IDF troops mass at Gaza border after TA missiles

216 rockets hit Israel over weekend; Iron Dome intercepts 242 including 2 over Tel Aviv.

Gantz with reservist paratroopers 370 (photo credit: IDF Spokesman)
Gantz with reservist paratroopers 370
(photo credit: IDF Spokesman)
Hamas in Gaza over the weekend fired long-range missiles at Tel Aviv and, for the first time, tried to hit Jerusalem.
The IAF struck back, killing 11 key terrorists and striking more than 300 targets in the Gaza Strip, including medium-range rocket launchers and the regime’s official buildings.
Ground troops and armored vehicles remained massed at the Gaza border, waiting for the order to go in.
For the third time since Operation Pillar of Defense (in Hebrew, Operation Pillar of Cloud) began on Wednesday, air raid sirens sent Tel Aviv residents fleeing for cover on Saturday afternoon, as two long-range Hamas missiles hurtled toward the city. An Iron Dome battery, which was only deployed in the greater Tel Aviv area on Friday, went into action for the first time over central Israel, intercepting both missiles. At least one large blast echoed over the city during the interception. Tel Aviv is 85 km. from Gaza.
The battery had been scheduled to be deployed in two months, but this was expedited due to the current violence.
Defense Ministry technicians worked around the clock to move the battery from the test field to the battlefield.
On Friday, Hamas fired a projectile from Gaza toward the Jerusalem area it called the M-75, triggering air raid sirens in the capital for the first time.
The rocket exploded near a Palestinian village in the West Bank, shattering windows there. Jerusalem is 78 km. from the Gaza Strip.
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Some 100 rockets hit Israel on Saturday and 116 exploded on Friday, while the major southern cities of Beersheba and Ashdod, and smaller towns such as Sderot were repeatedly targeted with heavy salvos. The Iron Dome system intercepted 79 rockets heading for populated areas. Since the beginning of the operation, it has intercepted 242 rockets.
The Lachish police subdistrict spokesman said on Saturday alone, Gazans fired 54 projectiles at the region, including nine that that fell inside communities, 10 in open fields, and 14 that were shot down by the Iron Dome.
Of the 732 rockets fired into Israel since the start of the operation, just 29 exploded in inhabited areas. The rest (242) were intercepted, or fell in open areas (461).
The air force has struck more than 950 targets in the Gaza Strip.
Senior terrorists who were killed included Muhammad Abu Jalal, a Hamas company commander in central Gaza’s El-Muazi area; Khaled Shaeer, who headed Hamas’s anti-tank missile program; Muhammad Kalab, head of Hamas’s aerial defenses; and Osama Kadi, a senior weapons smuggler.
Other targets included rockets and launchers hidden across the Strip, including the Gaza-built long-range rockets dubbed “eight-inch” by Hamas rocket builders.
The campaign of air strikes escalated on Saturday when the Israel Air Force bombed the bureau of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in northern Gaza. Haniyeh was not at the headquarters during the IAF strike. Hamas’s Interior Ministry and cabinet headquarters were also destroyed by air strikes.
Zaki Heller, spokesman for Magen David Adom rescue services, said that on Saturday the organization treated 36 Israelis, including six lightly wounded by shrapnel, 10 with abrasions, and 20 suffering from shock. He added that one of those 20 was an elderly man in Holon who went in serious shock when the rocket warning sirens went off in the Tel Aviv area, and lost consciousness.
On Friday, MDA treated 20 people, including five lightly wounded by shrapnel and 15 suffering from shock, Heller said.
Altogether, since Pillar of Defense began on Wednesday, MDA has treated 150 Israelis.
“We set out on this operation because ordinary life in the South became impossible,” OC Southern Command Maj.- Gen. Tal Russo said in Beersheba on Saturday evening.
“We’ll continue with the operation until we reach the goals we set ourselves: To create an atmosphere of normalcy for residents of the South and strike the weapons arsenals, which were meant to harm our civilians,” Russo added.
“The [attack] plan is growing in power all the time. This will take more than a day or two.
We have all the tools to deal with this,” he said.
The IDF revealed on Friday that it had taken out Hamas’s nascent drone program. The military recently focused its intelligence efforts on a group of Hamas terrorists who were developing and producing drones with the help of Iranian technical advisers. The drones were designed to strike fortified targets in Israel.
The “production team” carried test flights of the drones in Gaza; the IAF struck the test flight sites in recent attacks.
Ben Hartman contributed to this report.