Hebrew media review

The rockets’ red glare

Day three dawns and the press takes stock of Hamas’s rocket barrage on Israel and the IDF’s bombing campaign in Gaza

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Israeli tanks seen near the Gaza border in southern Israel, on the second day of Operation Protective Edge, July 9, 2014. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israeli tanks seen near the Gaza border in southern Israel, on the second day of Operation Protective Edge, July 9, 2014. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

As one might expect, the main story in the Israeli press is day two of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge against the Gaza Strip. Headlines focus on rocket attacks by Hamas making their way deeper into Israeli territory than ever before, and Israeli airstrikes taking their toll on the Palestinian population.

Among the key points mentioned in every paper are the number of rockets fired, the number of Palestinians killed (and number of Israelis hurt: zero), and the increasing number of Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip.

“Hamas increases the firing range,” reads the front page headline on Haaretz. The paper reports that residents of Zichron Yaakov and Dimona came under fire for the first time, and that in the latter’s case, Hamas claimed it was aiming to hit the nuclear reactor outside the desert town. The main photo on its front page places destruction and pain in Israel and the Gaza Strip side by side.

“The IDF increases pressure,” says the front page on Israel Hayom, which reports that the military is preparing for a possible ground invasion of the Palestinian territory. The paper reports that Israel’s top officials are divided on whether Israel should “launch a ground operation or try to stop the fire from Gaza with pressure from the air.” It doesn’t elaborate as to which officials are opposed to putting boots on the ground.

Despite the relentless rocket fire, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went south to Beersheba to get a situation assessment. He met with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz and GOC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Sammy Turgeman, the paper says.

Iron Dome’s brilliant trails of smoke, underlit by the glow of an Israeli town at night, are displayed prominently and proudly by Yedioth Ahronoth, which extols the defense system as a “Golden dome” on its front page for intercepting roughly 90% of its targets and providing “a sense of security to the home front.”

The paper says that the first two days of this mini-war are a sign of things to come with a future conflict with Hezbollah — long range rocket attacks deep into the Israeli heartland. Unlike previous conflicts with Hamas, however, Israel missed its chance to assassinate the Islamist group’s leadership early in the game, and by now they are deep underground.

Concerning a ground invasion of the Hamas territory, Alex Fishman writes that if and when such a decision is made, “it will not seek the conquering of the Strip and destruction of Hamas; rather it will suffice with much more modest, attainable targets: reduction of rocket launches or harming Hamas’s strategic infrastructure which is difficult to deal with from the air.”

Makor Rishon features the second attempted infiltration by Hamas commandos into Israel as its top story, and the paper mentions that the IDF thwarted the attack and fired on the Palestinian gunmen. It clarifies that it’s not clear whether the two terrorists were killed or managed to retreat unharmed.

The paper notably doesn’t mention Palestinian casualties in its main coverage, nor does it run any photos of the airstrikes on the Gaza Strip on its front page.

Haaretz, by contrast, runs a column by Amira Hass offering the Gazan viewpoint on the conflict. She says that the prevailing opinion among residents of the Gaza Strip is that “The IDF hasn’t succeeded or bothered to find the rocket launchers themselves, and so they’re attacking civilian targets, not hesitating to kill many civilians and children.”

“Without sirens, shelters, or Iron Dome systems, and with blackouts roughly every eight hours, each of the 1.7 million Gaza residents feel as if they are a human target for IDF bombs and rockets,” Hass writes. She says that the efforts being made by the Israeli military to notify Palestinians to leave their homes before an airstrike are insufficient, and quotes human rights group B’Tselem saying that the IDF’s interpretation of international law is illegal.

As one might expect, the papers have the occasional bizarre inclusion or two to fill space while everyone only cares about the conflict down south (which is spreading farther north). Yedioth Ahronoth fills a full four pages with information for readers nationwide on locations of the nearest public bomb shelters and how long the duck-and-cover time is. In Israel Hayom’s 19-page coverage, it includes a color piece on how students living near Gaza find it difficult to take their matriculation exams during the rocket barrage. Haaretz features a blurb about how Netanyahu seeks to use the operation as a pretense to have the religious Shas party join the coalition.

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