusalemite Rabbi Chaim Cheshin, I was about to usher in 25 hours of cellphone- and Facebook-free bliss.

At the Wall, Friday night prayers are all about joy, singing and — yes, even dancing — black- frocked Chasidim commingling with freshly scrubbed North American students. Lekhah Dodi is the poetic tefilah that welcomes in the Sabbath Queen.

“Come in peace … come in joy accompanied by you faithful …” rings out its final line.

In a nanosecond, any thoughts of peace or spirituality were erased. First a siren, followed by escalating bullhorn pleas from police for the hundreds of the faithful to rush for cover at the entrances to the ancient Kotel tunnels.

For this Friday night at least, the profane defeated the holy. Hamas had chosen to expand its deadly rockets to target the city holy to three faiths.

Later, when I reached my daughter’s place in Rehavia, in West Jerusalem, we adults had some explaining to do to my five grandchildren. “Why did Bubbe and Ema rush us to the bottom of the staircase?”

“Why are the sirens so loud?”

“When will the next azaka [alert] come?”

“Why are they trying to hurt us?”

Why, indeed.

Go explain Hamas to a child in Sderot, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beersheba and, yes, even in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Go ahead, adults — explain to them how in the hell did the world allow these religious thugs to amass thousands of rockets, deploy them from among their own civilians? How is it that NGOs, Christian activists and tenured professors continue to bestow the mantel of victimhood on thugs who hide behind the skirts of women and in bunkers under hospitals? How come so many in the international media depict suicide bombings and thousands of Hamas rocket attacks as legitimate responses to Israeli “occupiers” who occupy not one millimeter of the Gaza Strip?

Most of all, explain to those children the source of Muslim Brotherhood-inspired hatred of Jews and Judaism not seen in the world since Nazi Germany.

But this not 1938 or 1942. Today, the Jews have a democratic state and a military that deploys drones, not to indiscriminately kill the innocent and guilty, but to efficiently target mass murderers and terrorists.

Israelis have had enough. They see what is happening in Syria, and right, left and center, Israelis have come together to tell the world they will not subcontract the safety of their kids or mortgage their future to the whims of a cynical and uncaring international community.

It’s an important message surgically delivered by the Israel Defense Forces.

We can only hope and pray that Israel does what it has to to remove Hamas’ terrorist threat once and for all — whatever it takes.

On Shabbat morning, I was speaking to a friend of mine who is the maître d’ at the King David Hotel. I asked him what his Friday night was like in East Jerusalem. He told me how his granddaughter started shaking with fright when the sirens went off.

There we were, two grandfathers looking at each other for a long moment, silently reflecting on the same question: What will it take for our grandchildren to be able to live in peace?

I have no magic formula, but this past Shabbat in Jerusalem underscored one uncomfortable but unshakable truth: Peace will never be possible in the Holy Land unless and until the evil that is Hamas is uprooted.


Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.  He spent the last ten days in Israel.

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.