Archive for May 13, 2021

Heavy barrage hits Tel Aviv, Beersheba; Hamas calls it revenge for slain leaders

May 13, 2021

Child hurt running to shelter; terror group says it used long-range missile in failed attack on Eilat, and launched new ‘suicide drones’; IDF hits four anti-tank missile teams

Rockets are launched towards Israel from the southern Gaza Strip, on May 12, 2021 (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Rockets are launched towards Israel from the southern Gaza Strip, on May 12, 2021 (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Hamas operatives fired large fusillades of rockets at the Tel Aviv area and Beersheba and toward Eilat’s airport on Thursday afternoon, in what the terror group said was an act of revenge for its commanders who were killed in Israeli strikes this week.

Dozens of rockets were fired in the attacks, which triggered sirens throughout central Israel and the northern Negev desert. A 60-year-old woman was lightly injured by shrapnel in the town of Kiryat Gat in southern Israel, along with a 7-year-old boy and 40-year-old woman who were injured while running to bomb shelters, medics said.

Earlier in the day, Israel closed Ben Gurion International Airport to incoming passenger flights, diverting them to Eilat’s Ramon Airport. Hamas said it subsequently targeted that airfield as well.

“By the order of the commander of the Qassam Staff Abu Khaled Muhammad al-Deif, rockets were launched towards Ramon Airport with the 250 Ayyash missile with a range of 250 kilometers,” Abu Obeida, spokesman for Hamas’s military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, claimed in a statement, referring to an allegedly new Hamas rocket with a far greater range than ones previously known to be in the terror group’s arsenal.

No sirens were heard in the rocket fire toward Eilat, as the projectile landed in an open area far outside the city, where it caused neither injury nor damage.

Hamas also said it had launched a number of “suicide drones,” unmanned aerial vehicles carrying explosive payloads, into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip. The military confirmed downing at least two such drones. Channel 12 news reported that the drones appeared to have primitive capabilities and did not seem to represent a serious danger.

Obeida said the attacks were “part of our response to the assassination of our heroic leaders and engineers,” adding that the rockets used were partially developed by those who were killed.

On Wednesday morning, the Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet security service conducted a large-scale operation targeting a number of top commanders in Hamas, including the head of its Gaza City battalion and several people involved in its weapons production operations in the Strip, the military said.

Israelis take cover in a shop in Bat Yam as a siren rings during a rocket attack from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip on May 13, 2021 (Gil COHEN-MAGEN / AFP)

On Thursday afternoon Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan sent a letter to the Security Council calling on the top UN body to strongly condemn the ongoing rocket fire from Gaza and uphold Israel’s right to defend itself.

“The indiscriminate rocket fire constitutes a double war crime,” Erdan wrote. “It is clear that Hamas premeditated this escalation in violence and terrorism and is happy to pay the price of casualties on both sides in order to strengthen itself politically.”

Also Thursday the IDF said it bombed four Hamas cells preparing to launch anti-tank guided missiles at targets in southern Israel over the course of two hours, striking the teams before they could carry out their attacks. The military said it also bombed an anti-tank guided missile launcher that had been positioned on an apartment building in the southern Gaza Strip, accusing Hamas of using the occupants as human shields.

According to the IDF, over 1,500 rockets and mortar shells have been fired toward Israel by terror groups in the Gaza Strip since fighting broke out on Monday evening. Roughly a fifth of those landed inside the Palestinian enclave, and in at least one case killed a number of children when the rocket hit a school.

Hundreds of the incoming projectiles have been intercepted by Iron Dome missile defense batteries, according to the military, which refuses to give precise statistics on the matter as they could be used by terror groups to find ways to outmaneuver the system.

The IDF on Thursday said the air defense system had a roughly 90 percent interception rate of projectiles heading toward populated areas. Terror groups have been launching rockets in massive barrages to try and overwhelm the system.

In the most serious rocket attack overnight, two people were moderately injured by shrapnel and six others were treated for smoke inhalation after a Hamas rocket from Gaza struck in between homes in Petah Tikva shortly after midnight, sparking a fire. The buildings near the fire sustained moderate damage.

