Sirens blared in Tel Aviv on Saturday evening as Operation Breaking Dawn continued against Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip as more than 350 rockets were launched toward Israel in the first full day of fighting between the two groups.
The IDF said that the Iron Dome missile defense system was proving to be effective and had a reported interception rate of about 95 percent of rockets that it was launched against.
The first rockets were fired toward Israel shortly before 9 p.m. on Friday night, with sirens blaring in southern Israeli communities near the border as well as Sderot, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Yavne. Sirens were also activated in the central Israeli cities of Rishon Lezion, Holon and Bat Yam but the IDF later said that the sirens were a false alarm.
Rocket barrages continued throughout the day on Saturday with sirens also activated in the cities of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Rishon Lezion, Bat Yam, Holon, Modi'in, and multiple others.
By Saturday afternoon, over 350 rockets had been launched by the terror group toward Israel, with at least 227 crossing into the Jewish State, 162 that were heading toward residential areas were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. Others fell in open areas and 29 fell in the sea. Another 94 fell within the Strip itself.
A home in Sderot was directly hit by a rocket in the afternoon, but there were no injuries as the family, including their two children aged eight and three - had been in their bomb shelter.
“I was sure it was in my house and we left the bomb shelter and saw smoke everywhere and water from the ceiling,” the owner of the house said. “It was maybe 6-7 seconds that we got into our shelter” that the rocket hit.
Shrapnel from an Iron Dome missile also hit a road near Ashkelon, damaging parked cars and some nearby buildings.
Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon stated on Saturday afternoon that 20 people have been admitted since the beginning of the operation. According to the hospital, five were admitted for stress and 15 others with light injuries.
Another heavy barrage came Saturday night as rockets were launched toward Ashdod, Ashkelon, Sderot and many Gaza border communities, including Alumim, Nativ Ha'Asara, Erez, Gavim, Nahal Oz and Kfar Aza. A successful interception was seen by witnesses above Ashdod's port.
A Sderot factory suffered a direct hit on Saturday night, Israel Police confirmed. No injuries were reported but structural damage was caused to the factory, which is reportedly owned by Strauss.
Home Front Command issues instructions
Due to the violence, the Home Front Command published restrictions on Friday afternoon for residents of the Gaza envelope, with schools being canceled and no more than 10 people allowed to gather outdoors and 50 indoors. In the Lachish region, people may gather indoors in groups of up to 100 people.
Beaches from Zikim to Rishon Lezion, including Ashkelon, Ashdod, Palmachim, and Nitzanim have all been closed to bathers.
The National Emergency Authority of the Defense Ministry said that it has activated a plan dubbed “Civilian Safe Distance” that allows any regional authority to help residents of the area evacuate their homes to accommodation facilities, should any wish to do so.
The IDF has also declared a “special situation” for the home front up to 80 km. from the Gaza Strip, including Tel Aviv, where there is a risk of rocket fire. Several cities opened up their public bomb shelters, including Rishon Lezion, Herzilya and Netanya. While there were no restrictions placed by the Home Front Command, the population was asked to remain close to shelters.
“The IDF continues to operate against the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist organization with the aim of restoring security to the civilians in the State of Israel,” the IDF said in a statement.