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Operation Protective Edge entered its third day with the Israeli Air Force continuing its aerial assault on the Gaza Strip. The IDF has hit over 800 terror targets in Gaza since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, including 217 rocket launchers. Palestinian reports claim 16 were killed in airstrike into Thursday morning, totaling at 81.
The IDF reported that it killed Ayman Siam, the head of Hamas’s rocket arsenal and “key decision maker” Thursday, Hamas’s military wing Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades denying his death releasing the statement, “He is continuing in his Jihadist actions. We call on the media to be precise and not trust the lies of Israel.” The IDF reportedly killed three Islamic Jihad terrorists in airstrikes early Thursday morning, a reported 320 targets hit in airstrikes overnight Wednesday.
Over 80 rockets were fired into Israel on Wednesday, Thursday meeting a barrage of rockets fired into central Israel. Three rockets were fired at Tel Aviv, the Iron Dome intercepting the rockets. Hamas took responsibility for the M-75 rockets fired into Tel Aviv. The rockets have a 75-kilometer range, weighing over 60 kilograms.
A report released on Thursday morning from the IDF report that Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza possess over 6,000 rockets. The report claims that Hamas has 2,500 smuggled rockets and 1,000 locally made short range rockets, 1,000 smiggled grad rockets and 200 locally produced grads, 300 locally made medium-long range rockets and “dozens of long range rockets.”
The IDF warned over 100,000 Palestinians in Gaza to evacuate their homes Thursday afternoon ahead of a wide scale operation. The IDF continues to alert civilians via flyers and phone calls of needed evacuation and warning of harboring terrorists.
Hamas responded to Israel’s call for evacuation telling Palestinians in Gaza to not “heed the calls”.
Fatah has reportedly participated in rocket attacks on Israel. Islamic Jihad or Hamas has fired majority of the rocket into Israel in the past weeks. Abdul Qader Husseine Battalions, an armed group associated with Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah claimed firing two grad rockets and four mortar shells from Gaza at Ashkelon on Thursday morning. Fatah has yet to confirm the reports.
Both Israel and Egypt have offered medical assistance to injured Palestinians, the Egyptian government opening the Rafah border with Gaza. Egypt reportedly sent 40 ambulances to the border.
Over 30 Palestinians are being treated in Haifa’s Rambam Care Campus, 11 from Gaza and the remaining from the West Bank.
Israel has not haulted the entrance of humanitarian aid into Gaza despite ongoing attacks. Israel has permitted over 200 trucks of aid and 200,000 liters of fuel into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing daily.
Hamas has called on Israel to agree to release prisoners from the Gilad Shalit deal that have been incarcerated again for an immediate ceasefire. The 59 prisoners who were arrested again, most in connection to the abduction and murder of the Israeli teenagers kidnapped on June 12. Hamas claims the prisoners have been wrongly incarcerated, stating, “If you have proof that the prisoners were involved in terrorist activities, then by all means, arrest them,” he said. “But you apprehended people who have no connection with the operations against Israel, and you know it.”
Addressing the security cabinet on Wednesday, Prime Minister Netanyahu stated that, “The army is ready for all possibilities. Hamas will pay a heavy price for firing toward Israeli citizens. The security of Israel’s citizens comes first. The operation will expand and continue until the fire toward our towns stops and quiet returns.”
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told Israel Radio Thursday afternoon that Operation Protective Edge would continue “until they understand that escalation is not recommended, and that we will not accept fire at our communities.” He stated earlier Thursday via Twitter that, “We have ahead of us long days of fighting and attempts by Hamas to surprise Israel with attacks from the air, the sea, and the land, which demand of our forces in the field to continue to stay alert.”
In latest developments, two Palestinians were arrested at a checkpoint on Highway 5 in Israel, border police finding a gas tank and explosive in the vehicle. One of the two arrested confessed to attempting a terror attack in Israel.
The United Nations Security Council was briefed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Thursday. Ban stated that, “Gaza is on a knife edge. I firmly condemn the multiple rocket attacks launched from Gaza on Israel. Such attacks are unacceptable and must stop…. I also urged Prime Minister Netanyahu to exercise maximum restraint and to respect international obligations to protect civilians. I condemn the rising number of civilian lives lost in Gaza.”
Ban called on regional leaders to become involved in the conflict, stating, “Regional leaders have a vital role to play and I urged President Sisi and others to help facilitate a return to the November 2012 ceasefire agreement. The risk of violence expanding further still is real. Gaza, and the region as a whole, cannot afford another full-blown war.”
Addressing international criticism, Israeli president Shimon Peres stated Thursday that, “We must say clearly that the State of Israel won’t rely on luck; we are prepared and ready for any scenario in order to protect our civilians. We are a united front in the face of this danger; we will not consent to being victims. We do not wish to see innocent people killed or injured, but it is Hamas who endangers the citizens of Gaza by firing from deep within civilian areas.”
Amir Tsarfati is the founder and president of Behold Israel, a news site to correct the scarcity in trustworthy reportage on issues and events impacting Israel, and to resolve the uncertainty about who or what to believe.
Photo credit: Ariel L (Creative Commons)