On Wednesday night and Thursday morning, the Israeli military expanded its targets in the Gaza Strip to include institutions that Hamas uses to rule the Palestinian enclave, notably its treasury and banks, IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman said.

In addition, the Israeli Air Force bombed Hamas’s internal security headquarters used in counterintelligence operations, destroyed the home of Iyad Tayeb, a battalion commander in Hamas’s military wing, and killed a squad of Hamas’s naval forces, Zilberman said.

Smoke and flames rise after an Israeli airstrike in the southern Gaza Strip, May 12, 2021. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

In one case in the predawn hours of Thursday morning, the IDF destroyed a Hamas bunker that had been built under a school “and in proximity to other civilian buildings.”

According to Zilberman, the IDF has destroyed most of Hamas’s domestic rocket production capabilities, bombing a large number of weapons production and storage facilities. However, he said that the military will struggle to continue striking significant weapons caches, which are spread throughout the Strip. “If there were any warehouses with 100 rockets, they were destroyed in the first day of the operation,” Zilberman said.

The IDF on Thursday said it had so far bombed upwards of 600 targets in the Strip, over 100 of them in the previous 24 hours.

Palestinians assess the damage caused by an Israeli airstrike at the Islamic National Bank of the Hamas terror group in Khan Younis , in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 13, 2021 (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The IDF’s campaign in Gaza, officially dubbed Operation Guardian of the Walls, has so far been conducted primarily by airstrikes, as well as artillery shellings from the ground and the sea, but the military said it was preparing for the possibility of a ground incursion.

Zilberman said plans for a ground invasion would be presented for approval by the IDF General Staff on Thursday, at which point they would be given to Israel’s political leadership for consideration.

The IDF in recent days has deployed additional ground troops — from the Paratroopers Brigade, Golani Infantry Brigade and 7th Armored Brigade — to the Gaza border, sending with them tanks and armored personnel carriers, which could be seen being transported by trucks on highways throughout southern Israel.

On Thursday the army said it was canceling all weekend leave for combat soldiers as it prepared for the possibility of a ground operation. Zilberman said the military had called up 7,000 reservists. Roughly half of those were troops from air defense, artillery and medical units, and half serve in administrative and intelligence positions, Zilberman said.

A total of seven people have been killed in Israel, including four people who died on Wednesday, among them a soldier killed by an anti-tank missile and a 5-year-old boy hit by shrapnel in Sderot.

Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry said the death toll there rose to 72 Palestinians, including 16 children, Thursday. The IDF said dozens of those killed were members of terrorist groups, some of whom were actively preparing to launch attacks on Israel when they were hit.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad confirmed the deaths of seven of its members, while Hamas acknowledged that a top commander and several other members were killed. Israel and a Palestinian human rights group, Defense for Children, have said that several of the civilians were killed by Hamas rockets falling short inside Gaza, not by Israeli attacks, though Defense for Children does claim at least some of the children were killed by Israeli strikes.

The Israeli military also claims the number of terrorists killed so far is much higher than Hamas has acknowledged.

Israel in chaos: 10 Border Police units called up to quell Arab-Jewish violence

May 13, 2021

Riots have spread across several cities throughout Israel with mixed Arab and Jewish populations.

Medics evacuate an injured man during clashes between Arab and Jews in Acre, northern Israel, May 12, 2021.  (photo credit: RONI OFER/FLASH90)
Medics evacuate an injured man during clashes between Arab and Jews in Acre, northern Israel, May 12, 2021.
(photo credit: RONI OFER/FLASH90)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz ordered the emergency call-up of 10 companies of Border Police and for them to deploy throughout the country in an attempt to curb the Arab-Jewish violence and riots that has marred Israel’s streets in recent days.Some 374 people were arrested throughout Israel following intense Jewish-Arab violence and riots that erupted across the country on Wednesday, amid the ongoing fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.A Jewish citizen in his 30s was in critical condition after he was attacked by a mob of Arab demonstrators near Egged Square in the city of Acre. Police said he was attacked in his car by Arab Israeli protesters armed with sticks and stones.

