With the autumnal holidays behind us, the Israeli press on Tuesday began recapping the events of the past two days. The big story in all four major papers is the violence on Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip on Sunday night and Monday morning.
The Israeli Air Force on Sunday evening conducted an air strike in the southern Gaza Strip aimed at two men on a motorcycle. Later identified by the IDF as operatives belonging to Gaza-based terrorist organizations, the two men were injured, as were bystanders. Yedioth Ahronoth writes that 11 people were injured in addition to the two targets who were “eliminated.” Haaretz reports that one of the men, Abdullah Maqawi, was killed and the second, Tala’at Jarbi, was injured, along with 10 others.
Israel Hayom says the two men were injured, and that Maqawi died thereafter. It adds that “the remainder of the wounded in the incident were apparently local residents.” According to their account, Jarbi was wounded along with five others and “Hamas emphasized the fact that three children, a woman, and an elderly man were also wounded in the attack for the purpose of propaganda.”
Maariv reports that the two motorcycle riders were critically wounded, and that one died afterwards. It cites Palestinian reports that eight people, including five children, were wounded in the attack. It buries their one paragraph report on the air strike in the fourth paragraph of a story about the resultant rocket attacks.
Monday morning Hamas and Islamic Jihad retaliated with a joint rocket and mortar bombardment of southern Israel. At least 55 projectiles pounded the population surrounding the Gaza Strip, causing no injuries and only minor damage to a building. Haaretz reports that it was the largest rocket bombardment of the Gaza-adjacent area since June. Israel responded with tank fire at Hamas military targets in the Gaza Strip.
Columnist Amos Harel writes in Haaretz that the most disconcerting aspect of the rocket attack was that, unlike recent isolated rocket fire in the past several months, it was conducted by “mainstream groups in Gaza: Islamic Jihad and ruling party Hamas.”
He adds that despite a day of cross-border fire, “the status quo remains undisturbed… as neither Israel nor Hamas has any interest in a prolonged conflict.”
“Hamas seeks to maintain its control over Gaza. It also does not want to anger Egypt. Despite Hamas’ close ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, from which the Egyptian regime hails as well, the relationship is complicated because Cairo does not want to be dragged into increased tensions with Israel,” he writes.
The gravest casualties on the Israeli side of the border were two dead and five wounded goats at a kibbutz petting zoo, Yedioth Ahronoth reports. Israel Hayom even shows a picture of a wounded goat being treated by vets.
“The petting zoo is part of the education infrastructure at the kibbutz and the kids spend lots of time there,” Ilan, the petting zoo manager told Yedioth. “It was our great fortune that it happened very early in the morning and nobody was here.”
The paper also reports that Omer Gabai, an 18-year-old woman from a moshav near the Gaza Strip, posted a message to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from her bomb shelter.
“Good morning and happy holiday, Mr. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. What woke you this morning?” Gabai wrote.
“I wanted to tell you how my morning was. I woke to the jarring voice of a soldier screaming “red alert” and explosions — and I ran quickly in shock to the shelter.” She asked how much longer the residents of the area have to suffer sirens and explosions and invited the prime minister to come visit.
Maariv says that members of the Israeli security establishment estimated that the likely response to Monday’s incident would be “ground entry to the Strip.” The paper notes that Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s election poses a problem to any ground operation because he “is not expected to publicly turn a blind eye to the ‘Palestinian crisis’ if the IDF enters the Gaza Strip.”
Dan Margalit opines in Israel Hayom that we take a page out of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s book. Erdoğan ordered Turkish artillery to fire on Syrian military positions in response to Turks being killed by Syrian shells.
Margalit asks “how would Erdoğan respond had the Eshkol Regional Council [along the Gaza border] been part of Turkish sovereign territory?”
What he calls Israeli restraint vis-a-vis the Gaza Strip is likely to continue, but he says that Israelis are increasingly looking at Erdoğan’s policy with envy. “It’s just that Israel doesn’t have the protected back of Turkey,” whose retaliations were smiled upon by the UN and NATO. “The Jewish State doesn’t have such luck, nor any such situation.”
As usual, the Israel press is peppered with reports on Iran. Haaretz reports that Tehran’s estimated date of acquiring a nuclear weapon was pushed back eight months because it converted “a significant part of its enriched uranium in its possession for scientific purposes.” Senior Israeli security officials told the paper that “Iran moved the wall back eight months” and that Israel’s increased emphasis on stricter sanctions is a result of that.
The paper notes that once the enriched uranium has been converted to triuranium octoxide, it is difficult to reconvert it to enriched uranium hexafluoride gas.
Maariv reminds its readers that Israel and the US in October will be conducting a scaled-back military exercise that will simulate missile attacks on Israel as part of a response to an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities — “even though it is not expected in the coming months.” The paper adds that IAF pilots will continue to rehearse self-defense measures against “various threats.”
Yedioth and Israel Hayom publish a summary of the ISIS report released on Monday in which the think tank said that Iran can generate enough highly enriched uranium to produce a nuclear weapon in between two to four months. The report adds that Tehran will require an additional several months in order to test and engineer a warhead.