Operation Guardian of the Walls entered its tenth day. As of 07:00 in the morning on May 19, 2021, 3,750 rockets had been fired at Israel. About 550 of them fell inside the Gaza Strip and the Iron Dome aerial defense system intercepted about 90% of the launches. During the past two days there been a decline in the amount and range of the rocket fire, although the barrages are still massive. Most of the rockets were fired at targets within 40 kilometers (25 miles) of the Gaza Strip, including the southern coastal Israeli cities of Ashqelon and Ashdod, and the Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip border. Rockets were also fired at Beersheba and at the coast to the north of Ashdod. Since May 15, 2021, no rockets have been fired at theGreater Tel Aviv area. So far 11 people have been killed by rocket fire; an IDF soldier was killed by an anti-tank missile.
The IDF continues responding to the rocket fire with intensive attacks on Hamas and
Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip. During the past 24 hours
primarily Khan Yunis and Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip were attacked.
May 18, 2021 was declared a “day of rage” with a general strike of Palestinians in Judea and Samaria and Israeli Arabs certain locations to show solidarity with Hamas and the Gaza Strip.
At one riot shots were fired at IDF soldiers, wounding two.
Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki appealed to the International Criminal Court
(ICC) to begin investigating Israel’s actions. Israel still rejects requests for a ceasefire and is determined to continue attacking in response to rocket fire from Gaza. Hamas, aware of the extensive damage done to its military-terrorist infrastructure, represents itself as defending al-Aqsa mosque and Jerusalem, attempting to involve Palestinians in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, and even Israeli Arabs, in the hostilities. Senior Hamas figures, especially those who do not live in the Gaza Strip, claim the hostilities are not for Gaza but rather for Jerusalem, and condition a ceasefire on meeting their demands for Jerusalem, al-Aqsa mosque and the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in east Jerusalem.
Rocket and mortar fire attacking Israel continues. On the afternoon of May 18, 2021, after a few hours of relative quiet, massive rocket fire again pounded the Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip. The hiatus in the rocket fire may have been because of deliveries of basic necessities to the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom Crossing following an UNRWA request made to Israel. On May 19, 2021, the rocket fire continued.
As of 07:00, May 19, 2021, about 3,750 rockets had been fired at Israel, about 550 of them falling inside the Gaza Strip. About 90% of the rockets which would have hit populated areas were intercepted by the Iron Dome aerial defense system. Rocket fire from the Gaza Strip has killed 11 people. An IDF soldier was killed when an anti-tank missile hit his jeep near the Gaza Strip. Several hundred civilians have been injured, and extensive damage has been done to private property, homes, public institutions, industry and agriculture. Responsibility for most of the attacks was claimed by Hamas and the PIJ.
Over the past few days there has been a decline in the quantity of rockets fired and an
increase in the length of the lulls between them, but the attacks are sill massive. Most of the rocket fire is within the 40-kilometer (25-mile) range, targeting mainly the Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip border and the cities of Ashqelon, Ashdod, Netivot, Sderot and Ofakim. Beersheba has also been attacked by rocket fire. Since the afternoon of May 15, 2021, no rockets have been fired at Israel’s center (the Greater Tel Aviv area and the coastal plain).
Some of the more serious events were the following:
- On the afternoon of May 19, 2021, a rocket was fired at one of the Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip, hitting the yard of a school empty at the time (western
Negev spokesman’s unit, May 19, 2021).
- On the morning of May 19, 2021, after a four-hour hiatus, rocket fire at Israel was renewed. Seven rocket hits were located near homes in one of the communities near
the Gaza Strip. No casualties were reported.
- On May 18, 2021, a mortar shell was fired at one of the communities in the western
Negev. It landed near a packing house, killing two people and wounding several.
Hamas military-terrorist wing said it was a Q20 rocket (Amad, May 18, 2021).
- On May 18, 2021, rockets were fired at Ashdod. One of them hit a 12-story apartment
house still under construction.
Direct hit on an apartment house still under construction in Ashdod
(Palinfo Twitter account, May 18, 2021)
Hamas’ military-terrorist wing claimed responsibility for firing rockets at six Israeli Air Force bases, by name, in retaliation for Israel’s attacks in the southern Gaza Strip (Palinfo Twitter account, May 19, 2021).
The IDF continued attacking terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip from the air, on land and from the sea. On the night of May 18, 2021, Israeli Air Force aircraft attacked Khan Yunis and Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. The attack lasted 25 minutes and focused on 40 Hamas militaryterrorist targets, among them tunnels, command and control centers, posts, weapons storehouses situated in the headquarters of Hamas internal security forces in Khan Yunis, and the terrorist infrastructure situated in residential housing (IDF spokesman, May 19, 2021). Earlier in the day planes attacked Hamas control and command centers in the houses of Hamas commanders in Gaza City and Khan Yunis (IDF spokesman, May 19, 2018).
