Nitzana residents seek refuge in sewage pipe 390 .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Despite ongoing attempts by European and Egyptian diplomats to obtain a
cease-fire, Israel was poised Sunday night to escalate its operations against
the Islamic Jihad terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip as rockets
continued to pound southern Israel for the third straight day.
40 rockets were fired into Israel and 14 were intercepted by the Iron Dome
rocket-defense system. A fourth battery will be deployed in the coming weeks.
IDF sources said that around 160 rockets have been fired into Israel since the
beginning of the violence on Friday afternoon.
The IAF has carried out 24
air strikes in Gaza since Friday, killing 20 Palestinians. One of the dead was
identified as 12- year-old Ayoub Assaleya, who the IDF said apparently walked
into a launch site seconds before it was attacked.
On Sunday morning,
Palestinian sources added that Assaleya was killed by IDF gunfire in Jabalya in
the northern Gaza Strip. The IDF said it was examining the report.
rockets slammed into Beersheba on Sunday, hitting an empty school and a nearby
residential area. No one was injured.
“We will strike at anybody that
plans to strike at us, tries to strike at us or actually does hit us, and the
[military] is dealing very heavy blows at these terror organizations,” Netanyahu
said during a visit to Ashdod.
Due to the ongoing violence, IDF Chief of
Staff Lt.- Gen. Benny Gantz canceled a trip he had planned to the United States
for talks with his counterpart Gen. Martin Dempsey, which were slated to focus
on Iran. Gantz was also supposed to attend a Friends of the IDF dinner in New
On Sunday afternoon, Gantz convened a meeting of the General
Staff and instructed the Southern Command to continue targeting rocket cells
caught trying to fire rockets into Israel.
According to assessments
within the IDF, Islamic Jihad is increasingly frustrated with its failure to
exact a heavy price from Israel despite the large number of rockets it has
As a result of this frustration, the IDF predicts that Islamic
Jihad will escalate its rocket fire and that the violence will potentially
continue for several more days.
“This could go on for longer and we need patience,” Defense
Minister Ehud Barak said on Sunday.
In general, the short-range rockets
launched into Israel are fired by members of the Popular Resistance Committees,
the leader of which was assassinated by Israel on Friday due to suspicions that
he was plotting an attack along Israel’s border with Egypt.
longer-range rockets such as those fired toward Ashdod on Sunday are fired by
the Islamic Jihad.
IDF spokesman Brig.-Gen.
Yoav “Poli” Mordechai
pointed a finger on Sunday at Iran, which he said was actively encouraging
Islamic Jihad to continue firing rockets into Israel.
Islamic Jihad and supports it with weaponry,” Mordechai told
“In these days, the Iranians are supporting them and actively
encouraging them to continue.”
Mordechai said that while Hamas was not
actively firing rockets into Israel, it is viewed as the ruling authority in
Gaza and is therefore held responsible by Israel for terrorist attacks that
originate inside the territory.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said
Egypt was working to stop the violence and was consulting with the various
factions in Gaza but added that Israel would have to first stop its air
“Following contact with factions and the positive and
responsible position they have taken, Egypt is working continuously to stop the
aggression... the enemy must end its aggression now,” Haniyeh said.
Home Front Command along with the heads of a number of local authorities in the
South gave the order on Sunday night to cancel school in all towns and cities
located between seven kilometers to 40 kilometers from the Gaza Strip for the
second day in a row.
The order applies to the cities of Ashkelon, Ashdod,
Beersheba, Netivot, Sderot, Kiryat Malachi, Gedera, Rahat, Yavne, Lakiyeh and
the Gan Yavne Regional Council.
Schools in the western Negev that are
closer than 7 kilometers to the Gaza Strip will hold class as usual, as they
have the necessary reinforcement to protect against the incoming rockets, the
Home Front Command said Saturday.Yaakov Lappin, Ben Hartman and Reuters
contributed to the report.