Behind the News – June 2021
May 31, 2021 | AIJAC staff
Rocket and Terror
On May 10, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and other Gaza militant factions started a major conflict with Israel and ultimately launched over 4,360 rockets toward Israel. Of these, nearly 700 fell inside Gaza, while about 90% of missiles on target to hit populated areas in Israel were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system. However, 12 people in Israel were killed, and hundreds wounded.
The IDF retaliatory operation, dubbed “Guardian of the Walls”, struck over 1,500 targets, including rocket launchers and tunnels, and killed more than 200 militants from various groups. The Hamas-run Gazan Health Ministry claimed at least 248 Palestinian deaths in Gaza, though this figure makes no distinction between civilians and fighters or between casualties from errant Palestinian rocket fire and Israeli strikes. A ceasefire was declared on May 21.
During the conflict, new rockets and suicide drones of Iranian design were employed by both Hamas and PIJ, including Hamas’ Ayyash missile with a range of over 200km and PIJ’s Badr-3 rocket with a large payload.
Three rockets were fired from Lebanon towards Israel on May 13, and six more on May 17, but all fell into the sea or fell short. Three rockets were fired from Syria on May 14. On May 18, an armed drone launched by Iranian forces from either Iraq or Syria was shot down by the IDF.
Earlier, 43 rockets had been fired from Gaza between April 23 and April 28. Palestinians had also recommenced incendiary balloon attacks from Gaza.
On May 2, a drive-by shooter in the West Bank killed one 19-year-old Israeli student and wounded two others. Two people were wounded in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem on May 24.
Palestinian victims of Hamas rockets
As noted, almost 700 rockets fired at Israel fell short and landed in Gaza, killing and injuring an unknown number of Palestinians. The IDF has publicly said that at least 17 Palestinians, including several children, were killed in this way on May 10 before Israel even commenced retaliatory strikes. The Palestinian NGO Defence for Children Palestine confirmed a rocket fired from Gaza caused the deaths of eight members of one Palestinian family on May 10.
Unrest inside Israel
During the Hamas-Israel conflict from May 10 until May 21, intercommunal violence between Arabs and Jews broke out in a number of Israeli cities, including Lod, Ramle, Haifa, Acre, Jaffa, Tiberias and Jerusalem. At least one Jew and one Arab died as a result of mob violence, with many seriously injured.
Rioters torched several synagogues, as well as homes, businesses and vehicles, threw rocks and firebombs and engaged in bashings and vandalism. There were several lynching attempts. Police made a total of 1,552 arrests, saying 70% of those arrested were Arabs and 30% Jews.
PFLP allegedly stole European money
Israel’s security apparatus alleged in early May that the leftist terrorist group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) had used its health organisation, the Health Work Committee, to divert millions of euros donated by European countries and organisations to fund terror activities over several years.
According to reports, the PFLP used multiple methods, including fraudulent financial documents, made-up projects and inflated salaries to obtain the European funds and then use them to pay families of terrorists, for recruitment and for propaganda.
Canada: Iran downing Ukrainian airliner was terrorism
The Superior Court of Justice in Canada’s Ontario province ruled on May 21 that the shooting down of Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 near Teheran on Jan. 8, 2020 constituted “an act of terrorism.” The plane was hit by missiles fired by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) which, after initially denying responsibility, claimed it was an accident. Many of the 176 passengers who perished were Canadians.
Meanwhile, Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) agreed on May 24 to extend a three-month monitoring agreement reached in February for a further month. The agreement had provided that Iran would retain IAEA data and monitoring records relating to Iran’s nuclear program. Teheran had said that unless Iran received sanctions relief by the time the deal expired, it would destroy the material without the IAEA being allowed to see it.
