SATURDAY UPDATE: Tel Aviv comes under attack from massive rocket salvo
Biden speaks with Netanyahu as violence escalates; One Israeli killed Saturday, family in Gaza killed in overnight strike
Tel Aviv – Israel’s commercial capital and second largest city – came under a massive salvo of rockets from Gaza this afternoon.
A 55-year-old man died after a rocket hit an apartment building in Ramat Gan, a suburb of Tel Aviv. Rockets were fired at central Israel as well some reaching near the West Bank and one even landing in Taibeh – an Israeli-Arab town. The South was also pummeled today.
As of 2 p.m. local time on Saturday – Israel’s Sabbath – more than 300 rockets had been fired at Israel just since midnight.
The rocket that struck Ramat Gan landed near the Austrian Embassy.
“There was just a rocket impact in Ramat Gan - close to the Austrian Embassy. Luckily we‘re all safe,” Ambassador Hannah Liko said on Twitter. “This has to stop immediately!”
Overall, more than 2,500 rockets have been fired since Monday, 10 Israelis have been killed – nine of them civilians – and 380 failed launches in Gaza killed Palestinian civilians, according to the IDF.
On Friday night, an Israeli airstrike hit a home in the refugee camp killing 10 members of a family. Israel’s Channel 12 news reported that IDF sources said “senior Hamas figures” were meeting in the building at the time.
Typically the IDF warns occupants of a building to evacuate before an air strike. But a military spokesman, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, said that for whatever reason, measures to warn civilians to leave, were not “feasible this time.”
Meanwhile, the IDF says it stopped an infiltration attempt on Israel’s border with Lebanon where protests continued today.
On Saturday afternoon, Israel just took out a building in Gaza that was home to foreign media outlets including The Associated Press and Al Jazeera. The IDF said the building was also home to Hamas intelligence operations.
U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today, reaffirming Israel's right to defend itself and condemning Hamas' “indiscriminate attacks against towns and cities across Israel,” but also expressed concern for “intercommunal violence around Israel.”
He also emphasized the need “to enable the Palestinian people to enjoy the dignity, security, freedom, and economic opportunity that they deserve and affirmed his support for a two-state solution” and for Jerusalem to become “a place of peaceful coexistence for people of all faiths and backgrounds.”
The prime minister's office put out a much shorter statement saying that Netanyahu reassured Biden that Israel does its best to avoid harming civilians by warning them to evacuate buildings the IDF plans to target.
Hamas leaders are inciting Palestinians in the West Bank to renew terror attacks against Israelis where Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Israel is already seeing a rise in confrontations.
“I want to convey a message to the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria – the State of Israel has no interest in an escalation in Judea and Samaria but is ready for any scenario,” he said. “In Gaza the residents are suffering because of the Hamas rule, while the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria can enjoy the calm and stable economy.”
“We’ll be forced to cancel steps that are meant to help the Palestinian economy and society after the year of coronavirus,” he threatened.
Meanwhile, Etihad Airways and flydubai – which just started flying to Tel Aviv – announced the cancellation of flights to Israel for now. American and European airlines cancelled their flights earlier this week. El Al added flights to assist Israelis who need to get home.
Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.