For the first time in over 20 years, rockets fall in the Tel Aviv area. We continue to provide additional updates to you regarding the rapidly escalating situation in Israel, with as much information as possible gleaned from our sources on the ground in the south of Israel, and our partnerships with numerous organizations.
The southern cities, including Ashdod, Ashkelon, Yavne, and our sister city of Beer Sheva, have been subjected to a targeted barrage of rockets, many of which have been intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, but others which have directly hit homes and a school. Montreal's local JFC-UIA representative and on-site Director, Israel & Overseas, Arie Levy, shares his personal account of the situation today in Beer Sheva with us: “This morning has been ever so difficult…I can’t even imagine what would be if we hadn’t had the Iron Dome system in place right now. During the last siren, passengers from a city bus fled to our building. People caught in the street seek refuge. Things are not getting better. Most people are not coming to work since their children are at home and any big gatherings are not permitted right now.” The south of the country is dealing with life put on hold in all aspects, and this region is emptying out, heading northwards; schools are closed and hospitals in the region have been put on emergency-only footing.Since Wednesday’s targeted killing of Hamas military leader, Ahmed Jabari, and the launch of Israel’s operation, “Pillar of Defense”, intense rocket fire has escalated in the south of Israel with more than 200 missiles having been fired into Israel from terror groups in Gaza. As residents of an apartment building in Kiryat Malachi were attempting to flee to safety this morning, their home was directly hit by a Grad missile, killing three—Aharon Smagda, a 40 year-old father of three, Yitzchak Amselam, 22, and Mirah Scharf Cohen, a 25 year-old, pregnant mother of three—and injuring four others including an eight month-old now in critical condition. In a separate attack, three Israeli soldiers have been wounded, one seriously.
As part of “Pillar of Defense”, Israeli air strikes in the Khan Yunis region have resulted in the deaths of three additional Hamas operatives and they have struck over 200 targets in Gaza. Leaflets have been dropped in Gaza by Israel urging residents to stay away from launching facilities and weapons depots—many of which are adjacent to kindergartens, mosques and gas stations. Although most Hamas missile depots with missiles that can hit Tel Aviv have been destroyed by Israeli air force strikes, only a short time ago, two rockets were fired on the Tel Aviv area. According to an IDF spokesperson, one did not hit the ground, and the second hit an open area near the city of Rishon Letzion, 12 kilometres south of Tel Aviv. No damage or injuries have been reported. Tel Aviv braces itself with multiple red alerts as they unfortunately enter into the circle of violence. Defense Minister Barak said this morning that “difficult days are ahead”.
Our own group of Montreal delegates, part of Federation CJA’s Israel and Overseas Committee, are currently in Israel. Their security continues to be our top concern and they have been safely moved to Jerusalem. We are in regular contact with them, and will be reporting back to you with their personal accounts of the situation.
In Montreal, we continue to: proactively partner with all levels of law enforcement—municipal, provincial and federal; liaise with intelligence forces; and actively monitor and evaluate the impact of the situation in Israel on our community and institutions. Based on our experience, we expect demonstrations locally from anti-Israeli groups. Thus far, activity has been minimal and localized.
As the situation is currently very fluid and quite tense in the region, we are monitoring and will keep you updated as more information becomes available via email and on our Federation CJA website. Up to the minute updates are also available on the CIJA website, www.cija.ca, and CIJA Facebook page. We also encourage you to post messages of support on our Federation CJA Facebook page,facebook.com/federationcja, to our extended family in Beer Sheva and beyond, as they endure a level of terror that we can barely fathom.
Let’s direct our collective attention, prayers and support in any way we can to our people. We hope and pray for their safety and we stand shoulder to shoulder with them at this very difficult time.
David J. Cape