Germany condemns ‘malicious’ Palestinian attacks on Israel

‘No justification under any circumstances’ for launches from Gaza, says Berlin’s Israel embassy, joining much of international community

Michael Bachner is a news editor at The Times of Israel

German ambassador to Israel Clemens von Goetze, February 17, 2016. (Yaakov Naumi/FLASH90)
German ambassador to Israel Clemens von Goetze, February 17, 2016. (Yaakov Naumi/FLASH90)

Germany on Wednesday joined much of the international community in condemning the firing of more than 100 mortar shells and rockets at Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip within 24 hours by Palestinian terror groups, calling the targeting of civilians during Tuesday morning’s rush hour “malicious.”

“Germany unequivocally condemns the escalation of violence. There is no justification, under any circumstances, for the continuation of the massive mortar attack on Israel from Gaza,” Berlin’s embassy in Israel said in a statement.

“Especially malicious was the firing of a large portion of the rockets at Israeli cities and communities exactly during the hours of heavy traffic when people go to work,” the statement continued. “As a result of that barrage, a kindergarten was hit, among others. We wish the wounded a speedy recovery.

“It is Israel’s right to [preserve] its security, defend its borders and respond proportionately to attacks,” it concluded.

Over the course of 22 hours, from 7 a.m. Tuesday to 5:17 a.m. Wednesday, sirens were triggered at least 166 times in southern Israel, according to the IDF Home Front Command, by mortar fire, rockets or, in some cases, heavy machine gun fire. At least 110 projectiles were fired by Islamic Jihad, Hamas and other terror organizations.

A map distributed on May 30, 2018 by the Israeli military, detailing the targets of more than 100 mortar shells and rockets fired from the Gaza Strip that either landed in Israeli territory or were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

A reported Egyptian-brokered informal ceasefire between Palestinian terror groups and Israel appeared to be holding on Wednesday, with both sides blaming the other for the flareup.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday mobilized its diplomats stationed worldwide to engage decision-makers and leading media outlets, asking them to demand harsh condemnations of the mortar and rocket barrages that hit Israel’s south during the day.

The remains of a mortar shell that struck the yard of a kindergarten in the Eshkol region, near the Gaza border, on May 29, 2018. (Shay Machluf)

International condemnation rained down on Hamas and Islamic Jihad, much of it focusing on the mortar shell that landed in a kindergarten playground shortly before children arrived.

Envoys for the European Union, the United Nations, the US administration, France, Italy and Ireland were among those who criticized the Palestinians and expressed support for Israel.

Dozens of the incoming mortar shells and rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. Others landed in open fields in southern Israel. A small number landed inside Israeli communities, including a mortar round that directly hit a home in the Eshkol region early Wednesday morning. Parts of a rocket also struck a sports center in the town of Netivot, causing damage to the facility but no injuries.

A home in the southern Eshkol region damaged by mortar fire from the Gaza Strip early on May 30, 2018 (courtesy Eshkol Regional Council)

In total, four people, three of them soldiers, were injured by the mortar attacks. One of the soldiers was moderately hurt, requiring surgery, while the other casualties were lightly wounded and quickly released from the hospital after treatment.

In response to the repeated mortar and rocket attacks, the army carried out two waves of aerial bombardments in Gaza, hitting approximately 65 targets in total, including a Hamas attack tunnel, drone facilities and rocket manufacturing plants, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Judah Ari Gross and Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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