One Killed as 370 Rockets Launched From Gaza Hit Israel's South; IDF Strikes Strip

Iron Dome intercepts some 100 rockets ■ Sirens sound as far as Dead Sea ■ Around 70 Israelis wounded, two of whom seriously ■ IDF strikes over 100 Gaza targets ■ Four Palestinians said killed

Security personnel check a damaged house in the Israeli city of Ashkelon following a rocket attack from Gaza, November 12, 2018.
\ Ilan Assayag

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■ Some 370 rockets launched from Gaza

■ Bus hit, Israeli severely wounded

■ One civilian killed by Gaza rockets, Some 70 said injured

Iron Dome intercepts around 100 projectiles

■ Israel strikes over 100 targets in Strip

■ Palestinians say three killed

The Israeli army is reinforcing Armored Corps and infantry units near the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, its spokesperson said. The Israel Air Force struck over a hundred Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets on Monday overnight, including a munitions warehouse, weapons factory and a military compound and Hamas' Public Security offices, said the spokesperson.

Hamas' military wing spokesman said Monday that Be'er Sheva and Ashdod would be targeted next if "Israel persisted in its aggression." The Islamic Jihad echoed the statement, saying Gaza factions have the capacity to continue their offensive.

A 40-year-old man was killed after a house was hit by a rocket in the southern Israeli town Ashkelon late Monday night. Two women who were in the same building at the time of the incident are said to be in critical condition.

The fatality is reportedly a man from the West Bank Palestinian city of Hebron, not an Israeli citizen as initially suggested by local media. His identity is yet to be fully confirmed. He was the first casualty in Israel from this round of aggression with the Strip.

The victim was found by other civilians buried in the rubble an hour after police and firefighters had already left, in what neighbors described as a "terrible failure" to locate him.

Rescue operations at the building had identified a 60 year old woman, unconscious with blast wounds and multiple injuries, around 40 minutes after the house was hit, but had altogether missed the other casualties.

The other victims were spotted by a man who had come to take pictures of the damage one hour after the hit.

Israel came under a heavy barrage of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip on Monday, a day after a flare-up in which an Israeli officer and seven Palestinians were killed.

An anti-tank missile launched from Gaza hit a bus in southern Israel, severely wounding a 19-year-old soldier.

The soldier was evacuated to Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva along with the 25-year-old driver, who suffered from shock.

Gaza incident was a botched Israeli military op, not an assassination attempt.

The projectiles fired from the Strip hit Israel in a number of locations, including in Sderot, where several people suffered light injuries from shrapnel, and Netivot, where a house took a direct hit. Israeli emergency services said a total of nine people sustained light injuries from shrapnel.

Late on Monday night, the Magen David Adom said overall they treated 53 injured Israelis, of whom two in critical conditions, one moderately injured, 23 injured lightly from glass shrapnel, blast injuries, smoke inhalation and from running to protected areas, and 27 people suffering from stress symptoms.

The figure referred to events prior to the deadly hit in Ashkelon and more rocket attacks from Gaza overnight and, with increased intensity, in the early morning on Tuesday.

The Israel Defense Forces said the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted around 100 out of some 370 launches from Gaza. Most of the rockets exploded in open areas. Rocket sirens sounded in southern Israeli communities throughout the late afternoon and evening on Monday, including in Be'er Sheva and Ashkelon, and near the Dead Sea, and continued on Tuesday.

The IDF launched a series of airstrikes on the Gaza Strip in response to the multiple rounds of rocket fire. According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, three people were killed and several were wounded in the strikes.

The army said Tuesday morning it struck more than 100 Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets using jets, attack helicopters and tanks. Targets included three attack tunnels, military compounds, observation posts, weapon manufacturing sites and launch sites.

The IDF said it also struck Hamas' Al-Aqsa TV studios in Gaza City. Reports in Gaza said the Israel Air Force fired warning missiles before striking the building, which was evacuated prior to the attack.

"The station broadcasts harsh incitement against Israel and its citizens, showing methods on how to carry out attacks against civilians and soldiers," the IDF's Spokesperson said in a statement.

Shortly later, Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories addressed Gaza's residents in a Facebook post in Arabic. Hamas has "crossed a red line," COGAT wrote, adding that Israel will intensify its response.

Reports from Gaza said senior Egyptian intelligence officials are involved in efforts to reach a cease-fire.

'Dangerous and reckless'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu deliberated the escalation on the southern border at the IDF's headquarters in Tel Aviv with Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot and senior members of the defense establishment and the IDF.

A diplomatic source said "operational decisions were made" and that the security cabinet will reconvene on Tuesday. Sources estimate that while Israel will respond to the flare-up harshly, the possibility to restore calm shall remain.

IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis said that "Hamas is leading the Gaza Strip towards destruction" and will feel the full force of the IDF's response in the coming hours. According to the IDF, Hamas evacuated its headquarters and several of its outposts before the first rocket was launched from Gaza at Israel.

In a joint statement, the Palestinian factions warned Israel that if its "aggression continues in response to the rocket fire – which was a response to yesterday's attack in Khan Younis – the Palestinian factions will escalate the rocket fire and the range into Israel."

Islamic Jihad issued a separate statement later on Monday evening, saying: "Israelis won't be secure as long as Palestinians aren't and playing with the lives of Palestinians will not be without a cost." Earlier, Islamic Jihad vowed to avenge Sunday's operation.

The Palestinian factions also commented on the attack on a bus, saying that "the factions' fighters succeeded in attacking a bus full of soldiers with a Kornet missile." The statement claimed the attack resulted in the death and injuries of the soldiers on the bus. The IDF, however, said in a statement that only one soldier was wounded.

Meanwhile, UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov's office tweeted that the UN is "working closely with #Egypt & all concerned to ensure that #Gaza steps back from the brink. The escalation in the past 24hrs is EXTREMELY dangerous & reckless. Rockets must STOP, restraint must b shown by all! No effort must be spared to reverse the spiral of violence."

EU Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret also tweeted in response to the escalation: "Following with great concern the situation and the indiscriminate firing of rockets towards the south of Israel. Attacks on civilians are unacceptable and need to stop. Everyone must step back from the brink."

Jason Greenblatt, U.S. President Donald Trump's special envoy to the Middle East, denounced Hamas in response, tweeting: "terrorists in Gaza are again attacking Israel with tools of war. These rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli towns must be condemned by all. Israel is forced once again into military action to defend its citizens. We stand with Israel as it defends itself against these attacks."

Earlier, Palestinians reported an Israeli artillery strike on the northern Gaza Strip, near a Hamas position. No injuries were reported.

The latest escalation comes a day after a 41-year-old Israeli officer was killed and another was moderately wounded during an operation in the southern Gaza Strip.

At least seven Palestinians were killed, including a commander in Hamas' military wing. Hamas claimed that six of the casualties were part of its organization.

Israeli security forces and firefighters gather near a bus set ablaze after it was hit by a rocket fired from the Palestinian enclave.
AFP