Rocket fire increases; IDF may deploy Iron Dome next week
By YAAKOV KATZ
System designed to defend against rockets at range of 4-70 km; some defense officials warn of ramifications of deploying system without ability to protect all of cities under missile fire.
As missile fire from the Gaza Strip escalated on Thursday, the IDF is preparing for the possible deployment of the Iron Dome counter-rocket defense system along Israel’s border with Gaza.
In late February, the Israeli Air Force held a test of the counter-rocket defense system, Iron Dome, which was supposed to serve as the final stage before declaring the system operational.
Palestinians say IDF carrying out air strikes on Gaza
IDF tanks strike Hamas after 5 rockets launched from Gaza
While a month has passed since then, the system is nowhere to be found despite the recent escalation and daily rocket and missile attacks against Israeli towns and cities in the South.
Officially, the IAF claims that even though the system successfully passed the final round of tests in February, it is still not ready for deployment. On the other hand, some defense officials have accused the IAF of getting cold feet and of refusing to deploy the system due to a fear that it might not work.
Iron Dome is designed to defend against rockets at a range of 4-70 km and each battery consists of a multimission radar manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries and three launchers, each equipped with 20 interceptors named Tamir.
The main problem is that the Defense Ministry has so far only purchased and received two Iron Dome batteries, each of which can protect an urban area of approximately 100 square kilometers.
Since the escalation in hostilities in the South, Deputy Chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh has held a number of discussions with IAF and Operations Directorate representatives in an effort to speed up the deployment and begin to use the system to protect Israeli civilians.
On Thursday, the IDF decided to speed up the deployment of the system, possibly as early as next Sunday or Monday.
On the other hand, some defense officials warned Thursday of the ramifications of deploying the system without the ability to protect all of the cities and towns that are under missile fire. As a result, until there are more systems, the IDF will likely use the existing Iron Dome batteries to protect IAF bases in the South to retain the air force’s operational freedom in the event of a larger-scale conflict.
“If the system is, for example, deployed outside of Sderot than the terror groups will figure it out and begin firing at other cities that are not protected,” one defense official said. “This could potentially cause more harm than good.”
Kassam Rocket Hits Sderot, Grad Katyusha Attack on Ashdod
by Chana Ya'ar
Gaza terrorists continued to aim rocket fire at the Israeli port city of Ashdod on Thursday, as well as at other Jewish communities.
One Grad Katyusha missile apparently slammed into an open area in the city, sending a number of residents into traumatic shock.
Residents said they heard “extremely loud” explosions after racing for shelter in response to the Color Red incoming rocket alert siren.
Others from as far away as Gedera, Gan Yavneh and Ashkelon also reported the Color Red siren was triggered in their communities as well.
“I am wondering if I should come back to Arad for the time being,” commented Devorah P., a young bride who recently went to live in a western Negev community.
Several people suffered shock when sirens went off in Rishon LeTzion, a coastal city farther north than Ashkelon. They turned out to be a false alarm.
Nor were residents of Be'er Sheva left in peace. “We have been sent into the shelters three times since the morning,” said Coby J., an employee at a mobile phone company in the unofficial capital of the south. “All three times it was a malfunction. It was ridiculous.”
A controlled explosion at 2:30 p.m., however, did not raise fears. “Our manager let us know about 10 minutes ahead of time, and we were told to simply 'stay down.' It was fine,” Coby said.
Schools were closed Thursday for a second day in both Ashdod and Be'er Sheva. Although city officials in Ashkelon kept classes open, most parents insisted on keeping their children home and in many cases students were sent home early due to spotty attendance.
By mid-afternoon, five rockets fired from Gaza had exploded in various parts of Israel's western Negev.
A short-range Kassam rocket landed in an open field in the Eshkol Regional Council district at about 2:00 p.m. No one was injured and no damage was reported.
Shortly after noon, another Kassam slammed into an open area in the Sha'ar HaNegev Regional Council district. No injuries or damage was reported.
Close to 11:00 a.m. terrorists launched a rocket from northern Gaza that also landed in the Eshkol Regional Council district. No one was injured and no damage was reported.
Just before 9:00 a.m., a rocket landed slightly south of the coastal city of Ashkelon. The rocket, which exploded in an open area in the Ashkelon Coast Regional Council district, also caused no injuries or damage.
