Two varieties of fireworks make the papers Friday morning — those fired in celebration of Israel’s 67th anniversary of independence, and one fired by an armed group in the Gaza Strip into southern Israel at the close of the day of festivities.
After a holiday where little happened, save barbecuing and relaxation, the launching of a rocket from the Gaza Strip toward Sderot made the front pages. The shot, which was the first of its kind since December, landed in an open area outside the southern town, causing neither damage nor injury.
The Israel Defense Forces responded in turn with an airstrike against Hamas in the northern Gaza Strip. Yedioth Ahronoth calls the sudden and unexpected sirens in southern Israel a “painful reminder of the reality in which they live.” The paper reports that the IDF doesn’t believe that Hamas was behind the rocket fire, but rather a “rebellious” group in the Gaza Strip.
The IDF decided not to allow Gazan worshipers to enter Israel to pray at the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem as a consequence of the attack, Haaretz reports. The paper notes that since last summer’s conflict, Hamas has conducted rocket tests out to sea, and in November rockets tested by Hamas fell near the border fence, tripping alarms in communities near the Gaza Strip.
Israel Hayom has little information on the incident, as it went to press before Israel struck Gaza in retaliation. It quotes a resident of Sderot, Yehiel Dadon, saying that “we had already forgotten what a Code Red siren is, and therefore it took us a few seconds until we grasped that it was coming back to us.”
The paper reports that after the rocket strike, Hamas ordered a full evacuation of its command centers, training facilities and public offices across the Gaza Strip in anticipation of an Israeli retaliation (which eventually came). It quotes Palestinian news sites saying that at least two other rockets exploded inside the Strip, near the city of Khan Younis.
Despite the rocket fire, the papers focus mostly on the festivities of Independence Day. And so with great pomp and circumstance the tabloids show off as much blue-and-white patriotism as they can muster. The spread in Israel Hayom on pages 2-3 shows the IDF’s flyby and fleet maneuvers, alongside Israelis attempting to grill through holiday rains as well as fireworks over Tel Aviv.
Yedioth Ahronoth, in its kaleidoscope of Independence Day snapshots, includes UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon trying shakshouka — an Israeli tomato-and-egg dish — at an event at UN headquarters in New York City, and commenting that it’s “very tasty.”
Both papers report on the Israel Prize ceremony, whose highlight was poet Erez Biton, and on the awarding of honors to the IDF’s top soldiers. Israel Hayom runs a photo of the prime minister and his wife surrounded by the newly awarded soldiers.
Haaretz focuses less on the celebrations, but features a cartoon of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fanning a grill and cooking a massive steak — surrounded by sheep and cows in the form of his worried prospective coalition partners Naftali Bennett and Avigdor Liberman.
Elsewhere in the news department, Israel Hayom reports on a Russian news outlet reporting that Moscow will not transfer sophisticated S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran “in the near future.” The decision to deliver the armaments to Tehran was followed by protests by both the United States and Israel, but it’s not clear that the delay has anything to do with their objections.
Meanwhile in Iran, Yedioth Ahronoth reports that a special parliamentary investigation into how an Israeli journalist entered the country found that “Orly Azoulay is not a spy.” Yedioth’s Azoulay entered the country ahead of the landmark deal between world powers and Iran and reported on reactions to the framework nuclear agreement. In response, the Iranian parliament is preparing new legislation that would “ban entry to people who were born in Israel to Iran in order to prevent similar incidents in the future.”
After an outcry over Israel repatriating African migrants who crossed into the country seeking refuge, Haaretz reports that the European Union plans to execute a similar plan with the thousands flocking to its shores on rickety rafts. Citing a Guardian report, the paper says that a draft decision by EU leaders in Brussels states that the vast majority of the approximately 150,000 refugees that reached Italy will be declared illegal migrants and will be sent home to their countries of origin.