Two IDF infantry soldiers of the Caracal Battalion were lightly and moderately wounded respectively when terrorists opened fire on the vehicle they were traveling in during a routine patrol, along the border with Egypt.
Initial reports of a shooting attack by Arab terrorists on the Israeli border with Sinai came in just before 2 p.m. on Wednesday.
IDF spokesman Lt. Colonel Peter Lerner said the attack involved the use of anti-tank weapons.
"About 2:00 pm (1100 GMT), we had shots and an anti-tank missile fired at a vehicle that was on the border," he said.
According to the military, "several" terrorists opened fire on the vehicle. The wounded soldiers were evacuated by helicopter for further medical treatment at Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva after receiving first aid at the scene.
The targeted region was in the area of Nitzana in the Negev desert, located right on the Egyptian border.
Israeli security and rescue forces are currently at the scene in large numbers to determine if any terrorists managed to infiltrate the border.
During the incident, the transportation of students from the Ezuz community located in the Ramat Negev Regional Council area was suspended, and the students were sent to a local community center.
The attack took place at almost the precise location of a similar cross-border shooting in September 2012.
In that incident, Cpl. Netanel Yahalomi (20) was killed and another IDF soldier moderately wounded by three terrorists who opened fire on an IDF patrol on the Egyptian border. Terrorists reportedly managed to approach soldiers after disguising themselves as African refugees.
In another unrelated incident along the Egyptian border today, the IDF said four or five IDF soldiers were lightly wounded when the jeep they were traveling in overturned during a traffic accident.
Recent days and weeks have seen "Silwan" hit the headlines time and time again, as dozens of Jewish families have moved in to this predominantly Arab neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem despite the violent opposition of many of their Arab neighbors to the presence of Jews there.
Arab extremists regularly target the embattled local Jewish communities; indeed just hours after moving in a small group of new Jewish families were targeted by rioters who hurled bricks and molotov cocktails at their homes.
So why are Israeli families are willing to brave violence, intimidation and even international opprobrium to live there?
First, it's important to understand where and what the neighborhood actually is. "Silwan" is in fact an Arabic name for a vast swathe of territory in eastern Jerusalem, just outside the Old City, which encompasses the ancient City of David and the old Jewish neighborhood of Kfar HaShiloach - where a thriving Jewish community was ethnically-cleansed by Arab forces in the early twentieth century.
It is believed to have been the site of the ancient Israelite capital, and as such returning to the area is a priority for Zionist idealists in their struggle to reclaim their national Jewish heritage. That's reflected in demographic nature of those who live there, who identify as religious-Zionists.
But the Jewish communities there are not contiguous. The community in the City of David (Ir David in Hebrew) is relatively large - more than 50 families already live there and over two dozen more are set to join them shortly.
By contrast, the Kfar HaShiloach neighborhood is far smaller. Only nine families currently live there, along with 11 kollel (full time Torah-learning) students. That's what made the recent purchase of two apartment blocks, with a total of ten apartments in all, so significant: it effectively doubles the size of the tiny community.
"This is the center of the Jewish world," explains Daniel Luria, whose Ateret Cohanim organization is active in Kfar HaShiloach - also known as the Yemenite Village, after its former Jewish residents who moved there from Yemen - and facilitated the latest property acquisition.
"Whether we like it or not, and no disrespect to Har Nof and Rehavia, but you can't compare them to the area where the kings, the prophets once walked. Our history and our heritage has always centered around the Temple Mount, the Old City, Mount of Olives, etc... It's what our grandparents dreamed about."
It was in fact for that very reason that the Yemenite Jews who arrived in Israel during the "First Aliyah" of 1882 - having walked thousands of miles by foot to reach the land of their ancestors - chose to live precisely there. Convinced the Messiah was imminent, they opted to settle in the heart of ancient Jerusalem, to watch the redemption unfold.
At its height, the community was home to 144 Yemenite Jewish families, who received staunch support from famed Jewish author and journalist Yisrael Dov Frumkin. One of the two new buildings bought by the Jewish community - Beit Frumkin (Frumkin's House) - is named in his honor. Along with the also newly-purchased Beit Ovadia, the community is today concentrated in two other buildings: Beit HaDvash (Honey House) and Beit Yonatan, named after imprisoned Israeli agent Jonathan (Yonatan) Pollard.
As tensions between Jews and Arabs in Israel began to mount in the early twentieth century, Kfar HaShiloach would bear the brunt of violent anti-Semitism whipped up by anti-Zionist firebrands like the Nazi-collaborating Mufti of Jerusalem.
