The IDF has reinforced it’s Armored Corps and infantry to the Gaza Strip vicinity to beef up troops and prevent possible infiltrations into Israel border communities as close to 460 rockets were fired from the coastal enclave.
"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," IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis said, adding that the evacuation of communities along the Gaza border is not yet necessary.
According to reports “operational decisions were made” by policymakers, and the IDF was given the green light Monday night to continue striking targets in the Gaza Strip.
In a statement the military said it has struck over 150 Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets across the Strip, including an attack tunnel and four military compounds in Gaza City, Beit Hanun, Jabaliya and Khan Yunis, as well as a Hamas launch site in Khan Yunis.
The IDF also confirmed destroying the al-Aqsa TV station affiliated with Hamas in Gaza City, as well as the former al-Amal hotel that the IDF said Hamas used as an internal security office.
A senior Air Force officer told reporters that the Air Force carried out “significant” strikes on Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza.
“The number of targets and their significance have increased in comparison to the past,” he said, explaining that the “targets were important both in practice and morale as some of the targets included buildings with several stories in the middle of Gaza City. The challenge of building likes these, their height and the fact that they are in the middle of an urban area is a major tactical challenge.”
Compared to Operation Protective Edge which saw the Air Force strike such buildings during the last night of the operation, according to the senior officer, three of the four high rise buildings were hit in the span of two and a half hours and there were no civilian casualties.
“We made sure that the buildings and its surroundings had been evacuated. It’s dramatic and significant and fundamentally different from the past. But the pressure on the enemy is great. When the enemy wakes up in the morning and see what has been hit, he realizes he is paying a big price.”
According to the officer, cells launching rockets have been struck almost immediately. “We don’t want to play a game of rocket ping pong,” he said, explaining that tens of fighter planes and attack helicopters are taking part in the strikes against the targets.
“Our planes are armed and above Gaza. We are prepared for any scenario.”
According to reports in Gaza, 11 militants have been killed in Israeli strikes since Monday.
Israel’s security cabinet was scheduled to meet at 9 A.M. on Tuesday.
A 40 year-old man from the West Bank city of Hebron was killed late Monday night in Ashkelon after an apartment building sustained a direct hit by a rocket fired from Gaza. Two other women in the same building at the time of the impact were found by rescue services in critical condition.
He was the first casualty in the latest escalation between Israel and Hamas.
Magen David Adom rescue services said that 53 Israelis had been injured, including two in critical condition from shrapnel (an IDF soldier and a 60 year old woman), one moderately injured, 23 injured lightly from glass shrapnel, blast injuries, smoke inhalation and from running to protected areas and 27 people suffering from shock
The rocket barrages came after a deadly IDF raid in the southern Gazan city of Khan Younis on Sunday night killed an elite IDF officer with the rank of Lt.-Col and seven Hamas militants, including the battalion commander of Khan Younis.
The barrage began around 4:30 in the evening, after a Cornet anti-tank missile was fired towards a bus at the Black Arrow Memorial Site in the Sha’ar HaNegev region. A 19 year-old soldier was transferred to Soroka hospital in Beersheba in critical condition after he was hit standing near the bus.
Hamas released a video of the attack late Monday night, where the soldier was clearly seen next to the bus before it was hit and completely destroyed.
Hamas spokesperson Abu Obeida warned Tuesday morning that the rocket range would expand to include the cities of Beersheba and Ashkelon if Israel would continue 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 Hamas’s message, saying that the groups wanted "the occupation and its supporters know that the lives of our sons come with a price."
According to reports senior Egyptian intelligence officials are trying to broker a ceasefire to the latest escalation which has put a damper on hopes that Israel and Hamas were close to agreeing to a long-term ceasefire mediated by Egypt and the United Nations.
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