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Air strike destroys key Hamas command center
By YAAKOV LAPPIN,BEN HARTMAN
08/23/2014
Israeli military sources say only combatants were present during airstrike; some 250 rockets fired at Israel over the weekend.
 


The Israel Air Force struck a 13-story building in Gaza City on Saturday evening that housed an enormous Hamas command center, IDF sources said, adding that only combatants were inside at the time.

Gazan health officials said 17 people were wounded in the attack. Reuters cited local residents as saying that the building housed 44 families.

Shortly after 8 p.m., rocket-warning sirens went off in cities across the Tel Aviv area, from Rishon Lezion to Bnei Brak and Givatayim. Blasts from Iron Dome interceptions could be heard in the air over Tel Aviv, though the sirens did not sound in the city.

There were no reports of injuries or damage.

Sirens were also reported shortly after in cities in the Shfela area in central Israel.

Contacted not long after the sirens stopped, the IDF Spokesman’s Office said that only one rocket was fired on the Gush Dan area, and it was intercepted by the Iron Dome.

Hamas fired some 250 rockets at Israel over the weekend, killing a four-year-old boy in Nahal Oz and critically wounding a man in the Ashdod region.

The mortar round that killed four-year-old Daniel Tragerman on Friday was fired from an elementary school in northern Gaza. The same school was used to fire 36 projectiles at Israel in August, according to IDF intelligence.

Most of the Gazan attacks targeted villages near the border in the Eshkol region, among them, Sha’ar Hanegev, Sdot Negev and Hof Ashkelon, which came under heavy rocket and mortar fire on Friday and Saturday. The southern cities of Ashdod, Ashkelon and Beersheba were also targeted.

The IAF bombed more than 120 enemy targets in Gaza over the weekend, the army said.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon visited local government heads in regions that border Gaza on Saturday. He said that Israel has no intention of ending the war until it is sure the rocket fire will end.

“This can continue for more time or less, but at the end I am convinced that the other side, in its state, needs a ceasefire more than we do. We must see that we are maneuvering from both a diplomatic and a military perspective...

we are maneuvering this to a place in which we will bring quiet and security for a longer period,” he said.

Ya’alon said the IDF’s 5,000 strikes in Gaza all targeted terrorist positions, and none targeted “open areas.”

Hamas has paid a very heavy price, he added, and will try as hard as it can “to explain to the [Gazan] public that it was worth it. The destruction there is big, think about the fact that in Gaza 10,000 structures were completely destroyed, some from our precision attacks on homes. The targets ranged from Hamas company commanders to the home of Ismail Haniyeh, who is their prime minister. Some of these were their command and control centers,” Ya’alon said.

Palestinian rocket and mortar fire continued at a rapid pace on Saturday, with around 90 rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel fired by the evening. On Friday, 155 rockets were fired at Israel.

Security forces on Saturday located 62 impact sites in Israel – all but three of them in open areas.

In addition, the army said that Iron Dome interceptors shot down nine rockets, including four projectiles intercepted in a single salvo over Ashkelon at around 6 p.m. The city was targeted again soon afterward.

The IAF hit 30 targets across Gaza overnight between Friday and Saturday.

Targets included underground rocket launchers, facilities for storing and manufacturing weapons and apartments used to coordinate terrorist attacks.

Israel killed a terrorist who was traveling in a car in Gaza on Saturday evening, the IDF Spokesman’s Office confirmed.

The IDF struck three mosques used for terrorist activities. Two were in southern Gaza, with one used for meetings between members of Hamas’s military wing and the other used to store terrorist infrastructure.

The third mosque, in the north of the Strip, was used as a meeting point for Hamas members.

IDF intelligence identified rocket fire from Gaza stemming from several civilian population centers.

Other sites Hamas used to fire rockets over the weekend included a medical clinic and a cemetery.

Since the beginning of the conflict, terrorists in Gaza have fired more than 260 rockets from educational facilities, 130 rockets from cemeteries, 160 projectiles from buildings housing religious institutions and more than 50 rockets from hospitals.

Earlier on Saturday, the IDF sent leaflet and recorded telephone message warnings to Gazan civilians.

The leaflets, addressed to the residents of Gaza, said, “The IDF will thwart every terrorist activity and harm terrorist infrastructure and operatives that belong to Hamas and the rest of the organizations.

Hamas’s leadership will continue to be pursued, while it hides underground and ignores the needs of civilians in Gaza and their desire for quiet. The IDF will act with full force against any military or civilian site used to carry out terrorist activities against the State of Israel.”

It warned that “any house used to carry out military activity will be struck. For your own well-being, prevent terrorist operatives from using your property for terrorist goals, and keep your distance from any place where operatives from terrorist organizations are located. The IDF calls on you to immediately evacuate any area used to fire at Israel. Residents of Gaza, the war is ongoing. You have been warned.”

Palestinian health officials claim 2,080 people, most of them civilians, have been killed since July 8 when Israel launched Operation Protective Edge. The IDF says, however, that about half of those killed were combatants.

Reuters contributed to this report.
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