PIJ targets were attacked, including a situation room for coordinating rocket fire, rocket
launchers positioned in an apartment and rocket launching site. Also attacked were squads
preparing to launch rockets (IDF spokesman, May 18 and 19, 2021).
On May 19, 2021, the attacks continued, including a military-terrorist complex belonging to
Hamas’ technological department, an underground rocket launching compound, the house
of a senior Hamas intelligence operative, and a PIJ site for the manufacture of weapons.
Regarding the attack on the al-Jalaa Building, which housed the transmitters of foreign news agencies and led to international criticism, Hamas issued an announcement denying it had offices in the building. According to Hamas, Israel’s claims were meant to justify the attack on a civilian building (Shehab Twitter account, May 18, 2021). United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Israel had provided additional information about the attack, but he declined to comment further (Reuters, May 18, 2021). The Israel media reported that Israel had given the United States intelligence information about the use Hamas made of the building. About an hour before the attack al-Jazeera TV (whose transmitters were located in the building) broadcast a conversation between an IDF representative and the owner of the building warning him of the attack and instructing to evacuate its occupants (al-Jazeera, May 15, 2021).
Rebuilding roads and removing unexploded ordnance
During the attacks civil defense crews in the Gaza Strip worked to quickly repair the roads
that were damaged, most, they claim, to make it possible for emergency vehicles to drive
through the city (Palinfo Twitter account, May 19, 2021).
Quick road repair (Palinfo Twitter account, May 19, 2021).
The department of explosives engineering in the ministry of the interior in Gaza, whose
employees are deployed throughout the Gaza Strip, reported that between the beginning of
the Operation and May 18, 2021, it had neutralized and destroyed about 149 bombs and
missiles (Filastin al-Yawm, May 18, 2021).
The ministry of health in Gaza reported that as of May 19, 2021, 219 people had been killed in the attacks and 1,570 wounded. Among those killed, according to the ministry, were 36 women, 119 men and 64 children, most of them in Gaza City (112) and the northern Gaza Strip (64) (ministry of health in Gaza Facebook page, May 19, 2021). The ministry of health again announced that following the IDF attack on its main office in the Rimal neighborhood of Gaza City, the central laboratory was damaged, making it currently impossible to test for thecoronavirus (ministry of health in Gaza Facebook page, May 19, 2021).
Ministry of health in Gaza infographic of Palestinian casualties since the beginning of Operation Guardian of the Walls: 291 killed, 1570 wounded
(ministry of health in Gaza Facebook page, May 19, 2021).
Foreign aid for the Gaza Strip
On May 18, 2021, Israel acceded to the UNRWA request to allow humanitarian assistance to enter the Gaza Strip. While the assistance was being delivered mortar shells were fired at the Kerem Shalom Crossing, the site of the delivery, and the Erez Crossing, usually meant to be used for the passage of pedestrians. An IDF soldier was superficially injured by shrapnel. In the wake of the attacks both crossings were closed.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, while visiting Paris, said Egypt would transfer $500
million for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. He said the work would be done with the
involvement of Egyptian companies, and added that during the past few days Egypt had
supplied the Gazans with food and medical aid (al-Masry al-Youm, May 18, 2021). Isma’il
Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political bureau, thanked el-Sisi, saying he appreciated the efforts
Egypt was making to halt Israel’s “aggression” and for opening the Rafah Crossing (Hamas
website, May 18, 2021). Mahmoud Abbas also thanked the Egyptian president (Wafa, May 18, 2021).
Stéphane Dujarric de la Rivière, the spokesperson for UN Secretary-General António
Guterres, gave a briefing where he related to the situation in Israel and the Gaza Strip. He said the deputy UN coordinator for the peace process had requested that the UN be allowed to deliver fuel, food and medical assistance to the Gaza Strip, and that UN humanitarian activists be allowed to enter (UN website, May 17, 2021).
Statements from the Hamas Leadership
Senior Hamas figures, especially those who do not live in the Gaza Strip, represent the events as a victory for Hamas. Their conditions for a ceasefire include an arrangement for Jerusalem, al-Aqsa mosque and the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in east Jerusalem.
Khaled Mashaal, a Hamas “external” leader, said the “resistance” [i.e., the terrorist
organizations] in the Gaza Strip had defeated Israel for the sake of Jerusalem and al-Aqsa
mosque. He said Israel had been surprised by the resistance and was now looking to claim
victory by killing senior movement figures. According to Mashaal, Hamas was not defending
itself but rather Jerusalem and Sheikh Jarrah. He said the “resistance” in the Gaza Strip had shattered the image of the “Zionist enemy” and showed it could be defeated. He also said that despite the settlements, the occupation and the security coordination [with the PA], the West Bank belonged to the Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades and Yahya Ayyash (“the engineer,” a senior Hamas terrorist operative killed in a targeted attack). He said they wanted an intifada and all forms of “resistance,” and that the intifada had to be ignited not only in Judea and Samaria but inside Israel. He added that anyone whose house had been damaged would receive compensation and Hamas would collect donations for Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip (al-Aqsa, May 18, 2021).
