More than 450 rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel since the assassination of Hamas military commander Ahmed Jabari on Wednesday, with dozens hitting southern Israeli towns on Friday, the third day of Operation Pillar of Defense. An air raid siren also went off in Tel Aviv Friday afternoon, the second in two days. Another siren was heard even north of Tel Aviv in Ramat Hasharon.
No damage or injuries were reported in central Israel Friday. According to reports, two rockets exploded in the Tel Aviv area.
Gaza terrorists stepped up their rocket fire into Israel as Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil crossed into Gaza before midday Friday through the only border crossing with Egypt, heavily guarded by Egyptian security personnel wearing flak jackets and armed with assault rifles.
The Iron Dome air-defense system intercepted a rocket targeting Ashdod. The majority of the rockets have been fired at Gaza border communities. there were also reports Friday morning of rocket explosions in Ashkelon, communities in the Hof Ashkelon region, Sha’ar HaNegev, Sdot HaNegev and Eshkol. One woman was treated for psychological trauma after a rocket exploded and damaged a public building in Ashkelon.
Fighting between the two sides escalated sharply Thursday evening with a first-ever rocket attack from Gaza on the Tel Aviv area, menacing Israel’s most densely populated area. No casualties or damage to property were reported in Tel Aviv, but three people were killed in the southern town of Kiryat Malachi earlier in the day when a rocket slammed into an apartment building.
The rocket fire sowed panic in Tel Aviv and made the prospect of a ground incursion more likely. The government later approved the mobilization of up to 30,000 reservists for a possible invasion.
Meanwhile Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the nation, three Israelis were killed when a rocket fired from Gaza scored a direct hit on an apartment building in Kiryat Malachi. “I saw, as you did, the images of the bleeding Israeli baby. That image, to me, says it all. Hamas are hurting children on both sides: they are firing on Israeli children and hiding behind Palestinian children,” Netanyahu said.
“This is a very tough reality,” the prime minister continued. But even in this reality the IDF is continuing, and will continue to do everything possible to prevent civilian casualties.”
“I offer my condolences to the families that lost their loved ones, and I wish full recoveries to the injured. On behalf of all the citizens of Israel I would like to show my support for the residents of the south,” Netanyahu concluded.
Also on Thursday, President Shimon Peres addressed an interfaith conference in Haifa, and touched on the violence in the south. “The State of Israel and the residents of the south are under attack, in which rockets are fired at Israel. Civilians have been killed and babies have been wounded. Children in the south are living under the threat of rocket strikes and they are terrified. There is no other nation that yearns for peace and hates bloodshed as much as Israel. Our enemies are not the residents of Gaza, they are not the Muslims, but rather our enemies are the terrorists and murderers who act without reason or thought.”
The president stressed that Israel’s hands were outstretched toward peace, but clarified that Israel would do everything necessary to protect its citizens. “The IDF is working tirelessly to prevent innocent civilian casualties. Jabari was an arch terrorist who was responsible for the killing of many and for other terror activities. I salute the IDF and the Israel Security Agency for their precise, surgical, and strategically important operation.”