An attempt by Israel to enter into an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire with Hamas collapsed on Tuesday when Gazan terrorists continued to fire rocket barrages on the South, Center, and North.
A fragment from a mortar shell killed an Israeli man, Dror Chanin, 37, of Beit Ariyeh at the Erez crossing to the northern Gaza Strip in the evening.
Chanin had come as a civilian volunteer to distribute food to soldiers at Erez. He is the first Israeli to be killed by enemy fire during Operation Protective Edge.
A soldier was lightly wounded by a fragment in Sderot, and a rocket hit the courtyard of a home in Ashdod, heavily damaging the building.
Earlier in the day, terrorists in Sinai fired two rockets at Eilat, lightly wounding four residents and destroying vehicles.
Many rockets targeted central and southern Israeli communities in the evening, setting off air raid sirens. Iron Dome air defense batteries intercepted projectiles headed for build-up areas.
More than 105 rockets struck Israel throughout the day, and Iron Dome intercepted 25 that were targeting residential areas.
In response, the IDF resumed air strikes on Hamas targets across the Strip, hitting some 30 targets in the span of minutes. Targets included 20 underground rocket launchers, tunnels, a weapons storage facility, and an operations base used by a senior Islamic Jihad members. The air force then struck a terrorist in northern Gaza who was in the final stage of preparing a rocket for launching against Israel, the military said.
“The cabinet took a decision to hold fire. In light of the continuation of rocket fire by Hamas and other terrorist organizations, we are working as we have done in recent days – with force and against the components of Hamas’s operational infrastructure,” OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen.Sami Turgeman said midday. “Hamas launched this operation and brought significant damage to all of its operational infrastructures.”
Air raid sirens sounded in several western Negev communities bordering Gaza , as well as in Ashdod, Ashkelon, Kiryat Malachi, and Gan Yavne. The rocket barrages then moved north to Rehovot, Ness Ziona, and Rishon Lezion. Several rockets were intercepted and one hit an open area in Rehovot. Sirens went off shortly afterward in Binyamina, Zichron Ya’acov, and the Haifa area. Another rocket hit a warehouse in the Sha’ar Hanegev region. No injuries were reported in the attacks.
Iron Dome batteries intercepted several rockets over Ashdod and at least one over Netivot.
Turgerman said that Hamas failed to surprise Israel from the air, land, or sea. The IDF targeted homes of senior Hamas leaders and field commanders that were used as war rooms and weapons storage facilities, he said.
“Hamas’s flagship project – the attack tunnels – has been exposed, and we succeeded in disrupting its will and ability to carry out an underground attack,” the general said.
“We have not activated all of our capabilities. We have additional capabilities and plans. If we are required to activate them, we will do so with full force,” he vowed. “Our job as the military is to supply to the government and General Staff all of the operations that can and should be taken. The Southern Command, along with other bodies, built these plans and capabilities,” he said.
One set of plans entails a ground offensive, Turgeman said, adding, “I don’t think it’s right to declare what we are about to do. We will continue to follow what is happening on the ground, and we will activate plans in accordance with decisions by the government and General Staff.”
The Israel Air Force early in the day bombed the home of Marwan Issa, the head of Hamas’s military wing, Izzadin Kassam.
The IAF struck some 25 targets across the Strip overnight between Monday and Tuesday, including weapons production sites, rocket launch pits, and training camps.
If ordered into the Gaza Strip, IDF ground forces expect to encounter Hamas cells with antitank missiles, heavy urban combat, subterranean warfare, and other challenges. “This is the combat that characterizes a terrorist organization,” a senior source said.
The army has deployed large ground forces in readiness on the Gaza border. IDF brigade commanders would have a high degree of independence if ordered to enter the Gaza Strip.
Hamas planned to employ bomb-filled tunnels to facilitate massacres and kidnappings on the border, according to Israeli security officials.
Hamas would try to prove that an Israeli ground offensive would not hurt its ability to fire rockets, though its chances of achieving this remain decidedly low, a source said. Only a ground incursion can truly deal with the growing threat of tunnels that straddle the border, officials believe. Addressing Hamas’s use of the Palestinian population as human shields, the senior source said there are more than a dozen Hamas brigade commanders hiding within the civilian population, preventing the IDF from striking them. Hamas commanders use messengers who pass along written notes, he added.
“From our perspective, we did not attack homes,” a senior security source said on Tuesday, looking back at recent IAF strikes, “only operational infrastructure.
We understood what every Hamas commander has in his infrastructure. From the moment there is an operational infrastructure there, it ceases being a home,” said the source. The systematic targeting of such nerve centers has hurt the performance of Hamas brigades.
Additionally, the targeted killings of terrorists is based on fast sensor-to-shooter cycles, in which IDF control centers coordinate air strikes after identifying terrorist operatives in the field. This has resulted in some 100 casualties among Hamas and Islamic Jihad men since the start of the operation.
Meanwhile, some 20,000 Palestinian civilians have heeded Israeli calls and left Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip, whence many heavy rockets are fired at Israeli communities.
The senior source said there is disagreement within Hamas over how to proceed. The Islamist movement is seeking for guarantees that will enable it to pay the 43,000 people on its payroll a total of some $20 million a month. Senior security sources said that, without a financial solution for Hamas, no truce will stabilize the situation.
Before the current operation, Hamas was producing some 30 medium-range rockets a month – more than it was able to smuggle in before Egypt closed smuggling tunnels linking Sinai to Gaza. Israel has destroyed some 60 percent of rocket production sites in the current operation, the senior source said. This will not stop Hamas from rearming, but will slow down its production rate, the source argued. Much of what is used to construct the rockets is dual-use material, which cannot be kept out of Gaza, he added.
Before the start of the operation, Hamas had around 350 mid-range rockets that could reach metropolitan Tel Aviv. The IDF has destroyed a third – some 3,000 – of Hamas’s estimated 9,000 rockets, the source said.