"Unfortunately, the community was decimated - just like most Jewish life in the heart of Jerusalem - by Arab pogroms, in 1929 and 1937; as well as in 1948," when the the British-led Jordanian Arab Legion systematically expelled all remaining Jews from the eastern half of Jerusalem - including the Old City, Western Wall and Temple Mount - and also seized control of Judea and Samaria.
For Luria and those who move there, restoring the Jewish presence to those areas is not only an act of defiance but the ultimate fulfillment of the Zionist mission to return the Land of Israel to its people.
"We're basically just fulfilling the Zionist dream," he says. "Zionism didn't die in 1948 or 1967."
But despite that Luria insists the aim of Ateret Cohanim and other similar organizations is not to provoke conflict with local Arabs - in fact, in most of the other areas where Ateret Cohanim is active he says Jews and Arabs live together largely without any problems. The issue in the wider Silwan area is the presence of extreme Islamist groups determined to stoke up tension and doggedly opposed to any Jewish presence there.
And the violence, though it doesn't always hit headlines, is no small matter.
"Last night it was 'just' stones," he says of the violence against the two newly-purchased buildings. "The night before we had molotov cocktails against both buildings."
He also criticized the lack of police action to end the violence.
"It's not normal that someone comes into a house that they bought legally and their next door neighbors within 24, 48 hours are smashing and looting and throwing molotov cocktails and hardly anything is being done.
"There are police declarations that there are going to be more cameras... and in the meantime the Arabs think they can get away with anything and they keep on doing what they're doing.
"Which other place in Jerusalem requires a bullet-proof jeep with steel mesh just to take families in and out of their homes? That's just not normal!"
In response to recent criticism over ongoing Arab violence in parts of Jerusalem, the police force recently announced the establishment of a new task force to deal with the unrest. It remains to be seen if that move will have any effect, but in the meanwhile Shiloach residents are determined to stay.
And responding to criticism of his own group's actions, Luria accuses those who oppose Jews living in Arab-majority neighborhoods of hypocrisy.
"Our ultimate aim is to have more Jews living in the area, but at the same time and just as important Jews and Arabs have to be able to live together.
"If Arabs are allowed to buy in (the Jewish neighborhoods of) Ramat Eshkol, French Hill, Neve Yaakov and Armon Hanetziv, and they live quietly and peacefully with their next door neighbors who are Jewish, then the Arabs in Shiloach should understand that we have plenty of rights to be able to buy (there), and that we should be able to live in coexistence with our Arab neighbors," he said, echoing statements recently made by Prime Minister Netanyahu.
"Jews have a right to live anywhere and everywhere" in city, his insists "especially in a house in the middle of a Jewish neighborhood."
All photos credit: Ateret Cohanim
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Jordan Tuesday that Israel has no intention of changing the status quo on the Temple Mount. This means that Jews will continue to be forbidden to pray on the Mount.
A bill submitted by MK Miri Regev (Likud), according to which Jews will be allowed to pray on the Mount, and not just tour it, caused alarm in Jordan. Jordan's Ambassador to Israel Walid Obeidat reportedly demanded clarifications from the Foreign Ministry Tuesday on the new bill, following reports that it would be voted on next month.
Jordan sees itself as being in charge of the Al Aqsa Mosque, which was built on the Temple Mount by Muslim occupiers centuries ago.
When the Jordanian ambassador in Tel Aviv contacted the Foreign Ministry, reported IDF Radio, the Ministry relayed the matter to the Prime Minister's Office, which told the radio station that “the prime minister has repeatedly made clear in recent weeks that there is no intention of carrying out a change in the status quo on the Temple Mount and that the ones causing the provocations are extremist Palestinian elements.”
Jordan's King Abdullah II is pressing Israel not to pass the bill, a senior official of the Hashemite kingdom revealed on Tuesday.
The Temple Institute's International Director, Rabbi Chaim Richman, condemned Netanyahu's statement, branding it an "explicit admission that the State of Israel has officially relinquished sovereignty at the Jewish people’s holiest site."
"The status-quo referred to here is the illegal and undemocratic prohibition against all forms of Jewish prayer, worship, or identity at the Temple Mount.
"The manner in which Jews are treated on the Temple Mount is anti-Semitic and is a flagrant violation of the most basic human rights. A bill was submitted to the Knesset that called for Jews to be able to pray on the Temple Mount, and this bill ‘caused alarm’ in Jordan so Netanyahu assured King Abdullah that this would not happen. By doing so, Prime Minister Netanyahu has proven himself to be a vassal of Abdullah and the not the leader of the independent State of Israel.
