Israel takes out high level target: Hezbollah responds with a barrage of rockets

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Important Takeaways:

  • Hezbollah fired more than 250 rockets into Israel on Wednesday after Israel killed Sami Taleb Abdullah, the most senior Hezbollah commander to be eliminated since October 7.
  • This was the largest one-day rocket attack since the war began and included for the first time in this conflict rocket attacks as far south as Tiberias.
  • The IDF said most rockets fell in open areas, some others were intercepted, and others fell in other locations.
  • Al Mayadeen reported that a number of Israeli military sites, including the Mount Meron air traffic control base, were targeted during the attacks.
  • Hezbollah said it carried out at least 17 operations against Israel on Wednesday, including eight in response to what it called the “assassination”.
  • Abdallah was senior to Wissam Tawil, a high-level Hezbollah commander killed in an Israeli strike in January, said the sources in Lebanon, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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IDF gains control of fires set by Hezbollah rockets across Northern Israel: No human life at risk

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Important Takeaways:

  • Fires started by Hezbollah rockets and drones ignited and spread throughout northern Israel early this week, posing a new challenge for the Israeli military and leading to public demands for action against the Iranian terror group.
  • The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) issued a statement Monday evening:
    • Over the past few hours, the IDF has been conducting a situational assessment with Israel Fire and Rescue Services to allocate additional means, forces, and firefighting capabilities in order to extinguish the fires in northern Israel.
    • At this stage, IDF reserve soldiers, engineer tools, mechanical equipment, fire trucks, and fire tanks were reinforced.
    • An IDF Home Front Command’s fire battalion is currently operating at the scene and assisting fire and rescue forces.
    • The forces gained control over the locations of fire, and at this stage, no human life is at risk.
    • The Commanding Officer of the Northern Command is currently arriving at the Kiryat Shmona Fire Station.
    • Six IDF reservist soldiers were lightly injured as a result of smoke inhalation and transferred to a hospital to receive medical treatment. Their families have been notified.

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Israel attack comes during 50th anniversary of 1973 Yom Kippur War and at the end of the biblical holiday Sukkot

Escape-Rocket-Hit

Important Takeaways:

  • Developing: Israel Is at War – Thousands of Rockets, Border Invasion, 200+ Dead, 1,000+ Wounded
  • Sirens blared as more than 2,000 rockets launched at Israel from the Gaza Strip attempted to pummel the Jewish state, and Israelis ran for bomb shelters early on Saturday. By evening, Gaza terrorists had launched roughly 3,000 rockets at Israel. At the same time, a combined offensive including truckloads of dozens of armed terrorists infiltrated through the border into southern Israel by land, paragliders entered by air, and others by sea.
  • “I convened the heads of the security establishment and ordered – first of all – to clear out the communities that have been infiltrated by terrorists. This currently is being carried out,” he said. “At the same time, I have ordered an extensive mobilization of reserves and that we return fire of a magnitude that the enemy has not known. The enemy will pay an unprecedented price,” he added.
  • “We are at war and we will win it.”
  • The attack comes at the end of the biblical Sukkot holiday. Known as Simchat Torah, it’s the day Jewish people celebrate the Word of God.
  • It also comes one day after the 50th anniversary of the 1973 Yom Kippur War when Israel was taken off guard by a massive attack from an Arab coalition.

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Air raids sound in Israel as Gaza militants launch rockets as Passover begins and Ramadan continues

Revelations 6:3-4 “when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

Important Takeaways:

  • Gaza militants blast rockets into Israel as Passover holiday begins
  • Tensions are spiking in Israel as the Jewish Passover and Muslim Ramadan play out
  • The Israeli military says all seven rockets exploded in midair. Tensions remain high in the country as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan continues, while the Jewish Passover began Wednesday. Israeli forces have tracked rocket barrages from Gaza throughout the week, though few have escaped the country’s air defenses.
  • The Israeli air force struck a Hamas weapons facility on Wednesday after a particularly violent night at the mosque saw some 350 people arrested. Israeli police said they had moved in after “several law-breaking youths and masked agitators” barricaded themselves into the mosque and began chanting violent slogans.
  • Last year, the same combination of tensions amid Ramadan and the Passover resulted in an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

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Cloud Seeding Rocket lands on busy sidewalk in China. Confirmed by Yeuchi County Meteorological Bureau

Revelation 16:9 “They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.”

