LIA TARACHANSKY, TRNN: Two terror attacks shook Israel on Thursday and Friday. The attackers fired on an Israeli bus, set off a suicide bombing and roadside bombs, fired on civilian vehicles, and engaged in a fire battle with the Israeli army. The day after, 20 Grad rockets hit the southern Israeli city of Ashdod, damaging a synagogue. By the weekend, eight Israelis were killed and almost 40 injured.
IDF OFFICER (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): We arrived within minutes to the site. We came across a number of terrorists and hit three terrorists in a gunbattle.
TARACHANSKY: Immediately after the initial attack, the Israeli Air Force bombed many locations in Gaza, despite an admitted lack of evidence that the attackers originated from the Gaza Strip. The attackers fired from the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, just south of Israel. In a speech, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referred to a group called the Popular Resistance Committee and said:
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Those who gave the order to murder our citizens while hiding in Gaza are no longer among the living. I commend the IDF and the intelligence security services who eliminated today, in Gaza, the senior figures of the organization which carried out the terror attacks in the south.
TARACHANSKY: According to Anshel Pfeffer of Haaretz, “Israeli forces killed five of the terrorists, and Egyptian soldiers reportedly killed two more. But the Israeli Defense Forces estimates that 15 to 20 participated in the attack, meaning most escaped.” Among the Israeli casualties on Thursday was a 22-year-old soldier called Moshe Naftali. On Friday, hundreds attended his funeral, and his best friend, …, spoke:
(SUBTITLED TRANSLATION) Moshe, you know I admire you. You were always smiling and happy. You were a real person. You always did what you believed in, and if you made a decision, you stuck to it till the end.
TARACHANSKY: Almost immediately after the terror attacks on Thursday, the Israeli Air Force bombed many locations in Gaza and killed the leader of the Popular Resistance Committee, to which Netanyahu referred. However, the army could not confirm that the group was connected to the terror attack. The Real News spoke with Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibowitz.
TARACHANSKY: On what are you basing your conclusion that this group is responsible for the terror attacks?
AVITAL LEIBOWITZ, FOREIGN MEDIA DESK, ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCES: We did not say that this group was responsible for the terror attack. We based this on intelligence information [incompr.] that actually presented an hour ago to some wires and journalists some of the findings that were upon the bodies of the terrorists. And they are using, for example, Kalashnikov bullets, since Kalashnikov rifles are very common in Gaza.
TARACHANSKY: Many terror groups use Kalashnikovs.
LEIBOWITZ: No, not many terror groups. I’m not saying–I’m referring to the terrorists that came from Gaza.
TARACHANSKY: Prime Minister Netanyahu said today that the group that was responsible for the terror attack was the one that was eliminated. And you’re saying that’s not the case?
LEIBOWITZ: I don’t know what he said. I’m not Prime Minister Netanyahu. I’m saying that the group came from Gaza, and I’m giving the proof why it came from Gaza, why–how we know [incompr.] came from Gaza. This is all I’m saying.
TARACHANSKY: According to Ma’an News, the Popular Resistance Committee denied its involvement in the attack, and Hamas denounced any responsibility for it. Since Israel began bombing Gaza on Thursday, nine people have been killed and almost 30 injured. At least two children–a five- and a two-year-old–were among the dead. The Real News also spoke with Mohammed Fares Al Majdalawi, a journalist and a social worker based in Gaza City.
MOHAMMED FARES AL MAJDALAWI, JOURNALIST AND SOCIAL WORKER, GAZA CITY: It’s 24 hours [that] many aircrafts, they are bombing many places–in Rafah or Khan Yunis; and their target, East Gaza; another attack in North Gaza. But the people not like the war. But they think there is another war, because they’re now–they’re collecting, like, basic needs like breads, like gas, natural gas, because they think that Israel will do another war.
TARACHANSKY: The terror attacks came at the height of a mass popular movement that saw the biggest demonstrations in the country’s history. The protests, which started over housing and commodity prices, quickly turned against the prime minister, demanding that Netanyahu resign.
CROWD: Mubarak, Assad, Bibi Netanyahu!
TARACHANSKY: The prime minister has mostly kept quiet about the popular movement. But many protesters I spoke with were concerned that he may use a large-scale military offensive in order to distract from the movement and from the upcoming September request by the Palestinian Authority to be recognized as a state by the United Nations.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): I think we need to ask ourselves what we’re going to do if and when the current regime will attempt to save itself with a war. I think we’d need to have strikes all over the country and occupy the city hall, and I’ll be happy to be part of something like that that. And anyone who’ll join, thanks a lot.
TARACHANSKY: Yossi Gurvitz is a contributing editor to the +972 Magazine.
YOSSI GURVITZ, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, +972 MAGAZINE: Very often once the army has a target, it goes after that target regardless of strategic importance or of actual goals. If we can get–if we can hit a similar-ranking terrorist, they will take him out regardless if he was involved, not involved, had anything to do with the other attack. They had a chance, and they take it automatically. Nobody thinks about the political and strategic implications. And we also often find ourselves in trouble. If this situation escalates–and it seems it would–I think this will lead to a backlash.
TARACHANSKY: Backlash from who?
GURVITZ: From the Israeli public, who is feeling that it was cheated. The leader of the student movement, Shmuli, has informed the public that he is withdrawing from the rally planned in Jerusalem for Saturday night. However, the organizers of the other rallies said they will hold those rallies despite the attack, but they will hold them in a muted session. People are asked to wear black and march silently in honor of the murdered people.
TARACHANSKY: Following the Thursday attack, Israeli forces also killed five Egyptians, including three policemen. Egypt has demanded an immediate investigation by Israel and denounced the killing. According to Ma’an News, Egyptian security officials have said that they had uncovered a workshop capable of producing suicide belts, once again casting doubt on whether the attackers indeed originated from Gaza. For The Real News, I’m Lia Tarachansky in Tel Aviv.