The IDF attacked 160 targets in the Gaza Strip after more than 460 rockets were launched into the South in less than 24 hours, including a new type of rocket fired by Islamic Jihad into Ashkelon.
Some 100 rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, the military said. While the majority of others fell in open territory without causing damage or injuries, another 20 or so fell in Ashkelon, Sderot, and in several other Gaza border communities.
The security cabinet convened for six hours on Monday and was briefed by senior IDF officers on the ongoing rocket fire and the military’s response to terror elements in the Strip. According to an official statement, the cabinet instructed the military to continue operating as long as necessary.
Despite the incessant Hamas rockets attacks on Tuesday, the Kerem Shalom border crossing remained open
, with dozens of trucks entering Gaza.
According to reports, there were five gas tankers, 30 fuel tankers and hundreds of other trucks that delivered humanitarian goods to residents.
Since Sunday night, Palestinian terrorist groups have fired more than 460 rockets and mortars into Israel.
The IDF said it struck more than 160 Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror targets in the Strip, including tunnels, four military compounds in Gaza City, Beit Hanun, Jabalya and Khan Yunis, as well as a Hamas launch site in Khan Yunis and four multi-story buildings.
The IDF confirmed destroying two main targets: the al-Aqsa TV station affiliated with Hamas in Gaza City, and the former al-Amal hotel – which according to the IDF was used by Hamas as an internal security office.
A senior IAF officer told reporters that the air force carried out “significant” strikes on Hamas and other terror groups, saying tens of planes and helicopters took part and three of the four high-rise buildings were hit in a span of two and a half hours. “Our planes are armed and above Gaza,” he said. “We are prepared for any scenario.”
Earlier on Monday, IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis said the military had reinforced its Armored Corps and infantry units to the Gaza Strip vicinity to prevent possible infiltrations into border communities.
“We are in the midst of a wide-scale process of accumulating more infantry, armored and other forces to the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip, and we are mobilizing reserves for Iron Dome operations and the Home Front Command,” Manelis said.
Later in the day, several Gazans tried to infiltrate Israel and were struck down by an IAF jet.
The Palestinian Wafa news agency said 14 people were killed and dozens others wounded.
The rocket barrages came after a deadly IDF raid in Khan Yunis left an IDF lieutenant-colonel and seven Hamas terrorists dead on Sunday night. The barrage began around 4:30 p.m. after a Kornet anti-tank missile was fired toward a bus at the Black Arrow Memorial Site in the Sha’ar HaNegev region. A 19-year-old soldier was transferred to Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba in critical condition after he was hit standing near the bus. He was in stable condition by Monday evening.
Hamas released a video of the attack late Monday night. In the video, the soldier can be seen standing next to the bus in an unprotected area before the bus was hit and completely destroyed. All the other soldiers had been able to make it off the bus before it was hit.
The wounded soldier’s father, who was interviewed by Channel 2 News, called for an investigation.
“Why was my son there? I don’t understand what they were doing near the border. They brought them to the fence and left them [there] like sitting ducks.”
On Tuesday evening, the IDF announced that the head of the Ground Forces, Maj.Gen. Kobi Barak, appointed a team to investigate the incident which will be headed by Brig.-Gen. Amir Epstein, the commander of the IDF’s Border Defense Array.
Walla reported that the driver is reported to have lied to Military Police and bypassed IDF checkpoints to enter the Black Arrow site.
Military Police officers closed the site following orders signed by Southern Command head Maj.-Gen. Hertzi Halevi over concerns that Hamas would carry out a sniper or anti-tank missile attack, according to Walla.
Quoting military sources, Walla said the bus was able to bypass the blockade by telling the officers that the soldiers in the bus were part of an elite unit that had come to reinforce troops in the area.
Shortly after the military policemen granted the bus access, it was hit by the Kornet.
On Tuesday morning, Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida warned that the rocket range would expand to include Beersheba and Ashkelon if Israel continued striking.
“The resistance factions’ joint command center is holding a serious conversation about expanding its range of fire. Ashkelon is just the beginning. Approximately one million Zionists will be within the range of our missiles if the Zionist enemy’s decision is to continue its aggression,” he said.
Islamic Jihad spokesman Daoud Shehab echoed this message, saying the groups wanted “the occupation and its supporters to know that the lives of our sons come with a price.”
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