image Photo: Reuters

Israel under rocket attack

Palestinian Islamists are firing barrages of rockets and mortar-shells from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip toward Israel’s central and southern communities. The indiscriminate rocket-fire initially began at around 6 AM this morning, less than two hours after a joint operation was conducted by the Israeli Air Force and the Israeli Security Agency Shin Bet, successfully assassinating a senior commander of the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Baha Abu Al-Ata.

Announcing the successful operation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – alongside IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Aviv Kochavi and Shin Bet Director Nadav Argaman – referred to the Iranian-backed terrorist as the one responsible for the majority of the hostilities that have emanated from the Palestinian enclave against the Jewish State in the past year. According to the Israeli Prime Minister “The IDF thwarted the senior Islamic Jihad commander in the Gaza Strip, Baha Abu Ata. For the past year, this chief terrorist was the main orchestrator of terror emanating from the Gaza Strip. He initiated, planned and carried out numerous terrorist attacks. He fired hundreds of rockets toward the [Gaza] periphery communities, whose pain we are not blind to. He was in the midst of planning additional attacks. Even these days, he was a ticking bomb.” He further emphasized that Anyone who thinks they can harm our citizens and evade our long grasp – is wrong. We have proven that we can [reach them] with surgical accuracy, anywhere the terrorists hide. Whomever will hurt us – we will hurt him.” Furthering Netanyahu’s point, IDF Chief of General Staff Lieutenant General Aviv Kochavi stressed that “He (Baha Abu Al-Atta) is the man who has dramatically undermined the security and stability in southern Israel, and particularly in the Gaza periphery. He is the man who acted in every way to sabotage [Israel’s] attempts of reconciliation with Hamas. A reconciliation that he did not accept or agree with. This man was a living ticking bomb and even during the past days, his last days, he planned and worked on carrying out additional terror attacks.”

In response to the targeted killing of the Islamic Jihad field commander, and in spite of Israeli calls for Hamas to remain out of the conflict; the Islamist Hamas and Islamic Jihad organizations released a joint statement, saying: “Israel bears full responsibility for the heinous crime and it will not go unanswered.” The statement added that “Israel’s attempt to resolve its internal crises at the expense of Palestinian blood will not work. Returning to the policy of assassination is a red line,” while further claiming that “The (Islamist Palestinian) factions are capable of disrupting Israel’s plans and setting the rules of the struggle.”

The referred to Palestinian struggle immediately resulted in dozens of rockets and mortar-shells pouring indiscriminately on Israeli civilian communities across central and southern Israel. While residents of southern Israel have been instructed by the IDF Home Front Command to enter nearby bomb shelters upon the sounding of rocket alert sirens, which last between 15 to 45 seconds, residents of central Israel have been instructed to do so within a two minutes timeframe. Because of the traumatizing experience for many children, some families of southern Israel decided to send their children to areas that are unlikely – at this stage – to face the distressing hostile reality. One example is Aviram Harush, an Israeli resident of the southern city of Ashkelon who said,  “We’ve been living here for two and a half years, in light of the security situation which started this morning, we decided to take the kids, to go to Jerusalem to their grandparents, there the children can be calm and peaceful and we will return here to our life and routine, to our normal life here despite the situation.”

In response to the continued rocket-fire from the Hamas-controlled territory, the IDF conducted dozens of strikes against Islamic Jihad militant installations. Furthermore, Israeli aircrafts struck several Palestinian rocket-launching cells while they were preparing to fire.