1. Tensions rocket: On Sunday, Israel gave Gaza’s Hamas rulers a week to show they can keep calm before deciding on possibly launching a wider offensive to stop unrest along the border. By Wednesday morning it looks to all have all fallen apart, after a rocket hit a house in Beersheba and Israel struck back with retaliatory airstrikes on at least 20 targets (as of this writing.)
- No terror group has taken responsibility for the attack, and in a somewhat unusual step, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have publicly distanced themselves from the strike, likely signaling the extent to which they do not want to go to war at this moment. The groups, in fact, claim the rockets were meant to sabotage efforts to attain a truce in the territory, ToI’s Adam Rasgon writes.
- The IDF, though, isn’t buying it, with the spokesperson saying that only Hamas and Islamic Jihad have rockets capable of hitting Beersheba: “It’s not hard to narrow down who’s behind it,” IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus says.
2. Blasts caught on tape: An extraordinary video shared by the army shows the moment a rocket launching squad is hit by an airstrike.
- Videos shared by Israeli media also show the moment the rocket hit Beersheba.
— החדשות (@NewsChannelIL) October 17, 2018
3. The heroine of Beersheba: The fact that the three kids sleeping in the home escaped unharmed after the rocket hit at about 3:30 a.m. is described as a “miracle” after they managed to scramble into their reinforced room seconds before the missile hit.
- “I heard the siren and thought I was dreaming. It’s been years since there was a siren in Beersheba. But I right away got up and rushed to get the kids in the protected room. I’m still shaking,” the mother is quoted saying in Israel Hayom.
- The paper notes that the mom slept on a different floor, and given the fact that Beersheba residents have about a minute to get to shelter given the city’s relative proximity to the Strip, it makes the story all the more remarkable.
- “My sister is a lioness,” the mom’s sister tells the Ynet news website. “She grabbed the kids by her own strength and carried them into the room and saved their lives.”
4. Time for action: Even hotter than the rocket fuel from all the missiles are the takes from pundits as tensions heat up, most of them apparently goading the government and army into action.
- Channel’s 10 News’s Almog Boker asks why the government is willing to put up with things from Gaza it would not allow from other enemies, and says had the mother not saved those kids, a much larger offensive would probably be in the offing: “The government has clear policies regarding the threat from Gaza: It’s called containment policy and it goes on and on until the moment there are no other choices. That’s how it was when they first started shooting rockets, that’s how it was when the tunnel threat began and that’s how it is in these days exactly,” he writes (riffing on a line from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel was acting against Iran “in these days exactly.”)
- (As an aside, his use of “containment policy” is 180 degrees from the US’s containment policy during the Cold War.)
- Also turning Netanyahu’s words against him, this time Sunday’s warning of Israel launching “a response of a different kind,” Ynet’s Ron ben Yishai writes that that’s just what the doctor ordered, noting that the date of the attack coincided with an August promise by Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar that the Gaza blockade would be lifted by mid-October one way or another.
- Like the army, he sees the attacks as planned by Gaza’s rulers as a way of putting more pressure on ceasefire negotiations.
- “Israel cannot let an unprecedented action like this go without a response, which will make clear to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and also Egypt, that we are not about to hold talks on an arrangement while one side is gambling on the lives of Israeli citizens as a negotiating tactic,” he writes.
5. Bark but no bite: Even before Wednesday morning’s attacks, Israeli leaders were talking tough against Hamas, though many saw the saber-rattling as mostly meant for domestic consumption.
- Israel Hayom’s front page splashes a quote saying just that, citing a “cabinet minister” who say that Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman may be talking a tough game, but actual decision-makers never heard his talk of a “harsh blow” against Hamas.
- “He has never presented the cabinet with an actionable proposal to take down Hamas or go to war, and also never asked the prime minister to have a discussion about it,” the paper quotes one of them (actually all of them) saying.
- “Though Liberman was talking tough, it seems ceasefire talks are actually at their peak,” Yedioth Ahronoth reports.
- Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer calls Liberman’s comments “empty talk,” though he focuses more on Netanyahu, Sinwar and PA President Mahmoud Abbas as the three people responsible for keeping Gaza in a hellish purgatory somewhere between peace and war.
