IAF intensifies strikes as rocket barrage continues

Thousands comply with IDF request to flee northern Gaza; Military source: Operation’s goal is to restore quiet, not topple Hamas; IDF works to ensure calm in the West Bank and Lebanon.

IAF strikes Gaza (photo credit: PALESTINIAN MEDIA)
IAF strikes Gaza
(photo credit: PALESTINIAN MEDIA)
Israel’s operation against Hamas is aimed at restoring quiet, not to topple Hamas, a senior military source said Sunday.
Sustained rocket fire from Gaza continued throughout Sunday, and the Israel Air Force struck some 100 targets across the Strip.
On Sunday evening, five rockets were intercepted over Ashdod, and sirens rang out in Modi’in and Jerusalem.
Some 80 rockets were shot at Israel throughout the day, and Iron Dome intercepted 13 incoming projectiles heading to built-up areas.
The IDF has begun alerting tens of thousands of residents in northern Gaza to vacate the area ahead of more intensive IAF attacks on rocket launchers and commanders there, a senior army source said Sunday. The IDF on Saturday dropped leaflets in the area urging residents to leave their homes in preparation for air strikes.
“This is a place that fires significantly more rockets than other areas. We plan to increase our attacks,” the source said.
Hamas and representatives of various national and Islamic groups on Sunday called on residents of the northern Gaza Strip to ignore the IDF calls to leave their homes.
A statement issued by the groups said the residents should remain in their homes to prevent Israel from achieving its goals and targeting the “resistance.”
Despite the appeal, thousands of Palestinians fled their homes in the past 24 hours.
UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said thousands of terrified people fleeing the fighting have taken refuge in UNRWA installations.
“We have opened 10 UNRWA schools to receive those fleeing bombardment, and over 10,000 people have taken refuge today [Sunday],” he said. “We call on all sides to abide by their obligations under humanitarian law.
There must be respect for the sanctity of civilian life and the inviolability of UN installations.”
Speaking earlier on Sunday, a senior military source said the purpose of the current operation is not to topple Hamas, but “to return the quiet to the civilian population.
Friction is continuing now because there is no other solution in sight.”
“In the future, we would like to see Hamas as the weakened- sovereign Hamas, without offensive capabilities to attack Israel, and maintaining order as it has done in the past,” the source said.
The IDF has been working according to a full-time operational plan around the clock for a month, he said, and ensuring that the West Bank and Gaza arenas remain separated.
“In addition, we have adapted defensive- and offensive- firepower readiness, which can develop to any scope that is necessary,” the source added.
Hamas is attempting to achieve “pictures of victory,” the source said, but Israel has a “very strong defense.”
The government has control over the future use of firepower, the source said, and is guided by the overall objective of giving the enemy a sense of defeat.
“The dilemma is what to attack and when. Our will is to harm as few non-combatants as possible. Every operation that has the potential to harm non-combatants requires the individual approval of a major-general,” he added.
Some 40,000 ground troops have been called up out of the 48,000 authorized to the military from the cabinet, said the source.
Meanwhile, the IDF is working to ensure calm in the West Bank and Lebanon, despite an increase in tension from time to time in those arenas, he said.
“We have been ready for this conflict with Hamas in Gaza for a few years. Of course we would like a short war, but there are no magic solutions, and we are all the time learning about additional targets and collecting intelligence. The IDF will act in accordance to the government’s directives,” the source said.
There are sufficient numbers of targets in Gaza to continue air strikes, but depending exclusively on air power has its limitations, such as the depth a missile can strike, and its accuracy, he said.
The IDF has attacked more than 1,300 targets in Gaza, compared to some 1,500 during Operation Pillar of Defense, which lasted eight days in 2012.
Shortly before 5 p.m., rockets were fired at the center and north of the country. Sirens went off in greater Tel Aviv and the Sharon region. Two rockets were intercepted over the center of the country, and shrapnel from one rocket fell on a street in Rishon Lezion. An air-raid siren went off in Nahariya too, but the IDF said that was a false alarm.
In the middle of the day, Ashkelon came under heavy rocket fire, and in the morning, four projectiles were intercepted over the Shfela region and Ashdod, triggering sirens in Rehovot and Ness Ziona.
Overnight Sunday and Monday, the IDF has carried out a series of targeted strikes in the Gaza Strip. The IDF has targeted Hamas bases, including a building used by one of its operatives in Beit Lahiya.
The military also said it destroyed a building in Beit Lahiya used by the Islamic Jihad to launch rockets into Israel.
The IDF says 36 percent of all rocket fire since Monday originated from northern Gaza. Of all of the long-range rockets launched by Palestinians, 30% came from Beit Lahiya, while 10% of all rockets launched originated in Beit Lahiya.
The IDF struck 200 targets in Gaza over the past 24 hours, including 53 underground rocket launchers, 11 rocket production and storage centers, and nine Hamas command and control centers, the military source said on Sunday morning.
Five training camps were among the targets.
More than 1,300 targets have been hit since the start of the operation, including 735 underground rocket launchers, 130 command and control centers, 163 tunnels, 64 training camps, and 58 rocket storage and production centers.
The air force struck 62 Hamas regime buildings and 14 command rooms since Monday.
There are 154 casualties in Gaza, the source said, two-thirds of whom are combatants.
During one of the strikes early on Sunday, a house belonging to Hamas police chief Taysir al-Bardge was targeted due to the presence of weapons in it, the source said. Twenty-one people, who may have come out of a nearby mosque just as the strike was underway, were killed in the bombing, the source stated. The IDF is investigating the incident.
Turning his sights to the North, the source said a Palestinian organization fired three rockets from Lebanon into Israel on Saturday, adding, “We are sure it was not Hezbollah. We are keeping our eyes open in the Northern Command,” he said.
Meanwhile, he said, the West Bank sector has become stable and clashes there have dropped in comparison to June.