The almost accidental war in Gaza: 7 things to know for March 15
Israel media review

The almost accidental war in Gaza: 7 things to know for March 15

Military officials quoted as saying Gaza rockets fired at Tel Aviv in error, but not everyone is convinced that another flareup has been averted

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

The sky above buildings in the Gaza Strip glows orange during an Israeli air strike in Gaza City early on March 15, 2019 after 2 missiles were fired at Tel Aviv. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
The sky above buildings in the Gaza Strip glows orange during an Israeli air strike in Gaza City early on March 15, 2019 after 2 missiles were fired at Tel Aviv. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

1. By Friday morning, IDF officials had reportedly confirmed that the two rockets launched at the greater Tel Aviv area last night were fired in error.

  • Israeli defense officials were quoted in Hebrew-language media to this effect on Friday, though the military declined to officially confirm the reports.
  • It was not immediately clear if the rocket fire was a result of human error or technical malfunction. The Haaretz daily quoted the officials as saying the two rockets were fired during maintenance work.

2. The alleged misfire came as Gaza’s Hamas rulers were in negotiations with Egyptian mediators about a truce deal with Israel. The initial IDF assessment indicated that Hamas had no intention of escalating violence with Israel.

  • But not everyone in Israel was completely convinced. Yedioth Ahronoth’s defense correspondent Alex Fishman writes that something “exceptional” must have happened in Gaza on Thursday to prompt the launch of the first long-range missiles at Tel Aviv since the 2014 war.
  • “There is no other way to explain this unpredictable and perhaps insane course of action… That’s why it must either be a technical malfunction or a panicked decision by Hamas leaders who are fearing for their survival.”
  • He notes that hours before the rocket fire, large protests were held in the Gaza Strip due to the dire economic situation. Fishman suggests that Hamas’s leadership is possibly worried the protests in Jabalya were the start of a “Palestinian spring” and moved to shift the anger to Israel by initiating a fresh bout of violence.
A Hamas military site is seen empty after it was hit by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, early Friday, Friday, March 15, 2019. Israeli warplanes attacked terror targets in the southern Gaza Strip early Friday in response to a rocket attack on the Israeli city of Tel Aviv (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

3. In the Israel Hayom paper, analyst Yoam Limor says that even if the rockets were fired in error, the incident will likely lead Israel to launch a large-scale military response in the Strip.

  • “The rocket fire on Tel Aviv will force Israel to deviate from its policy [of restraint], and not just because it’s election season, when the government cannot afford to look weak after a prolonged period of restraint in regards to Hamas.”
  • “Israel is likely to exercise force on a scale that Gaza has not seen since Operation Protective Edge in 2014, and it will also move to an accelerated level of preparation, since the war will be complicated and require ground action as well.”

4. In response to the rockets, Israel said it struck around 100 Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip overnight, including an office complex in Gaza City, an underground complex that served as the group’s main rocket-manufacturing site, and a center used for its drone program.

  • Four Palestinians were wounded in the Gaza strikes, the enclave’s Hamas-run health ministry said.
  • The Times of Israel’s Avi Issacharoff says that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “rightly” ordered a relatively mild response to the rockets to avoid further escalation with Hamas. “Israel’s Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who so prides himself on his “Mr. Security” credentials, has preferred to swallow the bitter pill of Thursday night’s rocket fire and preserve relative calm,” he writes.
People standing outside a bomb shelter after it was opened by the Tel Aviv municipality on March 14, 2019, after earlier two rockets from the Gaza Strip were fired toward central Israel. (Adam Shuldman/Flash90)

5. By Friday afternoon, a Hamas official told Palestinian media outlets that an agreement to restore calm had been reached.

  • Hamas had earlier announced the cancellation of the weekly protests/riots along the Gaza-Israel frontier on Friday afternoon, an activity that has been going on for a year and has often led to a violence.

6. Hebrew-language newspapers on Friday also reported that Iran had successfully hacked the personal cellphone of former IDF chief of staff and prime ministerial hopeful Benny Gantz.

  • According to Channel 12, the Shin Bet Security Service informed Gantz about the hack, saying that the Iranian intelligence services were in possession sensitive information and his personal correspondences.
  • Gantz’s Blue and White party downplayed the leak, saying in a statement that it has been over 10 years since Gantz served as military chief and that he did not possess information that would endanger national security.
Moshe Ya’alon, Gabi Ashkenazi, Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid of the Blue and White joint list visit at a shopping center in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod on March 8, 2019. (Flash90)

7. On Friday, the UK’s Jewish Chronicle news website published a poll that fewer than half of British adults understand what the word “anti-Semitism” means. According to the survey carried out by Deltapoll, 53 percent of the 2,000 British adults in the survey said they did not understand the definition of the word.

  • Olivia Marks-Woldman, chief executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, told the newspaper that given reports of anti-Semitic incidents are increasing, the poll findings were “deeply concerning.”
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