Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Escalating Events in Sha'ar HaNegev and Southern Israel

A message from Michael Sonduck, Interim President and CEO of Jewish Federation of San Diego County

Dear Friends, 

I am writing you immediately after participating in a telephone conference call of Federation executives with David Siegel, Consul General of the State of Israel. Below is the information that Consul General Siegel shared with us. As we learn more we will share it with you.

Since this past Saturday, there were over 120 kassams and mortar attacks on Sha’ar HaNegev and the surrounding region.

27 rockets were intercepted today by the IDF Iron Dome. These rockets would have fallen on densely populated civilian areas.

There have been 300 rocket attacks in the past 3 months, and 800 since the beginning of this year. That is two times as many as in 2011 and three times as many as in 2010.

Almost 1.5 million Israelis live within the region where they are required to be within 15 seconds of a bomb shelter. That is the same as 40 million Americans living with this threat. 

In a statement this afternoon, the Obama administration gave full-throttled support to Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip. State Department spokesman Mark Toner denounced Hamas militants and others in Gaza for a barrage of rocket fire into southern Israel – and stated U.S. backs Israel’s right to self-defense.

In response to this situation the Government of Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defense, including a targeted air strike killing Hamas' top commander Ahmad Ja'abri, who was responsible for the abduction of Gilad Shalit and other attacks on Israeli citizens. In addition the IDF targeted stock piles of long-range missiles that represented a threat to large sections of Israel as well as launch sites and weapons factories.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu issued the following statement: 

“Hamas and the terror organizations decided to escalate their attacks on the citizens of Israel over the last few days. We will not accept a situation in which Israeli citizens are threatened by the terror of rockets. No country would accept this, Israel will not accept it.

Today, we hit Hamas strategic targets precisely. We have significantly debilitated their ability to launch rockets from Gaza to the center of Israel, and we are now working to disable their ability to launch rockets towards the south. The terrorist organizations – Hamas, Islamic Jihad and others – are deliberately harming our citizens, while intentionally hiding behind their citizens. On the other hand, we avoid harming civilians as much as possible and that is one fundamental difference between us. It also indicates the big difference between our objectives, and not only in our methods. They want to obliterate us from the face of the earth and they have no qualms about hurting civilians and innocents.

Today, we sent an unequivocal message to Hamas and the other terror organizations, and if need be the IDF is prepared to expand the operation. We will continue to do everything necessary to defend our citizens."

News from our sister city of Sha’ar HaNegev confirms what Consul General Siegel told us. As a result of the current situation, Sha’ar HaNegev’s Regional Council has put security protocols into action which include no school at Sapir College, Sha’ar HaNegev’s Elementary or High School. No businesses will be open that are within a 7 kilometer radius to the Gaza border this includes all of the industrial companies in Sha’ar HaNegev.

Locally, California Speaker John A. Pérez released the following statement on the recent decision by Israel to launch airstrikes against Hamas:
“Today the Government of Israel responded to weeks of cross-border rocket attacks on Israeli citizens by launching surgical airstrikes on rocket emplacements in the Gaza Strip, as well as targeted attacks on senior leaders of the terrorist organization Hamas. I believe the Israeli government made the correct decision in avoiding attacks on areas with civilians present, such as schools and hospitals where Hamas has made a practice of storing and firing weapons. Every American should be concerned about this latest escalation of the ongoing conflict, and my thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who have been killed, Israeli and Palestinian alike.”

We will continue to monitor this situation, and pray for our families and friends in Israel.

    Michael Sonduck
    Interim President and CEO
    Jewish Federation of San Diego County


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