Rocket fire killed an IDF soldier and a five-year-old on Wednesday as Gaza-Israel violence continued for the third straight day.
Israel continues to reject ceasefire offers, with a senior official saying that first Hamas must “pay a price” for the firing of more than 1,200 rockets into Israel since the wave of violence began on Monday.
IDF successfully targeted a multi-level building used by the Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip, May 12, 2021. (Credit: IDF Spokesperson"s Unit)
The security cabinet held a meeting on Wednesday evening and okayed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans of attack for the coming days, instructing an increase in IDF strikes on Gaza.
Since the violence began on Monday, hundreds of rockets and mortars have been fired toward Israeli territory, with 200 falling short into the Hamas-run coastal enclave. Several of the rockets fired made direct hits on buildings and cars in Israel, killing eight Israelis, including a child and teenager.
Another 46 Israelis have been injured during the rocket barrages, including several in serious condition.
Two victims were Khalil Awad, 52, and his daughter Nadin, 16, Arab-Israeli residents of a town near Lod, killed by a rocket that scored a direct hit on their car in Lod early Wednesday morning. The mixed Jewish-Arab city was shaken by violent riots throughout the night.
Two women were killed in Ashkelon on Tuesday afternoon; in the evening, two women were killed in Rishon Lezion, one by a rocket that struck outside her home and her neighbor by a heart attack following the attack.
The five-year old- boy was killed in Sderot after his family’s apartment sustained a direct hit on Wednesday evening. His mother was seriously wounded, and a third person was moderately wounded.
IDF soldier St.-Sgt. Omer Tabib was killed and three others were wounded after Hamas fired a Kornet anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) toward their jeep near the southern Israeli community of Netiv Ha’Asara on Wednesday morning.
The jeep, belonging to the 931st Nahal battalion, was inside the Netiv Ha’asara moshav just north of the Gaza Strip, at a spot where it was exposed to the missile. Mortars were then fired toward it in an attempt to prevent the wounded from being evacuated. The military extricated the wounded and took them to hospital, and struck back at the source of fire.
Shortly before the attack, the IDF warned residents of the Gaza border communities to remain at home, out of concern that Hamas might fire short-range mortars or ATGMs, or aim sniper fire at civilians in the area.
The Israeli military continued to execute waves of airstrikes against Hamas terrorists, including its senior commanders and their homes, as well as several high-rise buildings that housed infrastructure belonging to the terrorist group, such as military intelligence offices.
In response to the bombing of high-rise buildings in Gaza City, hundreds of rockets pounded Israel throughout Tuesday and Wednesday with sirens wailing throughout the center and south of the country, including Tel Aviv and Beersheba. In one of the strikes, senior Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad leaders were killed.
Speaking to reporters, IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Hidai Zilberman said that while they have so far taken down two high-rises, “there are a few more in line.”
The IDF shot down a drone after it flew from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory on Wednesday morning; later in the day, the military struck a Hamas cell preparing to launch another drone toward Israel.
The Israeli military continued to hit Hamas targets throughout Wednesday, including its underground military infrastructure and a rocket launcher in the northern Gaza Strip that was calibrated to fire a barrage of 10 missiles at the cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon.
Over 500 targets have been struck in the Strip since Operation Guardians of the Wall began, Zilberman said, adding that dozens of Hamas terrorists have been killed.
The IDF also struck Palestinian Islamic Jihad cells preparing to launch rockets toward the Jewish state.
Palestinian media reported that at least 48 people have been killed in the IDF strikes, including 14 children, and that more than 304 have been wounded. Israel says that some were killed by rockets that misfired and fell inside Gaza.
Speaking after the barrage on Tuesday evening, Netanyahu warned that Hamas would “pay a very heavy price,” and Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that Israel has “the right and the obligation to act, and will continue to do so.”
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi, who rarely speaks to the media, said that the IDF “will continue to strike... Hamas will pay a price, heavier than they ever have before.”
This, the most serious flare-up between Israel and Hamas since the 2014 war in Gaza, has prompted international concern that the situation could spiral out of control.
But Gantz said that military operations in the Gaza Strip will continue for as long as needed. “Israel is not preparing for a ceasefire... We will not listen to moral preaching against our duty to protect the citizens of Israel.”
The Home Front Command has updated directives to take effect from Wednesday at 6 p.m. until Friday at 2 p.m. In the Gaza border communities, the Western Negev, Sharon, Yarkon and the Shfela region, up to ten people will be allowed in open areas and 100 indoors. It is permitted to work in places where there is an accessible rocket shelter, but educational institutions will be closed.
In the rest of the country, gatherings will be permitted in accordance with the government’s directives. Workplaces and classrooms will operate without restrictions.
Gantz stressed that the IDF will continue striking Gaza until it can bring a “complete and long-term peace.... Only when we achieve complete quiet can we talk about calm,” he said during a tour of rocket-battered Ashkelon.
“In the last few hours, the IDF has carried out a series of significant attacks. We have attacked squads of commanders and significant Hamas infrastructure,” the defense minister said. “We have attacked many hundreds of targets, towers are falling, factories are collapsing, tunnels are being destroyed and commanders are being assassinated. All the means and all the options are on the table.”
Gantz decided on Wednesday afternoon to extend special home front regulations for an additional two weeks in light of the ongoing rocket attacks and plans to expand IDF strikes against the Gaza Strip.
The IDF also began an arrest campaign in the West Bank against Hamas members on Tuesday night, the IDF spokesperson said.
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.