Updated: May 16
Escalating Violence and Multiple Casualties
Since Monday night at 6 PM, just as I was landing in Tel Aviv after being in the US for several months, Hamas terrorists have launched roughly 1,400 deadly rockets from Gaza toward south and central Israel, some almost reaching Jerusalem. So far, seven Israelis, including one child and a soldier, are dead. If not for the 90% accuracy rate of the Iron Dome, there is no telling how many Israelis would be dead. More than 70 Palestinians, including ten children, have been killed, and the violence shows no signs of slowing.
Israelis in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and other towns in the south and central area of the nation spent the night in bomb shelters as sirens, and cell phone warnings continually sounded. Video on Twitter shows the night sky over Tel Aviv lit up as a barrage of missiles from Gaza are intercepted by the Israel Defense Force’s (IDF) Iron Dome shield. It was the most powerful visual of how quick and accurate the Iron Dome is, as Hamas sent 130 missiles at the same time towards Tel Aviv.
The blitz, perhaps the largest ever launched against the Tel Aviv area, forced Israeli authorities to temporarily re-route domestic air traffic from Ben Gurion International Airport to nearby Cyprus. Twenty-four hours earlier, I had the surreal experience of reading online from the airplane that flights might be rerouted, as Hamas had set a deadline of 6 PM for Israel to remove its troops from the Jewish Temple Mount. My plane would land one hour later—without incident, thankfully—at 6 PM!
Schools are shuttered south of Herzliya (a city just north of Tel Aviv), and the IDF has ordered residents in the south and central portion of the nation to remain in their shelters until further notice.
So far, Israel has been restrained in its countermeasures. The IDF has focused on Hamas terrorist strongholds, strategically taking out six terrorist leaders and a high-rise building that was a headquarters for Hamas. They have also demolished more than 500 terror targets within the Gaza Strip.
It has been almost seven years since a major conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Unlike the various skirmishes that have erupted since the 2014 ceasefire, the violence this time continues to escalate. Chants of “Allah is great,” “victory of Islam,” and “resistance” can be heard blaring from the speakers at mosques across Gaza as the terrorists continue to fire missile after missile into Israel.
Sadly, there have been chants of death to Arabs from small groups of religious Zionists. These religious zealots do not represent Israel at all. They have a cult-like loyalty to their ideology and hate people like me, Messianic Jews. They are the fringe of Israel. Nearly every politician from Bibi to Lapid has condemned these lunatics in the strongest terms.
Before the conflict that erupted Monday night, it appeared that Israel was on the verge of getting a new prime minister and government, one with five Arab Knesset members having a role. All that was put on hold when Hamas fired the first shot. Benjamin Netanyahu, who is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, remains at the helm, and he is well-versed in war and in defending Israel against its enemies.
Since Monday, at least 5,000 IDF reservists have been called to active duty as part of Operation Guardian of the Walls. Netanyahu has vowed to expand the offensive even further until the attacks cease. While a ground offensive appears to be imminent, we are praying that it does not come to that.
“We will not tolerate attacks on our territory, on our capital, on our citizens, and on our soldiers,” Netanyahu said. “This campaign will take time, but we will restore security to the people of Israel.”
Ron Cantor shared on GOD TV Wednesday about the crisis in Israel.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz vowed, “Towers will continue to crumble. There are lots of targets in line. This is just the beginning.”
Attacks are not only coming from Gaza. Overnight Tuesday, Arab Israelis took to the streets in Lod (where both Jews and Arabs live together) rioting and looting, even as missiles were flying overhead. Arab Israeli rioters set dozens of cars ablaze and torched stores and synagogues. Jewish residents were seen throwing stones at vehicles driven by Arabs.
Yair Revivo, mayor of Lod, called for backup at the state level, citing “civil war” was breaking out on the streets of his city. He compared the chaos in Lod to Kristallnacht (the night of broken glass), the 1938 watershed event leading up to the Holocaust. Lod had been held up as a model of peaceful relations between Arabs and Jews for decades. Israel has declared a state of emergency in Lod and has imposed an 8 PM curfew.
Mansour Abbas, leader of Israel’s Islamist party, Ra’am, called on the local Arabs to stop the violence. “I ask you all to assume responsibility, act with wisdom, abide by public order and the law.” Abbas is the politician who was on the verge of being the first Arab to join a Knesset governing coalition, bringing his five seats with him. All that is on hold.
Tensions have been increasing between Israelis and Palestinians and sympathizers for the last month. A couple of factors have been stoking the fires—the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and the accompanying calls for religious zeal, which often translate into violent actions, and a heated land dispute in east Jerusalem between dozens of Arab and Jewish families.
Protestors in the Old City clashed nightly with police during Ramadan. At least 300 people were injured over the weekend after tensions flared between as many as 100,000 worshippers and Israeli police on the Temple Mount at the Al-Aqsa mosque. Violent conflicts have also spilled over into various cities in the West Bank—Biblical Judea and Samaria. And finally, a dispute dating back to 1948 over land rights for dozens of families in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah is coming to a head. It is fueling nationalistic fervor in both Arabs and Jews.