"He can invoke the tired mantra that ‘the Temple Mount is in our hands,’ and Israel is sovereign at the site, but the words are worthless. At a time of unprecedented numbers of Jews ascending the Temple Mount in purity, increased public awareness as to the importance of the Temple Mount for the Jewish people, and a sizable number of Knesset members calling for the right to Jewish prayer at the site, Netanyahu has displayed gross insensitivity to Jewish needs, rights, and feelings, and a total disconnect from the soul of the people of Israel."
Jordanian Ambassador to "Palestine" Khalid al-Shawabka told the Palestinian Arab Ma'an News Agency that Regev 's bill, dividing prayer time at the Mount as is done in Hevron's Cave of Machpelah, is "unacceptable," calling the Al-Aqsa Mosque (often used as a euphemism for the entire Temple Mount) and Jerusalem "red lines."
Asked about Jordan's chances of thwarting Jewish prayer rights on the Mount, he said they would succeed just as Jordanian pressure last month caused Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to cancel construction on a second access ramp to the Temple Mount's only gate allowed for non-Muslim entry.
After a recent round of rioting last week, Netanyahu had also vowed to "maintain the status quo" on the Mount.
Currently the Jordanian Waqf (Islamic trust) has de facto control of the site and pays the salaries of local staff.
A 3,300-year-old building where pagan rituals took place has been found at the Tel Burna site by Dr. Itzhaq Shai, head of the Institute of Archaeology at Ariel University in Samaria, who will discuss the find on Wednesday at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem.
Tel Burna has been associated with the Biblical city of Libnah in Judea by some archaeologists, and is located above Israel's coastal plain five miles east of the modern city of Kiryat Gat between it and Hevron.
Given the building's age of 3,300 years, the find may possibly shed light on life in ancient Canaan around the time of Joshua's conquest of Israel as recorded in the Torah.
Evidence of ritual practice at the site was recently unearthed by Shai and his team, with relics including cultic figurines, goblets, chalices, and various vessels, as well as fragments of ceremonial masks.
"It could be that this was in fact a palace; we cannot be certain at this point so I’m not saying conclusively that this was a temple," said Shai, noting that the masks found were often worn by priests.
The finds were made in a large complex, featuring a courtyard that itself is as large as 16 by 16 meters - an analysis of excavated materials is currently ongoing at Ariel University.
Since excavations are still not completed a definitive analysis as to the nature of the building has not yet been given, but Shai argues "this is definitely an important building reserved for the elite, it is clear ritual practices took place here."
Another unusual find was made at the site, where two very large ceramic storage jars known as pithoi were located in the submerged courtyard. Together, they would have been able to store around 200 liters.
"To find these vessels in a small town that is not part of a port is very surprising," said Shai, in what may indicate the importance of the site.
Shai intends to expand on excavations in the site during the coming season, and hopefully dig deeper into the secrets of the ancient building.
The "silent intifada" of violent Arab terrorism continues to strike in Jerusalem, where on Tuesday night, between the northern neighborhoods of Shuafat and Atarot, two Jewish men were the victims of an intense rock throwing attack on municipality-owned land.
Oded Hania told Arutz Sheva he was driving in a car with a friend on the traffic route through the two neighborhoods when they were met by a group of Arab youths - who made sure to verify the two were Jewish before showering them with a potentially lethal hail of rocks.
"We drove from Atarot towards Shuafat. In Shuafat we saw a group of three or four youths around 18 years old," relates Hania. "Traffic was slow; they approached so as to identify if we were Jews."
Hania's friend, an IDF soldier, was dressed in uniform, giving the youths the indication that the intended victims were indeed Jews. At that point "they stepped back a bit, and from point blank range threw huge stones into the car."
The driver's window was smashed by the fusillade of rocks, as was the window next to Hania, who noted that his friend, who was driving, "tried to get away in reverse, as the whole car was full of glass. In the end we went fifty meters in reverse against the stream of traffic, and then crossed to the opposite lane and got out of there."
The Arab drivers adjacent to the entire incident were completely indifferent to the attack, says Hania, and not one of them or any passersby tried to stop the anti-Semitic assault.
"Those were moments of fear. I was certain they were going to do a lynch-mob attack on us, and I wasn't sure we would succeed in getting away because they came from all around us. They really surrounded us," recalls Hania.