Important Takeaways:

  • Video shows ‘cloud-seeding’ rocket narrowly missing pedestrians on busy sidewalk
  • China is shooting small, chemical-filled rockets high into the sky in an effort to manipulate weather conditions in parts of the country plagued by recent climate extremes.
  • Confirmation of the cloud-seeding operation was made by the Yeuchi County Meteorological Bureau
  • Cloud seeding is a technique used by China that allows for greater rainfall, hailstorm prevention, clearing the skies of clouds, as well as to lower air pollution levels.
  • Scientists have pursued the technique for decades, and China recently used cloud seeding to clear clouds out of the sky in order to celebrate the founding of the Chinese Communist Party in July 2021.
  • The technique is made through the addition of chemicals, including particles of silver iodide, among clouds to spur condensation and increase the chance of precipitation in a particular area.

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COVID and conflict: Gaza’s hospitals strained on two fronts

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) – Gaza’s hospitals were already struggling to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic before the conflict with Israel erupted last week. Now, medics say, they are being stretched further.

“The Ministry of Health is fighting on two fronts in the Gaza Strip – the coronavirus front and the other front, which is more difficult, is the injuries and the wounded,” said Marwan Abu Sada, the director of surgery in Gaza’s main Shifa hospital.

More than a week into fighting, with Palestinians pounded night and day by airstrikes and Israelis racing for refuge from rockets as sirens wail, Gaza’s doctors are battling to keep pace.

At Shifa, the biggest health facility among the 13 hospitals and 54 clinics serving the crowded enclave’s 2 million people, the number of intensive care beds has been doubled to 32 as the toll of those wounded from the conflict mounts.

Like the rest of the system, the 750-bed hospital faced shortages of medicines and equipment before fighting erupted on May 10 – blamed by medics on a blockade led by Israel and backed by Egypt, which shares a border with Gaza. Israel says its measures aim to stop arms reaching militants. “The list of essential medications and medical disposables suffered an acute shortage,” Abu Sada said.

It’s not just medicines in short supply. Fuel for generators that power Gaza’s hospitals – with main’s power too intermittent to be relied on – is also running out.

Israel says its blockade does not aim to stop medicines or other humanitarian supplies, and any shortages are the result of actions by Hamas, the Islamist group that has run Gaza since 2007, when the blockade was imposed.

“Hamas constructed a network of underground terror tunnels in Gaza underneath the homes of Palestinians, using funds meant for their health & welfare to expand Hamas’ terror machine instead,” Israel’s Foreign Ministry said on Twitter Monday.

Hamas has rejected the accusation.

Palestinians say 201 people have been killed in Gaza since the fighting started, with hundreds more hurt, including those wounded by shrapnel or injured by collapsing buildings.

Israel has reported 10 dead in the rocket salvoes, with many more injured, some directly by the blasts and others when dashing to safety. Some are in a critical condition.

“We have a very bad time over here,” said Racheli Malka, an Israeli living in Ashkelon, a city north of Gaza repeatedly hit by rockets. “I hope it will finish fast.”

Nearby, Israelis celebrated the Jewish festival of Shavuot in a synagogue that had a hole caused by a rocket strike.

The Israeli military said Hamas – regarded by Israel, the United States and European Union as a terrorist group – and others militants had fired about 3,150 rockets in the past week.

‘OLD EQUIPMENT, OLD BUILDINGS’

Sacha Bootsma, the head of the World Health Organization in Gaza, said COVID-19 had strained the enclave’s struggling system.

“Before COVID, the health system could be categorized as fragile because it has very old equipment, old buildings, a shortage of properly trained health staff and, of course, a chronic shortage of essential medicines,” she said.

Gaza has reported about 106,000 cases of COVID-19, or about 5.3% of the population, with 986 deaths, health official say.

While Israel has rolled out one of the fastest vaccination programs in the world, fully inoculating about 55% of its 9.3 million people, Gaza received about 110,000 doses, or enough for 55,000 people, health officials say, to be distributed among one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

One ward at Shifa, still marked “Corona Isolation Department”, has had to be turned into an intensive care unit for those injured in the conflict.

“We require more urgent support from international and relief institutions,” said Ashraf Al-Qidra, spokesman for the ministry of health, calling for medicines and ambulances.

For those living near Shifa hospital, the sound of ambulances wears on their already shattered nerves. “As long as we hear sirens we know it is not over yet,” said Karam Badr, 57.

Yet, healthcare workers keep the creaking medical facilities going. WHO’s Bootsma said scarce resources were still reaching those most in need.

“The resilience of the health system is remarkable,” she said.

