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Posts tagged ‘Micky Rosenfeld’

Passenger Vigilance Foils Terror Attack on Bus Near Tel Aviv.

Israeli bomb
Israeli police explosive experts survey a damaged bus at the scene of an explosion in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam December 22, 2013. A bomb hidden in a bag exploded on a bus near Tel Aviv on Sunday after passengers were evacuated from the vehicle, and no one was hurt in the blast, a police spokesman says. (Nir Elias/Reuters)

A potentially devastating terror attack was averted in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam on Sunday, thanks to the vigilance of the passengers aboard Dan bus No. 240. Several passengers noticed a suspicious bag that was left in the rear portion of the bus and alerted the driver, who immediately stopped the vehicle. The passengers disembarked from the bus minutes before a bomb concealed in the bag exploded.

One police sapper suffered a light blast injury and was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.

Police officials believe the explosion was a Palestinian terrorist act. It is unknown at this time whether the attack was the work of a major terror group or a lone terrorist.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas, said in a statement that the blast was a “heroic action” in response to what he called Israel’s “continued crimes against the Palestinians.”

According to a report from the Palestinian Maan news agency, an Islamic Jihad official lauded the attack, saying he hoped it “could usher the resumption of suicide attacks.”

“[This is] a sign that the Palestinian people no longer accept that Israeli attacks [against the Palestinians] continue without any real response,” he says.

Israeli security forces have formed a joint task force to investigate the attack and apprehend the perpetrators, Army Radio reported Monday. Following the attack, the search for the perpetrators focused on roads in southern Israel.

Meanwhile, Israel Defense Forces troops operating in Judea and Samaria overnight apprehended 12 wanted Palestinians. The men were turned over to security forces for questioning.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says there were no civilian injuries in the blast. The explosion blew windows out of the bus and charred the sides of the vehicle.

“Based on the findings at the scene by bomb disposal experts, it was a terrorist attack,” Rosenfeld says. “We’re continuing to search the area for suspects.”

He says the nature of the target and the nature of the device led authorities to determine that terrorists, not criminals, were behind the bombing.

Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino held a security assessment following the incident and ordered to bolster police presence on the ground in all major cities and main bus stations nationwide. The police further urged the public to remain vigilant and alert security forces to any suspicious objects of individuals.

“The incident in Bat Yam proves that the threat of terror is always in the background, especially now, when [Israel] is trying to advance the peace process,” Danino says.

‘I’m No Hero’

The incident took place around 2:30 p.m., when the bus, which travels through Tel Aviv on its way from Bnei Brak to Bat Yam, was approaching a stop on Katznelson Street in Bat Yam.

David Pappo, 40, a resident of Bat Yam who was aboard the bus, noticed that a bag placed near the rear of the bus had a wire coming out of it and decided to look inside.

“It nearly cost me my life, but at least I helped find the bomb,” Pappo said Sunday.

Pappo says a 15-year-old passenger sitting next to him alerted him to the bag.

“I didn’t think twice—I looked inside and immediately realized what it was,” Pappo says. “I shouted to the driver to stop and get people off the bus. I know it was a mistake to touch it, because it could have exploded, but at least I helped save lives.”

Bus driver Michael Yoger, 59, has been praised by authorities for reacting quickly and ensuring his passengers’ safety.

“I’m no hero. I just did what needed to be done,” he said Sunday evening. “A passenger said there was a bag with wires near the rear door. I made sure that everyone was off the bus and away from it. I was the last one to get off the bus, only after I made sure all of the passengers were safe.”

President Shimon Peres later phoned Yoger and thanked him and the passenger who discovered the explosive, saying their actions saved lives.

“The nation owes you a debt of gratitude, and I would like to personally congratulate you for this act of bravery,” the president said.

According to Eitan Fixman, a spokesman for the Dan bus company, there were 12 passengers on the bus when the bomb was discovered.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman denounced the attack in a post on his Facebook page, saying that it served as a reminder that the terror that threatens Israel “never rests.”

“The ‘quiet periods’ that we enjoy are the result of the important preemptive measures and work done all the time by the security services, and not because the terrorists have taken a time out because of the diplomatic negotiations or any other reason,” Lieberman wrote.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki issued a statement condemning the attack.

