August 10, 2018

The Jewish Community Relations Council of El Paso and Southern New Mexico (JCRC-EPSNM) strongly condemns the rocket attacks from Gaza and the increased Hamas hostilities which Israel has experienced this week. JCRC-EPSNM also calls for an immediate cessation of violence and the implementation of a long-term cease fire agreement. 


Updating the ongoing events: Over the last few days, in one of the most intense exchanges of fire since the 2014 conflict, a massive barrage of rockets was launched by Hamas from Gaza into Israeli towns. A  major escalation began yesterday at Israel’s southern border. More than 180 rockets were fired from Gaza at civilian targets in Israel’s southern border communities. Dozens of rocket sirens were sounded throughout the night, sending families running to shelters. 30 rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system and most remaining rockets landed in open areas. 11 Israelis were reported wounded. The Israeli security establishment is on high alert.


In response to the Hamas rocket attacks, the IDF struck over 150 military targets in Gaza. Gazan news sources have reported three dead as a result of Israeli strikes. Israel is sending IDF reinforcements to the south and the Israeli army is deploying more Iron Dome missile defense batteries to prepare for the possibility of Gaza rockets reaching deeper into Israeli territory. The Israeli Security Cabinet has held a series of special meetings to track developments and discuss appropriate responses. Officials have said the military is prepared, if necessary, to evacuate civilians located up to four kilometers from the border.


Palestinian factions in Gaza publicly declared today they consider this round of violence to be over;
however, many believe more rockets will be launched. Many in Israel’s security establishment believe Hamas is interested in securing not only an immediate cessation of violence but a long-term cease-fire agreement with Israel. Over the past few weeks, Egypt and the UN have been working to broker such a long-term agreement. Earlier this week, Hamas officials publicly stated that they are keeping an “open mind” about the Egyptian cease fire proposal and Hamas officials publicly claimed a longer term truce would be signed with Israel by the end of the month. Israel has insisted that any cease fire agreement must include cessation not only of rockets, but also of incendiary balloons and kite arson. JCRC-EPSNM strongly supports this position.


These recent rocket attacks from Hamas follow months of violent mass riots on the Gaza border and the launching of flaming kites and incendiary balloons by Palestinians in Gaza. Over the past four months, more than 7,000 acres of fields and forests in southern Israel have been burned by flaming kites and balloons resulting in millions of dollars in damages. More than 40 fires broke out last weekend alone as a result of the highest number of arson attacks since Hamas declared an unofficial ceasefire with Israel last month. Israel is working hard to counter the arson assault and has carried out airstrikes on Palestinians preparing to launch incendiaries.


Weekly violent protests along the Israel-Gaza border have brought about the most serious escalation of hostilities between Israel and Hamas since the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict. In these ongoing border clashes, Israeli security forces are facing gunfire, grenades, Molotov cocktails, and attempts to damage or penetrate the border fence. Last month, an Israeli soldier was killed by a sniper. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza has reported 159 Palestinians killed since the start of these riots on March 30th. Hamas has acknowledged that dozens of those killed in these riots were, in fact, its members. The Israeli government holds Hamas fully accountable for these continuing hostilities.


The Federation’s Israel office is working with local Federation representatives and partner agencies to identify pressing needs in communities on Israel’s southern border. One result is the allocation of fire emergency funds to areas in need. Federation funding also is being made available for trauma relief services for residents and first-responders as well as a Jewish Agency camp for at-risk children. The Federation is likewise helping to bring American firefighters to volunteer alongside Israeli firefighters on the Gaza border. Other Federation-funded programs are in place to support Israeli civilians living in towns near Gaza. The Federation’s Israel office also stands ready to respond on behalf of the Federation system in the event of any further escalation. JCRC-EPSNM strongly supports the ongoing efforts of the Jewish Federation’s Israel office to assist Israel in every way possible during this crisis.

We join with all those who love peace everywhere in repeating the words of the ancient prayer: “May the Lord give strength to his people and bless them with peace.” Psalm 29:11.





David Kern, Chair

Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater El Paso and Las Cruces   

Janet Wechter, President         

Jewish Federation of Greater El Paso and Las Cruces  

To read our previous statement "Condemning Hate Crime Against El Paso Jewish Cemetery" click here