This report comes from the JFNA and San Francisco Israel offices. On Sunday, the fifth day of Operation Pillar of Defense, the conflict with Gaza continues, including ongoing rocket fire against Israel.
Today rockets landed next to a kindergarten in Ashkelon, hit a car, and the front of a house in Beersheva. A fireman and two residents have suffered shrapnel injuries. School remains closed within a 40 kilometer radius of Gaza for security reasons as all children remain in shelters.
In addition to the three Israeli civilians killed on Thursday, three remain in critical condition including an 8-month old baby. Over 80 Israelis have been taken to hospitals with injuries in recent days. Many more have been treated for shock and emotional trauma and the true toll of this conflict will only be seen in the months and even years to come. Hospitals are currently working with significantly reduced staff as many doctors and nurses have been called up for army service. Some 4.5 million Israeli residents, over half of Israel's population, live in rocket range and are now on alert for attacks. Over 1300 rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza in 2012 alone and approximately 900 in recent days.
Up to 75,000 Israelis have now received a "Tsav 8," calling them up to army reserve service. The media in Israel is rife with "call up" stories. One reserve soldier celebrated his wedding Thursday evening and the next morning left to join his unit.
Sivan and Marius Gold (both 28) who live in Ashdod are waiting for the birth of their first child, due in the coming days. Marius has just been called up as a reserve soldier and Sivan is staying with her parents in Gan-Yavne. The couple was photographed embracing before Marius left, an image which went viral over Facebook, "I hope to come back before she gives birth," he said.
Benny (27) and Danielle (25) Michaeli, husband and wife, were called up for service within ten minutes of each other, Friday. "It was clear to both of us that we would serve our reserve duty," said Benny. "We are fighting here for our future children, so that they can live quietly and tranquilly."
An average of one rocket is being fired at Israel every six minutes. Long range Fajr-5 rockets continue to be fired at Tel Aviv. This video, taken by a local resident, shows a rocket being intercepted over Tel Aviv by the Iron Dome system. Iron Dome has intercepted over 180 rockets headed toward civilian areas.
The rockets are affecting all of Israel's citizens. On Friday night, a rocket fell near Jerusalem, by Tekoa. One Sabbath-observant Jew on the search and rescue team was contacted on his phone as he crouched under the synagogue for shelter. Phoning him was an acquaintance from the nearby Palestinian town, Tuqua, who was panicking at the siren and did not know what to do.
Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed the Cabinet this morning, "In my talks with (global) leaders, I emphasize the effort Israel is making to avoid hitting civilians and this at a time when Hamas and the [other] terrorist organizations are making every effort to hit civilian targets in Israel. We are a responsible government that is obligated, above all, to the security of its citizens, and we are acting in accordance with this obligation."
Israel continues to treat Gazan civilians in need of medical care in Israeli hospitals. 99.3% of the thousands of Gazans who requested permits to enter Israel for medical treatments, were approved entry. Currently, Gazan hospitals are reported to be at 80% capacity, only slightly higher than intake during routine periods. Despite the conflict, this morning, Israel coordinated the transfer of 124 truckloads of goods into Gaza, including humanitarian supplies of food and medicine.
The cyber battle also continues to be fought. Hundreds of Israeli websites have been hacked and false images of the conflict are being spread on Twitter by Hamas-affiliated organizations.
Social media continues to be of use in Israel, as food supplies were coordinated for residents in the South before the Sabbath and delivered to some families. Most families are unable to venture out from their shelters to buy food and many stores are not stocked. A prayer assembly is being organized at the Kotel today, at 4:00 pm Israel time, to pray for peace for all Israel. Posters are inviting people from "all colors of the rainbow to stand together with Israel for peace and the success of the IDF."
Over the last four days, all election campaigning has ceased, but some parties are beginning to question whether elections should be postponed. In theory, the party primaries for both Likud and Labor are scheduled for the beginning of next week. Both parties are exploring the possibility of postponing their primaries, especially if a ground campaign begins. Under such conditions, primary elections would be problematic for the candidates as well as for voters, many of whom may be called to reserve duty. The problem with postponing primaries is that by law, full party lists must be submitted six weeks prior to national elections, in this case by December 10. As a result, there are currently quiet discussions in to the possibility of postponing the national elections (currently scheduled for January 22) until mid or late February. The Knesset would have to meet in special session to approve such a move, which has only happened once before, during the 1973 Yom Kippur war.
Our partners, The Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and World ORT, along with the Israel Trauma Coalition, continue to provide assistance where possible, delivering immediate services and assistance on the ground throughout the South. Such services include trauma counseling, immediate financial assistance to those directly affected, delivery of food packages to the housebound, elderly and disabled, delivery of emergency kits with flashlights, batteries and other tools, and more, including taking children in the strike zones out of harm's way. More than 23,500 children live within 7 kilometers of the border alone.
The Jewish Agency for Israel has arranged to take thousands of children and teenagers for respite in different facilities out of rocket range across the country. These respite activities have been organized in full coordination with the National Emergency Authority (NEA) and the local authorities.
More than 100 young adults from the Bay Area are living in Israel as part of the Masa program - offering long-term internships and service programs. JAFI has moved them out of harm's way. In addition, we are attempting to contact them to provide any help and support they may need from our Israel office and have offered to fly them home if they are not able to stick it out.
The ongoing stories of strength and resilience of Israelis are remarkable. Fifty premature newborns in Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon had to be detached from all the devices attached to their incubators....the staff raced down the hallways pushing the incubators to a space that is protected from the bombs where they could reattach them to this lifesaving equipment. Seems like ages ago, but on the first day Kiryat Malachi got hit. This is a very poor town which until now hasn't experienced these attacks, and so ---was far less ready than other sites. A 4-year old little boy who was severely injured in that attack is being treated by doctors in Tel Aviv's Tel Hashomer hospital, who are fighting to save his hand using some of the most sophisticated methods known to modern medicine.