The IDF has reinforced troops along the Gaza border after close to 700 rockets were fired towards southern Israel since Saturday by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) from the Gaza Strip, killing four civilians and injuring close to 80 others.
Terrorist groups fired dozens of rocket barrages toward southern Israel on Sunday, as well as several longer-range projectiles towards central Israel. According to the IDF, terrorist groups in the Strip also tried to carry out a terrorist attack using a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) attached to a drone. The RPG-laden drone, which landed on a tank deployed along the border, did not explode.
On Saturday night, Moshe Agadi, a father of four, was killed when a rocket struck his home in Ashkelon when he went out to smoke a cigarette. He was struck by shrapnel to his stomach and chest and was taken by Magen David Adom teams to Barzilai Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Moshe Feder, 64, from Kfar Saba, was killed Sunday afternoon after a Kornet anti-tank guided missile struck a car near the Gaza border between the communities of Yad Mordechai and Sderot.
Ziad Alhamamda was killed after he was critically injured in his chest by shrapnel from a direct strike on a factory in Ashkelon, dying from his wounds shortly after.
Pinchas Menachem Prezuazman, 21 years-old, was also killed Sunday evening after he suffered severe shrapnel injuries to his chest while running to a shelter in Ashdod.
On Sunday afternoon, Israel’s Security Cabinet met and instructed the military to intensify its attacks in the Strip.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said on Sunday night that he does not rule out the possibility of reaching a ceasefire agreement with Israel.
In a statement, Haniyeh said that the “return to calm is possible and depends on the commitment of the occupation to a complete ceasefire.”
Haniyeh said any ceasefire should also include the weekly protests along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, also known as the Great March of Return.
“The response of the resistance is linked to the level of Zionist aggression,” Haniyeh said, adding that Israel must also abide by the recent Egyptian-sponsored ceasefire understandings between the Gaza-based groups and Israel.
“The slow pace of the implementation of the understandings and the attempt to gain time have created an increased state of tension among our people in Gaza because of the crimes committed by the occupation during the current aggression,” the Hamas leader added.
Due to the violence in the South, the IDF has deployed the 7th armored brigade, “which would be ready to act as an offensive force within the Gaza Division” as well as the Golani brigade. The Paratroopers brigade is on standby to deploy south if needed, the military said.
A senior Israel Air Force officer said Sunday that over 600 hundred rockets were fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip since Saturday morning, and that over 150 had been intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. While the majority struck in open areas, 35 struck urban areas in Israel.
In retaliation, the IAF struck over 280 targets belonging to PIJ and Hamas, IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis said. In addition, Manelis and the senior Air Force officer both confirmed that the military had begun carrying out targeted assassinations in the Strip against Hamas militants.
The first targeted strike since 2014 hit a vehicle carrying 39-year-old Hamed Ahmed Abed Khudari, who the IDF said was in charge of large-scale money transfers from Iran to terror groups in the Strip.
The officer told reporters that the IDF “had not carried out a targeted assassination in a long time” and that a number of aircraft participated in the strike, which was carried out in the heart of Gaza City with the approval of Israel’s political echelon.
“We are prepared to continue operating with the message that Hamas and its men are vulnerable,” the officer said, adding that this is in an attempt to “renew deterrence” against the terrorist group.
“We are acting against Hamas and the PIJ – but for us, Hamas is the sovereign and its role is to stop PIJ,” he said, explaining that under this directive, the IDF has carried out over 100 sorties, striking weapon warehouses, terror infrastructures, terrorist cells, tunnels and more.
“We are prepared for the possibility of escalation,” he continued, warning that “we have not used everything yet: there’s a lot more we can do.”
The targets struck by Israel’s military overnight included rocket launchers and a Hamas military position in the northern Gaza Strip, as well as dozens of private homes belonging to Hamas and PIJ commanders. Also struck were attack tunnels, military compounds and emplacements, storage houses and weapons factories belonging to Hamas and PIJ.
Israel’s navy also struck several naval targets belonging to the two groups.
According to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, 16 Palestinians have been killed including several members of the terror groups’ rocket-launching cells. Another 80 Palestinians were said to have been injured. The ministry also claimed that a Palestinian woman and her 14 month-old niece were killed in Israeli strikes on Saturday night, a claim repeatedly denied by the IDF which says that the two were killed by a Hamas rocket which failed to launch within a populated area.
On Sunday morning, the two groups threatened to increase the range of their rocket fire, saying in a joint statement that they are considering firing rockets to cities over 40 kilometers from the blockaded coastal enclave.
“We are prepared for additional days of fighting,” Manelis told reporters in a telephone call, adding that the military is “prepared” for rocket fire on central Israel, including Tel Aviv.
The Home Front Command instructed residents living within 40 km. of the Gaza Strip to consult with heads of local authorities, and remain near protected spaces. Public gatherings were limited to 300 people in enclosed spaces only, and agricultural work was banned. All studies in southern Israel were also canceled due to the security situation.
While Tel Aviv did not open public shelters, many municipalities did, including Beersheba, Rishon Lezion, Netanya and others.
Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz decided on Sunday to temporarily halt natural gas supplies from the offshore Tamar field due to a surge in violence with Gaza militants, the ministry said in a statement.
Steinitz declared an emergency to ensure that power generation is not interrupted, the ministry said. This typically means using more expensive fossil fuels like diesel and fuel oil.
Israel receives most of its natural gas supplies from Tamar. The field is located some 90 kilometers (56 miles) in deep Mediterranean waters, but its production platform stands just 25 kilometers off the coast of southern Israel.
Khaled Abu Toameh and Reuters contributed to this report.
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>