Isma’il Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political bureau, said the “resistance” could protect the
Palestinian people and the holy sites from Israeli aggression. He said the “resistance” knew
how to achieve the goals of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem and
everywhere (Shehab, May 18, 2021).
Musa Abu Marzouq, deputy “external” Hamas leader, was interviewed by the RT channel in Arabic. He, said there was nothing wrong with the proposal to send an international force to separate IDF forces and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, because the in that case the Gaza Strip would not be occupied. Asked why they did not construct bomb shelters for the Gazan population, Musa Abu Marzouq evaded the question and said there were places the population could escape to, but refused to elaborate. As for the destruction in the Gaza Strip, he said that every time people said Hamas had been hit hard, Hamas rehabilitated itself (RT TV in Arabic, May 17, 2021). On another occasion he said that because of running to bomb shelters, the alerts and Hamas’ rockets, “the next Zionist generation” would not fight, it would hesitate and be confused and cowardly (Musa Abu Marzouq’s Twitter account, May 18, 2021).
Gazans housed in an UNRWA school (Palinfo Twitter account, May 19, 2021).
The Palestinian Authority (PA)
Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki sent a communiqué (through the permanent PA
delegation to the ICC) to Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor, demanding she accelerate the beginning of the investigation into the situation in “Palestine.” He also demanded she issue a strong statement about Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip and its attempts to use force to evict residents of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in east Jerusalem. According to al-Maliki, practical steps taken by the chief prosecutor would warn the Israeli leadership that their actions were being monitored. He said the Palestinian leadership and the Palestinian people would resist all Israel’s action until they stopped and Israel was brought to trial (al-Quds, May 19, 2021).
In response to statements from Hamas “external” spokesman Husam Badran, who called
on the PA to cancel is security coordination with Israel, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for
Mahmoud Abbas, said the security coordination with Israel was a foundation of Palestinian
sovereignty and defense of the Palestinian people (QudsN, May 18, 2021).
The Palestinian “day of rage”
The call for a “day of rage” was answered by a substantial percentage of the population in
Judea and Samaria. On May 18, 2021, there was a general strike in Judea, Samaria and east Jerusalem, and the educational institutions were closed as well. Demonstrations attended by several thousand people were held in Ramallah, Nablus, Tulkarm and Jerusalem. Senior Fatah figures participated in some of the demonstrations. For the first time in years, operatives of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades (Fatah’s military-terrorist wing) marched through the streets of Ramallah firing their guns into the air. They said they had been absent [from view] for a long time, but had recently renewed their activities (al-Mayadeen, May 17, 2021). Palestinians confronted the Israeli security forces. Four Palestinians were killed rioting against IDF forces in al-Bireh, Bila’in and Ni’lin, and about 200 were injured.
There was a serious incident north of al-Bireh during a mass demonstration where Palestinians shot at IDF soldiers, superficially wounding two of them. The soldiers returned
fired. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the shots were fired at the soldiers to show
solidarity with the operation in the Gaza Strip. He called on the Palestinian people in general and operatives in the PA security forces in the West Bank in particular to join the “resistance,” especially the “armed resistance,” and to bravely attack Israeli targets (Dunia al-Watan, May 18, 2021).
Isma’il Haniyeh congratulated the Palestinians in the Judea and Samaria who rose up
against the “occupation” and showed their “blood ties with the Gaza Strip” and the Arabs in
Israel. He also praised the Arabs in Israel for their strike (Filastin al-Yawm, May 18, 2021).
Hamas and Mediation Attempts
“External” Hamas spokesman Husam Badran said Egypt, Qatar and the UN had mediated
for a ceasefire with Israel from the first day of the hostilities. He said he was in direct contact with Isma’il Haniyeh. He claimed Hamas did not want a war and Israel began it with its actions in Jerusalem, even if Hamas had fired the first rockets. He said Israel had to stop its aggression in Jerusalem adding that Hamas was in contact with Fatah, attempting to coordinate a number of issues (Dunia al-Watan, May 18, 2021).
Taher al-Nunu, Isma’il Haniyeh’s media advisor, said that for several days there have been
contacts with Israel for a ceasefire, but so far no final proposal had been formulated and no
date had been agreed on (al-Araby, May 19, 2021). A Hamas source said Egypt had sent Israel a communiqué regarding a lull in the Gaza Strip but Israel had not yet replied to it. He said Hamas did not know what was in it, and so far no final proposal for a lull had been made (alAkhbar, May 19, 2021).
Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, the Turkish foreign minister, speaking before the Turkish parliament,
said that Turkey, under Erdogan’s leadership, would not stop supporting the Palestinian
cause. He said Turkey led the diplomatic efforts concerning the cause, adding that the
international reaction to Israel’s attacks had been “weak” (al-Andalou News, May 18, 2021).