A man was killed in the Israeli city of Ashkelon on Monday by a rocket fired by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza, becoming the first civilian casualty of the most serious fighting between Israel and Hamas since Operation Protective Edge in 2014, The Times of Israel reported.
The 40-year-old man, a West Bank Palestinian living in Israel, was killed after a rocket fired from the Hamas-controlled territory scored a direct hit on an apartment building. Two women who were in the same building at the time of the incident are said to be in critical condition. In total, 58 Israelis have been hospitalized.
The Israeli military said around 460 rockets and mortars had been fired from Gaza since Monday afternoon with about 100 of them intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. The heavy barrage of rockets marked the most serious escalation since an Israel-Hamas war in 2014, and one of the most intensive attacks against Israeli civilians in the country’s history.
Israel confirmed it destroyed over 150 militant targets belonging to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza in response to the attacks. Targets included three attack tunnels, military compounds, observation posts, weapon manufacturing sites, and launch sites.
The Israeli army also destroyed a building belonging to al-Aqsa Television, a Hamas- controlled channel, which Israel said was “a strategic terror target” because it broadcast violent propaganda against the Jewish State.
“There is ample room for additional targets,” said Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson. “We have signaled to Hamas over the course of this night that we have the intelligence and ability to strike a variety of military targets that belong to Hamas.” Conricus added: “What we’re dealing with is a massive barrage of rockets aimed at Israeli civilians.”
A Hamas spokesman said Monday that the Israeli cities of Beersheba and Ashdod would be targeted next, if “Israel persisted in its aggression.” The Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad echoed the statement, saying Gaza factions have the capacity to continue their offensive.
The rocket fire left Israeli residents in the border area on high alert, forcing them to remain close to bomb shelters. School was canceled Tuesday for children in Israeli towns near the border, and dozens of residents had to seek medical treatment for blast injuries, smoke inhalation, and stress symptoms.
The Israeli army estimates that Hamas and its terrorist allies have around 20,000 mortars and rockets, meaning that they could continue firing projectiles at Israel at the current rate for weeks.
Israel has sent additional forces to the Gaza border but has not yet called up the reserves. Israel has shown – and continues to show – immense restraint, responding to ongoing attacks along the border with measured and carefully-targeted strikes. However, Israel is expected to expand its military operation, if these prolonged and intense efforts do not yield calm along the border and security for Israeli citizens.
[Photo: The Israel Project/ YouTube]