A briefing from Israel for the world press on May 12 heard that the country’s famed Iron Dome defense shield has been 90 per cent effective in protecting against the latest round of missile attacks from the Gaza Strip.
Dubbed “Operation Guardian of the Walls” by Israel, the campaign as of this writing has resulted in five Israeli civilian deaths in the central and southern parts of the country, and one military fatality—a staff sergeant in the Nachal infantry brigade whose vehicle was hit with an anti-tank missile near the northern border with the Gaza Strip, resulting in injuries to other soldiers, said Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, the Israel Defense Forces’ international spokesperson.
The “essence” of the latest round of violence is to protect civilians “against the massive onslaught of rockets” from the Gaza Strip, Conricus said, noting that, to date, 1,050 missiles have been fired at Israel, with about 200 of those falling short and landing inside the Gaza Strip, causing civilian casualties.
This has been “heavily underreported” in the international media, Conricus said. He chided the media for reporting “a lot of misinformation” from “questionable” sources.
Israel’s Iron Dome is the “hero” of the campaign, he said, as it has come under “significant pressure” because of many different missiles or rockets it intercepts from many different directions.
“The system is holding, it is delivering, and it is saving lives every minute. The success rate is about 90 percent. It’s an amazing system.”
He said the IDF has been actively engaging and striking terrorist targets belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza. The challenge is that targets and operatives are embedded “deeply behind or within the civilian population. They do this on purpose in order to (use) them as human shields and to leverage any injuries to non-combatants in the international media for global condemnation against Israel.
“We are very careful and very mindful of trying not to hit non-combatants and to minimize collateral damage to the absolute smallest amount possible. We abide by the international law of armed conflict.”
Israel, Conricus said, has to date killed 25 combatants from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, while another five died in a tunnel being dug from Gaza to Israel which the IDF collapsed—“a very positive achievement.”
He dismissed higher numbers of reported Palestinian dead. “Hamas is known to lie, manipulate, and falsify.”
The IDF has standing orders to continue to attack military targets and to defend civilians along the Gaza border, he said.
Asked about children killed in the Gaza Strip by Israeli counterstrikes, Conricus returned to blaming Hamas for using human shields. “As a strategy, that is how they are operating. The root cause is how Hamas uses human shields.”
The latest clashes began May 6 between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police over a planned Supreme Court of Israel decision regarding evictions of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood of East Jerusalem.
Lior Haiat, spokesperson for Israel’s ministry of foreign affairs, told reporters the attacks were “planned” by Hamas to target civilians all over Israel.
“No other country in the world would accept this kind of terror attacks on its citizens,” he said. “Israel has the right to self-defense and we will act in order to defend our citizens.”
Haiat called the latest attacks “a double war crime” – targeting civilians in Israel and launching attacks from population centres in Gaza.
“They are using their own people as human shields and actually want to cause as many casualties in Israel and among the Palestinians as possible.”
He said he expects the international community to condemn the attacks against Israel, and to recognize Israel’s right to self-defense. Haiat said he was surprised at how many messages of support Israel has received from its Arab neighbours.
Mickey Rosenfeld, spokesperson for Israel’s National Police, echoed that the main message is to keep civilians safe. Depending on where they live, they have between 15 and 45 seconds to get to a safe zone, he said.
Rosenfeld noted there have been “widescale” riots in the northern town of Akko, while the mixed Arab-Jewish town of Lod witnessed what he called “literally pogroms” until curfews and lockdowns were imposed.
He cautioned against accepting the widely-reported number of Palestinians injured in riots on the Temple Mount, saying the real amount is about one-third of that.
In the previous 24 hours, 280 suspects were arrested for taking part in disturbances and riots, Rosenfeld said.