“We strongly condemn the bombing of a bus near Tel Aviv today,” Psaki said. “Violent acts targeting civilians are deplorable. We reaffirm our unshakable bond with Israel and our solidarity with the Israeli people. Our thoughts are with those affected and with the Israeli people at this time.”

Meanwhile, three other security incidents took place on Sunday. A rocket fired from the northern Gaza Strip late Sunday night exploded on a road in the Ashkelon region, causing no harm. Warning sirens sounded in the area before the explosion. Police sappers canvassed the area in the early hours of Monday morning and found the rocket’s remnants.

The second incident took place at the Mishor Adumim junction near Jerusalem, around noon Sunday, when three Palestinians attempted to attack policemen stationed at the junction’s checkpoint.

The three arrived at the checkpoint in a taxi and exited the vehicle. The policemen noticed that one of the men approaching them had drawn a knife and proceeded to restrain him. The three were arrested and turned over to security forces for questioning.

In another incident, boulders that were placed on train tracks running between the southern cities of Dimona and Beersheba caused a minor accident, which left no injuries but damaged a train engine. Israel Railways suspended all train traffic in the area for a few hours following the incident to ensure the tracks’ safety.

The Beersheba police have launched an investigation into the incident. A police source says that several leads are being investigated, including the possibility of a nationalistically motivated attack.


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Israel Police Blame Palestinian Militants for Bus Blast Near Tel Aviv.

Image: Israel Police Blame Palestinian Militants for Bus Blast Near Tel Aviv

JERUSALEM — A pipe bomb believed to have been planted by Palestinian militants exploded on board a bus in central Israel just moments after it had been evacuated, police said, in the most serious attack inside Israel in more than a year.

The explosion came at a sensitive time in Mideast peace efforts. Israel and the Palestinians resumed talks last summer for the first time in nearly five years, and the U.S.-brokered negotiations have made little visible progress. The explosion threatened to further poison what has become a tense and negative atmosphere.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said there were no injuries in the blast, which took place in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam. The explosion blew windows out of the bus and charred the sides of the vehicle.

“Based on the findings at the scene by bomb disposal experts, it was a terrorist attack,” Rosenfeld said. “We’re continuing to search the area for suspects.”

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Rosenfeld said the nature of the target and the nature of the device led authorities to determine that militants, not criminals, were behind the bombing. He declined to elaborate, and there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

He said the bomb was discovered in a bag on the bus. The driver quickly ordered passengers to get off, and the bomb exploded shortly after as a bomb squad expert was inspecting it. The police sapper was not injured but was taken to a hospital to be evaluated.

It was the most serious attack inside Israel since a bomb explosion wounded more than 20 people in Tel Aviv in November 2012. At the time, Israel was involved in heavy fighting with Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

A decade ago, Israel experienced a rash of Palestinian suicide bombings on buses, in restaurants and in other public spaces. More than 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis died in several years of fighting.

But tensions have subsided in recent years. The neighboring West Bank, however, has seen a recent uptick in Israeli-Palestinian violence, thought senior Israeli officials believe the various incidents there have not been connected to each other.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Police: Israeli Bludgeoned to Death in West Bank.

BROSH, West Bank — An Israeli man was bludgeoned to death and a woman injured in an apparent terror attack by Palestinians on their West Bank home, police said early Friday.

It was the third violent death of an Israeli in the occupied territory in less than three weeks.

“They were beaten with blunt instruments,” at Brosh, in the northern Jordan valley, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP, adding the assumption was “definitely” of a militant attack.

The army said roadblocks had been set up in the area of the attack and, hours after the killing, security forces were still sweeping the rocky surroundings for the perpetrators.

Police stopped media at the gates of the property and prevented them from entering.

Israeli public radio said the couple were in their home at about 1:00 am when they heard a noise outside and the sound of dogs barking.

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The man went outside to investigate and was attacked with iron bars and axes by two Palestinians, it reported. His wife was also injured but escaped and raised the alarm.

The radio said the couple lived alone at the isolated property, which they ran as a village guest house.