(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Additional reporting by Eli Berlzon in Ashkelon; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Alex Richardson)

No normal life for Israelis in range of Gaza rockets

By Amir Cohen and Ari Rabinovitch

ASHKELON, Israel (Reuters) – Sirens wail, radio broadcasts are interrupted, cellphones beep with Red Alerts every few seconds, and warning messages flash up on TV. When you hear them, rush for cover.

This has become the routine across large areas of central and southern Israel, from small towns bordering Gaza to metropolitan Tel Aviv and southern Beersheva.

More than 2,000 rockets have been launched by Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups into Israel this week alone, amid the most serious fighting between Israel and Gaza militants since 2014.

It’s not a routine you can ever get used to, said Lior Dabush from the coastal city of Ashkelon, about 12 km (7 miles) north of Gaza.

“We rarely leave the house,” Dabush, 37, said from her apartment’s ‘safe’ room – a mandatory feature for all new homes in Israel – where she now sleeps with her two children.

“We take short showers and we don’t venture far from home,” she told Reuters. “At times my eight-year-old son does not want to leave the safe room.”

Hamas, the Islamist group that rules Gaza, launched the latest round of rocket attacks on Monday, after widespread Palestinian anger at threatened evictions of families from East Jerusalem, and Israeli police clashes with worshippers near Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site.

The threat of rockets even penetrated as far as Jerusalem, when impacts in villages on the outskirts set off sirens in the centre of the city, forcing Israelis taking part in an annual holiday to flee for cover, some running under the medieval battlements of the Jaffa Gate entrance to the walled Old City.

‘DAMAGED FOR LIFE’

On the other side of the Gaza border, Palestinian civilians also find themselves trapped between the militant groups firing the rockets and the Israeli military, which has spent days bombarding Gaza with hundreds of aerial and artillery shells.

Residents of north Gaza have fled their homes to take shelter in U.N.-run schools and Palestinian officials say at least 124 people there have been killed, including 31 children.

The rockets have killed eight people in Israel, including a five-year-old who was struck by shrapnel that managed to pierce the shielding of his reinforced ‘safe’ room.

That attack happened in the border town of Sderot, where it’s a matter of seconds between siren and impact, and the streets are largely empty of pedestrians.

Idit Botera, mother of a one-year-old child, said her sixth-floor apartment was damaged in the same barrage on Wednesday.

“We still haven’t processed what happened, our blood is boiling,” she said shortly after the strike. “These are kids who are being damaged for life and it doesn’t make sense.”

The impact on children – and the effect it will have on them later in life – is a common theme for Israelis living near Gaza, for whom rockets are an unwelcome but unavoidable fact of life.

In Netiv Haasara, a small Israeli community just north of the barrier that separates Israel from the Gaza Strip, tour guide Raz Shmilovitch, 45, reflected earlier this week on the toll the latest hostilities were taking.

“My family is not here now, I have taken them to a more remote safe place in which they will be safer to stay,” he said.

“In the longer run, once the war is over we are going to have to deal with the consequences of raising post-traumatic kids,” he told Reuters.

“If you have been living all your life as a kid under the threat of rockets being launched and being landed in your back yard, and you have between five to seven seconds from alarm to impact and that is the reality you are used to, that messes with your brain.”

(Reporting by Ran Tzabari, Amir Cohen, Baz Ratner and Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Ten rockets land at Iraqi air base hosting U.S. forces

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Ten rockets landed on Wednesday at Iraq’s Ain al-Asad air base, which hosts U.S., coalition and Iraqi forces, the Iraqi military said.

There were no reports of injuries among U.S. service personnel but an American civilian contractor died after suffering a “cardiac episode” while sheltering from the rockets, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.

“We cannot attribute responsibility at this time, and we do not have a complete picture of the extent of the damage,” Kirby added. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

Last Thursday, U.S. forces carried out air strikes against facilities at a border control point in Syria used by Iranian-backed militias including Kata’ib Hezbollah and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada.

A Baghdad Operations Command official said Wednesday’s attack had been launched from a location about eight km (five miles) from the base, which is in the westerly Anbar province.

Another Iraqi security source and a government official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the rockets had been launched from a point west of the nearby town of Baghdadi.

Despite a deterioration in security in some parts of the country, Pope Francis is due to begin a four-day visit to Iraq on Friday.

On Feb. 16, a rocket attack on U.S.-led forces in northern Iraq killed a civilian contractor and injured a U.S. service member.

(Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; additional reporting by Kamal Namaa and Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart in in Washington; Writing by Amina Ismail; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Analysis: South Korea sees hope and threat in mixed message from North’s Kim

By Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korean officials have seized on conciliatory comments by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on the weekend as a sign that tension could be easing but also worry the huge number of rockets he showcased is evidence that peace may be elusive.

Kim sent mixed signals as he addressed an unprecedented night-time military parade early on Saturday, wishing the neighboring Koreas would “hold hands” again after the novel coronavirus pandemic is over.

While much of the world was captivated by the appearance of a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), officials in South Korea were far more concerned by the display of new multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) and fast, maneuverable short-range missiles that would be ideal for striking targets in the South.

“The parade revealed not only an advanced ICBM but also MLRS that pose a direct threat to South Korea,” said South Korean opposition leader Kim Chong-in.

“They’ve not changed, their threats have grown even bigger.”

South Korean ruling party leader and former prime minister Lee Nak-yon said he took hope from Kim’s overture to the South as a “positive sign” but worried about what the display of new weapons said about North Korea’s intentions.

“North Korea showed advanced weapons including a new ICBM, which indicated it has not abandoned its resolve to develop weapons of mass destruction, and those weapons can threaten peace on the Korean peninsula,” Lee told a party meeting.

November’s U.S. election is compounding the uncertainty especially as the tone of ties between the two Koreas is often set by the state of North Korea’s relations with its old enemy the United States.

When a landmark summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump in 2018 brought an unprecedented easing of tension between those two countries, North Korea’s dealings with South Korea also saw a remarkable thaw.

But relations on the peninsula have been tense since a second summit between Kim and Trump collapsed last year, and they took another blow last month when North Korean troops shot dead a South Korean fisheries official detained at sea.

‘CROCODILE TEARS’

Shin Beom-chul, a senior fellow at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy in Seoul, said despite Kim’s conciliatory comments towards South Korea, his main message on Saturday was aimed at the United States.

“By showing a new ICBM, the North suggested they can test it any time if things don’t go well after the election. Inter-Korean ties don’t count to them,” Shin said.

The South Korean government said Kim’s speech would foster better ties but it urged North Korea to stick to agreements preventing armed clashes and accept a request for a joint investigation into the shooting of the fisheries official.

South Korean opposition leader Kim derided a teary display by Kim as he spoke of the sacrifices made by North Korea’s armed forces.

“It was appalling to see him shed crocodile tears after shooting our citizen to death,” he said.

Former South Korean nuclear negotiator Chun Yung-woo, pointing to North Korea’s extensive testing of MLRS and short-range missiles over the past year, while sticking to a moratorium on ICBM testing, said South Korea must not get carried away by hope for peace.

“All the media attention is on North Korea’s new strategic weapons but the most serious threat to our security is solid-fuel, short-range tactical missiles and MLRS that they’ve been madly testing over the past year,” Chun said.

“North Korea showed how it has focused on developing its capability to attack the South while our people have been absorbed in a peace campaign,” he said.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Josh Smith, Robert Birsel)

Rockets land near Baghdad airport after week of anti-U.S. attacks

GENEVA, Switzerland (Reuters) – Three rockets landed in the vicinity of Baghdad airport near a military base in the complex that houses U.S. forces, the Iraqi military said, after one of the busiest weeks of attacks against U.S. targets in Iraq for months.

The incident caused no casualties, the military said.

It followed at least five attacks directed at U.S. interests in Iraq this week, including four blasts against convoys carrying supplies to bases housing U.S. forces, a rocket attack on an air base north of Baghdad and a rocket attack near the U.S. Embassy in the capital.

Washington blames such attacks on Iranian-backed militia groups. Iran has not directly commented on the incidents but little-known groups believed to be connected to Iran-aligned militias have claimed some attacks.

Friday’s attack took place as Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi prepares to travel to the United States for talks about Iraq’s future strategic relationship with Washington.

It also comes after Israel and the United Arab Emirates, two regional opponents of Iran, announced they would normalize diplomatic ties, a move that some commentators say provides a fresh challenge to Iran’s power in the Middle East.

Iraq, where U.S.-Iran tensions have often spilled over into violence, seeks to avoid being drawn into any regional conflagration.

The Middle East came close to a full conflict in January after a U.S. drone strike killed the Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi paramilitary chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis at Baghdad airport.

Iran-aligned militias have sworn to avenge their deaths.

The militias see Kadhimi as having firmly sided with the United States since he took office in May, after he ordered an arrest raid against one powerful Iran-aligned group and has indicated he wants to rein in the paramilitaries.

(Reporting by John Davison; Editing by Chris Reese and Angus MacSwan)