[This article was updated after new details on the Israeli victim were released. – Ed.]
An elderly Israeli became the first Israeli fatality of the 4-day Operation Shield and Arrow against the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror group.
By Jonathan Hessen and Erin Viner
Inga Avramyan, 80, died on 11 May while trying to help her disabled husband reach shelter after their residential building sustained a direct strike in the central city Rehovot, 45 kilometers (27 miles) north of Gaza. Eight others were injured in the attack shortly after 6 PM last night.
96% of at least 866 rockets fired at Israel have been intercepted. IDF Spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari revealed this morning that the Iron Dome suffered a technical malfunction during the Rehovot attack.
Many other apartment buildings and private residences have also sustained hits since the start of the conflict, causing significant structural damage but no major injuries.
Sources say a primary obstacle to Egypt’s efforts to broker a ceasefire remains Israel’s refusal to concede to the PIJ demand that targeted killing of its commanders be halted.
“Whoever harms us – will pay the price, as will his replacement. We are in the midst of a campaign, on both offense and defense,” stated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli leader made the remarks during a visit Brigade 66, which operates the David’s Sling Weapons System that made its first successful interception over the skies of Tel Aviv yesterday. Incidentally, the system, which is the second layer of Israel’s aerial defense array, was recently procured by Finland.
This morning – negotiations in Egypt were ongoing – intensified attacks by the PIJ at Israeli civilian communities today included Jerusalem and its environs. Prime Minister Netanyahu reacted by halting the mediation and instead ordered the defense establishment to increase attacks on the PIJ in Gaza.
The Israel Air Force has retaliated against at least 215 separate terrorist targets in the Palestinian enclave since the start of the operation, which began on 9 May in response to a heavy 104-rocket and mortar barrage by PIJ a week earlier.
During a press conference at a meeting of the Munich Group, attended by the Foreign Ministers of Germany, France, Jordan and Egypt, Berlin’s top diplomat Annalena Baerbock underscored that, “Israel, like every other country in the world, has the right to defend its population against attacks. And at the same time, and I would like to say this very clearly, like every other country in the world, it has the duty to protect the civilian population to the best of its ability and to maintain proportionality.”
While Germany voiced unequivocal backing of Israel’s right to self-defense, the United States has been more circumspect. Readouts of separate telephone calls between US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan with his Israeli counterpart Tzachi Hanegbi and of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant mentioned Washington’s support for Jerusalem’s right to defend its citizens, although the State Department has yet to publish a direct statement on the matter.
Moreover, when asked by a Palestinian journalist about the White House view, State Department Deputy Spokesman Vedant Patel remarked, “We have continued to call on both sides, on both the – our Israeli partners and the Palestinian Authority, to take prudent steps to ensure the loss of civilian life is prevented and that steps are taken to ensure that violence is reduced, and these kinds of actions don’t happen. Of course, the reporting that we’re seeing from overnight is tragic and heartbreaking, but that is exactly why we continue to pursue our efforts for a negotiated Two-State Solution and why we continue to pursue a goal of equal measures of prosperity, security, and freedom for Israelis and Palestinians.”
Neither the Palestinian Authority nor Hamas have been involved in the current cross-border hostilities with Israel – but rather, solely the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which receives its funding, training and directives from the Islamic Republic of Iran.