There were no visitors at the time, it said.

The website of Israeli newspaper Haaretz said the dead man was a retired army colonel and that the couple were in their 50s.

News website Ynet cited a witness as saying as the woman was taken to an ambulance she cried out, “Leave me, go to him, help him.”

Local council leader David Elhayani said he reached the scene about half an hour after the assault.

“It was a brutal murder,” he told public radio. “At the moment everybody’s assessment is that this was a [Palestinian] nationalist attack whose goal was murder.

“Even after the woman fled the house they ran after her calling out to one another in Arabic ‘Where is she?'” Elhayani said.

Ynet said the woman crawled through the darkness alone and with no mobile telephone before reaching a main road where she flagged down a passing motorist.

The incident occurred less than a week after a nine-year-old Israeli girl was lightly wounded as she played in her garden in the West Bank settlement of Psagot, near Ramallah.

Her injuries have been described both as gunshot and stabbing. Two young Palestinian suspects were arrested on Monday, Haaretz reported.

On September 22, an Israeli soldier was shot dead in the southern West Bank city of Hebron, in what the army believes was a Palestinian sniper attack, although no suspects have been arrested.

A day earlier a 20-year off-duty soldier was found murdered near the West Bank city of Qalqiliya. A Palestinian arrested as a suspect has reportedly confessed, but the motive and circumstances of the killing are still unclear.

Israel’s hardline deputy defense minister, Danny Danon, said he string of events were all a result of what he called official “Palestinian incitement” to violence against Israelis.

He called into question the continuation of low profile peace talks between the sides and the expected release of more Palestinian prisoners as talks progress.

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“I think there’s room to consider whether to carry on the negotiations, carry on the release of terrorists,” he told public radio. “If we need to stop for a number of months; to fight terror and stop the incitement, then that’s what we need to do.”

© AFP 2013

Attack on Jerusalem Graves Unnerves Christians.

JERUSALEM — Christian leaders in Israel are up in arms over what they say is a string of relentless attacks on church properties and religious sites — most recently the desecration of a historic Protestant cemetery where vandals toppled stone crosses from graves and bludgeoned them to pieces.

The attack in the Protestant Cemetery of Mount Zion, one of Jerusalem’s most important historic graveyards, has struck a particularly sensitive nerve because some of the damaged graves belong to important figures from the 19th and 20th centuries, a key period in Jerusalem’s history.

Among them are a German diplomat, the founder of a local orphanage who was a key contributor to modernizing the city, and a relative of the owners of a prominent Jerusalem hotel.

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Though members of the clergy say interfaith relations between top religious leaders have never been stronger, and police have been more responsive to such attacks in recent years, they say attacks continue unabated. Some activists say not enough is being done to stop them.

“We are striving so hard to promote dignity and respect among the living. And here we have our dead people . . . vandalized,” said the Very Rev. Hosam Naoum, caretaker of the Protestant cemetery. “No human would agree with this.”

Police arrested four young Israeli settlers from the West Bank last week, two of them minors, in connection with the cemetery attack, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.

But Rosenfeld said the four were subsequently released until further questioning. No charges have been filed, and they are not under house arrest, he said.

Two of the suspects had been banned from entering the West Bank because of their connections to the “hilltop youth,” a movement of young Jewish extremists blamed for a spate of attacks in recent years on mosques, Christian sites and Israeli army property to protest government policy.

The four suspects claimed they had entered the cemetery to immerse themselves in a ritual bath there, according to media reports. Rosenfeld could not immediately confirm the reports, and the record of the court session was sealed because minors were involved.

Naoum said the reported alibi was suspect. An ancient Jewish ritual bath was excavated on the premises but it contains no water, and an old well nearby has a narrow opening and would be dangerous to enter, he said.

Naoum said he is reporting the events to the German and British embassies, which have representatives on the cemetery administration board, as well as to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The attack joins a list of high-profile Christian sites that have been vandalized within the past year. They include a Trappist monastery in Latrun, outside Jerusalem, where vandals burned a door and spray-painted “Jesus is a monkey” on the century-old building, a Baptist church in Jerusalem, and other monasteries.