- “Netanyahu is a realist when it comes to using military power, and anyway he doesn’t trust the Israel Defense Forces to end another major conflict in Gaza with the kind of result that would thrill his base. His personal inclination is not to launch wide-scale operations and his political calculation is that it won’t help him at the polls anyway. Together with Sinwar and Abbas, he will do his utmost to prevent war in Gaza, but won’t try that hard to end the suffering of civilians there. At least not quite yet,” he writes.
6. Uniting Gaza and the West Bank: Also on the not exactly peace train, Yedioth reports that Washington’s still shelved peace plan will involve uniting Gaza and the West Bank, quoting US envoy Jason Greenblatt.
- “Despite claims, our plan will unite them. We are here to help all Palestinians,” he tells the paper.
- However, he accuses the PLO (essentially Abbas) of spreading the “disinformation” that the plan will seek to separate the entities: “The PLO is supposed to be a positive source here. They should not be trying to push the Palestinians away from the plan before it’s been seen.”
- As for when that will be, there is still no official word.
7. More bombing: Some Israelis are chomping at the bit to go after Gaza and bring calm back to the region, though many are also against launching another war. Israel Hayom reports that almost all Israelis support Israel’s bombing campaign in Syria, where the country until recently carried out regular airstrikes against Iranian targets.
- The Magar Mochot poll finds that 77 percent of Israeli support the airstrikes in Syria continuing. A majority of 56% percent also think Israel should act militarily against Iran’s nuclear program, and 57% think Netanyahu is handling Iran just right, according to the paper.
7. Boring backlash: Netanyahu is under some fire for a campaign event Tuesday during which he called a heckler “boring,” and her attempt to push for better emergency services “uninteresting.”
- Haaretz’s Yossi Verter calls Netanyahu’s response to the heckling “a rare misstep,” noting that the event took place in Kiryat Shmona, a border town that has been a base of Likud support.
- Netanyahu “ lost it yesterday in the worst possible place for him – in the ‘periphery,’ which he thinks belongs to him and his party. He lost it in a city that’s more Likud than Likud, and in front of a sworn supporter. Not a sourpuss, not a leftist, and not from the grand salons and high towers of north Tel Aviv,” he writes (also turning Netanyahu’s words around on him.)
- Verter writes that Netanyahu’s later response — that he was annoyed that she interrupted him as he tried to memorialize lawyer Yaakov Weinroth, who died earlier that day — was also a mistake, since he continued to go after the heckler, with his supporters accusing her of crossing “All moral and human norms.”
- Pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom, meanwhile, also attacks the heckler, running a headline reading “In the depths of pain and sorrow, it’s just not fitting,” referring to her outburst.
- She tells the tabloid that she awaits a full apology from the prime minister.
8. ‘Racist’ politics: Also under fire is Jewish Home, for a local campaign ad in the mixed Arab Jewish city of Ramle with a picture of a woman in a Muslim headdress warning that “this could be your daughter.”
- The campaign has been roundly condemned as racist, with even the national Jewish Home headquarters initially distancing itself from the posters.
The Jewish home party in Ramla, a city which Jews and Muslims live together, launched a campaign for its city hall candidate: “This can be your daughter [if she marries a Muslim]”. Naftali Bennet, the party leader, is the minister of education (of Israel). pic.twitter.com/vz6U63zZK2
— Suleiman Maswadeh (@SuleimanMas1) October 16, 2018
- Haaretz reports that Nayef Abu Suiss, who is running for the city council, filed a police complaint against the campaign.
- “This is a racist attack that sows hatred and destroys the social fabric and good neighborliness in Ramle. Jewish Home is hurting a large community, will heat up the atmosphere and I’m warning there could be a sharp reaction,” he’s quoted saying.
9. Bad news Israelis: A bombshell Buzzfeed report has exposed an American mercenary carrying out targeted assassinations in Yemen at the behest of the UAE.
- Unsurprisingly, the story has an Israeli connection: The mercenary was employed by Abraham Golan, who also took part in operations. The site describes Golan as “a charismatic Hungarian Israeli security contractor who lives outside of Pittsburgh.”
- The expose does not get major play in Israeli media; Yedioth Ahronoth buries a story about it deep in the tabloid under the headline “white and blue assassination.”