The barrage of rocket fire came in response to an attack by the IDF. A tank unit fired into Gaza Thursday morning and destroyed a Hamas terrorist facility in Gaza City, which burst into flames.
The IDF response came in retaliation for the unceasing missile attacks and mortar fire aimed at Israel's southern communities in recent days. Four terrorist targets were struck by Israeli fighter pilots earlier in the day as well.
Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon told reporters that Israel “will not be tolerant of any escalation” in attacks on Jewish communities in Israel. Ya'alon told reporters in the United States, where he is currently traveling, that the war on terror “requires a long battle, but it will not stop us from taking care of whoever shoots at Israel as they have in the last few days, or sends terrorists to the center of cities.
“Hamas is responsible for everything that is shot out of Gaza,” he said, “and if it does not act responsibly, it will pay the price.”
Israeli and Saudi leaders in Moscow as Palestinians ramp up missile strikes
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 24, 2011, 6:19 PM (GMT+02:00)
As Russian, Israeli and Saudi leaders discussed the ramifications of the Arab uprising in Moscow and US Defense Secretary Robert Gates talked to Israeli military chiefs in Tel Aviv, the Palestinian Hamas continued to escalate its missile offensive on Israeli cities. Thursday, March 24, heavy Grad missiles hit the towns of Ashdod and Ofakim making it the worst day of a bad week, with schools in the southern half of Israel shutting down one by one and bomb shelters being opened.
In Moscow, debkafile's exclusive sources report that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was working to set up a discreet meeting between two visitors – Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, failing which he will try and bring the Saudi Intelligence chief Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, who arrived with the foreign minister, together with the Israeli leader.
Muqrin has met Israeli leaders in secret before, including the former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
According to our sources, the prospect of this landmark meeting was Netanyahu's pretext for rebuffing the rising domestic clamor to let the IDF give the Palestinian Hamas its deserts for the war it has unleashed against the Israeli civilian population.
The very defense and military officials who keep on telling the public, against all the evidence, that Hamas realy wants calm restored, have given a quite different picture to the prime minister and defense chiefs. The radical Palestinian rulers of Gaza are in fact raising the stakes, they say, and hoping to goad Israel into an extreme response in the belief that a war clash with Israel will elevate the Gaza Strip to the same regional level as the war in Libya and the Arab uprisings, especially in Yemen and Bahrain.
They also believe it will help Syrian president Bashar Assad, who hosts a Hamas center in Damascus, by distracting attention from the bloodbath he is inflicting on protesters against his repressive regime.
Thursday, Syrian soldiers were reported to have shot 100 protesters dead in the southern town of Deraa. At some point, the West which is punishing Muammar Qaddafi for killing his own people might also take notice of Assad's actions against his.
Netanyahu's military chiefs have explained to him that abstention from a military operation against Hamas could be interpreted by the Syrian ruler as an Israeli signal of willingness to go an extra mile for the sake of peace talks.
debkafile's Jerusalem and Moscow sources note that this is the point at which Israel's declining security situation becomes relevant to a possible Israeli-Saudi dialogue.
Neither Jerusalem nor Riyadh is at ease with the US role in favor of the popular uprisings against veteran Arab regimes – and most particularly the US-UK-French military intervention in Libya. Both find this policy detrimental to the national and security interests of America's foremost Middle East allies.
They also share resentment for the benefits accrued from this wave of unrest by Tehran and the effect it has had to turn world attention away from its progress toward manufacturing a nuclear bomb.
The Saudi king and Israeli prime minster are apprehensive, on the strength of their intelligence input, that Iran will eventually seize control of the popular uprisings in Arab lands, especially Egypt.
Riyadh alone took a substantial precautionary step against this menace by sending military units into the Bahrain on Feb. 14 to pre-empt the Iranian-backed Shiite threat to King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and the tiny kingdom's financial and oil assets at the back door of the rich eastern Saudi oil center.
Israel's leaders in contrast have never struck any position or policy with regard to the turbulence around its borders, ignoring the perils they pose to its security.
Netanyahu's trip to Moscow, which opposes the US-British-French operation in Libya, is his first attempt to explore a diplomatic option outside Israel's alliance with the United States. The Russians, the Saudis and the Israelis too see advantages in discussing such options and testing new paths of cooperation to renew the direct exchanges Riyadh and Jerusalem maintained in the past through back channels on the Iranian issue.
