by Yoav Zitun
Israeli Air Force spokesman describes attack was 'special target' that included dropping 170 bombs in urban area within 18 minutes, without harming any civilians; 1,700 projectiles fired at Israel, with Iron Dome maintaining 90% success rate
The IDF has struck 750 different targets in the Gaza Strip using more than 1,000 explosives since fighting began, the military said Thursday as it summed up its actions since the start of Operation Guardian of the Walls on Monday.
The targets included 33 terror tunnels, 160 embedded rocket launchers, four high-rise buildings and 60 terrorist operatives, among them senior Hamas officials who were hit from the air.
On Thursday alone, the army struck four apartments used by Hamas for operational purposes, a spokesperson for the Israeli Air Force told reporters at an afternoon press briefing.
One of the apartments was used by a commander of the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza to direct attacks against Israel, while another was used by a commander in the central Gaza city of Deir al-Balah. A separate attack on the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza left at least two people dead.
The spokesperson said one attack was on what he called a "special target," and included dropping 170 bombs inside an urban area within a space of 18 minutes, without harming any innocent civilians.
An apartment building destroyed in an Israeli strike on Gaza
The army said that the high-rise apartment buildings that were brought down to some international criticism were used by the terror groups and that civilians inside were given advance warning to leave the scene.
The IDF believes that despite destroying some of the Gaza terror groups' ability to produce rockets, they will continue to target Israeli cities in the short term, but the damage to the long-term abilities will be considerable, the spokesperson said.
He added that Military Intelligence has not yet been able to locate the long-range rocket launchers in order to prevent Hamas and other groups from targeting the center of the country.
According to the military, there are increasing signs that Hamas wants a ceasefire. Even so, the IDF is calling up thousands of reservist troops to bolster artillery units and to help man the Iron Dome missile defense batteries. Troops will also be assigned to operational command units while all furlough for combat troops has been canceled.
In a message to his troops on Thursday, Gaza Division commander Brig.-Gen. Eliezer Toledano said that IDF forces had bombed an attack tunnel, killing 20 Hamas fighters before they were able to infiltrate into Israel to carry out a terror attack.
"We turned that tunnel into a death trap," he said.
The military also said that a drone launched from Gaza into Israel's Eshkol Regional Council near the border was intercepted and destroyed Thursday.
This was the fourth drone brought down by the military since the morning hours and forces along the border remained on alert for more unmanned aircraft to be sent by the Gaza-based terror groups.
At least two of the drones carried explosive devices meant to cause injuries and damage inside Israeli communities close to the Gaza border. The terror groups were apparently able to direct the unmanned aircrafts to specific pre-determined locations.
One of the drones was shot down by a fighter jet, another was intercepted using the Iron Dome missile defense system while the two were targeted using undisclosed means.
Hamas asked Gaza residents not to post videos of drones in flight on social media platforms so as not to provide the IDF with information that would help disrupt the flights.
The military said that 1,700 projectiles had been fired from Gaza since the hostilities began, but the Iron Dome had maintained a 90% success rate and intercepted 700 rockets before they could land in populated areas.
Hamas has been targeting the Iron Dome batteries in the south and center of the country in an effort to interfere with this level of success, the army said.
"Due to the missile defense system's success, Ben -Gurion International Airport was able to remain open and only specific flights were diverted to prevent harm," the IDF spokesperson said.
He added a representative of the Air Force was on hand at the airport's control tower to assist operations from there.
The spokesperson said that Hamas was also trying to instigate violence in the West Bank, which has so far been relatively quiet.
"Hamas continues its combative and provocative rhetoric," he said, "and has been trying to provoke residents of the West Bank to begin protests."
The spokesman for the Hamas military wing Abu Ubaida on Thursday did issue a call to arms to Palestinians in the West Bank.
"Jerusalem is our symbol," he said. "We are fighting to defend the al-Aqsa Mosque and the residents of Sheikh Jarrah and any price we pay is for the benefit of al-Aqsa. Our weapons are meant for the defense of our holy sites."
His message appeared to be an attempt to incite violence ahead of Friday prayers at the al-Aqsa Mosque and Nakba (Catastrophe) Day on Saturday, when Palestinians mourn the creation of at the State of Israel.
First published: 19:31 , 05.13.21