Clergymen often speak of being spat at by ultra-Orthodox religious students while walking around Jerusalem’s Old City wearing frocks and crosses.

Christian citizens of Israel, including Roman Catholic and Orthodox streams of Christianity, make up less than 2 percent of its nearly 8 million people.

About three-quarters of them are Arabs, and the others arrived during a wave of immigration from former Soviet Union countries that began 20 years ago. Tens of thousands of Christian foreign workers and African migrants also live in Israel.

Over the past three years, 17 Christian sites in the Holy Land have been reported vandalized, according to Search for Common Ground, a nongovernmental group that monitors press reports of attacks on local holy sites.

Researcher Kevin Merkelz said a police detective in charge of Christian affairs told the organization the numbers are actually higher, but Christian leaders chose not to report many attacks to the press.

“The Christians who are still here want to keep a low profile when attacked,” said Merkelz. He said the group does not include sites in the politically sensitive Old City of Jerusalem in its survey, because many sites are in dispute and the group does not want to be seen as taking sides in conflicting claims to important properties.

Christian leaders are often afraid to complain to police because many clergymen reside in Israel on special visas and wish to keep good relations with authorities, said Hana Bendcowsky of the Jerusalem Center for Jewish-Christian Relations.

“There is a very strong feeling that the police are not doing enough… and not doing work to prevent the phenomenon,” she said.

Rosenfeld, the police spokesman, said Israeli police recently set up a task force to combat “nationalistic” motivated crimes, and last week arrested 14 youths in connection with attacks on Arabs.

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He said police are carrying out more patrols around holy sites and are considering installing security cameras to protect them. He said the numbers of attacks against Christian sites, compared to other attacks on Arabs and their properties, were low.

“There is more awareness that holy areas have to be watched closer and protected better,” Rosenfeld said.

The Rev. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, one of the Roman Catholic church’s top officials in the Holy Land, said such attacks “have become routine and target not only Christians. They’re conducted by extremists and go against the spirit of tolerance.

But it’s also true that they’re strongly condemned by the Jewish community, by people opposed to them.”

Rev. Naoum, the cemetery caretaker, said a group of 150 Jewish religious figures will be paying a solidarity visit to the cemetery this week.

In the oldest section of the Protestant Cemetery of Mount Zion, just outside the walls of Jerusalem’s ancient Old City, the tops of large stone monuments, many written in German, were bare, and the stone crosses that used to top them lay broken into a few pieces.

Graves damaged belong to a British Mandate policeman and important figureheads in the city. The most notable of them is Johann Ludwig Schneller, founder of an orphanage and the most advanced printing press in 19th century Jerusalem.

The grave of Ferdinand Vester, who built the house where a branch of the U.S. Consulate General to Jerusalem is located today and who was related to the founders of the storied American Colony Hotel, was also damaged.

The cemetery is “a microcosm of Jerusalem history from the 1830s till the present,” said Amnon Ramon, an expert on Christianity at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies.

Curiously, it is not the first time the Protestant cemetery has been attacked. About 100 years ago, the American consul to Jerusalem dug up graves in the cemetery belonging to members of the American Colony, a group of Christians from the United States who moved to Jerusalem for religious reasons — but whom the consul believed were involved in cult-like activities, said Israeli researcher Nirit Shalev-Khalifa.

The group’s home later became the American Colony Hotel.

There has always been a religious fight surrounding cemeteries in Jerusalem, Shalev-Khalifa said.

“This is a battle over the celestial Jerusalem,” she said. “You can deal with the living, but sometimes it’s easier to deal with the dead.”

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Vandals Strike Arab Neighborhood in Jerusalem.

JERUSALEMPolice say vandals have slashed car tires in an Arab neighborhood in Jerusalem, the latest in a series of similar incidents blamed on a fringe group of extremists.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said 10 cars were damaged in the Arab neighborhood of Beit Safafa early Tuesday. The words “price tag” was sprayed on walls nearby.

The phrase is used by a small group of Jewish extremists to protest what they perceive as the Israeli government’s pro-Palestinian policies.

