The 82 students studying at the BYU Jerusalem Center are taking additional security precautions because of hostilities between Israel and Hamas since an Israeli military offensive began Nov. 14.
Israeli Deputy Consul General Uri Resnick told The Universe during a conference call on Monday that Jerusalem has historically been “outside this kind of violence,” but that rocket attacks have targeted Jerusalem.
“Hamas has tried to fire (rockets) at Jerusalem, as recently as yesterday,” Resnick said. “Those rockets fell in Palestinian areas outside of Jerusalem.”
Resnick visited BYU’s Provo campus recently and said he is aware of BYU’s “very proud campus in Jerusalem.” He said he does not think the Jerusalem Center will be impacted by the current hostilities, adding that “We hope and pray a cease fire will be reached as soon as possible.”
A security update posted on the BYU Jerusalem Center’s website on Friday acknowledged “that one and possibly two missiles were fired at Jerusalem, following a Hamas boast that it was going to hit Jerusalem with a missile earlier today.”
“Students in the Center went to the bomb shelters; students who were in West Jerusalem (East Jerusalem was off limits today because of tensions over the Gaza matters) went to shelters in the city, including some in the U.S. Consulate’s shelter since they were at Independence Park,” the security bulletin says.
Jerusalem Center students traveled to Galilee on Monday.
The Israeli Consul General’s office in Los Angeles invited college media to participate in the conference call with Resnick on Monday. Only The Universe and one Los Angeles-area student reporter actively participated in the call.
Resnick said the conference call was set up with the Israeli offensive in play so the college press would have a chance to hear directly from the Israeli government while the court of world opinion is sizing up the current hostilities.
Since Israel left Gaza in 2005 and Hamas took control of the Palestinian government by force in 2007, Resnick said Israelis have been under constant barrage of rocket fire. “We had to launch this operation because the intensity of rocket fire against purely civilian populated areas in Israel was so intense,” Resnick said.
Resnick said there would be five million Israelis — more than half the Israeli population — would spend Monday night in bomb shelters.
in bomb shelters Monday night, more than half the population. Hamas has launched 1,500 rockets into Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and South Israel over the past week since the operation began according to Resnick.
The Associated Press reported that regional political leaders predicted a cease fire could be in place as early as Tuesday.
Resnick said that cease fire needed to be more than just an opportunity for Hamas to re-arm.
“We hope that there is an end in sight,” Resnick said. “We hope that the breaking news of a possible cease-fire is accurate and that this will actually take place.”
Opponents of Israel’s actions cite the large number of civilian deaths. According to a recent report by CBS News, 87 Palestinians, including 50 civilians, have been killed.
According to Resnick, 10 percent of the 1,300 to 1,500 rockets fired by Hamas have killed Palestinians.
Resnick expressed Israel’s sympathy for those civilian lives lost. “We grieve every wounded and every casualty, certainly civilians, on both sides,” Resnick said. “This is not what its about.”
Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas spokesperson, announced a “calming” would occur Monday by 9 p.m. local time, part of Israel’s conditions for cease-fire negotiations, but violence did not let up according to reports from CNN.
Despite this passing of Zuhri’s announced deadline, Resnick and Israeli officials remain optimistic of a cease-fire, especially as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have arrived in the region to aid negotiations.
President Barack Obama put his support behind Israel’s defense against Hamas’ rocket fire. “There’s no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders,” Obama said in a press conference on Monday, according to NBC.
Israel still maintains hope of imminent cease-fire, especially with the coming holiday season Resnick said. “We don’t want this season of peace to be turned into a season of terror.”