More than 65 rockets were fired into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, wounding five people, two of them seriously, and causing extensive property damage.This time around, Hamas was not shy about claiming responsibility for the attacks on Israel:
Two Thai foreign workers in their 20s were seriously hurt when a rocket exploded directly into a chicken coop in the Eshkol region, and a third foreign worker sustained light shrapnel wounds at the scene. A Border Policeman also sustained light injuries in a separate salvo nearby. Several people were treated for shock. All the victims in the area were evacuated to Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba.
In the Ashkelon region, another woman was lightly wounded while running to a bomb shelter.
In a statement, Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committees said "these holy missions come in response to the repeated, continuous crimes of the enemy against our people, which killed four and injured 10 in the past 48 hours."As a result of the current situation, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz has decided to scale back Israel's participation in the joint Israel-U.S. aerial defense drill in order to be prepared for any further developments.
The strikes came hours after the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, left the coastal enclave following a one-day visit on Tuesday in which he became the first head of state to break the isolation of the Hamas leadership in Gaza.
CiFWatch participated in a special briefing with Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich of the IDF Spokesman’s unit on the Hamas attack:
Lt. Col. Leibovich also gave details of the IDF’s responses to the rocket attacks:Barry Rubin discusses why now Hamas Launches New Rocket Offensive Against Israel:
Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile defence system has successfully intercepted 7 additional rockets.
- At midnight last night the IDF targeted a rocket-launching squad comprising three Hamas terrorists.
- At 5 a.m. this morning the IDF targeted another squad which had just launched a rocket.
- At 7 a.m. the IDF targeted a rocket launching site: one of the pits dug by the terrorists in which the rocket-launcher is placed.
- At 8:20 a.m. the IDF targeted a weapons smuggling tunnel and other sites in the northern Gaza Strip.
The Home Front Command has ordered all civilians in the region to stay near their air-raid shelters and safe rooms as, due to their proximity to the Gaza Strip, they have only 15 seconds in which to find cover. All schools and kindergartens in the area are closed.
Lt. Col. Leibovich stressed that all the targets of today’s rocket fire were, once again, civilian targets including small agricultural communities. She also noted that the majority of the rocket fire took place – as is frequently the case – during the early morning when children are on their way to school and adults travelling to work.
There are two important factors in this latest offensive. First, the attacks from Hamas and the smaller groups it allows to operate from the Gaza Strip are increasing. Second, an emboldened Hamas is now more directly involved in these operations.
This trend is a direct result of the fact that Hamas now feels secure in that its Muslim Brotherhood allies are governing Egypt and allowing more, and apparently more advanced, military equipment to enter the Gaza Strip.
The danger is that as the Brotherhood consolidates power in Cairo and Hamas becomes even more confident it will at some point open a war against Israel. Such a conflict would bring even more Brotherhood-Hamas cooperation and such things as escalated attacks across the Egypt-Israel border and the entry of Egyptian volunteers into the fighting. An Egyptian army that has been purged by the Brotherhood regime will not pose an independent barrier to such a situation, which could lead to Cairo being dragged into war with Israel.
The close ties the Obama administration is trying to build with the Muslim Brotherhood are obviously a consideration.
While the IDF has struck back, the question now is how far the Hamas escalation of rocket attacks may go -- and how far Israel is willing to go to protect its citizens.
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