Israel discusses Gaza ground invasion as Rivlin warns against 'civil war'

Conflict intensifies within Israel and on its borders


Israeli soldiers fire a 155mm self-propelled howitzer towards the Gaza Strip from their position near the southern Israeli city of Sderot on May 13, 2021. - Israel faced an escalating conflict on two fronts, scrambling to quell riots between Arabs and Jews on its own streets after days of exchanging deadly fire with Palestinian militants in Gaza. (Photo by Menahem KAHANA / AFP) (Photo by MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images)

After a night-long barrage of rockets, and with a six-year-old being prepared for burial after his “vile murder”, Israel’s top soldiers and politicians are today expected to discuss the possibility of launching a ground invasion in Gaza.

If they decide to take this path, it will represent a major intensification of an already-severe round of violence.

Plans are believed to already exist for this scenario and others, and decisions are anticipated after an assessment later today. 

Some 130 projectiles were fired at Israel last night. Many hit central Israel, far from the usual Hamas target area near the Gaza border.

Rockets slammed into two buildings in Petach Tikva, near Tel Aviv, and militants targeted other areas in the centre of the country, where citizens spent large parts of the night in shelters. 

These areas are close to Ben Gurion Airport, and authorities decided to divert incoming international passenger flights to Ramon Airport near Eilat. 

In Sderot by the border, it was a night of tears, following the death of a six-year-old boy, killed when a rocket hit his home yesterday evening - even though he was in the reinforced safe room. The boy’s mother was badly wounded by shrapnel.

He has been named as Ido Avigail, and is the seventh fatality on the Israeli side in the current violence. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “This is a vile murder committed by the terrorist organization Hamas,” and vowed that the terror group will pay a “heavy price.” 

The death toll in Gaza has risen to 69, according to Hamas officials. These deaths have happened in the context of Israeli strikes on Gaza, which the IDF says target terror infrastructure and militant leaders, and are not intended to strike civilians. 

As the situation escalates between Israel and Hamas, violence between Arabs and Jews in Israel is also intensifying.

There were protests in numerous Arab areas, many of which turned violent, with stones thrown and police officers attacked. In an incident in Haifa, cars set on fire leading dozens to be treated for smoke inhalation.

Far-right Jewish Israelis have been gathering and in some cases also perpetrating violence. In an incident in Bat Yam, a mob attacked motorist who got out of his car, on the assumption he was Arab, hitting him as he lay on the ground. 

Calling in to Channel 12, President Reuven Rivlin implored Israelis to stop the “madness”, adding: "We are dealing with a civil war between us without any reason.”

Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, one of Israel’s two chief rabbis, issued a statement urging Israeli Jews against vigilante-type violence and stressing that such acts violate Jewish values.

"Innocent Israeli citizens are being attacked by terrorist organizations, the blood is indeed hot and our hearts are outraged; the scenes are difficult to watch,” he said.

“However, we must not be dragged into provocations and to hurting people or harming property.

“According to the Torah, there is no permission to take the law into one’s hands and act violently. The work of restoring order must be left to the police. We must be a light unto the nations, and not, God forbid, the opposite.”



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