Israeli jets strike Gaza after 2nd rocket attack in 24 hours | The Times of Israel

 

The Israel Defense Forces overnight Saturday-Sunday carried out another round of retaliatory airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, following two rocket attacks on southern Israel in less than 24 hours.

The military said the raids targeted a Hamas underground rocket production workshop, weapons storage site, training facility, and tunnel. The IDF said it holds Hamas responsible for all rockets emanating from the enclave.

Earlier Saturday night, Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired a rocket at southern Israel, raising the specter of renewed conflict. The rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. The attack triggered sirens in the town of Sderot and surrounding communities in southern Israel.

A 29-year-old man sustained a light head wound after he fell while running to a bomb shelter. He was taken to Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center for treatment, medics said.

Shortly after 11 p.m. on Friday, Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired a single rocket towards Israel that was intercepted by the Iron Dome system, the army said. The rocket triggered warning sirens in the Eshkol region and local residents reported hearing several explosions. There were no reports of injuries or damage.

Source: Israeli jets strike Gaza after 2nd rocket attack in 24 hours | The Times of Israel

World Leaders Say It’s Time For Long-Term Resolution In Gaza : NPR

Leaders around the world welcomed news of a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas early Friday after days of hostilities killed altogether at least 250 people, including some 70 children.

After 11 days of the worst fighting in the region since 2014, global leaders called for both sides to resolve the decades-long conflict and to build a lasting, peaceful and stable future.

President Joe Biden’s administration held “intense, high-level discussions hour by hour” with the Israelis, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and others to reach the truce. He said Thursday that there is a “genuine opportunity” to build on the progress.

The U.S. appears ready to continue its involvement in the region. Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted early Friday that he will visit the region in the coming days and that he looks “forward to meeting the Foreign Minister and other Israeli, Palestinian, and regional leaders.”

Source: World Leaders Say It’s Time For Long-Term Resolution In Gaza : NPR

Dozens injured in stampede at big Israeli religious festival

JERUSALEM (AP) — A stampede broke out early Friday at a Jewish religious gathering attended by tens of thousands of people in northern Israel, injuring more than 100 people, dozens critically, Israel’s main rescue service said. Israeli media reported dozens of deaths.

The disaster occurred at the main celebrations of Lag BaOmer, a holiday when tens of thousands of people, mostly ultra-Orthodox Jews, gather to honor Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a 2nd century sage and mystic who is buried there. Large crowds traditionally light bonfires as part of the celebrations at Mount Meron.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a “great tragedy,” and said everyone was praying for the victims.

The incident happened after midnight, and the cause of the stampede was not immediately clear. Videos circulating on social media showed large numbers of ultra-Orthodox Jews packed together in tight spaces.

A 24-year-old witness, identified only by his first name Dvir, told the Army Radio station that “masses of people were pushed into the same corner and a vortex was created.” He said a first row of people fell down, and then a second row, where he was standing, also began to fall down from the pressure of the stampede.

“I felt like I was about to die,” he said.

The Magen David Adom rescue service tweeted that it was treating 103 people, including 38 in critical condition. Israeli media had earlier reported that a grandstand collapsed, but the rescue service said all the injuries happened in a stampede.

Israeli media, citing anonymous medical officials reported up to 40 people were killed, but the rescue service did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation. Photos from the scene showed rows of wrapped bodies.

Source: Dozens injured in stampede at big Israeli religious festival

Potential war crimes probe pulls Biden into Israel-Palestine conflict – Axios

Barak Ravid

The decision of an International Criminal Court panel to clear the way for a potential war crimes investigation of Israel is forcing the Biden administration to wade into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict much earlier than anticipated.

Why it matters: The ICC ruling infuriated the Israeli government — and it also underscored their reliance on the Biden administration, senior Israeli officials tell me. After the decision was announced on Friday, Israel immediately opened urgent consultations with U.S. officials.

  • On Monday morning, the U.S. chargé d’affaires in Jerusalem met Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi to discuss the matter.
  • Hours later, Secretary of State Tony Blinken spoke with Ashkenazi and reassured him the U.S. would help Israel oppose the ICC ruling, Israeli officials tell me.

The big picture: Unlike the Obama and Trump administrations, the Biden administration doesn’t see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a foreign policy priority and has little expectation of progress.

  • On CNN on Monday, Blinken summed up President Biden’s initial approach to the issue as “do no harm” — to ensure that neither side takes unilateral steps that would further obstruct a path toward peace.
  • Biden doesn’t think there’s a realistic chance of renewing negotiations between the parties anytime soon and therefore isn’t planning to appoint a special envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

But just three weeks into Biden’s term, Israeli officials are warning of a deep crisis in Israeli-Palestinian relations if the ICC prosecutor takes up the war crimes investigation, which was initially requested by the Palestinian government.

  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now desperately needs Biden’s backing on an issue of acute importance to Israel.
  • The State Department has already disputed the ICC’s decision that it has jurisdiction to investigate the matter.
  • The Israeli government is now hoping the Biden administration will pressure the court’s member states and the prosecutor not to pursue the probe.

What to watch: That reliance could give the U.S. leverage when it seeks to deter the Israeli government from taking provocative steps like further settlement building, or it could gain Israeli approval for the reopening of the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem.

  • But the ICC ruling could also complicate the Biden administration’s efforts to renew ties with the Palestinians — in particular, the plan to reopen the PLO office in Washington, which the Trump administration closed in 2018.
  • An existing U.S. law requires the secretary of state to certify to Congress that the Palestinian Authority is not pursuing action against Israel in the ICC in order for the PLO to be permitted to have an office in Washington.

The state of play: Palestinian leaders have welcomed the ICC ruling and called for an investigation as soon as possible. It’s unclear whether the Biden administration has had any talks with Palestinian officials on the issue.

Barak Ravid is a Contributing Correspondent at Axios based in Tel-Aviv. He covers everything that matters from Cairo to Tehran. Barak also writes for Walla News in Israel.

Source: Potential war crimes probe pulls Biden into Israel-Palestine conflict – Axios

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