While Hamas was firing rockets at the Tel Aviv area on Saturday night, the IDF was planning to evacuate civilians from areas in the northern Gaza Strip before mounting a "significant attack" there to root out long-range rockets and the terrorists firing them.
A senior IDF official said that "in the next few hours, in light of the fact Hamas is hiding behind civilians, we will change patterns of action and start evacuating Palestinian civilians in the northern Gaza Strip, where long-range rockets are fired from."
These civilians, the official said, will receive messages asking them to evacuate. These messages will also tell them terrorists were operating among them.
"Following the evacuation, there will be a significant attack there," he noted.
"The objectives for this operation are to deal a significant blow to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, decrease the fire on civilians and strengthen the deterrence. So far, 1,300 targets were attacked. Launchers, command and control centers and more," he said.
The IDF will strike areas from which rockets are launched at Israel, in which rockets are manufactured, and in which terrorists train and hide their rockets and other weaponry.
"We did this in Lebanon, and we haven't done this in the Gaza Strip so far. This will increase the amount of casualties," he said.
The move was decided on after consultations with legal advisers dealing with international law, who will also accompany the commanders.
"The salvos on Saturday evening towards central Israel show exactly what Hamas and Islamic Jihad want to do. This is something Hezbollah started. Firing at targets in varied distances, including psychological warfare and maximum intimidation of citizens," the senior official said.
"Hamas and Islamic Jihad failed in the pattern of action they've built in the past year and a half. They planned massive fire to kill the maximum amount of civilians and a series of surprises - that failed. The air defense is impressive and very effective, and nearing 100%. There are no casualties (on the Israeli side) and there is only a handful of wounded," he added.
The official added that "the Hamas leadership is hiding in bunkers, which makes it harder to hit them. Unlike Pillar of Defense, both Hamas' political and military leadership are hiding underground."
Behind the new IDF move is the fact Hamas and Islamic Jihad are using civilians are human shields against IAF strikes. They're hiding rockets and manufacturing explosives in basements and terror tunnels.
This type of activity is done not just under residencies, but also under hospitals, schools and mosques - or in dangerous proximity to these places - in a way that makes it impossible for the IAF to attack these places without hurting innocent civilians.
So far during the operation, the army hit homes of Hamas and Islamic Jihad field commanders, most of which have been used as headquarters, war rooms, and places to store weaponry.
Before the IDF attacked these places after warning the home's residents of the imminent attack and ensuring they evacuated the premises. At first, residents received a phone message of the upcoming attack. If they refused to leave, the IAF fired a small rocket to the roof of that house, as another warning sign. After giving the residents time to leave, the house was struck.
Some 200 houses of terrorists were attacked in this manner, and judging by Hamas and Islamic Jihad's responses, it appears this form of operations is effective.
Now, the IDF decided to do the same for entire areas used by terrorists.