FRESH AIR

Gaza’s rockets, Israel’s response: the facts

Mar 26, 2019 | AIJAC staff

The yard of a family home in Mishmeret struck by rockets from Gaza/
The yard of a family home in Mishmeret struck by rockets from Gaza/

  • At 5am Monday Israel time, a rocket launched from Rafah, in the southern area of the Gaza Strip, hit a house in Moshav Mishmeret, near Kfar Saba north of Tel Aviv.

 

  • This is the furthest distance from Gaza for a site in Israel to be hit by a Palestinian rocket since Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in 2014. Mishmeret is some 80 kilometres from the Gaza border.

 

  • As a result of the direct hit, seven people were injured, six of them from the same family including two children.  A 59 year old woman received light burns, shrapnel wounds and trauma injuries, while a 30 year old woman was wounded by shrapnel hitting her in the leg. The other people in the building – a 30 year old man, 12 year old girl, three year old boy and  six month old baby – sustained light injuries. The house was almost completely destroyed, and two dogs owned by the family were killed.

 

  • The rocket launched was reportedly a J80 – named after the late head of the military wing of Hamas, Ahmed Ja’abari, who was responsible for the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006 and was later killed by Israel in 2012. It’s locally made by Hamas, with a range of 100-120km, and a 220mm warhead which can carry 20-30kg of explosives.

 

  • Experts suggest the rocket was not intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system in part because the rocket can ‘wobble’ mid-flight, making it difficult to intercept.

 

  • The organisation responsible for firing the rocket is alleged to be the Popular Resistance Committees – a loose coalition of armed Palestinian terrorist groups, most likely funded by Hezbollah, which opposes the Palestinian Authority and is close with Hamas’ military wing in Rafah.

 

  • The attack occurred 11 days after Hamas fired two rockets towards Tel Aviv  -in what it claimed was “an accidental” maintenance error.

 

  • Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu, who was in the US meeting with President Donald Trump, cancelled his scheduled speech at a conference of the pro-Israel group AIPAC and flew back to Israel for urgent security meetings to deal with these developments.

 

  • In response to the initial rocket attack, the Israeli army attacked and destroyed a variety of terror targets inside the strip, including the headquarters of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, the offices of Hamas’ Internal Security Service, secret military intelligence HQ, underground facilities and the port of Khan Yunis. Reports say Israeli forces preceded most, if not all, of its attacks with warning shots, but three Palestinians were reportedly wounded in the Israeli reprisals.

 

  • Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad retaliated by firing up to 100 rockets towards Israeli towns adjacent to Gaza, including Ashkleon, Netivot and Sderot, where a rocket hit a house but did not explode. Most rockets fell in open areas, at least one being intercepted by Iron Dome. There are no current reports of additional injuries from these attacks.

 

  • Hamas had claimed on Monday evening that a ceasefire has been reached through Egyptian mediation. Yet, as of the early hours of Tuesday morning (Israel time), rockets were still being fired towards Israel and sirens were still being heard in Israeli areas surrounding the Gaza Strip.

 

  • Israel has also not confirmed that a ceasefire is indeed in place. Instead, following consultations with IDF Chief of Staff, Aviv Kochavi and his ministers, PM Benjamin Netanyahu and his security cabinet reportedly decided to continue, and even escalate, IDF attacks on terrorist targets in Gaza.

 

  • Hamas has been under increasing pressure in Gaza in recent weeks from street protests over the economic situation in Gaza under the slogan “We want to live”, and has responded with repressive measures. Some Gazans and analysts have speculated the current escalation of violence may be a Hamas attempt to distract from these tensions. For instance, Ibrahim Abu al-Naja, a social worker from Gaza City, told a Jerusalem Post journalist, “A war with Israel will help Hamas divert attention from the growing anger towards its repressive measures … The Hamas leaders are holding our people hostage. Most people here don’t want another war.”

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