The Israel Defence Forces have extensively deployed Iron Dome anti-missile batteries across the country ahead of the Eurovision Song Contest, which is expected to draw thousands of visitors to the country, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports.
According to the outlet, the systems could respond to fire from the Palestinian territories after clearance by the Israeli armed forces’ senior officers to prevent a repetition of recent deadly missile exchanges. Haaretz cites military sources as saying that the soldiers called-up since then would be kept on duty until the end of the festivities.
Eurovision’s almost week-long festivities coincide with the anniversary of the opening ceremony of the US Embassy in Jerusalem and the Palestinian memorial day, Nakba, which was marked by violent protests last year at the Israeli border and hundreds of victims, prompting American diplomats to issue a security alert. It cautioned US citizens against travelling to affected areas amid the recent rocket exchange and called on them to be cautious, noting that terrorist groups this time may choose to “conduct violent protests or an attack”.
“Security incidents can occur well beyond Gaza … and at any time, as demonstrated by the May 3-5 rocket attacks in southern Israel, including the cities of Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Be’er Sheva, and the March 14 and March 25 rocket attacks in central Israel”, the statement on the embassy website read.
Israel became the host of the 2019 Eurovision contest after Israeli singer Netta won the contest last year. Tel Aviv is hosting the major European event, bringing musicians from all over the continent, the US, and Australia, as well as thousands of tourists to the Israeli capital, from 14 to 18 May, when the finals will take place.
This comes a little more than a week after a violent flare-up in the region. Tensions between Israel and Gaza further escalated on 4 May, when hundreds of rockets were fired at Israel from the enclave, prompting the IDF to retaliate. The violence resulted in the deaths of at least 25 Palestinians and four Israelis. Following the bombardment, Hamas representative Abu Obeida insisted on social media that it had "succeeded in overcoming the so-called Iron Dome by adopting the tactic of firing dozens of missiles in one single burst".