On Thursday morning, two police cars were set on fire in the Israeli-Arab town of Kafr Kassem. In Acre, a hotel was set on fire, which spread to a nearby building. In Lod, where these riots began, a Jewish man was reportedly stabbed by an Arab Muslim near a mosque.

Magen David Adom staff evacuated him to the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya unconscious, in serious condition and suffering from a head injury.

Senior MDA medic Firas Reis said: “We were near the area when we saw the wounded man lying unconscious and suffering from a bleeding head injury. We immediately began life-saving medical treatment that included bandaging and breath support and evacuated him in stable condition for further treatment at the hospital.”Biden: Israel has right to defend itself from Gaza rocket terrorism

In another incident, in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam, Jewish extremists marched down main streets, smashing Arab-owned businesses and attacking passersby. One motorcyclist – identified as an Arab – was grabbed in the middle of the street and beaten on live television. Four of the alleged attackers were arrested while chanting “death to Arabs” and “may your village burn.”

Police seen on the streets of the central Israeli city of Lod, where violence erupted this week between Jews and Arabs. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)Police seen on the streets of the central Israeli city of Lod, where violence erupted this week between Jews and Arabs. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
Kan News reported that a Jewish man in his 30s was lynched by protesters who mistook him for an Arab. He was evacuated to the hospital and his condition is classified as serious, but stable.

Bat Yam Mayor Tzvika Brot said of the riots that “the acts were organized by provocateurs who came from outside the city. This is not our way.”Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, one of Israel’s two chief rabbis, appealed for restraint in response to the violence, saying: “We must not be dragged into provocations and inflicting harm on people or property.

“The Torah of Israel grants no license for taking the law into one’s hands and acting violently,” he added.

In Haifa, a 26-year-old man was injured after being run over by a car near the demonstrations in the city. He was evacuated to Rambam Medical Center in the city in light-to-moderate condition. The 20-year-old driver fled the scene, but was apprehended and detained by police.

On Hagiborim Street in Haifa, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a police car, setting fire to the vehicle. No injuries were reported.

Right-wing extremist rioters were also seen in Tiberias and Lod, and more are expected to show up in other cities with a largely mixed Arab and Jewish population.

The Tiberias municipality released a statement condemning the riots, saying that “We ask everyone to stop the practice of unnecessary demonstrations that do not contribute anything. These demonstrations can cause unnecessary harm to people and even be life threatening.
“It’s time to calm down and help the people of the South as much as possible,” the statement added.

Due to the severe violence seen in Lod on Monday and Tuesday, the Border Police established a task force headquarters in the city on Wednesday, with a force of some 500 Border Police personnel, including tactical border police, detectives, investigators and other law enforcement personnel.

Posts on social media by settler activists stated that at least 30 Jewish youths from the Yitzhar region in the Samaria district of the West Bank traveled to Lod on Tuesday night and engaged in clashes with Arab rioters.In the Bedouin town of Hura, rioters set fire to a community police headquarters, Ynet news reported. No injuries or arrests were reported. At the entrance of Rahat, also in the Negev, police arrested five suspects for throwing stones and burning tires along routes 310 and 264.

In Sheikh Jarrah, the flashpoint of Jewish-Arab tensions in Jerusalem, ten people were arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct and causing property damage, Ynet also reported. Two ultra-Orthodox men in the east of the neighborhood were also injured.

A 50-year-old man was stabbed in the neck after accidentally entering the city of Tamra early Thursday as well, Ynet news reported.
The man was rescued from a lynching by a local ambulance crew after they noticed the violence. He was later transferred to Rambam Hospital in Haifa.Police were called to Agrippas Street in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda early Thursday after an employee of a nearby establishment sustained a stab wound to his upper body. He is in critical condition, according to medical sources, and was transferred to the hospital for further treatment.

