Israel bolsters its security and defense measures as Gaza factions launch rockets ahead of major cultural event
The Eurovision Song Contest, a massively popular annual competition, is set to take place in Tel Aviv from May 12 to 18. It draws hundreds of millions of television viewers each year and is expected to bring Israel tens of thousands of tourists.
But many security experts have warned that Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip could attempt to disrupt it, with the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad representing the biggest security threat.
“At the moment, the Islamic Jihad is the most dangerous group since they act under Iran’s direction,” Dr. Dan Schueftan, director of the National Security Studies Center at the University of Haifa, told The Media Line. “Iran has the biggest terror infrastructure in human history across the globe and they [are volatile] because they have a big problem with US President Donald Trump.”
Schueftan, who served as an advisor to Israel’s National Security Council, said the group was unlikely to be dissuaded by negative publicity involved in attacking an international event.
“We’re talking about [terror groups] whose decisions are made according to hierarchical considerations, which are pathological,” he asserted. “This is true of groups in Gaza… including the Islamic Jihad. They won’t give even the slightest thought to the negative effects. They don’t even consider their children’s future.”
This week, according to a Lebanese newspaper, armed factions in the Gaza Strip threatened to “ruin Eurovision” by launching rockets at Tel Aviv if Israel were to break a tacit truce agreement forged earlier this year that has reduced violence along their common border. On May 2, Islamic Jihad threatened to strike Tel Aviv and other locales if Israel continued its policy of targeted killings.
The threats came as senior members of Islamic Jihad, along with top figures from Hamas, the de-factor ruler of the Palestinian coastal enclave, were summoned to Cairo following a spike in tensions with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). In the past week, several rockets as well as incendiary balloons were launched from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, and the IDF responded with air strikes on Hamas positions.
In light of the mounting tensions as Israel prepared not only to host the Eurovision Song Contest, but also to mark its 71st Independence Day on May 9, the IDF deployed its Iron Dome missile defense batteries throughout the country.
“Iron Dome batteries are deployed from time to time according to an assessment of the situation and operational need,” an IDF spokesperson told The Media Line in a written statement, without elaborating.
Israel’s police say they are also ready, particularly for any incidents targeting the song contest.
“Security arrangements and tactics have been prepared for the last number of weeks,” Israel Police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld told to The Media Line. “The majority of security measures will be implemented in the Tel Aviv area at the location where the [main] event is taking place, but also at the beachfront, where there [will be] a number of public events.”
Israel is hosting Eurovision after Netta Barzilai, its entry in last year’s contest in Portugal, won. This year, Madonna is expected to perform during the grand finale.
Rosenfeld noted that supplementary police officers and patrol units were being mobilized.
“There are no specific warnings that we have received or that we know about, but obviously, with this type of event and its significance, we’re taking no chances whatsoever,” he emphasized.
Schueftan believes that Israel is well-prepared to meet ongoing threats of violence.
“On the one hand, there is a big event taking place and [also] several terror groups, [but] on the other hand, Israel has very good intelligence,” he said, noting that the country thwarts attacks in the West Bank on a regular basis.
According to a recently released report by the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security apparatus, there were 110 attacks in the West Bank in March, representing an uptick from the 89 incidents in February. Also in March, armed factions in the Gaza Strip launched 41 rockets toward Israel compared to two launches in February.