The acts have been condemned by Israeli leaders across the political spectrum. Police said they are investigating.

Mosques, churches, dovish Israeli groups, and even Israeli military bases have been targeted by the vandals in recent years.

Two weeks ago a monastery near Jerusalem was defaced.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Israeli Held for Pro-Settler Vandalism of West Bank Monastery.

JERUSALEM — An Israeli is under arrest for the vandalism of a Christian monastery in the occupied West Bank last year, carried out in solidarity with hardline Jewish settlers, police said on Monday.

Graffiti left on the 19th-century Latrun Monastery referred to Migron, an unauthorized settler outpost evacuated by the Israeli government. The words “Jesus is a monkey” were also daubed on the wall in Hebrew, and the monastery’s doors torched.

The September act was condemned by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said the perpetrators had threatened freedom of religion and must be punished.

Netanyahu has become increasingly concerned by so-called “Price Tag” vandalism by Jewish ultranationalists aimed at causing offense and embarrassing the Israeli authorities they blame for trying to curb settler activity.

His rightist, pro-settler coalition government also fears that such vandalism, called Price Tag by militant settlers who want to exact a price from the authorities, because it could trigger violence with the Palestinians.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said a 22-year-old man from Bnei Brak, a predominantly Orthodox Jewish town near Tel Aviv, was arrested on Sunday.

He was due to be arraigned later on Monday.

The Netanyahu government this month signaled a crackdown on Price Tag attacks by empowering Israeli security forces to investigate, detain and interrogate suspects more aggressively — measures akin to their handling of Palestinian militants.

The vandalism has mostly focused on Palestinian property, including mosques, but has at times targeted Christian churches and Arab sites inside Israel.

The Latrun monastery is near Jerusalem on land Israel captured in the 1967 war, and then annexed, in a step that has never been recognized internationally. It is surrounded by a valley, close to the West Bank’s “Green Line” boundary with Israel, where fighting took place in two Arab-Israeli wars.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Israel Police: One of Jerusalem’s Most-Revered Churches Vandalized.

Image: Israel Police: One of Jerusalem's Most-Revered Churches Vandalized

An Israeli border guard stands next to the vandalized Church of the Dormition on May 31.

JERUSALEMIsrael police say an investigation is underway to find vandals who defaced one of Jerusalem’s best-known churches.

Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the vandalism was discovered on the Church of the Dormition in Jerusalem’s Old City early Friday. The church is built on the site where many Christians believe the Virgin Mary died.

Rosenfeld said that along with anti-Christian slurs, the words “price tag” were found scrawled on the church’s exterior. He said police are searching for the perpetrators.

That phrase is usually used by a fringe minority of Jewish extremists to protest what they perceive as the Israeli government’s pro-Palestinian policies and retaliation for Palestinian attacks.

Mosques, churches, dovish Israeli groups, and even Israeli military bases have been vandalized with “price tag” damage in recent years.

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© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Coptic Cleric Says He Will Sue Israeli Police for Abuse.

JERUSALEM — An Egyptian Coptic cleric who was mistreated during Orthodox Easter services is threatening to sue.

Video supplied to The Associated Press shows Israeli police shoving Arsanious el-Orshalimi and putting him in a headlock. The incident took place during Orthodox Christian Holy Saturday in Jerusalem’s Old City earlier this month.

The event drew thousands of people to the area, and hundreds of Israeli police were on guard.

A dozen church leaders in the Holy Land later signed a letter expressing concern over the incident.

El-Orshalimi says he will not remain silent and will “take this issue to court because of all the pain that I suffered.”

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Friday the officers involved are being questioned.

He said police will work to prevent such incidents in the future.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Israel Hits Gaza With Airstrikes After Renewed Militant Rocket Fire.

JERUSALEM — Gaza Strip militants fired rockets for the second time in less than 24 hours, as Israeli forces vowed to defend residents and carried out the first airstrikes on the Hamas-ruled territory since a November offensive there.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the rockets fired Wednesday landed in an open area, causing no injuries or damage. A rocket fired at southern Israel Tuesday evening also landed in an open area.

