Gaza rocket barrage appears to target ceremony for captured soldier



Gaza rocket barrage appears to target ceremony for captured soldier

Video from scene shows family members of fallen sergeant Oron Shaul taking cover during concert marking his 24th birthday

The military censor did not allow the exact location of the strike to be published, as it could assist terrorist groups in fine-tuning their targeting for future attacks.

The launches were also directed toward the area where the ceremony was being held, at Kibbutz Kfar Aza, overlooking the place where Staff Sergeant Oron Shaul was killed in the 2014 Gaza war.

Sgt. Oron Shaul, whose death in Gaza on July 20, 2014 was formally confirmed by the IDF on July 25, 2014 (Photo credit: Courtesy)

The time and location of the event were publicized ahead of time.

Yesh Atid MK Haim Jelin, a former head of a regional council just outside Gaza who was at the ceremony, filmed the event for a Facebook Live video. The ceremony was attended by dozens of people, including a number of politicians.

The barrage came just after a musical performance, setting off loudspeakers in the area, which blared, “Code Red. Code Red,” the term for an incoming rocket attack.

Zehava Shaul, whose son Oron’s remains are being held by the Hamas terrorist group in Gaza, is led away from a ceremony in his honor after rockets are launched at Israel from the coastal enclave on December 29, 2017. (Screen capture)

Far from bomb shelters, Jelin and the other members of the audience took cover on the grass, lying on the ground with their hands over their heads.

In the video, Oron Shaul’s clearly distraught mother Zehava could be seen being escorted away.

The loud blasts of the rockets being intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system could be heard in the video, though they could not be seen because of heavy cloud cover.

In the video, one member of the audience could be heard shouting in anger, saying repeatedly that Israel should “conquer Gaza.”

An organizer of the event called for everyone to keep calm and to make their way back to the kibbutz’s bomb shelters.

However, Jelin and others said the ceremony should continue “for Oron’s sake.”

In a statement, Labor Party chief Avi Gabbay, who attended the event, said he was “filled with pride” that the ceremony went forward despite the attack.

Shortly after the rocket barrage, the Israel Defense Forces retaliated by attacking two Hamas positions with tank shelling and strikes from aircraft.

The rocket attack was the first such incident since December 18.

Police said one rocket that wasn’t shot down by the Iron Dome system was found outside a building that had sustained damaged from the impact. There were no reports of casualties.

This month saw two weeks of near-daily rocket launches, the largest incidence of missile-fire from the Strip since the 2014 Israel-Hamas war. These daily attacks had recently seemed to have come to an end.

According to Israeli assessments, the rockets are not being launched by Hamas, but by other terrorist groups in the Strip. However, analysts have noted that Hamas has been either unwilling or unable to clamp down on the groups, as it has in the past.

Protesting Trump’s December 6 declaration that Jerusalem is the Israeli capital, terror group Hamas, which runs Gaza and seeks Israel’s destruction, has called for a new intifada and vowed to liberate Jerusalem.


IDF deploys Iron Dome, raises alert amid Gaza terror threat



IDF deploys Iron Dome, raises alert amid Gaza terror threat

Deployment of missile defenses comes 2 weeks after military destroyed an Islamic Jihad attack tunnel, leading to death of at least 12 of the group’s operatives

An Iron Dome missile defense system deployed near the southern Israeli town of Beersheba in 2014. (Flash90/File)

An Iron Dome missile defense system deployed near the southern Israeli town of Beersheba in 2014. (Flash90/File)

A number of Iron Dome missile defense batteries were deployed in central Israel on Monday, the military said, amid heightened tensions with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad since the army demolished the terrorist group’s border-crossing attack tunnel last month.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed the anti-missile systems had been installed in central Israel, but would not elaborate on their exact location, citing army policy.

The Iron Dome system, which is designed to shoot down short-range rockets and, in some cases, mortars was deployed to counter the threats made by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group, which has vowed to avenge its members killed in the tunnel blast and its aftermath.

Israeli officials have tried to dissuade the terrorist group, warning of a harsh retaliation by the IDF.

On Saturday, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, who runs the Defense Ministry’s chief liaison officer with the Palestinians, publicly warned Islamic Jihad in a video posted to YouTube. He addressed by name the terror group’s leader, Ramadan Shalah, and his deputy, Ziad Nakhaleh, who run the Gaza-based group from Damascus, and said they would be “held responsible” should Islamic Jihad attack Israel.

In the video, Mordechai said that Israel is “aware of the plot that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad is planning against Israel,” and warned that “any attack by the Islamic Jihad will be met with a powerful and determined Israeli response, not only against the Jihad, but also against Hamas.”

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad responded to Mordechai’s video on Sunday, saying the Israeli threats against its leaders constituted “an act of war,” and vowing to continue to try to carry out a revenge attack against Israel.

The “threats to target the movement’s leadership is a declaration of war, which we will confront,” Islamic Jihad said, according to a statement carried by its media affiliate Palestine Today News Agency.

Islamic Jihad said it would not back down on its “right” to retaliate against Israel for the tunnel explosion, which led to the death of 12 members of the terrorists group, including two commanders, as well as two members of Hamas’s military wing.

“We reaffirm our right to respond to any aggression, including our right to respond to the crime of aggression on the resistance tunnel,” the terror group’s statement said.

The Israel Defense Forces blew up the tunnel, which originated in the Gazan city of Khan Younis and crossed into Israeli territory, near Kibbutz Kissufim, on October 30.

According to the army, the tunnel had been under surveillance the entire time that it was inside Israeli territory and did not pose a threat to civilians.

The army said later that killing the terrorists was not the primary objective of the tunnel demolition.

The bodies of five terrorists who were working on the tunnel inside Israeli territory were recovered by the IDF, the army said.

According to Palestinian media, Hamas encouraged Islamic Jihad to abstain from retaliating both in order to prevent further escalation with Israel and to prevent the reconciliation talks it has been conducting with the Palestinian Authority from falling apart.

Mourners carry the coffin of Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement terrorist Arafat Abu Morshed during the funeral at the Bureij refugee camp, in central Gaza of Palestinians killed in an Israeli operation to blow up a tunnel stretching from the Gaza Strip into Israel, on October 31, 2017. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

In his YouTube message, Mordechai referred to those reconciliation efforts, saying the Palestinian Islamic Jihad was “playing with fire” and potentially threatening them, as well as the safety of Gaza Strip residents.

Earlier this month, a senior officer in the IDF’s Southern Command warned that the military suspected the terror group may retaliate for the tunnel demolition with attacks on soldiers serving near the border, rocket fire at southern Israeli communities or terror attacks in the West Bank.

“The [Palestinian] Islamic Jihad will have a hard time holding back,” said the unnamed senior official.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, November 12, 2017. (AFP/POOL/ABIR SULTAN)

On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu added his words of warning against those contemplating an attack. “These days, there are still those who toy with trying renewed attacks on Israel,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. “We will take a very strong hand against anyone who tries to attack us or attacks us from any sector.”

“I say this to every entity, rogue faction, organization — every one. In any case, we see Hamas as responsible for every attack that emanates from, or is planned against us in, the Gaza Strip,” he said.

Dov Lieber contributed to this report.