Seven Israelis were killed and dozens injured as cross-border fire between Israel and militant groups in the Gaza Strip spiked on Tuesday, including a barrage of rockets on the Tel Aviv area. This followed an Israeli strike that brought down a high-rise in Gaza City used by Hamas’ political leadership.
The Israeli army struck hundreds of targets in the coastal enclave, after Hamas openly joined the hostilities Monday following a weekend of clashes in Jerusalem. At least 48 Palestinians were killed in the Strip and 304 were wounded as of Wednesday.
The seven include the 5-year-old Ido Avigal who has been hit by shrapnel in the south city of Sderot and succumbed to his wounds on Wednesday.
Moreover, a soldier, 21-year-old Staff. Sgt. Omer Tabib of Elyakim, who succumbed to his wounds after his vehicle was hit by an anti-tank missile fired from the northern Gaza Strip. Two others were injured in the assault, one critically.
According to a preliminary investigation, the army has closed the way, on which Tabib and the two others were hit, for vehicles earlier. The army thsu investigates whether the force mistakenly navigated through this path, was not aware of the closure, or if it disobeyed the orders.
A 16-year-old girl and her father, 52, were killed in a rocket attack in the city of Lod in central Israel Tuesday overnight.
Nadine and Khalil Awaad, killed during rocket attacks on their unrecognized village of Dhamas near Lod, had no way of defending themselves from the rocket fire. Like the other homes in their village, they had no bomb shelter. Their relative, Ismail Arafat, lives there as well and has been part of leading the struggle for recognition of the village.
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“We have nowhere to go. We don’t have a bomb shelter here for everyone. For the Thai [migrant] workers they built shelters, but we were not allowed because we are not humans. Nadine and Khalil were in the middle of breakfast before fasting. It seems that he opened the door and that’s how he was hit.”
An Israeli woman was killed in the Tel Aviv suburb of Rishon Letzion following a direct rocket hit to a residential building. Eight Israelis were reported injured after the heavy barrage to central Israel – four in the central city of Holon and four in the Tel Aviv suburb of Givatayim.
Two more women were killed in Ashkelon earlier in the day. A caregiver was killed and an elderly woman was seriously wounded after a rocket fired from Gaza directly hit a residential area in Ashkelon. Another woman was killed by a separate direct hit to a house in Ashkelon.
One of the rockets directly hit an empty school in Ashkelon. The building was empty after Israel cancelled classes in the area due to the rocket fire.
The Israeli military boosted its presence along the border. Authorities called on local residents to remain at home and near bomb shelters until further notice. Violent clashes between police and protesters spread through Arab cities inside Israel, with one man shot dead.
Ben Gurion International Airport halted all take-offs.
As of Tuesday night, Palestinian media have reported at least 30 deaths in Israeli strikes, while Gaza’s Hamas and Islamic Jihad continued to rain rockets on Israeli communities along the border.
After ongoing rocket fire since Monday evening, a 13-story residential tower in the Gaza Strip was hit by an Israeli air strike on Tuesday night and soon after collapsed to the ground, witnesses said, amid a surge of fighting between Israel and Gaza militants. The building had been used by Hamas’ political leadership, the IDF said.
Residents of the tower and people living nearby had been warned to evacuate the area around an hour before the air strike, witnesses said.
In response, Hamas fired more than 130 rockets towards Tel Aviv on Tuesday night.
At Tuesday’s situation assessment, Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi said all IDF units must prepare for a wider campaign of indefinite duration. He ordered that attacks continue on Hamas and Islamic Jihad facilities for weapons manufacturing and storage – and for the onslaught to be expanded to additional targets.
Kochavi said attacks must also continue on “every Hamas or Islamic Jihad terrorist” wherever they are. He ordered the Gaza Division to be reinforced, including infantry and armored brigades, alongside higher preparedness for air defense, intelligence and air force units.
The effort would continue so that residents of the south can live in safety, Kochavi said, adding that after the one-day Shavuot holiday that ends Monday evening, the IDF will consider whether to resume the Chariots of Fire training exercise that was suspended.
Hamas said Tuesday that “resistance to the occupation will continue regardless of the extent of the sacrifice, and until Israel changes its policies.”
Hamas said it would respond with force to every attack. “Israel planned to attack the homes of innocent civilians, and the number of casualties attests to the scope of their crimes,” it said.
The White House on Tuesday condemned ongoing rocket attacks by Hamas and other groups against targets in Israel and said Israel has a legitimate right to defend itself.