Two rockets hit the outskirts of the central Israeli town of Rishon Letzion, more than 22 miles from Gaza, raising concerns that Hamas will fire long-range missiles that can hit Israel’s business capital of Tel Aviv
Earlier, a rocket fired from Gaza slammed into a four-story apartment building in the southern Israeli town of Kiryat Malachi, killing two men and a woman in the first Israeli casualties since Israel killed Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari. Palestinians say a two-month-old baby was killed in Gaza, along with ten other Palestinians. In Gaza, hundreds attended Jabari’s funeral and vowed revenge.
“Israeli planes have been firing missiles non-stop stop,” Muhannad al-Jannar, who lives close to the Israeli border in the southern Gaza town of Khan Yunis with his wife and four children told The Media Line. “Whenever an airstrike hits, the children get terrified, but after that they’re curious to see what happened. They look out the windows to see where the missiles have fallen.”
Israeli officials confirmed that they have bombarded targets extensively, although said they were trying hard not to hit civilians.
“The IDF (Israeli army) hit 230 separate targets in Gaza,” Army spokesman Captain Eytan Buchman told The Media Line. “We’ve been gathering intelligence on these targets for months now. We started with the senior leadership and moved to long-range rockets with an over 25 mile range. After that, we hit shorter range rockets.”
Buchman said more than 140 rockets were fired at Israel, and 90 were intercepted. Life in the south of Israel came to a standstill as schools were closed and residents close to Gaza were ordered to stay in their homes. Many stores also stayed closed.
“It feels like the sirens (meaning an incoming rocket) are going off constantly – before one even dies down, another one starts,” Zeev Silverman, a professor of anatomy at Ben Gurion University in Beersheva told The Media Line. “We don’t have a reinforced room at home, so we go to an inner hallway that doesn’t have any window. But if a missile directly hit our house, that wouldn’t really help us.”
He says he feels his blood pressure go up with every siren.
“You know it’s going to hit somewhere,” he says. “And you wonder, is it going to hit you or someone you know? Then you wonder, what if I’m in the shower? I decided that if I’m in the shower I won’t get out.”
Israeli officials launched a public relations blitz to try to explain Israel’s position.
“There is no moral symmetry; there is no moral equivalence, between Israel and the terrorist organizations in Gaza,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the foreign press today. “The terrorists are committing a double war crime. They fire at Israeli civilians, and they hide behind Palestinian civilians. And by contrast, Israel takes every measure to avoid civilian casualties. I saw today a picture of a bleeding Israeli baby. This picture says it all: Hamas deliberately targets our children, and they deliberately place their rockets next to their children. Despite this reality, and it’s a very difficult reality, Israel will continue to do everything in its power to avoid civilian casualties.”
However, given the densely packed Gaza Strip with 1.6 million Palestinians in a small area, that seems virtually impossible.
Israeli analysts say they believe that Israel has reasserted its deterrent position vis-à-vis Hamas.
“Israel has changed its policy with the decision to assassinate senior Hamas leaders,” Dr. Eitan Shamir, an Israeli expert on national security told The Media Line. “It is the first time that Israel is acting so strongly since the Arab Spring and the change of regime in Egypt, which many thought would constrain Israel.”
He said that both Israel and Hamas do not want a further escalation and an Israeli invasion of ground troops into Gaza.
Palestinian analyst Mukhaimer Abu Saada, a political science professor at Al-Azhar University told The Media Line that an Israeli ground operation is a likely possibility.
“It depends on Hamas,” he said. “Until now Hamas has only fired rockets into the Israeli cities close to Gaza, but if Hamas will fire missiles into Tel Aviv, this will lead to a confrontation and will provoke Israel to initiate a ground attack on Gaza,” he said.