Israel’s operation to stem Palestinian rocket fire on southern Israel continued in its sixth day on Monday. The Israel Air Force struck over 80 terrorist targets in Gaza, while Hamas and Islamic Jihad fired 130 rockets into Israel.The IAF has struck over 1,350 targets in Gaza since the start of Operation Pillar of Defense, including 80 on Monday. The targets included bomb-smuggling tunnels, underground rocket launchers, and four Islamic Jihad terrorists.Southern cities were repeatedly targeted by Palestinian rocket attacks and air raid sirens sent people running for cover in Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beersheba and towns and villages across the South.Two rockets fell in built-up areas, and one caused major damage to a school in Ashkelon that was closed due to the conflict with Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza.Magen David Adom teams treated 16 patients on Monday, including a 63-year-old woman hit by falling shrapnel from a rocket fired from Gaza.Nine out of the 16 are suffering from shock and anxiety, medics said.MDA forces have dealt with over 252 casualties since the beginning of the Gaza operation, including three killed by a rocket in Kiryat Malachi and 21 injured as a result of falling shrapnel.The Iron Dome intercepted more than 20 rockets on Monday, and 350 rockets in total since the start of the operation.The IAF launched a precision air strike on four senior Islamic Jihad terrorists who were using a Gaza media building as a hideout. The terrorists were all struck by a missile that hit the second story of the building. They were hurt in the blast, and at least one has been killed, according to Palestinian medical sources.
They have been identified as Bha’a Abu Ata, Tisir Mahmoud Jabari, Khalil Bahatini and Ramaz Harb.Ata was a member of Islamic Jihad’s supreme military council and the commander of the Gaza City brigade. He led rocket fire on Israel and oversaw the manufacture and import of rockets, including long-range Fajr projectiles.Jabari, who was also a member of the supreme military council, headed terror operations and orchestrated the firing of many rockets into Israel. He also took part in attacks on IDF forces. Bahatini was a senior operative involved in Islamic Jihad’s long-range rocket program.Harb was an Islamic Jihad spokesman and an aid to Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari, who was killed by Israel last week. Islamic Jihad is an Iranian proxy organization in Gaza, and receives direct orders from Tehran, as well as arms, long-range rockets and financing.Speaking to heads of IDF brigades massed at the border with Gaza, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz said, “I trust you, when I release this spring... and you trust me that I will only release it when I think it is the necessary thing to do. I won’t do it beforehand. Good luck.”IDF Spokesman Yoav Mordechai said, “We are in the sixth day of Operation Pillar of Defense; the command and control of the Hamas leadership has been badly hurt, from Jabari and through to other senior members.We’ll examine the results. In recent days, we’ve struck rocket launchers ready to fire on Israel.Dozens of smuggling tunnels have been hit.Hamas posts and weapons depots have been seriously hit. The operation is continuing throughout.”Mordechai added that the IAF also struck rocket-launching crews trying to shoot projectiles into Israel.“The scale of the rocket fire is decreasing.While it is continuing, terrorists are starting to retreat from open areas, and the rocketlaunching efforts are moving to central Gaza,” he said.The IAF also struck a soccer stadium used to fire rockets and store weapons. Yoav said it had been “turned into a terror stadium. It was hit and destroyed.”'Iran using Islamic Jihad to drag Israel into wide conflict'Senior counter-terrorism expert Dr. Ely Karmon, of the Herzliya-based Institute for Counter-Terrorism, told The Jerusalem Post that Iran is using Islamic Jihad to try and drag Israel into a conflict “not only in Gaza, but also with Egypt, if we enter the Strip [in a ground offensive].”“This is the goal of the Iranians, to make [the world] forget about their nuclear project,” he added.“Hamas is driven, in my opinion, by the desire to see a more firm Egyptian regime on their side and compel them to entirely open all border crossings with Gaza,” Karmon said.He warned that Hezbollah too may attempt to launch a provocation from Lebanon.On Sunday night, a rocket directly hit a house near Kiryat Malachi. No injuries were reported, but the rocket caused damage to the building.A witness on the scene, Gal Goldberg, 17, told the Post he heard a powerful blast as the rocket landed on the home next to his.“When we heard the siren, we entered a safe room, the blast shook the walls, we went outside and saw people running towards the house that was hit. We saw widespread wreckage,” Gal said.The residents of the house had taken cover in the safe room. The rocket was part of a salvo of several Grads, many of which were intercepted by Iron Dome interceptors over Ashdod.Goldberg said that the IAF must continue its operation in Gaza.