Update from Jewish Federation’s Israel Office on Situation in Israel’s South

Unfortunately, the situation in Israel’s south escalated overnight and Hamas rockets continued to be fired at Israeli civilian targets. Our national Jewish Federations’ Israel office has prepared the following update:

Since just before 5 p.m. yesterday (Israel time), over 400 rockets have been fired at Israel, triggering an endless stream of sirens, and causing hundreds of thousands of civilians to spend the night in shelters (see photos of damage here). In the worst incident, a residential building in Ashkelon was hit by a rocket, killing a 48-year old man and severely injuring two women. In total, at least 55 Israelis have been wounded by the effects of the rockets since the attacks began yesterday.

While Israel’s Iron Dome Missile Defense System successfully intercepted more than 100 rockets that were headed to populated areas, 8 residential buildings were hit in Sderot, 6 in Ashkelon and 2 in Netivot (see one of the Netivot residences here). Footage of incoming rockets and Iron Dome interceptions can be seen here.

Residents of the region have been instructed to remain close to shelters, public gatherings have been banned, and kindergartens, elementary schools and high schools have all been closed with classes cancelled for some 200,000 students, in cities and towns including Sderot, Be’er Sheva, Ashdod and Ashkelon.

The attacks began yesterday (see update here) when an Israeli bus was targeted by an anti-tank missile fired from Gaza. One 19-year-old Israeli soldier was severely injured in the attack, and he remains in critical condition. According to authorities, tens of soldiers had disembarked from the civilian bus minutes before it was hit. A Hamas propaganda video depicting, and celebrating, the attack can be seen here.

In response to the rockets, the IDF has struck close to 100 Hamas and Islamic Jihad military targets in Gaza, including four that were classified as “significant strategic military assets.” Targets included Hamas weapons’ warehouses, a naval vessel used by the terror group, a building used by its internal security service and a Hamas-run television station.

Israel has moved additional tanks and infantry units to the Gaza border region, and is considering a significant call-up of reserves. Israel’s security cabinet is currently meeting in emergency session.

Israeli television stations are broadcasting round-the-clock coverage of the situation, and both television and radio are interrupting their broadcasts on a regular basis, announcing (or displaying) Red Alert sirens and their location. Several communities in the center of the country have announced that residents are opening their homes to those from the south who feel the need to escape from the current tension, danger and uncertainty of their home towns.

Today is also the scheduled date for run-off municipal elections in Israel (in all locations where no candidate received 40% of the vote or more in the first round). Due to the security situation, the Ministry of Interior has postponed the elections in the Hof Ashkelon Municipality, but all other votes will take place, including in the country’s capital, Jerusalem.

The Jewish Agency for Israel’s Fund for the Victims of Terror has already reached out to many of the families whose houses were struck by rockets overnight, and is providing immediate emergency assistance. A number of the dwellings that were hit are no longer inhabitable, and residents have been taken to hotels.

Alongside the Jewish Agency, Jewish Federations’ other partners (including JDC, ITC and World ORT) are all active on the ground dealing with the emergency situation and responding to urgent needs. Our national system’s Israel office is in close contact with our partners and Federation staff with partnership regions that are impacted by the situation, as well as with government and emergency services operating in the area; and will continue to monitor the situation closely, and update as needed.