By Jonathan Hessen and Erin Viner
5 missiles exploded in populated areas, injuring three foreign nationals from China at a construction site. The victims were evacuated to nearby hospital, where one was diagnosed in serious condition while the two others were treated for light injuries.
The majority of the other incoming projectiles were either intercepted by Israel’s aerial defense array or landed in uninhabited areas.
In a two-wave retaliation, the IDF launched strikes on a total of 16 targets belonging to Hamas and the PIJ. No Palestinian casualties in any of the Israeli strikes, according to IDF Spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari.
Tensions rapidly escalated yesterday after PIJ leader Khader Adnan died in an Israeli prison due to an 87-day hunger strike. After being found unconscious in his cell, he was taken to a hospital where he was declared dead despite resuscitation efforts, said the Israel Prisons Service (IPS).
Prior to his capture, Adnan was featured in a PIJ video openly calling on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force to strike at the Jewish State, while urging Palestinians to carry out suicide bombings and attacks against Israelis; saying: “O Quds Brigades, Strike a blow! O Quds Brigades, Shake the Earth! Who among you is ‘Hasan Abu Zeid?’ Who among you is the next suicide bomber? Who among you will carry the next explosives belt? Who among you will fire the next bullets?”
Adnan was the first Palestinian hunger striker to die in Israeli custody in more than 30 years.
The longtime operative had been arrested 12 times for involvement in terrorist activity, spending 8 cumulative years in detention.
Upon receiving the news of the hunger-striker’s death, the PIJ – a designated terror organization by the European Union, UK, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Japan and Israel – pledged to exact revenge against the Jewish State.
“The occupation bears full responsibility, and we will carry out our role in confronting those crimes and those assaults, in particular this crime which led to the martyrdom of Sheikh hero Khader Adnan,” stated PIJ Spokesman Daoud Shehab.
The first missile salvoes from Gaza toward Israel’s southern communities began with the firing of 3 rockets early yesterday morning, prompting IDF tanks to fire at observation posts on the frontier between the sides. Palestinian terrorists then launched another 22 rockets from at Israel, 4 of which were successfully intercepted. 2 exploded near residential structures and 16 hit uninhabited areas.
200,000 Israelis were forced to seek refuge in bomb shelters within the IDF Home Front Command’s instructed fifteen seconds.
Sderot resident Ma’ayan Melech said she had to shield her from explosions before they were able to get to their fortified rooms. Another city resident, Rita Giladof, who also didn’t have time to reach safety, witnessed the landing of the incoming missiles. “I have been in Sderot for 30 years, 21 years I remember experiencing rockets,” she said, adding doubt that the phenomena would ever be resolved.
In tandem, Palestinian residents of Gaza – fearing Israel’s response to sporadic rocket-fire that persisted during the successive hours – sought shelter in their respective homes.
“As you can see, the situation is very bad. There are airstrikes and people are scared. We are shop owners and all shops are closed, the whole country is closed. I usually leave at midnight but today we closed our shops at around nine or eight as a result of the tension in the country,” Gaza resident Khalil al-Qadi.
Following continued indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza, Israeli Air Force fighter jets attacked Hamas military infrastructure at 11:04 PM, destroying sites including a military post, a training facility, a weapons storage facility and arms manufacturing plant. Two other Hamas arms production and additional facilities used to build subterranean infrastructure were also hit, including an underground terror tunnel in the southern Gaza Strip.
Both Hamas and the PIJ then ratcheted-up attacks on Israel, prompting a further Israeli response at 2:14 AM when fighter aircraft and helicopters fired upon 3 Hamas military compounds, another weapons warehouse, additional subterranean infrastructure and naval outposts.
The terror groups ultimately expressed interest in a truce following extensive back-channel negotiations by Egypt, which took effect at 4:10 AM this morning.
While military officials confirmed to TV7 that Israel would uphold the Cairo-brokered arrangement, Palestinian Islamists nevertheless launched yet a missile barrage at the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council at 4:02. One projectile exploded in a courtyard outside of a private residence, which sustained heavy damage but no reported injuries. Another single rocket fired at 5:26 AM exploded in an uninhabited area.
When queried about Adnan’s death by a Palestinian reporter during a State Department briefing, Deputy Spokesman Vedant Patel commented, “Our view is that we have a deep respect for human rights and believe that all individuals, including prisoners, should be treated humanely.” He went on to point out that “the Palestinian Islamic Jihad is a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, and as we have seen with today’s rocket attacks, this group continues to advance violence.”
European Union Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Spokesman Peter Stano also noted Adnan’s active affiliation to a designated terror organization.
“We take note of the death of Mr. Adnan in the Israeli prison, and he was protesting his for incitement and affiliation with Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which is a terrorist organization,” said Stano.