Rockets Launched at Israel From Gaza Hit Record Number in 2018

This year’s total is even greater than the large number launched at Israel in 2014, which helped trigger the last Gaza war

Rocket from Gaza that fell on Kissufim on Tuesday night, 19 June 2018
Eliahu Hershkovitz

Palestinians have fired 289 rockets and mortar shells from the Gaza Strip into Israel since the beginning of the year, reports the Defense Ministry. This is more than any recent year – including the period in 2014 that preceded Operation Protective Edge that began on July 8 of that year.

In comparison, before the beginning of the fighting in Gaza that summer, only 205 rockets and mortar shells were fired at Israel from Gaza. Including the period of the war in Gaza, 4,897 missiles were fired at Israel in 2014. In all of 2017, only 35 such incidents were recorded, compared to 15 in 2016 and 21 in 2015.

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Tuesday night, the residents in the Israeli communities near the border with the Gaza Strip were forced to take shelter in their protected rooms eight times. Between 1:43 A.M. and 4:04 A.M., 13 rockets and mortar shells were fired into Israel, said the IDF Spokesman’s Office. Some were intercepted by the Iron Dome system.

Most of the rockets fired in 2018 were concentrated over the last three months, since the Palestinians began their large protests and riots along the border fence, and started launching incendiary kites and balloons at Israeli fields and forests. The largest number of rockets and mortar shells fired came over a few days, about 100 on May 29 and 30 and another 45 on June 20.

The Israeli government decided to begin Operation Protective Edge in 2014 after a large number of rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza. At the time, Hamas also fired rockets at Israeli cities in the south such as Ashdod and Ashkelon. This time, Hamas is being very careful to fire only at the smaller communities near the border. This is viewed by Israeli security officials as evidence that Hamas is not trying to escalate the situation, for now.

The day before Protective Edge began, then-Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, now the defense minister, conducted a fiery argument with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset in which he accused Netanyahu of not acting to end the rocket fire at Israeli communities near Gaza.

Referring to the three Israeli teens who had been kidnapped and murdered by Hamas terrorists less than a month earlier and whose bodies had only recently been found, Lieberman said the day before Protective Edge began: “You are the one who held a press conference after the funeral of the kidnapped [boys] and spread slogans without backing them up in the cabinet.” Lieberman said Netanyahu had promised to hit Hamas hard “but none of this is happening and they are continuing to fire at civilians.”

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Lieberman said at the time that the “approach of quiet will be met with quiet is a serious mistake and we in Yisrael Beiteinu reject this approach. It cannot be that after three youths were kidnapped and murdered and after two weeks filled with rockets, Israel’s approach is quiet will be answered with quiet. We must immediately destroy the terror infrastructure and the manufacturing plants of missiles that today can reach Netanya. It is impossible to destroy terrorist infrastructure just from the air,” he added. The next day Lieberman and his Yisrael Beiteinu party broke from Likud, ending their parliamentary partnership.

These days Lieberman, now defense minister, has to deal with even heavier rocket fire than Netanyahu had to contend with in the summer of 2014. Nonetheless, Lieberman supports the approach of the defense establishment of preserving the relative quiet in the Gaza region, even at the price of restraint in the face of rocket fire at Israeli communities.
This is evident in reports in recent days that Lieberman is making efforts to establish a port facility in Cyprus that would serve Gaza in the hope of improving the economic situation there and preventing a military escalation.