It is therefore not surprising to find US Defense Secretary Robert Gates arriving in Israel Thursday. He flew in from Cairo after talks with Egyptian military leaders about possible military participation in the coalition campaign against Muammar Qaddafi. In his talks with Israeli defense and military chiefs, Gates will no doubt stress the importance to Israel's security of the strong ties between Jerusalem and Washington.
Binyamin Netanyahu meets Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow
Min. Landau, MK Dichter: Renew Targeted Killings of Terrorists
by Gil Ronen
Minister Uzi Landau (Israel is Our Home) and MK Avi Dichter of opposition party Kadima both expressed support Thursday for a renewal of the "targeted killing" policy against terror chiefs. Dichter also called for striking civilian infrastructures in the terror haven.
The "targeted killings" policy is a proactive anti-terror tactic in which the IDF does not wait for terrorists to act against Israel in order to strike at them. Rather, it uses its air superiority in order to pick off known terrorist leaders based on real-time intelligence regarding their whereabouts.
Dichter, who is a former Head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), said that some politicians' calls to invade Gaza were "divorced from reality." Embarking on such an operation, he explained, requires a period of preparation of more than a year. "This is our strategic goal," he said, "but right now we need to act... immediately on the tactical plane."
The way to create deterrence vis-a-vis Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, Dichter added, requires pinpoint strikes rather than massive attack. Israel, he said, should be "hitting key members of the terror infrastructure in Gaza and at the same time hitting the civilian infrastructures of the Strip."
"The current escalation is the product of an area that, for all purposes, has turned into a terrorist entity. The state of Israel cannot allow itself to accept such a reality between itself and Egypt," Dichter said. His party, Kadima, initiated the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza which led to its being taken over by Hamas.
Minister Landau said that the ongoing terrorist missile fire was 'inching northward' toward Tel Aviv, and was a direct result of the lack of a decisive victory in Operation Cast Lead. He blamed the previous government under Kadima for allowing a routine of incessant missile fire to gain legitimacy.
A policy of retaliation that consists of bombing open spaces, "a tunnel here and a tunnel there," which consists of "causing sand to fly and making some dust" only invites more terror.
Hamas leaders in Gaza, he said, "should go into the bunkers and worry about their personal good health around the clock."
Christian Woman Killed in Jerusalem Terrorist Attack
JERUSALEM, Israel - Jerusalem police were on high alert Thursday following a terrorist bombing that jolted the city.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged Israel would act "vigorously, responsibly and prudently" to preserve the "quiet and security" that existed here during the last two years.
Netanyahu spoke after an explosive device, packed with shrapnel, went off near a busy Jerusalem city bus stop, killing one woman and wounding more than 40 others.
CBN News has learned that the woman killed in the terror attack was a Christian who'd been working for 20 years translating the Bible into the language of a tribe in Togo.
Mary Gardner was from Scotland and came to Israel at the beginning of the year to hone her translating skills at a ministry here called the home for Bible translators.
Gardner was killed almost instantly in the terror attack.
The kiosk where Wednesday's bombing took place ironically is called in Hebrew the "blast of a kiosk" because a bomb exploded here in 1994. Yesterday, the man running the kiosk called police and told them about a suspicious package under a nearby public phone when the bomb exploded.
"I went closer to see what happened and I saw this phone booth on fire and people here on the ground. It's scary," said eyewitness, Dima Belopuckov.
Many Jerusalemites felt they were catapulted back a number of years when suicide terrorist bombings rocked the city on a regular basis.
"I very much hope we won't return to those terrible years. I hope the government will do what it needs to do to give people security," said a worker at a nearby news stand
Netanyahu said there are elements who are trying to disturb the quiet in Israel.
"They are trying to test our resolve and the fortitude of our people. They will learn that the government, the IDF and the Israeli public have an iron will to protect the state and its citizens," he said.
Netanyahu met with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and other top security officials just before leaving on a pre-planned trip to Russia.
According to reports, they drew up what is widely expected to be a considerable military response.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the search for the terrorists is continuing.
"Since yesterday's attack we've heightened security in Jerusalem as well as in the southern part of Israel in order to prevent any further attacks from taking place," Rosenfeld said.
Palestinian Authority leaders were quick to condemn the attack.
