Over 225 rockets and missiles have been fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip since Monday night. Red alert sirens sounded throughout the country as rockets reached as far north as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and even Hadera- which is around 110 kilometres from Gaza. Israel’s Iron Dome defence system shot down approximately 40 of these rockets.
Residents throughout Israel were given instructions to stay close to bomb shelters and avoid large gatherings. Final exams for Ben-Gurion University students and other daily activities in southern Israel were cancelled amidst the barrage of rockets.
Tuesday evening, five Hamas terrorists attempted to infiltrate Israel from the sea. The infiltration attempt took place near Kibbutz Zikim, located a few kilometres northwest of the Gaza Strip. IDF units were able to intercept the Hamas commando unit, killing the terrorists. One soldier was lightly injured in the exchange of gunfire.
In response to the ceaseless firing of rockets, Israel has launched ‘Operation Protective Edge’ in order to restore quiet for Israel’s citizens. The IDF has received cabinet approval for the call-up of 40,000 reservists. Israeli Air Force planes struck dozens of terror targets in Gaza including rocket launchers, launching infrastructure, weapon storage facilities, training bases and terror tunnels. The houses of terrorist leaders were also targeted- but not before calls from the IDF warning families to evacuate.
IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner declared, “We are determined to lay a significant blow on Hamas’ terror capabilities and infrastructure, eliminate any threat on Israeli sovereignty emanating from the Gaza Strip and restore stability to the southern region.”
Hamas’ targeting of major Israeli cities signals it has no desire for the de-escalation Israel offered it last week. In addition to giving the green light to other groups such as Islamic Jihad to fire rockets at Israel, Hamas itself has launched dozens of rockets in the past few days. The rockets launched by Hamas included a Syrian made M-302 missile which reached as far as Hadera- indicating that Hamas’ arsenal includes advanced, smuggled weaponry.
The escalation by Hamas is indicative of its continued policy of hostility to Israel above all else. Despite being offered calm, Hamas continues to attack Israel- to the detriment of both Israeli and Palestinian citizens. David Horowitz of the Times of Israel reflected on this policy of incessant hostility noting:
“The sorry fact is that both before and after Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, terrorists in the coastal enclave have been firing rockets indiscriminately into Israel, gloating when they maim Israelis and crying foul to the international community when Israel hits back and, inadvertently, hurts the Gaza civilians whom the terror groups have placed in harm’s way.”
Israel had stated clearly that it did not seek a confrontation and simply wished for its citizens to experience life free of constant, indiscriminate rocket fire. However, with Hamas’ insistence on continued attacks, it looks as though Israel will once again be forced to launch an extended operation to restore calm and protect its citizens.
The US condemned the rocket fire and affirmed Israel’s right to defend its citizens. “We strongly condemn the continuing rocket fire inside of Israel and the deliberate targeting of civilians by terrorist organisations in Gaza,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. “No country can accept rocket fire aimed at civilians and we support Israel’s right to defend itself against these vicious attacks.”