After succeeding in getting to the opposing lane and driving away, Hania notes "we stopped at a nearby station. The police arrived after several minutes, we gave them testimony, cleaned up the car and continued to drive."
However, the police apparently showed nearly as much indifference as the Arab drivers witnessing the attack.
Hania reports that after asking the officers to go to the scene of the attack and try to track down the rioters, one of them told him "there is nothing we can do about that," before returning to their station.
MK Moti Yogev (Jewish Home) on Tuesday called for police to be provided back-up given their apparent inability to secure the capital, specifically recommending that IDF paratroopers be deployed in Jerusalem.
In addition to constant rock and firebomb attacks, as well as incidents of live gunfire, there have been at least three cases in the Jerusalem area in recent weeks of Jewish motorists nearly being the victims of a lynch-mob, with Arab attackers pummeling Jewish cars with rocks.
In an interview with Yedioth Aharonoth, Justice Minister and Hatnua party chief Tzipi Livni revealed Wednesday that she intends to establish a united political front with Finance Minister Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid “for the advancement of the peace process.”
"I have been holding conversations with Yair Lapid recently,” she told the newspaper. “I will say things here, to which he has given his consent."
"In the Knesset session that begins next week, we will create a united front in the government and the Knesset on the diplomatic subject," continued Livni. "One bloc, 25 mandates. Together, in favor of a diplomatic arrangement, against Danny Danon-ism and against nationalism.”
Danny Danon is a nationalist Likud MK who was fired by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu from his post as Deputy Defense Minister after he criticized the government for being "limp” on Gaza, and for agreeing to ceasefires with Hamas terrorists even before the terror tunnels were dealt with in the initial stages of Operation Protective Edge.
Livni said that Yesh Atid and Hatnua will also join forces on matters of religion and state, where they have pushed bills critics say oppose Judaism, such as a controversial conversion bill that Netanyahu recently shot down - in what is reportedly part of a push for spring elections.
Lapid confirmed to the paper: "we are in very tight cooperation on both subjects. On religion, we are also partnering with [Yisrael Beytenu Head Avigdor Liberman.”
Lapid reportedly told Livni, in their talks, that he does not agree with all of her positions on the diplomatic issues, but stressed that “we have to be more united and coordinated.”
The move all but cements Yesh Atid's lurch leftwards in general, after an election-time pact with the right-wing Jewish Home party fell apart amid recriminations over the issue of religion and state, as well as negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
Yesh Atid is not predicted to do well in the next elections - with most polls estimating it will lose 9 of its current 19 seats - and a shift towards the left may signal an attempt by Lapid's party to consolidate its core of secularist, center-left voters.
Finance Minister and Yesh Atid Party Chairman Yair Lapid, whose political trademark is anti-hareidi secularism, created a stir in recent days when he grew a beard that makes him look almost hareidi.
Religious wesite Kippah asked on Twitter if Lapid would soon be sporting a kippah as well. Hareidi website Kikar Hashabat speculated that he trying to look like “a responsible adult.”
The Mako / Channel 2 news website decided to find out the reason for the change and forwarded a query to Lapid's bureau, which replied that Lapid had grown the beard “for no special reason.”
Channel 2 noted that beards have become fashionable among men recently and that many movie stars have begun wearing them.
South African Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein started a revolution last October when he introduced "Keeping it Together," a project to have Jews observe the Shabbat together, and received an unprecedented turnout of over 55,000 participants, many observing for the first time.
This Shabbat, the rabbi is planning to take his project global, and he has the Jewish communities of 350 world cities in 35 countries who have already enthusiastically asked to take part.
Arutz Sheva got a chance to speak with the rabbi at Tel Aviv's David Intercontinental Hotel this week ahead of the Shabbat, where Rabbi Goldstein explained about the project.
"The beauty is these communities are all taking responsibility and driving it and owning the project, and obviously from the center we are providing materials...that have been translated into eight languages," reveals the rabbi.
"People have been flooding in, they want to be part of it," he notes, saying that the driving force behind the will to take part is a "deep desire for Jewish unity."
That unity was on display during Operation Protective Edge, the 50-day counter-terror operation in Gaza that began in July, and which the rabbi saw from up-close during a family visit to Israel.
But as he notes, that unity was "forced on us by outside, by the hatred of others." In contrast, keeping the Shabbat together is "unity out of choice, out of love."
The project enjoyed unbelievable success last October among South Africa's largely non-religious Jewish communities, where 3,000 women gathered to bake challah ahead of Shabbat, and thousands more took part in havdallah ceremonies at the conclusion of Shabbat on the streets of South Africa.