No group has claimed responsibility but Islamic Jihad vowed earlier this week to avenge a series of Israeli air strikes in Gaza mounted in response to stepped up rocket and mortar fire on Israeli communities.
UNHRC condemns Israel on Golan, okays Iran rapporteur
By JORDANA HORN AND TOVAH LAZAROFF
A resolution calling for an immediate cessation of any “settlement” construction in the Golan is the first of six resolutions on Israel.
The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Thursday denounced the Israeli presence in the Golan Heights and created the post of a special investigator into human rights issues in Iran.
The resolution on the “Syrian Golan,” which calls for an immediate cessation of any “settlement” construction in the Golan, is the first of six resolutions on Israel. The UNHRC is expected to approve the remaining five resolutions when it wraps up its 16th session on Friday.
UN expert repeats 'ethnic cleansing' claim against Israel
The UNHRC: Hard at work condemning Israel
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Thursday’s vote on the Golan Heights was 29 in favor, with 16 abstentions. Only the US voted against the resolution; those abstaining included the United Kingdom, Hungary and France.
The resolution calls on Israel to comply with Security Council Resolution 497 from 1981, which stated that Israel’s decision “to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan is null and void and without international legal effect, and demanded that Israel rescind forthwith its decision.”
The resolution deems the Knesset’s November 2010 decision to hold a referendum on the Golan a violation of international law, and considers it null and void.
In addition, it insists that Israel “desist from its continuous building of settlements,” as well as from “changing the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan, and emphasizes that the displaced persons of the population of the occupied Syrian Golan must be allowed to return to their homes and to recover their property.”
The resolution further states that Israel should allow Syrians in the Golan free transit into Syria through Quneitra under Red Cross supervision, and should allow the Red Cross to “visit Syrian prisoners of conscience and detainees in Israeli prisons,” though it also calls for Israel to release all Syrian detainees in Israeli prisons.
The HRC also voted on its one resolution on Iran, creating a special rapporteur on the situation of human rights there – the first in a decade.
That resolution was adopted by a vote of 22 in favor and seven against, with 14 abstentions.
Sweden and the US introduced the resolution.
In the discussion, Swedish representative Jan Knutsson said it was the responsibility of the council to use all of its mechanisms to address the issue of human rights abuses in Iran.
Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe of the US said America was extremely concerned about human rights in Iran, stating that floggings, torture and stoning continued to be carried out by the Iranian government.
A Capitol Hill source told The Jerusalem Post that the resolution on Iran was a significant statement against the regime in Tehran.
“It is one of the most visible manifestations of the Iranian regime’s increasing international isolation,” the source said.
“Many countries who were not supportive of these resolutions or abstained switched votes. It was a huge win,” the source added, noting that countries that would have been expected to vote against such a resolution or abstain in the past, such as Brazil, South Korea and Senegal, had come out in support of the move.
Senegal was particularly noteworthy, because it is a Muslim country, the source said.
According to the source, the abstentions were also significant – particularly that of Malaysia, one of Israel’s fiercest critics, as well as Bahrain and Qatar.
“It shows the degree to which Iran has further isolated itself, especially in such a politicized environment as the council,” the source said.
S. African University Cuts Ties with Ben Gurion University
by Hana Levi Julian, MSW
The University of Johannesburg (UJ) has severed all scientific ties with Israel's Ben Gurion University of the Negev (BGU).
The two universities had enjoyed a close relationship since the 1980s. But in a stunning reversal, the UJ Senate announced Wednesday night it would terminate an agreement signed last August between the two institutions.
In September, BGU was ordered by UJ to include a Palestinian Authority university as a partner in its research, or the South African university would abandon the agreement. But BGU, by no fault of its own, was unable to do so.
“BGU resoundingly failed to meet this condition, as well as the other criteria set by the Senate resolution, owing to the unanimous and principled support by all Palestinian universities to refuse to entertain any links with BGU on the grounds of that university's complicity in Israeli apartheid,” said Palestine Solidarity Alliance spokesperson Nurina Ally.
A significant percentage of BGU's student population is comprised of Bedouin Arabs, and the institution was the first in the world to appoint a Bedouin, Professor Alean al-Krenawi, as chairperson of its Department of Social Work Studies. Moreover, BGU is the first institution in the world to have awarded a PhD to a Bedouin woman
. Professor Sarab Abu Rabia-Queder has continued her research and since become a lecturer at the university as well.
