Miraculously, no serious injuries
As rocket barrages from Gaza continued unabated over central and southern Israel on Thursday, Israel responded with a massive bombardment of the Hamas-ruled enclave by air and from the sea.
An IDF ground offensive appeared more likely, if not imminent. A warning notice sent to 100,000 Gaza residents near the border seemed to indicate that the IDF was ready to move troops in after the third day of Operation Protective Edge.
However, in a statement on Thursday night, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that while the military campagn would go on, with “more stages expected,” he made no specific mention of a ground operation.
The statement came after several hours of consultations with the security cabinet, and while rockets continued to trigger air raid sirens across the south and center of the country.
Netanyahu said that Hamas and the other terrorist organizations operating from Gaza had been hit hard by the IDF attack, and would be hit even harder as the operation continues.
Nevertheless, Israeli cities were under heavy fire again on Thursday night, after some 150 rockets fell during the course of the day and evening.
A house in Ashdod was hit, vehicles were reportedly destroyed, and gas cylinders were set ablaze in the explosions. Yet, no injuries were reported. Sirens continued to fill the air afterward in Ashdod and Hof Ashkelon.
Two Israeli soldiers were hurt by mortar fire in the Eshkol Region Council on Thursday; one was moderately injured, the other lightly.
The residents of Yerushalayim heard sirens wailing Thursday evening, and at least five blasts were reported heard. The IDF said that two missiles were intercepted by Iron Dome. Hamas claimed responsibility for the rocket fire on the capital, saying the rockets were aimed at the Knesset. There were no injuries reported, but a number of people were treated for shock.
Dozens of rockets were fired at Beersheva, Dimona, Rehovot and Tel Aviv. B’chasdei Shamayim, a rocket that fell in a densely populated part of Be’er Sheva did not cause injuries, b’chasdei Hashem, according to MDA paramedics who searched the site.
Be’er Sheva, the biggest city in the south, was subjected to a volley of over 20 missiles within 4 minutes, perhaps in an attempt to overwhelm the Iron Dome defense system. But the missiles headed for the city were intercepted successfully, while the other fell in open areas. There was considerable property damage, however.
One family narrowly survived unharmed when a missile hit their house, while they took shelter in a protected room.
Nine rockets fell in Eshkol almost simultaneously, but miraculously, no one was hurt in the barrage.
In Adumim, a 73-year-old person fell and was unconscious after rushing to shelter during an attack, and was evacuated to a hospital.
Gaza terrorists also aimed for Dimona, the supposed location of Israel’s nuclear reactor, for the second time on Thursday, and the third time in two days. There were no immediate reports of rockets being located in the area.
The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted most the projectiles launched at populated areas, in many cases causing a rain of debris onto the ground below. In one incident, a number of cows were killed in the south after falling shrapnel hit their cowshed.
Some debris fell on Tel Aviv Thursday morning in an Iron Dome intercept. Shrapnel landed near a gas station in south Tel Aviv’s Florentin area, and on the city’s highway, causing minor damage to cars.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior officials at the Security Cabinet meeting were interrupted by air raid sirens and rushed to a protected area.
Meanwhile, the IDF struck scores of targets across Gaza during Thursday, bringing the total number of targets hit to about 900 since the start of the operation on Monday night to put an end to Hamas rocket fire on Israel.
The IDF and Shin Bet intelligence agency joint targeted the homes of a series of Hamas leaders that were used as command and control centers by the military wing of Hamas. The homes belonged to, among others, IDF Commander of the Southern District Gen. Sami Turgeman said in an interview with Hamodia on Thursday night that “we are not talking about a stalemate, as some people might think, but a tremendous blow that we are delivering.” He added that in the past few days the IDF has been engaged in “an intensive campaign against Hamas and the other terror groups in Gaza. We have hit hundreds of targets. But the objective is not just the targets. When the Hamas operatives come out of their hiding places, they will face the results—the terrible ruin they have brought upon themselves and the people in Gaza.”
Turgeman also said that the IDF has not exhausted its targets and “that Hamas knows this … We have destroyed some of their long-range missiles, and we will take out their rockets too.”
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said that among the targets destroyed were “the homes of terrorists, government institutions, launchers, rockets and other war materiel. Dozens of terrorists have been killed and we are continuing to strike at Hamas and make it pay a heavy price for everything it has done in recent days.”
One of the homes belonged to Uval Janadiya, a deputy commander of Hamas forces in Saja’yia, who led attacks on the IDF. The home of Arafat Abu-Abdullah, an Islamic Jihad commander in central Gaza, was hit. Mahdi Kuara, a Hamas operative from Khan Younes in southern Gaza, and Nisim Abu Ajaina, a Hamas commander from Beit Lahia in northern Gaza, responsible for building up Hamas’s military forcers and the digging of terror tunnels, both lost their homes in the air strikes.