The violence is the most serious since Egypt brokered a November cease-fire after eight days of violence in which 167 Palestinian s and six Israelis were killed. Israel was hit by more than 1,400 missiles during the November fighting.

Hamas, which rules Gaza, is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States, and European Union.

Israeli aircraft struck unidentified targets in Gaza overnight in response to Tuesday’s rocket fire, the military said in a release.

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“We will in no way permit a routine trickling of rockets toward our civilians and forces,” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said in a separate emailed statement that held Hamas responsible for all violence emanating from the territory.

Witnesses and medical personnel in Gaza said the aircraft hit empty areas and no injuries were reported. There were no claims of responsibility for the recent rocket fire.

In all, rocket squads have attacked Israel four times since the November offensive, the Israeli military said.

The attacks from Gaza coincide with recent rounds of fire from Syria at the Israeli-held Golan Heights. The Israel army hit two targets in Syria Tuesday that it said were sources of fire at Israeli positions in the southern Golan.

Ya’alon warned in his statement Wednesday that Israel would “respond firmly” to gunfire from Syria, be it stray or intentional.

“The moment we identify the source of fire we will destroy it without hesitation, as we did yesterday and have done in previous cases,” he said. “We regard the regime in Syria as responsible for everything that emanates from its territory, and we will not let gunfire spill over into Israeli territory without responding.”

Israel captured the plateau from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war and later annexed it in a move that is not internationally recognized.

© Copyright 2013 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

Israel: Obama Meets Abbas After Rocket Blast.

President Barack Obama has arrived in the West Bank hours after Palestinian militants fired two rockets into southern Israel.

The rockets, a reminder of heightened tensions in the region, caused damage to land around a house but there were no injuries.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said: “One exploded in the back yard of a house in Sderot, causing damage, and the second landed in a field.”

Military officials cited by army radio said they believed the attack was timed deliberately to coincide with Mr Obama’s visit.

Israel pointed the finger for the attacks at Islamist movement Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, although there was no direct claim of responsibility.

President Obama – who visited the town where the rockets landed as a presidential candidate in 2008 – was miles away in Jerusalem at the time, preparing to visit the Israel Museum.

He is expected to receive a frosty reception in Ramallah where he will hold talks with Palestinian leaders, who have accused him of riding roughshod over their hopes of statehood.

Sky News Middle East Correspondent Sam Kiley said settlements and the controversial “right of return” for Palestinians to their former lands in Israel would be on the agenda.

He added: “The crucial thing is for President Obama to get back into the peace process.”

Israeli officials urged Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to use his meeting with the President to condemn the latest attack.

“We will be closely watching Palestinian President Abbas today to see if he condemns these attacks from Gaza against Israeli civilians,” a senior Israeli government official in Jerusalem said after the attack.

Code Red sirens wailed in Sderot shortly after the rockets hit at 7am, forcing commuters and schoolchildren to run to bomb shelters.

Yossi Haziza, a Sderot resident in whose courtyard the first rocket exploded, was looking at the walls of his home sprayed with shrapnel and shattered windows.

He said: “I wish this was merely damage to property but my eight-year-old daughter and my wife are terrified. We just want to live in peace. We don’t want to keep having to run to bomb shelters.”

Mr Obama, on the first foreign trip of his second term, says he has come to the Holy Land simply “to listen” to the parties about how to resume peace talks frozen for two-and-a-half years.

He said he decided against coming with a comprehensive peace plan that might not be fit for current political conditions.

“Ultimately, this is a really hard problem,” Mr Obama said during a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday.

“It’s been lingering for over six decades. And the parties involved have, you know, some profound interests that you can’t spin, you can’t smooth over. And it is a hard slog to work through all of these issues.”

The US President’s new approach was in stark contrast to early in his first term, when he declared Israeli settlement building to be illegitimate and promised to dedicate himself to peace.

Meanwhile, Palestinian activists set up a protest camp on West Bank land east of Jerusalem where Israel has announced controversial plans to build, demanding an end to Obama’s “bias and support for Israel”.

Israel’s plan to build thousands of new settler homes in an area called E1 has sparked a major international backlash, with experts saying it could wipe out hopes for a viable Palestinian state.


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