IDF braces for confrontation with Hamas following direct hit on home

Two additional brigades deployed to the south, limited call-up of reservists after seven civilians wounded by rocket strike early Monday morning.

By JERUSALEM POST STAFF
March 25, 2019 17:31
Head of IDF Southern Command, Maj.-Gen. Hertzi Halevy, meets an officer shot in the helmet by sniper

Head of IDF Southern Command, Maj.-Gen. Hertzi Halevy, meets an officer who was shot in the helmet by a Gazan sniper.. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

 
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Israel has deployed two infantry and armored brigades to southern Israel and has begun a limited call up for reservists in the intelligence and air defense corps following rocket fire on central Israel Monday morning, the IDF said.

According to IDF Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis, the locally produced rocket was fired from Hamas operatives from a Hamas military post in Rafiah in the southern part of the Strip and had a range of 120 kilometers.

Manelis, who refused to answer if the rocket was fired accidentally or deliberately, said that it was serious incident and that Israel is holding Hamas responsible.

“The launch was carried out by Hamas from one of the group’s launchpads. We see Hamas as responsible for everything that happens in Gaza,” Manelis said on a call with reporters.

Following the incident, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi held a situational assessment with the the head of Military Intelligence Commander Maj.-Gen. Tamir Hyman, Commander of the Israeli Air Force Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin, the Head of the Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Herzi Halevi and other senior officers.

While there has been no changes in guidelines to Israel’s homefront, "the IDF is improving its readiness for a variety of scenarios," Manelis said. "This is a serious incident of a direct hit on a house in central Israel and follows a series of incidents. The deployment is also offensive, not just reactive."

The two additional brigades sent to bolster the IDF’s Gaza Division with some 1,000 soldiers, had been conducting training exercises but were cut short due to the heightened tensions.

Hamas officials have said that the rocket which struck a home in central Israel injuring seven civilians was fired from the Gaza Strip by mistake, Israeli media reported. Nevertheless Hamas leaders went underground and Hamas personnel were evacuated from positions across the coastal enclave in anticipation of a strong Israeli response.

Meanwhile Islamic Jihad leader Ziad Nahaleh warned Israel against any retaliatory strikes, saying "we warn the enemy against any aggression on the Gaza Strip. Its leaders must understand that we will respond strongly to any aggression.”

Seven people were injured Monday morning the rocket launched from the Gaza Strip struck a private home in central Israel, the third long-range rocket fired from the Hamas-run enclave in two weeks.

The attack triggered Code Red incoming rocket sirens at around 5:20 a.m. throughout the Sharon and Emek Hefer regions and a loud explosion was heard after the rocket struck the home in the community of Mishmeret north of Kfar Saba.

The strike set off a fire in the home, destroying it completely. Another 30 homes were said to be damaged by the attack.

Magen David Adom rescue services said that seven people, including two children and an infant, were treated for wounds and evacuated to Meir Hospital.

Of those injured, a woman in her 60s was in moderate condition suffering from blast injuries, minor burns and shrapnel wounds and a woman in her 30s was in moderate condition with shrapnel injuries. Two men aged 60 and 30 as well as a girl aged 12, a 3 year-old boy and a 18 month-old infant, were lightly injured.

Several neighbors are being treated for shock and four dogs were found dead on site.


The Israeli military said that it had identified the launch of one rocket from the Gaza Strip, some 100 kilometers away from where it struck. The Iron Dome missile defense system had not been activated.

Following the attack Israel decided to close the Erez and Kerem Shalom border crossings as well as well reduce the permitted fishing area off the coast of the Gaza Strip until further notice.

The IDF has also closed a number of roads and areas including the Black Arrow site close to the Gaza border following a security assessment. The military has also halted any agricultural work in fields near the border fence and all schools in the Eshkol regional council ended early.

All public events scheduled to take place on Monday in the southern city of Ashkelon were also canceled,including a soccer game between local team Hapoel Ashkelon and Hapoel Ramat Hasharon.
 
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is in Washington, held a telephone consultation with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi,the head of the Shin Bet (Israel security agency) Nadav Argaman, National Security Council Director Meir Ben-Shabbat and other senior security officials

"I spoke to the IDF Chief of Staff, head of the Shin Bet and head of Intelligence and that he sees this as a criminal act against the State of Israel,” he said, adding that he has cut his trip to the US short and return to “manage our operations up close.”

Netanyahu is set to meet with US President Donald Trump and will return to Israel after his meeting. He has cancelled his speech at the AIPAC Policy Conference.

Benny Gantz, the Head of the Blue and White Party and Netanyahu’s main opponent, called on Netanyahu to deal with the crisis and not his personal issues.

He tweeted that "those who do not respond with force and instead [pay] Hamas, dismiss attacks on the citizens of the south, and scorn the attack on Tel Aviv, now get rockets in the Hasharon region."

"Will he now, as well, be satisfied with Hamas's claim of an error or will he finally focus on the security of the citizens of the state and not on his legal issues?" Gantz continued. "I wish the wounded a speedy recovery."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon tweeted, "This is a deliberate and dangerous act of aggression by Palestinian terrorists, encouraged no doubt by the complacency of @UNHumanRights . We will not allow this!"

MK Avi Dichter, the chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee said that Israel wouldn’t hesitate to go to war with Gaza following the attack, even if it would delay the upcoming elections.

“The political echelon won’t hesitate to order an operation in Gaza, even at the cost of delaying elections,” Dichter said in an interview with Army Radio.

The rocket attack came 10 days after two rockets were fired at Tel Aviv by Hamas, the first time since the 2014 war. One of the rockets struck an open area in the city of Holon just south of Israel’s financial capital.  The Israeli army retaliated by striking some 100 targets across the Hamas-run coastal enclave.

The army said that the rockets were likely fired towards Tel Aviv by mistake.

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