Some 150 rockets were launched at Israeli civilian areas from the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, following Israel’s assassination of senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Ata.
According to the Israeli military, while the country’s Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted many of the incoming rockets, direct hits were recorded in Netivot, Sderot, Rishon Lezion and Ashdod, while sirens were triggered in Tel Aviv, Modi’in, Holon and Bat Yam. The rocket fire is expected to continue, possibly for “several days,” according to the military.
“We are prepared for several days of battle with an aerial defense shield, including in the center of the country,” Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Hidai Zilberman told reporters on Tuesday.
Al-Ata “was directly responsible for hundreds of terror attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers,” according to the IDF, and was targeted because “his next attack was imminent.”
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi said Baha Abu Al Ata was “responsible for most attacks emanating from Gaza over the last year,” calling him a “ticking time-bomb.”
The strike was reportedly carried out at approximately 4 a.m. Tuesday, with Israel Air Force jets targeting the building in Gaza City where Abu al-Ata was staying. According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, a man and a woman were killed in the strike and two other people were wounded.
According to IDF International spokesman Jonathan Conricus, prior to the strike Israel attempted to “send a message” to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad to give up their plans to attack Israel.
“We tried to send a message to Abu al-Ata and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad that we are aware of his actions and to persuade him to stop these attacks. Obviously, these warnings were not successful,” said Conricus.
He added that the IDF had launched the attack in close coordination with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and only when it was clear al-Ata was in an area with minimal civilians presence.
In response to the rocket barrage, the IDF Home Front Command ordered schools closed in Tel Aviv, the Yarkon region, the Lachish region, the western Negev, the Gaza periphery, the Shfela Region and the central Negev.
In areas closer to Gaza, gatherings of more than 100 people were forbidden by the IDF and non-essential businesses were ordered closed. In areas under a lesser degree of threat, businesses were allowed to remain open as long as bomb shelters were accessible, while gatherings were restricted to fewer than 300 people.
Tuesday marked the first time schools in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area were closed since the “Operation Protective Edge” in Gaza in 2014.
Ben Gurion International Airport continued normal operations.
Just before 11 a.m., two Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists preparing to launch rockets from northern Gaza were struck by an Israeli drone, according to the military. One was reportedly killed in the strike while the other was seriously wounded.
Despite the ongoing rocket fire, Israel is “not interested in escalating the situation,” said Conricus, while reports indicate that Israel has urged Hamas not to join the fighting.
“We are monitoring [Hamas’s] activities and will conduct ourselves accordingly,” Conricus said.
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