More than 80 rockets have been fired toward south Israel since 4 pm Wednesday, when Israeli aircraft killed Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari, who planned the abduction of Gilad Shalit and orchestrated dozens of terror attacks against Israel.
The targeted killing marked the beginning of Operation Pillar of Defense, which is aimed at quelling the incessant rocket fire emanating from the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave.
- Watch: Assassination of Hamas military chief
- Egypt recalls ambassador after Jabari hit
- Analysis: IDF restores deterrence
Two Israelis sustained mild injuries from glass shards and 14 others suffered from anxiety. Grad rockets fired from Gaza landed in Beersheba and Ashdod, while the Iron Dome air defense system intercepted at least 24 rockets.
Sirens alerting residents of incoming rockets were heard in Ashkelon, Sderot, the Ashkelon Beach Regional Council and – for the first time, in Gan Yavne and Gedera.
Video courtesy of jn1.tv
Hamas continued to fire rockets late Wednesday night, but Israeli forces destroyed most of the terror group's long-range Fajr missiles. At around 11 pm the Iron Dome intercepted five rockets that were fired toward Sderot. The air defense system also intercepted a rocket that was launched toward the Ashkelon Beach Regional Council, while another rocket landed in an open area in the city of Ashkelon. Iron Dome also intercepted a rocket between Ashdod and Gan Yavne.
In Gaza, at least 10 people were killed, including Jabari, in Israeli strikes. Medical officials in the Strip said another 45 people were injured, 10 of them critically. According to the Palestinians, among the dead are three children, including an 11-month-old infant and a six-year-old boy.
The IDF said that over the past few hours it has attacked dozens of underground launching pads designated for Hamas' medium-range rockets (with a range of up to 40 kilometers) and caused severe damage to the terror organizations' weapons warehouses. In addition, Israeli Navy ships opened fire at a number of terror targets along Gaza's coastline.
A large number of Hamas' arms caches were located in apartment complexes, indicating that the Islamist group is using civilians as human shields in the current round of violence as well.
IDF strikes in Gaza (Photo: AFP)
During a special cabinet meeting held Wednesday night it was decided that the IDF and Shin Bet internal security service would continue to operate against terror infrastructure in Gaza. Moreover, the cabinet authorized the IDF to call up reserve units, according to need. Earlier, emergency call up orders were issued to reservist units belonging to the Home Front Command. The cabinet also authorized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to decide on the continuation of Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza.
In a statement, the cabinet said Israel would continue to operate while trying to avoid civilian casualties and respecting the Gazans' humanitarian needs. IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz called a special assessment meeting with the General Staff at the Kirya military compound in Tel Aviv to decide on the army's policy during the operation in Gaza.
Meanwhile, the US has thrown its support behind Israel and condemned the rocket attacks on southern Israel.
"We support Israel's right to defend itself, and we encourage Israel to continue to take every effort to avoid civilian casualties," US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement on Wednesday.
"We strongly condemn the barrage of rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel, and we regret the death and injury of innocent Israeli and Palestinian civilians caused by the ensuing violence," he added.