PM Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and DM Moshe Ya'alon. (Photo: Flash90) PM Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and DM Moshe Ya'alon. (Photo: Flash90)

As rocket fire from Gaza intensifies, it remains unclear whether Israel will continue to respond to attacks as they happen or expand the operation and crush Hamas.

Following Tuesday’s massive ceasefire violation by Hamas, Israel has responded to a barrage of rocket attacks by striking a number of targets in the Gaza Strip, including an attempt on the life of a senior Hamas figure.

Hamas opened the latest round of violence hours before the expiration of an extended ceasefire, disrupting advanced negotiations that reportedly were approaching a long-term agreement. By Wednesday afternoon, more than 100 rockets were fired from Gaza since the first salvo aimed at the city of Be’er Sheva Tuesday afternoon, ending six days of quiet.

On Tuesday, several Israeli communities near Gaza sustained damage to buildings. At 8:00 a.m. Wednesday, Sapir College, one of the largest in southern Israel, informed students that it was closing temporarily due to the new wave of rockets, while train service between two large southern towns remains suspended.

The security cabinet convened Wednesday afternoon to discuss Israel’s strategy in light of the latest ceasefire violation by Hamas.

Ashkelon Takes a Beating, Fatah Joins Attack

Rockets struck throughout southern Israel, with one directly hitting a home in Ashkelon today and a shopping mall yesterday.

The armed Abdul Qader Husseini Brigades of the Fatah movement to which the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas belongs, claimed responsibility for two rocket attacks on Ashkelon on Wednesday morning, August 20.

Following the rocket salvo, Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center on Wednesday had its premature babies and newborns transferred to sheltered areas both underground and into a special delivery room located in a concrete bomb shelter for the babies’ protection.

“We’ve transferred 14 premature newborn and 30 newborns as well as five mothers who just had caesarean sections, to more protected areas in the hospital,” the Medical Director of Barzilai Medcial Center, Dr. Chezi Levy told Tazpit News Agency.

“We are trained for these kinds of war situations and we’re waiting to see what develops following the renewed rocket attacks,” Dr. Levy told Tazpit. “We are working closely with army officials in assessing the situation and deciding what our next steps will be. This is not the first time that the hospital has had to undergo security precautions but we definitely hope it will be the last.”

IDF Targets Terrorist Leaders

Israel retaliated for the attack by eliminating 80 terror targets in Gaza, an IDF spokesman told Tazpit. One target of the Israeli attacks was the leader of Hamas’ military wing, Mohammed Deif, resulting in the death of his wife and two of his children. A third body from the attack remains unidentified.

It is yet unclear whether Deif was killed. According to Hamas, he is indeed alive and continues to be in charge.

The Deif killings prompted a massive salvo of 50 Hamas rockets that peaked at around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, including hits near Jerusalem as well as southern and central Israel.

The IDF additionally confirmed that two terrorists involved in rocket fire toward the southern city of Ashkelon were among those targeted.

In wake of the newest escalation, the IDF also announced on Wednesday that it recalled 2,000 reservists who were previously scheduled for release from duty. Nonetheless, according to media reports, it is unclear whether Israel will expand the operation. Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, among others, has called for a decisive defeat of Hamas.

According to The Jerusalem Post, “An Israeli delegation led by Eyal Danino, political adviser at the Israeli embassy in Cairo, landed in the Egyptian capital on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of restoring calm, Egyptian daily Al-Youm Al-Sabaa reported.”

U.S. Holds Hamas Accountable for Renewed Fighting

“Israeli sources said Tuesday night that they had not closed the door on Egyptian efforts to enact a long-term truce and that the renewal of IDF strikes in Gaza and the pulling of the Israeli delegation from Cairo ceasefire talks were necessary measures after Hamas broke the truce. Israel has repeatedly asserted that it would not negotiate under fire,” the Post added.

The United States holds Hamas accountable for the rocket attacks on Israel. “It came from Gaza, and Hamas has responsibility for Gaza,” U.S. State Dept. spokeswoman Marie Harf stated at a press briefing on Tuesday.

Author: Tazpit News Agency
(With files from Atara Beck)