JEWISH leaders in Australia have welcomed the reduction by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) of the rocket threat from Gaza in a five-day military operation that saw heavy fighting between Israel and Gaza.
However, after a ceasefire was declared on Saturday, the short lull was broken again on Sunday night (Israel time), with a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip at the southern coastal city of Ashkelon.
The IDF said the rocket landed in an open field, without causing any injuries or damage. The Iron Dome air defence system was not used, as the missile was not heading for a populated area, the IDF added.
The ceasefire came into effect late on Saturday evening, although rocket attacks and retaliatory airstrikes continued in the following hours.
The IDF said a total of 1379 rockets had landed in Israel, but 95 per cent of the missiles heading for populated areas were intercepted by the Iron Dome defence system. The IDF reported that 21 terror operatives in Gaza were killed during the fighting.
Two people in Israel were killed by the rockets. Inga Avramyan, 80, was helping her invalid husband to a bomb shelter when their Rehovot apartment was hit by a missile. Palestinian labourer Abdullah Abu Jaba died after a Gazan rocket fell short and hit an agricultural building site at the Israeli town of Shokeda near the Gaza border.
Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler said, “We are hopeful that by reducing Islamic Jihad’s terrorist capabilities, Israel and its citizens will be protected from rocket attacks from Gaza and a repeat will be many years away.”
Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Peter Wertheim stated, “The time has come for all Palestinian groups, not just some of them, to renounce the path of violence once and for all.
“The strategy of violence has been a demonstrable and devastating failure for the Palestinian people. It has served only to unite Israelis, and to fortify their will to survive and strengthen the Jewish State. The Palestinians desperately need new leaders who are committed to pursuing the only strategy that they have not yet tried – a strategy of permanent peace with Israel.”
Welcoming the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire, Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) executive director Colin Rubenstein said, “More violence would have benefited no one. Yet overall, despite the cost in civilian casualties and the disruptions to daily life in Israel under a rain of missiles, this operation was highly successful for the Jewish State.
“By eliminating the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)’s top rocket commanders and terror planners in the Gaza Strip in airstrikes executed with remarkable precision, and destroying much of PIJ’s military infrastructure, Israel substantially weakened PIJ’s command and control structure, and terror capabilities. This sent a strong message of enhanced deterrence to Israel’s enemies, both near and far.”
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In a May 11 tweet, Foreign Minister Penny Wong stated, “The escalating violence in Israel and the Palestinian Territories is deeply concerning. Australia condemns the indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza and respects Israel’s right to defend itself. We continue to urge all parties to exercise restraint and protect civilian lives.”
However, a day earlier she had tweeted, “Australia is deeply concerned by the tragic loss of civilian life, including children, from Israeli airstrikes overnight in Gaza. We continue to urge all parties to exercise restraint. Civilian lives must be protected.”
Wong’s earlier comments drew the ire of Victorian Deputy Liberal leader David Southwick. The Caulfield MP responded on Facebook, “To defend itself, Israel targets key terrorist sites. And who does Labor condemn? Israel.
“Israel is the only beacon of democracy in the Middle East. It doesn’t need allies, like Australia, defending terrorist organisations who use innocent civilians as human shields.”
In a speech to the NSW Parliament during the Israel-Gaza clashes, Liberal Deputy Opposition leader Natalie Ward paid tribute to Israel’s 75th anniversary, referring to “the friendship of Australia and Israel, and our fundamental belief in freedom, justice and peace”.
In response, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies posted on Facebook, “As more than 1000 rockets were fired into Israel last week, Deputy Opposition Leader Natalie Ward proudly stood with the Jewish State.”