This second day of Operation Pillar of Cloud (or Defense) has been full of sound and fury, signifying hopefully very much indeed.
Apart from the dreadful news of the 3 Israeli casualties this morning, and 3 IDF soldiers injured in a mortar attack, we have been hearing all day about the constant air strikes by the IAF, assisted by the Israeli Navy gunboats.
There have been too many strikes in both directions for me to enumerate, but the most unusual missile strike was the one that hit Tel Aviv or its environs earlier this evening (not that I heard either the siren or the explosion).
Real siren sounded in Tel Aviv for first time since 1991: Palestinian terrorists in Gaza fired at least two rockets toward the Tel Aviv metropolitan area at around 6:45 pm Thursday, a day after an Israeli airstrike killed top Hamas commander Ahmed Jabari in Gaza. Both rockets landed in open areas, and there were no reports of injury or damage.
The incident marked the first time that a real siren was activated in Tel Aviv since the Gulf War in the early 1990s.
A man who was driving along the Ayalon Highway during the attack told Ynet: “When we heard the siren everyone stopped, stepped out of their cars and took cover. The last time I did that was during the Gulf War. It was frightening.”
Two hours earlier, a siren sounded in Rishon Lezion for the first time since Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defense against terrorists in Gaza. A rocket landed in the area a short while later, but there were no reports of injury or damage.
Here is an amateur video of the air-raid sirens in Tel Aviv. The man is shouting “Get inside!” and “I can’t believe this”.
That missile attack, only about 10 miles from my home, led me to have the surreal conversation I always hoped we’d never need to have: we discussed where we’re going to shelter if there’s a siren in the middle of the night. We’ve decided we’ll take our chances with the crazy neighbours and head for the bomb shelter downstairs. We’ve just gone downstairs now to unlock the shelter. With only 3 minutes to take cover we don’t want to waste time fiddling about with a padlock.
Our married children phoned earlier offering us refuge. They all live in settlements around Judea and Samaria (aka the West Bank,) and that’s probably the safest place in the country. If it gets seriously bad here we’ll head out in that direction, but for the moment we’re staying put. The whole thing reminds me of the run-up to Gulf War I.
The above Ynet report goes on to cover more of the day’s events:
Shortly after 8 pm a house in Beersheba sustained a direct hit from a Grad rocket fired from Gaza. The house was damaged, but there were no injuries.
During the evening hours Palestinians fired a rocket at an IDF vehicle travelling near the Gaza border. The soldiers inside the vehicle were not injured, and slight damage was caused to the vehicle.
The rocket barrages on south Israel intensified at around 8 pm. About 30 minutes before the direct hit on the house, the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted five rockets over Beersheba. Another one was intercepted over Kiryat Malachi. Sirens were also sounded Thursday evening in Ashdod, and Be’er Tuvia.
Earlier Thursday, three soldiers were injured when a mortar shell hit in the Eshkol region. Two sustained moderate wounds while the third was lightly hurt. The troops were airlifted to the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheva.
Here are some other excellent roundups from the Israeli news media:
Arutz Sheva (includes several YouTube videos of Iron Dome in action): Iron Dome stopped 80 rockets – although over 250 rockets were fired in all over Thursday. I actually thought Iron Dome had a greater success rating.
Although over 250 rockets have been fired at Israel since the beginning of operation “Pillar of Defense,” according to IDF spokespersons, things could have been worse still.
Since the start of Wednesday’s military operation, the Iron Dome system has intercepted over 80 rockets, en route to cities in the south of the country.
The IDF spokesman also said that the IDF continued to use air force Thursday and carried out more than 150 air strikes aimed at known rocket launching sites in Gaza, noting that the air force succeeded in inflicting significant damage to the sites. Since the beginning of the operation, the Air Force has hit over 200 targets throughout Gaza. The purpose of the attacks is to disrupt launching capabilities, destroy the terrorists’ weapons stockpiles and to prevent the terrorists from continuing their rocket assaults towards Israel.
Military officials said that the targets hit were identified by accurate intelligence accumulated from months’ worth of data.