A policeman was injured early Thursday from live fire in the Arab village of Umm al-Fahm amid riots in the town. Rioters also threw Molotov cocktails at policemen standing near the city’s police station.
Upon searching for the perpetrators, police came under fire and a border police officer was moderately wounded.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke late Wednesday on the rioting and attempted lynchings taking place Wednesday in Israeli cities, saying that he intends to return law and order.
In a statement to the media, Netanyahu said that “Nothing justifies lynching Arabs among Jews, and nothing justifies lynching Jews by Arabs. We will not accept this. It is not us to use this violence. We will return the control and governance to the cities of Israel. In all cities, in mixed cities, in Jewish cities – everywhere.”
“Let us unite together to do the task we need to do as citizens of our country: to restore governance, eliminate this anarchy and preserve and restore the security and peace we all deserve,” he said.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi also said at a meeting of the cabinet early Thursday that he opposes using soldiers to restore order in Israeli cities, noting that the military is a “people’s army” and not suitable for civilian unrest, Ynet news reported.

Jewish-Arab violence rolls through cities like wildfire, with police overwhelmed

May 13, 2021

Leaders horrified as hooligans fill streets, burning, beating, shooting, smashing; Netanyahu says may send army into towns; Bat Yam mob assault on Arab man decried as ‘un-Jewish’

  • Medics evacuate an injured man during clashes between Arab and Jews in Acre, northern Israel, May 12, 2021. (Roni Ofer/Flash90)
    Medics evacuate an injured man during clashes between Arab and Jews in Acre, northern Israel, May 12, 2021. (Roni Ofer/Flash90)
  • A man beats someone lying prone on the ground in the Israeli city of Bat Yam amid interethnic violence across Israel, May 12, 2021. (Screenshot)
    A man beats someone lying prone on the ground in the Israeli city of Bat Yam amid interethnic violence across Israel, May 12, 2021. (Screenshot)
  • Israeli police seen on the streets of the central Israeli city of Lod, where last night synaogues and cars were torched as well as shops damaged, by Arab residents rioted in the city, and ongoing this evening. May 12, 2021. Photo by Yossi Aloni/Flash90 *** Local Caption *** ??????
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    Israeli police seen on the streets of the central Israeli city of Lod, where last night synaogues and cars were torched as well as shops damaged, by Arab residents rioted in the city, and ongoing this evening. May 12, 2021. Photo by Yossi Aloni/Flash90 *** Local Caption *** ?????? ??? ???? ????? ???
  • An injured man during clashes between Arab and Jews in Acre, northern Israel, May 12, 2021 (Roni Ofer/Flash90)
    An injured man during clashes between Arab and Jews in Acre, northern Israel, May 12, 2021 (Roni Ofer/Flash90)
  • An injured man during clashes between Arab and Jews in Acre, northern Israel, May 12, 2021 (Roni Ofer/Flash90)
    An injured man during clashes between Arab and Jews in Acre, northern Israel, May 12, 2021 (Roni Ofer/Flash90)
  • Screen capture from video of a crowd of Jewish protetors pulling an Arab man from his vehicle in Bet Yam, May 21, 2021. (Twitter)
    Screen capture from video of a crowd of Jewish protetors pulling an Arab man from his vehicle in Bet Yam, May 21, 2021. (Twitter)
  • Israeli riot police face off with a Jewish man as clashes erupted between Arabs, police and Jews, in the mixed town of Lod, central Israel, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Heidi Levine)
    Israeli riot police face off with a Jewish man as clashes erupted between Arabs, police and Jews, in the mixed town of Lod, central Israel, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Heidi Levine)
  • A car is set on fire during clashes between Arab and Jews in Acre, northern Israel, May 12, 2021 (Roni Ofer/Flash90)
    A car is set on fire during clashes between Arab and Jews in Acre, northern Israel, May 12, 2021 (Roni Ofer/Flash90)
  • Wednesday experienced its worst night of internal Jewish-Arab chaos for many years, amid the ongoing armed conflict with Gaza, as scenes of unrest, rioting, hate rallies and growing social chaos spread throughout numerous cities, some of which were once seen as symbols of coexistence.

Violent confrontations erupted in Lod, Acre, Jerusalem, Haifa, Bat Yam, Tiberias and many other locations, with people injured, some of them seriously, leading Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to announce he was looking at deploying the military inside towns to restore order.