“Detailed evidence was placed before the Senate showing clearly BGU's active restriction and violation of political and academic freedom,” claimed Ally, “its direct and deliberate collaboration with the Israeli Defense Forces , and its maintenance of policies and practices that further entrench the discriminatory policies of the Israeli state.”
UJ spokesman Herman Esterhuizen said the vote had been carried out by a secret ballot.
The hotly debated vote was unusual in an academic environment in which members usually express their views with a show of hands. It followed a petition by the South African university last year that called on lecturers and students to cut ties with BGU, the Mail & Guardian
More than 400 academics, including nine vice-chancellors and deputy vice-chancellors joined the university's campaign to delegitimize Israel.
according to the report.
Int'l Red Cross Sheltering Hamas Terrorist Officials
JERUSALEM, Israel -- Hamas officials are praising Wednesday's deadly bombing of a bus station in Jerusalem -- a city they've vowed to conquer.
Jerusalem is also a place where wanted Hamas members have found safe haven from Israeli authorities -- and they're getting help from one of the world's leading humanitarian organizations.
Although Hamas's main headquarters can be found in Gaza and Damascus, over the past several months, three officials from the terror group have also set up shop at the International Red Cross office in East Jerusalem.
Israel suspects these three Hamas legislators had a role in the 2006 kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. It ordered them to be deported from Jerusalem last summer.
Instead, the three found refuge at the Red Cross, where they've set up a tent and held court on a daily basis, with no protest from their hosts.
The three Hamas officials have been living there since July. During that time, they've held a number of press conferences and met with foreign dignitaries, including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. Every Friday, dozens of East Jerusalem residents gather at the Red Cross to hold prayers as a show of support.
CBN News spoke exclusively Muhammed Totah, one the three Hamas officials, who denied involvement in Shalit's kidnapping, but refused to recognize Israel's right to exist.
"The Israelis have come in 1948 to our historical Palestine," Totah told CBN News. "They have occupied 78 percent of our land. And in 1967 they have occupied the other 22 percent."
Red Cross spokesperson Cecilia Goin told CBN News that hosting the wanted Hamas officials is in line with the organization's humanitarian mission -- despite Hamas' long track record of terrorism.
"Under international humanitarian law, East Jerusalem is considered occupied territory," Goin said. "So the Palestinians living in East Jerusalem are considered protected people."
Goin, who refers to Israel as an "occupying power" in East Jerusalem, said politics are not involved in the Red Cross's decision. CBN News Senior Editor John Waage, who's long analyzed the Middle East, believes otherwise.
"I think it's a thinly veiled, in your face statement to Israel that East Jerusalem is part of a future Palestinian state," Waage said.
"The Red Cross has asked repeatedly to see Gilad Shalit," he added. "They've never been allowed to see him, and yet at the same time, they're housing three members of Hamas."
The Red Cross said it will not prevent Israeli authorities from arresting the Hamas officials. The Israeli government had no comment on the situation.
I don't know how this photo rates as an accurate picture of the Israeli port city of Ashdod
, but since I found it on the non-political website of HomeExchange.com we can assume that if it's been photo-shopped, it wasn't done in such a way as to please the Arabs, United Nations or al Reuters.
So Lazer Brody reports hearing the explosion today
, just north of his neighborhood in Ashdod
, from a Syrian/Iranian-upgraded GRAD missile used in the attack on his city.
According to his update, the missile fell into an OPEN LOT.
"A few people have been treated for shock, but thank G-d there are no other casualties."
Hm... I don't see very many open lots, but maybe they're outside the photograph. I don't know enough about Ashdod to draw any conclusions, but I do know enough to be grateful to Hashem.
An Israeli police officer carries a rocket, fired by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip, after it landed in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod,Thursday, March 24, 2011.... (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
We'll ignore the rest of the AP caption. It's the usual tit-for-tat crap, wherein terrorists firing GRAD missiles into cities in the hope of maiming and murdering Jewish babies and grandmothers is somehow the equivalent of a situation where awesome and righteous soldiers of a young sovereign nation try to disrupt or destroy their enemies (in this case, "terrorists"), even as they seek to avoid hurting anyone else in the process.