The violence between Israel, Hamas, and Palestinian Jihad reached unprecedented levels on Monday as over 200 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel with many of them aimed at Jerusalem. The Israeli Air Force (IAF) responded by hitting over 130 targets inside Gaza.
Most of the rockets fired by Palestinians landed in southern Israel. Five civilians were reported injured and one died in Ashkelon as two residential buildings suffered direct hits, early on Tuesday morning. Hamas and Palestinian Jihad released videos showing the rockets being fired.
The IAF responded with airstrikes from bombers and helicopter gunships, hitting more than 130 targets inside of Gaza, including rocket manufacturing facilities, storage facilities, training facilities, and military bases. IAF claims that the airstrikes killed 15 Hamas and Palestinian Jihad fighters. Gazan leaders said that 22 civilians, including nine children, were killed.
Special targets hit by the IAF included a Hamas intelligence operations center in southern Gaza, two terrorist-attack tunnels near the Israeli border, in which several Hamas fighters retreated to, and the home of the Hamas battalion commander in a high-rise building.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said that seven members of one family were killed in an explosion, but the origin of that explosion was still unclear.
Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus said that more than 90 percent of the rockets fired from Gaza were intercepted by the IDF’s Iron Dome missile defense system.
Further, he added that many of the civilian casualties in Gaza could be the result of misfired Hamas rockets and not from Israeli airstrikes.
“Thirty-three percent of the rockets fell short and exploded inside Gaza, an abnormally high misfire rate, maybe indicating poor quality,” Lt Col Conricus said. “Hamas rockets are falling short and causing damage inside Gaza…. we know they are falling short because of our radar systems.”
“Hamas is nurturing a narrative that the IDF is killing non-combatants. We take every effort to avoid killing non-combatants — but can’t confirm or deny yet whether Israeli strikes have hit civilians,” he added.
The situation today is “totally different” from that of 2014 during Operation Protective Edge, Conricus said. “We see Hamas’s attack against Israel as a very severe one that will clearly not go unanswered. In terms of our posture, we are in the early stages of our counter-strikes. They will continue.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the attacks on Israel and Jerusalem had “crossed a red line.”
“Terror organizations in Gaza crossed a red line this evening, on Jerusalem Day, and attacked us with missiles at the entrance to Jerusalem. Israel will respond very forcefully. We will not tolerate attacks on our territory, our capital, our citizens, and our soldiers. Whoever strikes us will pay a heavy price,” the Israeli prime minister said.
Hamas has vowed that the attacks will continue until the Israelis withdraw from the Al-Aqsa mosque area, the scene where hundreds of Palestinians and Israelis have been injured in clashes. That area has traditionally been the flashpoint of much of the tensions in Jerusalem. The Al-Aqsa mosque, one of the most revered places in Islam, also sits on the holiest place in the Jewish religion, the Temple Mount.
Hamas is trying to wrest control of the region from the Palestinian Authority (PA) and has encouraged attacks on Israel and Israelis in East Jerusalem.
The Palestinian people are feeling neglected and betrayed by other Arab nations that are normalizing relations with the Israeli government.
There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground left between the two groups as the violence seemingly will continue. While Palestinians cheered from the Damascus Gate in the Old City as air raid sirens sounded, indicating incoming rocket attacks, Israeli citizens outside the Western Wall cheered as a tree caught fire in the vicinity outside of the Al Aqsa mosque.
Netanyahu warned Israelis that the clashes could last a while, stating that while the government didn’t seek escalation, it is determined to protect its people. Hamas likewise shows no sign of backing down.