Perhaps the most shocking scene of the night, and one that elicited expressions of disbelief and horror from Israeli leaders, was footage of hundreds of Jewish extremists in Bat Yam vandalizing Arab property and then assaulting an Arab driver in his car, dragging him out of the vehicle and beating him savagely.

In Jerusalem, an Arab was stabbed by Jews and seriously injured at the Mahane Yehuda market.

“Death to Arabs” was heard in many locations of Jewish rallies.

Meanwhile, in Acre, a Jewish man was assaulted by Arab rioters and hit with rocks and iron bars, and was hospitalized in critical condition.

Despite two previous days of ever-expanding unrest, and a call-up of reinforcements for both police and Border Police, law enforcement once again seemed woefully unequipped to handle the scope of the chaos, and many scenes of violence went ahead with little police interference.

In Lod, which had been at the center of unrest for the two previous nights — with Arab mobs torching synagogues, stores and cars overnight Tuesday-Wednesday — a curfew had been declared between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. Yet gangs prowled the streets and vandalized unimpeded for hours, with police containing some events but failing to effectively control the crowds. There were reports that two people had been shot and lightly to moderately injured, though their identities weren’t immediately clear.

In Tamra, a Jewish man was stabbed and assaulted by an Arab mob, Channel 12 reported, with an Arab paramedic saying the attackers almost burned the man inside his car before he helped evacuate him to safety.

A truck burns at the entrance of the Jewish-Arab city of Lod, where a state of emergency has been declared following civil unrest, on May 12, 2021 (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

The key event of the night came when hundreds of extremist Jews, in a rally organized on social media hours prior and explicitly defined ahead of time as having violent intentions, marched along the Bat Yam promenade, smashing Arab property as they headed toward neighboring Jaffa, with police doing little to stop them.

At a certain point, the mob identified a driver on the road as Arab and began attacking his car.

Participants in the protest told Kan news that the man had deliberately tried to run them over, but footage and reports from the location indicated the driver panicked and attempted to drive away as he was accosted.

Video shared on social media showed the car approaching the crowd, then rapidly reversing away but colliding with a vehicle behind it. The car then sped into the crowd, apparently without hitting anyone, and attempted to pass a line of traffic in the way but crashed into another car before coming to a stop.

The driver was then pulled out and beaten by dozens of rioters before eventually being left alone. He was taken to Ichilov hospital, which said he was in serious but stable condition.

In an incident in Haifa, an Arab driver found himself in the midst of a mob chanting “Death to Arabs.” As he was pelted with stones, the driver turned the vehicle around to escape but hit one of the rioters, 26, causing him moderate injuries. The driver, 20, sped away but was later detained by police.

Disgusted condemnation from politicians

The well-documented incident in Bat Yam brought on expressions of disgust from politicians, from the prime minister to far-right Knesset members. In a video from his office, Netanyahu told the public that such incidents were “intolerable.”

“I don’t care if your blood is boiling. So it’s boiling. It’s irrelevant. You can’t take the law into your own hands,” he thundered. “You can’t come to an Arab civilian and try to lynch him, just as we can’t see Arab citizens do so to Jewish citizens. This will not stand.”

Opposition leader Yair Lapid decried the “total loss of control.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned that Israeli internal divisions were “no less dangerous than Hamas.”

Yamina chief Naftali Bennett called the scenes in Bat Yam “un-Jewish, immoral, inhuman.” His No. 2 Ayelet Shaked decried the “moral bankruptcy” of such an attack.

New Hope’s Gideon Sa’ar warned the country could be sliding toward civil war.

Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef put out a statement imploring Jews not to turn violent against Arab citizens.

“Innocent Israeli civilians are attacked by terror organizations, the blood runs hot and our hearts are outraged, the scenes are difficult to watch. But we mustn’t be dragged to provocations and to hurting people or harming property,” he said.

He added that the Torah does not permit one to take the law into one’s own hands. “The work of restoring order must be left to police,” he said. “We must be a light unto the nations, and not, God forbid, the opposite.”

