In the six short days I’ve been back in Israel following a month-long absence, there have been several attempts – one successful – to murder Israeli Jews by Arab Palestinian terrorists.
Israelis live their lives pretty much the way most Americans live theirs. One distinction, however, is that all Israelis’ telephones do more than just connect them to friends and family. They are, in fact, a source of immediate information about the terror attacks. These attacks disrupt everyone’s consciousness on a regular basis.
My friend with whom I’m traveling is a terror attack survivor; she has myriad sources from which she receives updates on a continuous basis. I also have many news sources from which I receive near-immediate news.
So, no surprise, we learned immediately that Sunday’s attack at the Ariel Junction was successful. At least one Israeli had been murdered, along with several wounded.
This is what happened.
ARAB TERRORIST MURDERS ISRAELIS
A 19 year-old soldier, Gal Keidan, was guarding the entrance to the community of Ariel. Ariel is a Jewish community, but its university has hundreds of Arab students as well.
At about 9:45 a.m. a 20 year-old Arab Palestinian, later identified as Omar Abu Lila who is from a nearby village, approached Keidan and stabbed him. As soon as Keidan was wounded, the terrorist wrestled away the soldier’s M-16 rifle and shot Keidan at point blank range, killing him.
The terrorist then used the stolen rifle to fire at three vehicles passing by.
Forty-seven year-old Rabbi Achiad Ettinger of the nearby town of Eli was on his way to work when he witnessed the attack. Ettinger turned his car around and approached the terrorist. The rabbi drew his personal firearm and fired at the terrorist four times, wounding him. The terrorist shot Ettinger in the head while the rabbi was drawing his gun.
Next, the terrorist hijacked a car from the side of the road. Lila drove to the next intersection, and shot another Israeli, before abandoning the car and slipping away into the nearby Arab village of Bruqin.
Rabbi Ettinger, the father of 12 children, died from his wounds on Monday morning. The victims, Ettinger and Keidan, were buried on Monday. The third Israeli shot by Abu Lila remains in critical condition.
CANDY HANDED OUT TO CELEBRATE MURDER OF ISRAELIS
While the manhunt continued for the Arab terrorist, in the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis, Palestinian Arabs handed out candy to celebrate the murder of Jews.
President Trump’s Special Assistant Jason Greenblatt slammed Hamas for referring to the murderous attack as “heroic and courageous.”
By Monday afternoon, Israeli security forces had detained the father and brother of the terrorist in the nearby town of Az-Zawiya, according to Arab news sites.
When he witnessed Abu Lila stabbing and shooting Gal Keidan, Rabbi Ettinger had been driving to his job in southern Tel Aviv, where he was the head of a religious boys post-high school program.
Tel Aviv, Israel’s second largest and most metropolitan city, played a more central role in the earlier terror attack on Thursday evening. It was the target of a rocket attack that night.
ROCKETS AND SIRENS SHAKE TEL AVIV
Thursday I attended a reception for two members of a new political party in Israel. While waiting for the event to begin and chatting with friends, I realized my phone kept buzzing. It was my 23 year-old daughter in Philadelphia, frantically texting and calling me. She saw from the alerts on her phone that sirens had gone off in Tel Aviv. “What’s going on?” She demanded.
By the time the political event ended, Israel’s Defense Forces had confirmed that two Iranian-made Fajr rockets had been fired from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip towards Tel Aviv. No physical injuries were reported, but several people were taken to hospital for shock.
Sunday’s murderous attack in Ariel received almost no international media attention. The news of the Gaza rockets shot at Tel Aviv, however did garner some attention, as did the Israeli response of targeting 100 Gaza terror sites. There were even some international news reports about nine additional rockets being fired at southern Israel on Friday.
What received far less attention, however, is what many Israelis have concluded is the reason the rockets were shot at Tel Aviv last week.
WERE THE ROCKETS FIRED AT TEL AVIV TO DEFLECT PUBLIC ATTENTION FROM GAZA RESIDENTS PROTESTING HAMAS?
Why now? Violent riots by Gazans raging at the Israel-Gaza border have gone on for almost a year. Israel’s border towns have been under near-constant arson attacks from Gaza. But Tel Aviv? It has not been a target in five years, since the 2014 Israel-Gaza War.
While some speculated that the rockets were set off by “low-level functionaries,” and were, essentially, a typo, the far more likely reason is they – and the expected Israeli response in Gaza – were a calculated deflection from outraged protests by civilian Gaza residents against the ruling Hamas regime.
IN ADDITION TO BEING A TERRORIST ORGANIZATION, HAMAS IS A FAILED GOVERNING ENTITY
Hamas is a fair-to-middling terrorist organization, but it is utterly unequipped to be, and largely disinterested in being, a functioning government. Gaza has an extraordinarily high unemployment level, widespread poverty, and a weak to non-existent infrastructure. Gazans are taxed at a very high level on even the most basic products, despite these deprivations,
On Thursday, Hamas forces had dispersed hundreds of Palestinian Gazans protesting their living conditions. The rallies included rock throwing and burning tires and were organized under the slogan, “We want to live.” These protests erupted from north to south across the Gaza Strip, and were viewed as a challenge to Hamas rule.
It was not only the protests from which Hamas sought to deflect attention. Videos were circulating on Thursday on social media which showed Hamas security forces “firing live rounds in the air, beating protesters and hauling them into police vehicles.” There were reports that Hamas security forces used live fire not just in the air, but against the protesters. This is not a good look for Hamas, which wants only Israel to be seen as responsible for Gazan misery.
HAMAS SECURITY FORCES VICIOUSLY BEAT GAZAN PROTESTERS
In addition, there were reports of the beating by Hamas security forces, and the arrest, of journalists who were covering the protests, as well as the raiding of their homes. Seven Arab Palestinian reporters were taken into custody over the weekend. Four journalists required hospitalization, according to reports.
Not only were reporters being beaten for telling the truth about Hamas’ repression and brutal tactics but human right’s activists as well.
The director of the Ramallah-based Independent Commission for Human Rights, Ammar Dweik, said that Hamas forces attacked and severely beat the director of its Gaza branch and his attorney, and seized their cell phones. He announced “Hamas wants to silence rights groups who are monitoring the protests that have been raging in Gaza streets,” which Dweik said were over high prices and tax hikes.
In a rare rebuke of anyone other than Israelis, the United Nations envoy to Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Nickolay Mladenov, issued a statement: “I strongly condemn the campaign of arrests and violence used by Hamas security forces against protesters, including women and children, in Gaza.”
Gazans were handing out candy on Sunday to celebrate the murder of Israelis in Ariel. It appeared to be a return to normalcy for Hamas.