A huge escalation between Israel and Gaza has developed over the last 24 hours, with the toll being:
one IDF special forces officer killed, another injured,
7 Hamas terrorists killed including one of their commanders;
over 100 rockets fired into Israel within the space of one hour;
plus direct hits to houses in Ashkelon and Netivot,
a direct hit by a Cornet missile on a bus which minutes earlier was carrying 50 soldiers, seriously injuring one of the soldiers;
and other property damage across the south with several Israeli citizens injured.
To give you an idea of how frequent the rocket attacks were occurring, this is how my phone looked like earlier (and still ongoing as I type a couple of hours later) with the Red Alert app lit up:
The bus mentioned above had been full moments before the hit. We have to thank G-d for our miracles, even though someone was very badly hurt:
The episode began started last night, in circumstances which are unclear and will most likely remain unclear: a special forces IDF soldier who remains unnamed was killed and another injured in an undercover operation.
IDF Spokesperson Ronen Manelis said Monday that the overnight mission in Gaza was intended as an intelligence-gathering mission by IDF special forces operating deep inside Gaza, not an assassination or kidnapping attempt.
Most details of the raid, including the identity of the officer who was killed, remained subject to a military censor and could not be published.
At some point during the overnight operation, the Israeli troops clashed with local Hamas fighters, killing a senior commander and several other members of the Gaza-ruling terrorist group.
The IDF unit called in aerial support — aircraft to bomb the surrounding area — and made its away out of the Gaza Strip.
Manelis said the soldiers operating in Gaza overnight “became trapped in a highly complex situation but they had responded “heroically, hit those who threatened them and extracted themselves to Israeli territory.”
In addition to the IDF lieutenant colonel who was killed — identified only by the Hebrew letter of his first name, “Mem” — a second IDF officer was wounded in the firefight and taken to Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center in moderate, stable condition.
According to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, seven Palestinians in total were killed in the exchange and another seven were injured.
Following the raid, Palestinian terrorist groups launched at least 17 projectiles — rockets and mortar shells — at southern Israel. Three of them were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system. The rest fell in open fields outside populated communities, one of them causing light damage to a greenhouse in the Eshkol region.
The slain IDF officer was a hero and a wonderful man according to all the reports. Sadly he has to remain anonymous but we can get a small picture of him from these eulogies:
“This is a great loss,” the father said, according to a report from Hadashot news television. “I hope it will be the final loss for the people of Israel.”
A close relative said that the officer, who has been identified by the military only by the Hebrew initial “Mem,” joined the army after high school and had remained in the service ever since.
The lieutenant colonel was 41 years old, was married with two children and lived in a town in northern Israel.
“He was a social activist and contributed greatly,” the relative said. “The family didn’t know what he did aside from the fact that he was a senior officer in an elite unit. His family was exemplary, his wife works in the medical sector and helps children.”
A close acquaintance of Lt. Col. Mem said he volunteered in various organizations and “raised the next generation with values of patriotism, and values of contributing and volunteering.”
“He began to think of the future, of advancing in the civilian security establishment,” the acquaintance said. “Or alternatively, he considered progressing through the military establishment.”
Condolences and commiserations over the death of the officer came from senior Israeli figures including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein.
Netanyahu tweeted: “I bow my head in sadness at the loss of Lt. Col. Mem, a glorious fighter who fell during an IDF operation in the Gaza Strip.”
May Hashem send comfort and strength to the family of “Mem” and may He avenge his blood.
The slain Hamas commander was Nur Barakeh and was apparently involved in Hamas’ tunnel-building. Even if he was not the intended target of the operation, it can only be a good thing that he has been eliminated:
A senior Hamas leader was killed in an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip Sunday night, Arab sources have reported. At least six other terrorists were also killed in the strike, Gaza hospitals reported.
According to the reports, an IDF attack involving roughly a dozen missile strikes in the southern Gaza Strip Sunday night killed multiple Hamas terrorists, including a senior commander of Hamas’ Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.
The missiles reportedly struck targets in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis.
At least six terrorists were killed, and according to the Gaza health ministry, Nur Barakeh, the deputy commander of the al-Qassam Brigades, was one of the fatalities. A second fatality was identified as Muhammed Al-Qara, an aide to Barakeh.
There were several rocket attacks last night in retaliation for the Israeli raid to which the IDF responded in measure.
However this afternoon with no warning and no provocation, Hamas and its allies suddenly opened fire on Israel with a massive barrage of rockets and missiles into the south of Israel. Within the space of one hour over 100 missiles were fired! Since the beginning of the barrage at around 4 p.m., over 200 missiles and rockets have been fired into Israel causing serious damage.
Palestinian militants in Gaza fired over 200 rockets into southern Israel within a span of two hours Monday evening.
Rockets landed in the city of Sderot and Netivot where the local religious council building was hit. A rocket also hit a home in Ashkelon causing a fire to break out. Code Red sirens were sounded throughout the south, including in Be’er Sheva.
At least five people were injured in the latest barrage; damage was reported as well. One young man was injured when terrorists fired an anti-tank missile at a bus travelling near the border.
Due to the barrages, residents were instructed to stay close to shelters and protected areas.
The Israeli Air Force struck at least 20 terror targets throughout Gaza; at least two were killed in the airstrikes.
IDF reinforcements are making their way toward the Gaza Strip vicinity as security is being beefed up to prevent terrorist infiltrations into Israeli communities.
Among the regions where Code Red sirens went off: Sdot Negev, Ashkelon Beach, Sha’ar Hanegev and Eshkol. Sirens were heard in the Dead Sea region and the Hebron Hills area as well.
Residents of Ashdod, Ashkelon and Be’er Sheva were also instructed to remain near shelters.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has convened the Security Cabinet to discuss dealing with the deteriorating situation.
Here are several tweets from the south:
In the wake of the violence Prime Minister Netanyahu cut short his visit to Europe for the celebrations of the end of WWI (how ironic) and the security cabinet has just wrapped up 4 hours of consultations.
Meanwhile, as mentioned above, the Israel Air Force is attacking in Gaza.
The Israel Defense Forces releases footage of its airstrikes against terror targets in the Gaza Strip.
The videos appear to show strikes on Palestinian rocket-launching teams, military facilities, and other sites in the coastal enclave.
The IDF says it has targeted upwards of 20 sites operated by the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups throughout the Strip.
Whether this will bring quiet or lead to more escalation is anyone’s guess.
Our big mistake seems to my untrained eye to be that we leave the decision making to Hamas. We are not pro-active any more. We are solely reactive to Hamas – to the extent of giving in to their blackmail and allowing in suitcases of cash ($15 million worth!) from Qatar to buy their “peacefulness” – which lasted all of 24 hours.
It’s time for a different solution to be found.