by Anna Ahronheim
More than 40 targets were struck across the Gaza Strip following incessant rocket fire and launching of aerial incendiary devices.
Israelis wounded by Palestinian rocket fired from Gaza into Israeli town of Sderot, July 14, 2018 (Reuters)
Close to 200 projectiles were launched from the Gaza Strip toward the South since late Friday with at least 30 of them intercepted by the Iron Dome.
According to the IDF, Hamas launched 100 of the projectiles from 3 p.m onwards. The Iron Dome intercepted about 20 and another 73 fell in open areas. One rocket landed inside a kibbutz in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council area and another rocket struck a courtyard of a synagogue in Sderot, without causing any injuries.
Three Israelis were wounded after a projectile hit a home in Sderot.
According to Magen David Adom, a 14-year-old girl was lightly wounded in her legs, a 15-year-old was lightly wounded with injuries to her face from broken glass and a 52-year-old man was in moderate condition after sustaining a chest wounded. All were evacuated by MDA to Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon.
Earlier in the day, a firefighter was lightly wounded after falling while trying to take cover from a projectile. Damage was also caused to vehicles and to a chicken coop in a community in the Eshkol Regional Council.
As a precaution, the IDF instructed residents in Gaza border communities to remain within a 15-second radius from bomb shelters or safe rooms, closed the Zikim beach on Saturday and restricted gatherings of more than 100 people in open spaces, and more than 500 people in closed spaces across the border communities.
Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot held a situational assessment with the Gaza Division on Saturday, which included the participation of Southern Command head Maj.-Gen. Hertzi Halevi, Operations Directorate head Maj.-Gen. Aharon Haliva and Gaza Division commander Brig.-Gen. Yehuda Fuchs, as well as other commanders.
Earlier in the day, the IAF carried out the largest daytime operation against Hamas since Operation Protective Edge in 2014 with fighter jets hitting 40 targets across the Gaza Strip, IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis said.
“There are three vectors here that we see in severity and cannot allow them to continue: fire terrorism, terrorism along the fence and rocket fire. We intend to stop it,” Manelis said.
While “it’s too early to talk about a broad military operation, we have understood in recent weeks that this day will come, and once relevant conditions have been created, we will act.”
A senior IAF officer said that while “in the last few hours Hamas has chosen to fire projectiles toward communities close to the Gaza border, you can’t take it for granted they will stop there.”
He warned that Israel would respond in a tougher manner if Hamas increase their distance of rocket fire to over 10 km.
“Hamas will regret it if it goes beyond that range, but we’re prepared for such a possibility,” he said.
The daytime trikes on Saturday targeted the headquarters of the Beit Lahiya Battalion, with jets striking urban warfare training facilities, weapon storage warehouses, training compounds, command centers, offices and more.
“The battalion command’s entire infrastructure has been destroyed, vaporized, turned into a giant hole,” Manelis said. Other strikes targeted armories, including those belonging to Hamas’s naval terrorism wing.
“This attack displays the IDF’s advanced intelligence and operational capabilities and could expand as needed and in accordance with a situational assessment,” the military said.
Later on Saturday, the IAF struck a high-rise building in the al-Shati refugee camp, wounding at least two children and several other Gazans. The IDF said it had warned residents of the building in advance of the strike, which was targeted because it was being used by Hamas as an urban warfare training facility and had a tunnel underneath it for underground warfare training.
IDF Arab Media division head Maj. Avichay Adraee warned Gazans on social media to keep their distance from buildings and persons who serve “terrorists organizations.”
“This a special announcement for Gaza’s residents. You are requested to immediately remove yourselves from every facility or infrastructure that are used by terror organizations, to stay away from every person who is known as a terrorist and from every space in which terror organizations operate.
“Beware, you have been warned,” he said. “The sights of 2018 could be much more horrific than the sights of 2014.”
The large-scale daytime operation came several hours after the IAF struck several Hamas targets, including two offensive terrorist tunnels in northern and southern Gaza, as well as several targets in military compounds where Hamas assembles incendiary balloons and a Hamas training camp.
“The IDF retaliated to the terror attacks that were committed during the violent riots on the Gaza border fence on Friday and the ongoing balloon terrorism,” the army said.
As IAF jets struck targets in Gaza, Hamas launched 31 projectiles toward the South with six of them intercepted by the Iron Dome.
According to official Palestinian news agency WAFA, IAF jets struck sites across the entire Gaza Strip, causing significant damage and lightly wounded one Palestinian in northern Gaza overnight.
The IDF said Hamas, which is responsible for all violence emanating from Gaza, “continues with its terrorism, acts against troops and against security infrastructures attempting to hurt Israel’s citizens.”
The military accused Hamas of “sabotaging the humanitarian efforts” and of using Gazan civilians as human shields, and continues to endanger them by carrying out terrorist attacks against Israel.
The terrorist group, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, “is responsible for the events transpiring in the Gaza Strip and emanating from it and will bear the consequences for its actions against Israeli civilians and Israeli sovereignty. The IDF views Hamas’s terror activity with great severity and is prepared for a wide variety of scenarios,” the army said.
The overnight strikes came after violent clashes took place along the security fence separating Israel and Gaza on Friday. During the clashes, an IDF major was moderately wounded by a grenade thrown at him and his troops by Palestinians rioters near the old Karni crossing near Kibbutz Nahal Oz. He was hit by shrapnel in his upper body and airlifted to the Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba in stable condition.
In response, the troops opened fire toward the Palestinians who threw the grenade, with one hit identified.
The IDF is investigating the incident, which is one of the most serious to have occurred since the weekly demonstrations began on March 30, as part of what organizers have called the “Great March of Return.”
Palestinian demonstrators have launched hundreds of kites, balloons and helium-filled condoms with incendiary and explosive devices on a daily basis into Israel, sparking fires that have destroyed thousands of acres of farmland, parks and forests. Hamas has said the protests, which also demand an end to a grinding Israeli and Egyptian blockade on Gaza, will continue until their demands are met.
According to WAFA, two Palestinian youth were killed on Friday and another 200 were wounded. The two fatalities were identified as Muhammad Nasser Shurrab, 20, from Khan Yunis and 15-year-old Othman Rami Halles.
Gaza’s Health Ministry said their deaths bring the total killed by Israel since the start of the border protests to 139.
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