The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has confirmed via a tweet that arocket has struck outside Jerusalem. There were unconfirmed reports of the strike earlier by Al Jazeera, Deutsche Presse Agentur, FOX News and other Western media outlets. Thursday, for the first time, Hamas targeted Tel Aviv. The recent report will most certainly escalate the conflict, which could erupt into an all-out war.
The IDF tweet was short and to the point:
Confirmed: A rocket fired from Gaza struck outside Jerusalem, Israel's capital city.
Earlier air raid sirens had sounded in Jerusalem, sending Israelis to look for cover. Al Jazeera reported that sirens sounded in Jerusalem. Report Nisreen Shamaleh, who was reporting from Jerusalem and said that they were checking to see what was happening with the police and the army. The reporter proclaimed that if this is true that it would be a game-changer.
"Al Jazeera's Nisreen El Shamayleh, reporting from Jerusalem, said, "A few minutes ago we heard sirens sounding in Jerusalem. We are trying to check what is happening with the police and the army. News reports are suggesting that three rockets launched from Gaza have landed in the vicinity of Jerusalem. These are unconfirmed."
"If this is true, then this changes the whole game. This is the first time this happens, if it is confirmed as true."
Discussing the earlier rockets launched at Tel Aviv on both Thursday and Friday, she went on to say "Gaza is trying to send the message that it is able to fire at Tel Aviv whenever it wants to. If the recent developments in Jerusalem, which we've been quoting news reports on, then the Israeli government needs to worry on how to protect Jerusalem." Al Jazeera
According to the IDF it is true. What now?
Emergency Gaza Cease Fire
Prior to this morning's attack Egypt attempted to get a temporary cease fire, at least during the visit of its prime minister. Those hopes were immediately dashed. Hisham Kandil visited Gaza to show solidarity with the Palestinian people.
While Israel agreed to a cease fire during the visit, it said that Hamas had violated the cease fire when it fired rockets into southern Israel. Israel has recalled 16,000 Reservists and tanks on transporters and buses with troops were seen moving to the Gaza border. This could be a precursor for a Gaza invasion.
Hamas claimed that the Israeli Air Force had struck a house of a Hamas commander, killing two civilians, including a child. For the time being each side is accusing the other for the spurring of violence.
Germany has blamed Hamas for the violence. German Chancellorhas called on Egypt to use its influence to bring the violence to an end, reiterating that Israel had the “right and obligation” to protect its population.
“Hamas in Gaza is responsible for the outbreak of violence,” Merkel’s spokesman Georg Streiter told a news conference. “There is no justification for the shooting of rockets at Israel, which has led to massive suffering of the civilian population.” National Post
Civilians killed on both sides
The UN High Commissioner for Human Right Navi Pillay has urged both sides to take the necessary precautions to protect civilians, including women and children. She made particular mention of three Israeli citizens killed in their apartment by one of the hundreds of rockets fired over the past week as well as several Palestinian children, including a baby, and also a pregnant woman and some other civilians killed in Gaza.
"The High Commissioner has repeatedly and unequivocally condemned the indiscriminate firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel, and is deeply concerned both by the recent major upsurge in the number of rocket attacks, and that they are now being aimed at a major city such as Tel Aviv. She is also extremely concerned by the sharp increase in aerial attacks by Israeli forces on the heavily populated Gaza Strip in the past two days and urges both sides to pull back from an increasingly dangerous confrontation.
The High Commissioner urges all sides involved to comply strictly with international human rights law and international humanitarian law." UNHCHR Press Brief
Meanwhile Breitbart reports that the Israeli Defence Force has discovered launch sites next to a Mosque and a childrens playground and that the IDF was able to surgically take out the site with an airstrike.
"The launch site was set up to allow Hamas to fire long-range rockets into Israel. Aerial photos of the launch given to KleinOnline show "a children’s playground and a mosque located about a half a block away."
In addition, two civilian factories and a gas station were also within a half-block radius of the launch site.
Hamas and other terrorist groups have fired nearly 500 rockets into Israel since fighting began anew in the Gaza Strip four days ago."
Reuters reports that Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak has sought government approval for the mobilization of 75,000 troops, in view of the rocket attacks directed at Jerusalem. Barak is polling ministes by telephone. CNBC.com Thee mobilization would be in support of a ground attack into Gaza.
The launching of a rocket near Israel is sure to be a game-changer, as reported by the Al Jazeera reporter. With the recall of 16,000 troops and movement of equipment and personnel on the Gaza border, there should be no doubt about Israel's future intention.
Benjamin Netanyahu is in the middle of an election campaign and he is required to project strength, not weakness. The Middle East is ablaze, with Syria next door the uncertainty of how Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi will react, Israel is between a rock and a hard place.
President Obama currently has a full plate, but he must be concerned about these developments. Hopefully the US can use its influence on Egypt and Israel to avoid an expansion of the violence. An escalation could be drastic, with many unintended consequences.