Israeli intelligence linked to Soleimani killing
A May 8 report by Fox News on the assassination of IRGC Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani in January 2020 claimed that Israeli intelligence was vital to the operation. According to the report, Israel had all of Soleimani’s mobile phone numbers, which he switched frequently for security reasons, and worked with US operatives to track the numbers. Israel also reportedly tipped off the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) about a courier for Soleimani, who was going to pick up mobile phones for him, enabling them to plant bugged phones for him to purchase.
Austria bans Hezbollah
In mid-May, Austria became the latest European country to ban all Hezbollah activity inside the country, joining a growing group of nations that no longer make a distinction between the organisation’s so-called political and military wings.
On May 11, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced new US sanctions against seven operatives of Hezbollah’s financial arm, and called on other countries to do more to restrict and disrupt the group’s activities.
US, Australia and Canada to boycott Durban IV
Australia, the US and Canada have all announced they will not attend the UN conference on Sept. 22 to mark the 20th anniversary of the World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa, colloquially known as “Durban IV”. The US and Israel withdrew from the first Durban conference in 2001 because of pervasive anti-Zionism and antisemitism. Israel was the only state singled out in the conference’s final declaration as being associated with racism, while the NGO forum which accompanied the conference featured widespread antisemitism.
A US State Department spokesperson told the Jerusalem Post on May 4 that the US would not take part in Durban IV and said while Washington “remains deeply committed to combating antisemitism at home and abroad… [it] has always shared [Israel’s] concerns over the Durban process’s anti-Israel sentiment.”
Australia’s PM Scott Morrison announced on May 6 that Australia would not attend Durban IV, stating: “We will not associate Australia with one-sided and contentious language that singles out Israel or an event that champions such language. This is entirely consistent with my Government’s very strong voting position on UN General Assembly resolutions, in the Human Rights Council and elsewhere.”
On May 7, Canada announced it also wouldn’t attend.
Israeli and Palestinian COVID numbers
As of May 25, there had been a total of 839,367 coronavirus cases in Israel, up from 837,218 as of April 20, with a total of 6,406 deaths, up from 6,341.
Approximately 62.9% of the population had by then received their first dose of coronavirus vaccine, while 59.15% had been fully vaccinated.
In the Palestinian-ruled areas of the West Bank, there had been 305,777 cases, up from 282,270 a month earlier, and 3,470 deaths, up from 3,047. In Gaza, the number of cases rose to 106,994, up from 91,086 cases the previous month.
Stranger Than Fiction
Even when you lose you win
While it is arguable that Hamas achieved some of its strategic aims in the recent conflict with Israel, it clearly suffered the worst of the damage, with Israel claiming to have killed more than 200 fighters and several top commanders, and destroyed countless Hamas military assets, from command centres to rocket factories to a considerable part of Hamas’ vast tunnel network.
However, that didn’t stop figures from Iran, Hamas’ key sponsor, from stretching the truth rather blatantly in congratulating Hamas on its “military victory”.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh tweeted, “Congratulations to our Palestinian sisters & brothers for the historic victory. Your resistance forced the aggressor to retreat.”
Similarly, the Iranian Tasnim news agency stated Israel was “forced to resort to Arab and international mediators for a ceasefire by unofficially admitting their inability to continue the war.” In fact, Israel resisted international pressure to cease its attacks until it had achieved its military aims.
The Tasnim article also claimed Israel’s goal was to “kill civilians in Gaza in the first place, with the aim of pressuring the Palestinian resistance to surrender” notwithstanding that, as is well known, Israel generally warned civilians to flee before bombing buildings containing Hamas facilities, and that with Israel’s firepower, if it had wanted to kill many more civilians, it could easily have done so.
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Commander-in-Chief Major General Hossein Salami resorted to just making things up, telling a May 19 rally, “Their missile factory was destroyed and the Haifa refinery exploded, and the largest defence complex called Rafael caught fire, and the security of the Zionist regime has suffered an endless defeat.”
In fact, there was no damage to the Haifa refinery, any Rafael facilities or any missile factories (Israel has more than one).