Although the strikes were successful, terrorists within Gaza still succeeded Thursday in carrying out hundreds of rocket attacks, prompting warnings from government officials to the people of the south to stay off of the streets Thursday and to stay as close to bomb shelters as possible.
Later in the day the IAF attacked a further 70 rocket launching sites.
The Times of Israel has a rolling live-blog (refresh the page for updates). Some interesting item sthat caught my eye:
An anonymous government source tells the Times of Israel that the government is “impressed” with the support Jerusalem has received from world leaders in the wake of Operation Pillar of Defense.
“The government is impressed with the number of world leaders who said that they recognize that Hamas bears responsibility for the current environment and who say Israel is legitimate in defending its population,” the source said. “We didn’t hear this from one world leader, we heard it from a number of world leaders.”
Excuse my cynicism, but I wonder how long that’ll last though.
Israeli media reports indicate that an Israeli Navy warship launched a targeted missile strike that hit a Hamas jeep near the home of Hamas Prime Minister in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh.
There is no immediate report of casualties.
What a pity.
The other dramatic news of the day is that the government has authorized the IDF to call up up to 30,000 reservists ahead of a possible ground attack:
The IDF Spokesperson announced on Thursday evening that 30,000 reservists were being called up as Israel prepared for a possible extended ground incursion into Gaza as part of Operation Pillar of Defense.
The large-scale call up is Israel’s first since Operation Cast Lead in 2008, and represents a major escalation of the two-day old operation, which is aimed to put a halt to rocket fire on Israel.
“IDF Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz has authorized the army’s regular units to prepare for a ground operation,” IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai told Channel 2 earlier in the day.
Some of those called up for reserves would be dispatched to replace those units in their routine duties.
Mordechai said it was “far too early to talk about a ceasefire,” and that the army planned to continue its attacks on terror targets until the operation’s goals were met.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday night announced the onset of a broad aerial and naval bombardment of Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, and said the country’s military was ready to widen its operations until its objectives were reached.
Netanyahu’s national security cabinet also announced it had tasked the Israel Defense Forces with calling up extra reserve units, should the need arise, a possible precursor to a wider ground operation.
The prime minister reiterated the IDF’s report that Israeli Air Force planes had “damaged strategic targets of Hamas in a precise fashion” and “substantially damaged the launch capabilities of rockets from Gaza” at central and southern Israel.
“The terror organizations hurt our citizens with premeditation, while they deliberately conceal themselves behind their own citizens,” he said.
Speaking after Netanyahu, Barak told reporters that “the accuracy of the Shin Bet’s information and the sharpness of the IDF’s operation brought about the assassination of Hamas chief of staff [Ahmed] Jabari and the neutralization of Fajr missiles and Hamas’s infrastructures.” He added that most of Hamas’s Fajr long-range rocket arsenal was destroyed in IAF airstrikes.
Barak noted that Operation Pillar of Defense would not be completed in “one fell swoop,” but that the objectives would be attained in due time.
The defense minister delineated the operation’s objectives as “strengthening deterrence, damaging the rocket arsenal, damaging and hurting Hamas and minimizing injury to the civilians on the homefront of the State of Israel.”
“The IDF will receive all of the support to do everything necessary in order to return calm to the South,” Barak said.
Hamas has escalated its smuggling of high-quality weaponry recently, Harel explained, and “felt it has enough power to face down Israel,” Harel said. “We are in the early hours of the clash, and where it goes from here depends on Hamas’s activity.”
Besides the killing of Jabari, he added, “some of the long-range rockets of Hamas were destroyed. Fighter jets are bombing rocket cylinders buried in the ground. We’re trying to take away [Hamas’] launching capability. It will be difficult, but we’re doing our best.”
Israel does not wish to launch a ground operation, Harel said, but is willing to do so to stop the rocket fire.
“We’re not looking at going further on the ground, but if we have to do it, we will do it.”
Amen to that. May Hashem continue to watch over Israel and keep our soldiers and citizens safe. May He deliver our enemies into our hands speedily and safely.