Envoys for international bodies highlight mortar shell that fell outside kindergarten; UN urges restraint by ‘all parties’
Representatives from the European Union and United Nations on Tuesday condemned the firing of more than two dozen mortar shells from the Gaza Strip at southern Israel, both calling it “unacceptable.”
The EU’s ambassador to Israel, Emanuele Giaufret, as well as the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, both focused on one of the shells striking a tree in the yard of a kindergarten in the Eshkol region, less than an hour before students were due to arrive.
“As kids were preparing for school this morning a barrage of rockets from Gaza fell on southern Israel,” the EU envoy tweeted. “One landed outside a kindergarten. I know the resilience of communities in southern Israel but indiscriminate attacks are totally unacceptable and to be condemned unreservedly.”
Mladenov said in a statement that he was “deeply concerned by the indiscriminate firing of rockets by Palestinian militants from Gaza towards communities in Southern Israel, at least one of which hit in the immediate vicinity of a kindergarten and could have killed or injured children.”
“Such attacks are unacceptable and undermine the serious efforts by the international community to improve the situation in Gaza,” the UN envoy added. “All parties must exercise restraint, avoid escalation and prevent incidents that jeopardize the lives of Palestinians and Israelis.”
The kindergarten that was hit by a mortar shell — along with all other schools in the area — opened as usual on Tuesday, despite the attack.
“At this point, there are no special instructions for residents of the Gaza periphery. Please continue to listen to the instructions of the Home Front Command,” the army said in a statement.
The attack, which triggered three rounds of sirens in as many hours in the Sha’ar Hanegev and Eshkol regions, was claimed by the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, apparently as revenge for the IDF killing three of its members in a cross-border exchange earlier in the week.
It appeared to be the largest attack from the Gaza Strip, in terms of the number of projectiles fired, since the 2014 war, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge.
Most of the projectiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. One person was lightly injured.
The initial, larger bombardment came at 7 a.m., when approximately 25 mortar shells were fired toward the Sha’ar Hanegev and Eshkol regions, the army said.
Exactly an hour later, incoming sirens were triggered for a second time in the Eshkol region, but not in Sha’ar Hanegev, as at least two mortar shells struck an open field in the area, the army said.
The second attack caused neither injuries nor damage.
Sirens in southern Israel were triggered by a mortar shell for a third time shortly after 9:30 a.m., the army said.
That projectile struck an open field outside a community in the Eshkol region, causing no injury or damage, local officials said.
The military responded to the early morning attack by shelling a number of positions belonging to terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian media reported. The army would not immediately confirm it had conducted retaliatory strikes. Additional reprisal raids were expected, in accordance with Israel’s standard policies regarding attacks from Gaza.
Pictures and videos were quickly shared on social media apparently showing the launches of the mortar shells and the interceptions by the Iron Dome.
In the latest round of violence, unlike previous ones, Gazan terrorists had until Tuesday generally refrained from shooting rockets, instead using small arms fire directed at troops, planting bombs, flying incendiary kites, and sneaking across the border to cause minor damage.
Since March 30, tens of thousands of Palestinians have taken part in weekly protests that Israel says are orchestrated by Hamas and used as cover for attempted terror attacks and breaches of the border fence.
The violent demonstrations were meant to end on May 15, but Hamas leaders have said they want them to continue. Over 10,000 Gazans took part in the demonstrations in the course of Friday and Saturday, the army said.
The demonstrations came to a head on May 14 when the US moved its embassy to Jerusalem and at least 60 Palestinians were killed in clashes — almost all of them Hamas members, the terror group has acknowledged.
Judah Ari Gross and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.
Many questions remain about what led to the deaths of up to 58 Palestinians on Monday. One of the key issues surrounds how the protests are organized. Based on observation and discussions with sources close to the protests, the following presents a clearer picture of what has occurred over the last weeks, and attempts to paint a picture of how the May 14 protests unfolded.
Since the end of March, there have been mass protests along the Gaza border. These protests have been well organized and planned as part of an eight week “Great March of Return,” from the Palestinian Land Day on March 30, to the “Nakba Day” on May 15.
On May 14, the mass protests, which coincided with the US opening its embassy in Jerusalem and came a day before what was supposed to be the last day of the protests, resulted in 58 Palestinians killed and up to 2,700 wounded, according to Gaza-based Palestinian reports.
The protests have been organized around five locations next to Israel’s security fence. Over the eight weeks of demonstrations, protesters used a variety of different tactics and methods. For instance, protesters began lighting massive fires and burning tires during the second Friday, in early April. Then they began launching burning kites to ignite Israeli farmland. They also tore down a section of barbed wire of one of the fences between Israel and Gaza on April 27. It was during this protest that a reliable source provided some insight into the methods employed by Hamas and the protesters.
The protesters have gathered every Friday with tens of thousands participating. At the very back of the protest, hundreds of meters from the fence, are tents and field hospitals, prayer areas and families. This is where some of the Hamas officials will show up in the morning or early afternoon to rouse the people and encourage them in their protest. Speeches will be made and prayers offered. It is well organized. Buses bring people to the protests. There are people selling food. There is even a macabre element of this, with protesters saying they’ll have a meal before they become “shahid” or a martyr at the front.
