Unmoved by a night in which several of their top leaders lost their homes, Gaza terrorists unleashed rocket and missile barrages aimed at central and southern Israel throughout the day.
Nearly 70 rockets and missiles were fired by the terrorist group at Israel by 3 pm Wednesday, with more than 25 intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system.
In the afternoon Hamas launched a missile barrage towards the eastern Negev town of Dimona, home to Israel’s nuclear plant. Four missiles exploded in open areas on the outskirts of the city, with at least three of the explosions heard as far away as the northeastern city of Arad, located near the southern tip of the Dead Sea. No one was injured and no damage was reported. Three rockets were also intercepted by the Iron Dome over the Negev community of Kiryat Gat.
One rocket landed in the yard of a home in Ashkelon, causing some damage and sending one person into shock. No physical injuries were reported. Four other missiles exploded in open areas on the outskirts of the coastal city, causing no damage and no physical injuries. A number of people have reported anxiety and trauma attacks throughout southern Israel, however, and the number of Israelis suffering from trauma symptoms and anxiety is growing daily, mental health professionals reported.
Shortly after noon, six rockets were intercepted over the southern Israeli city of Ofakim, with three others exploding in open areas around the south.
Heavy rocket was aimed at the coastal city of Ashkelon and the Eshkol Regional Council district a few minutes before 8 am. Six of the missiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome system over Ashkelon, officials reported. Four rockets exploded in Eshkol, including one that ignited a fire in an open area. Firefighters raced to the scene to extinguish the blaze. An additional rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome system over the southern Israeli town of Kiryat Malachi. A woman was injured in a rocket barrage fired at the Be’er Tuvia Regional Council district at around 8 am; she is listed in good condition with a leg wound.
A later barrage was aimed at central Israel about an hour later; four missiles were intercepted over the Gush Dan region at about 9:20 am. Curious Israelis were warned by Home Front Command and police officials not to touch the fallen shrapnel.
Israeli fighter pilots bombed the Gaza homes of some of its top terrorists in Gaza overnight, IDF officials confirmed Wednesday morning. One was Hamas co-founder and terror leader Mahmoud al-Zahar. IAF aircraft also carried out targeted strikes in the wee hours of Wednesday at the homes of Hamas officials Fathi Hamad and Ismail al-Ashqar, former Hamas health minister Bassem Naim, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Abdullah al-Harazin. It is believed that none of the officials were in their homes at the time of the strikes.
Following Tuesday night’s Security Cabinet meeting in Israel, another 39 targets were struck overnight in Gaza, including two weapons factories and eight rocket launchers. An additional air strike in the southern Gaza town of Rafah left two dead and wounded four. Rafah straddles the border with Egypt and is home to the region’s sole crossing with that nation. A Gaza Arab also allegedly died in a strike on the town of Khan Younis at about 8 am Wednesday morning, local sources said.
In cyber war activity, Israel seized control of the Al Aqsa television network for a period of time on Tuesday, airing slogans against Hamas and its military wing, the Izz a-Din al-Qassam Brigades.
“He who does not know how to climb mountains will live forever between holes (tunnels),” one slogan read, according to the Bethlehem-based Ma’an news agency. A picture of the Israeli flag was broadcast along with the words, written in Arabic. Photos of IDF troops monitoring Hamas missiles and striking rocket launchers were also broadcast.
Israel has carried out more than 1,750 air strikes across Gaza since the start of Operation Protective Edge, in retaliation for the launch of over 1,260 rockets, missiles and mortar shells at Israeli civilians. One major target was the command center operated by the Hamas Ministry of Internal Affairs, through which the group’s day-to-day internal armed terror mechanism — aside from the military unit — is supervised.
“Such apparatus are deeply involved in the organization’s militant operations, and many of its facilities are utilized to store weaponry and ammunition, launch rockets at Israel, and supervise terror attacks and other militant activities,” the IDF Spokesperson explained.
Some 985 rockets hit Israeli territory and 225 rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system with an overall success rate of 86 percent.
In Gaza, health ministry officials said a total of 204 were killed and 1,530 were injured thus far since the start of the operation. Many died after choosing to act as human shields on behalf of Gaza terrorists, after Hamas government encouragement to stay in their homes despite receiving Israeli flyers and phone calls urging them to leave before an imminent attack.
The strikes, carried out with surgical precision, targeted Hamas terrorist leaders and those who were involved in launching rocket attacks against Israel. A fraction hit residential areas, and those generally were unavoidable, striking civilians when Arabs chose to remain.
The Iron Dome anti-missile system has had impressive success in protecting Israel’s populated areas, albeit at an astronomical financial cost; each interceptor missile used to neutralize missiles fired at Israeli cities and towns comes with a price tag of $50,000.
The system has shot down 180 missiles that were headed for Ashkelon, Ashdod, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Dimona, Haifa, Gaza Belt communities and other populated areas of Israel since the start of the conflict.
Hana Levi Julian