Head of the Religious Zionism party Bezalel Smotrich gives a press statement in the Knesset, in Jerusalem, April 4, 2021. (Olivier FItoussi/Flash90)

The far-right leader of the Religious Zionism party, Bezalel Smotrich, long accused of stoking racial and religious tensions, said he was “shocked and ashamed to the bottom of my soul” by the attack on the Arab man. “We are in difficult days, under attack, frustrated… but damn it, how can Jews be so cruel?! Terrible,” he tweeted.

Netanyahu slams ‘anarchy’ of Arab rioters

Politicians also expressed a fair share of criticism toward Arab violence, with Netanyahu bemoaning the “anarchy” of Arabs rioters “setting synagogues alight, setting cars alight, assaulting police, attacking peaceful innocent civilians. We can’t accept it.”

He said he would give full backing and more powers and resources to police to enforce the law, and said he was also looking at sending military forces into cities to the extent that the law allows it. “If need be, we’ll legislate further [to do so],” he said.

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana said Arab attacks on Jews were unacceptable, as were Jewish attacks on Arabs. “Violence mixed with hatred should be condemned outright,” he said. “We have no other country. We must live here together.”

In an uncustomary phone interview with Channel 12, President Reuven Rivlin implored Israelis of all ethnicities and religions to stop the “madness” unfolding on the streets of Jewish-Arab cities.

President Reuven Rivlin meets with the Yesh Atid party at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, April 5, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“I am very worried,” he said, adding that he was “crying out” for internal peace.

“I call on and beg of all local leaders, religious leaders, on citizens, on parents. Do all you can to stop this terrible thing that is happening before our eyes,” he said. “We are dealing with a civil war between us without any reason. Please stop this madness… I beg of you. This country belongs to all of us. Desist.”

Joint List chair Ayman Odeh and Ra’am chief Mansour Abbas both condemned the violence on Arabic-language radio, while asking Arabs not to leave their homes so as not to be attacked by Jewish mobs.

The two Arab Israeli political leaders also stressed the need for Arab youth not to respond with violence against people or property.

Odeh also attacked Ohana, who he accused of giving support to Jewish rioters in “taking the law into their own hands” after he spoke in support of Jews suspected of shooting Arab rioters earlier this week, and said “civilians carrying weapons are helpful to authorities in immediately neutralizing threats or dangers.”

“The madness must be stopped,” Odeh said.

At TV studios, anchors and pundits were despondent, with many describing the night’s events as unlike anything they’d ever experienced, and as signifying a breakdown of social cohesion that could take years to mend.

Only around midnight did police state that they had managed to bring most hotspots under control, with at least some 400 people arrested, among them several who were suspected in the Bat Yam attack. Police said 36 cops were hurt during events.

Other incidents of note:

  • In Tiberias, a mob of Jewish protesters assaulted an Arab driver who required treatment for light injuries. A police officer was also injured as he tried to protect a woman who was a passenger in the car. Four people were reportedly arrested in connection with the incident.
  • An Arab man, 30, was seriously injured during violence near Or Yehuda, close to Tel Aviv, Hebrew media reported.
  • Clashes broke out around Lod’s central mosque, which was apparently targeted by Jews who threw rocks at the building and confronted local Arabs, Kan news reported. Police moved to intervene and disperse the crowds that also attacked Arab homes in the city. Skirmishes also broke out between Arab residents and cops. A police patrol car was set on fire.

A police patrol car on fire in the city of Lod, May 12, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Israel ordered a massive boost earlier Wednesday to police forces deployed in cities with Jewish and Arab populations. The move came hours after the state of emergency was declared in Lod.

The rare emergency declaration in the central Israeli city prompted the urgent dispatching of several Border Police companies to work to restore order.

Violence between the Jewish and Arab communities spiraled from confrontations in Jerusalem surrounding the month-long Muslim month of Ramadan and clashes on the Temple Mount, and came to a head as Israel engaged in an increasingly escalating clash with terrorist groups firing rockets into Israel from Gaza.