The masses of protesters who approach the actual fence are generally made up of young men and teenagers, including youth and children. There are very few women in the area closest to the fence. The protesters know how the Israeli security forces have been operating; they expect to be shot or are cognizant that this is a distinct possibility. There are ambulance teams and medics, as well as numerous spontaneous volunteers, ready to take away the injured, many of them shot in the legs.
As the young men burn tires, and others prepare Molotov cocktails or slingshots, some prepare kites to fly. The goal of the protesters is to get to the fence and, with select groups of young men who have brought wire cutters, to cut through. Most of them don’t make it this far, but some of them do.
Gazans who attempt to reach the main security fence first have to deal with other obstacles. There is a barbed-wire fence in sections to deter protesters from reaching the main fence. Israel has continuously warned since March that anyone approaching this kind of buffer zone would be shot. A section of barbed wire fence was torn down and dragged away in late April. The Palestinians cheered as they brought it back to the protest camp. A sign of victory.
According to reports, it takes about thirty seconds running between the barbed-wire fence and the main security fence.
But what happened in late April was not just the spontaneous chaos of rioters at the fence. Some of those wounded and killed by live fire, as shown on videos, have not been directly threatening the fence, but there are others groups whose sole purpose is to penetrate the fence.
The actual attempt to get closest to the fence and break through it has involved planning and coordination on the Palestinian side. Hamas members, unarmed but clearly directing some of the young men, are in the crowd. They watch for an area of burning tires and people, where the protesters have managed to get close to the fence or breach the first line of barbed wire.
Some of these professional activists are on motorcycles and they may come and go or drive along the line of protests or observe them from a high point. When they sense that a breach can be made, they gather together groups of young men, men who have prepared beforehand for the assault.
Like some kind of First World War charge of death, the young men then rush as a group toward the fence.
During the April 27 events, up to 700 men were reported by IDF spokesman Col. Jonathan Conricus to have assaulted the fence “in a way that we have not seen them assault it before,” according to a New York Times report.
An earlier Times report titled “300 Meters in Gaza: Snipers, Burning Tires and a Contested Fence,” summarized well the planning and details of the protests and confirmed later accounts.
Planning began ahead of the May 14 protests. Joe Dyke, the AFP correspondent in Gaza, wrote on May 10 that, at a “briefing to foreign media, Gaza head of Hamas told journalists today he would support thousands of Palestinians breaking through the border fence next week.”
On Sunday the IDF dropped leaflets on Gaza warning protesters to stay away from the fence. On May 14 Dyke, in Gaza, tweeted: “literally as the US embassy inauguration is beginning, loud speakers east of Gaza City are calling on protesters to prepare to seek to breach the border fence.”
By the end of the day, 58 had been killed.
The article was published in The JPost
Gaza rioters prepare for additional mass protest this coming Friday, look for ways to neutralize IDF forces on the border.
Arab rioters in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip amassed materials along the border with Israel this week in preparation for yet another confrontation with Israeli security forces on the frontier, planned for this coming Friday.
Last Friday, some 30,000 rioters gathered at the Israeli border, kicking off six weeks of protests against the State of Israel and President Donald Trump’s decision to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem.
The protests will culminate in a mass demonstration on May 15th, the day after Israel’s 70th Independence Day and the scheduled opening of the new US embassy.
Rioters hurled firebombs at Israeli security forces along the Gaza border, Friday, with thousands of demonstrators attempting to scale the security fence and enter Israel.
IDF sharpshooters opened fire on rioters attempting to enter Israeli territory, as well as terrorists hurling firebombs, as well as two gunmen.
Hospital officials in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip claimed that 17 people were killed by IDF fire, and more than 1,400 wounded by live-fire – a claim the IDF spokesman Brigadier General Ronen Manelis disputed. Israeli officials noted that 10 of those killed on the border were members of the Hamas terror group.
The United Nations has demanded an “independent and transparent investigation” into Israel’s actions during the riots. Israeli officials, including Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, have rejected the UN’s position, arguing that Israel’s right to self-defense justified the IDF’s response.
“Israeli soldiers did what was necessary. I think all our soldiers deserve a medal,” Liberman told Army Radio Sunday. “As for a commission of inquiry – there won’t be one.”
Since last Friday’s riots, organizers have amassed stockpiles of material for the next mass confrontation.
While hundreds of rioters continue to protest along the border, Friday’s riots are expected to again draw thousands to the security fence on the Israel-Gaza frontier.
Along with firebombs and rocks, organizers of the protests have stockpiled tires, to be set on fire and hurled at the security fence.
Protesters are also exploring ways of neutralizing Israeli security forces on the border, including the use of mirrors to reflect sunlight into the eyes of IDF snipers.
According to a report by Israel Hayom, protest organizers are also looking to open a new front against IDF efforts to defend Israel from the rioters by pursuing charges against Israeli personnel in international courts.
The article was published on Arutz 7