Massive early morning rocket fire from Gaza shatters brief overnight calm 

Source: Massive early morning rocket fire from Gaza shatters brief overnight calm | The Times of Israel

Attacks resume after six hours of quiet, schools in south closed; cabinet to meet to reassess situation after 200 rockets fired into Israel

Israeli students walk past a battery of Iron Dome missile defense  system, designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod, neighbouring the Palestinian Gaza Strip, on November 12, 2019. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Israeli students walk past a battery of Iron Dome missile defense system, designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod, neighbouring the Palestinian Gaza Strip, on November 12, 2019. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Palestinian terror groups resumed firing rockets into southern and central Israel after dawn Wednesday after a brief respite in the violence. The Iron Dome system intercepted several of the missiles and there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

Sirens sounded in southern Israel and then later in central Israel near Latrun. Residents reported loud explosions, apparently the Iron Dome interceptors taking down the rockets.

Another salvo was fired toward the city of Netivot.

There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.

The rocket fire came after a brief six hour respite in the violence overnight where no rockets were fired.There were also no reports of IDF airstrikes in that period.

Israel’s targeted killing before dawn Tuesday of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror chief Baha Abu al-Ata was met by over 200 rockets launched during the day by terror groups in Gaza. The Israel Defense Forces launched a campaign of retaliatory airstrikes following approximately six hours of unanswered rocket attacks on central and southern Israel from the enclave.

The renewed violence came following a promise from Palestinian Islamic Jihad to avenge the killing Abu al-Ata. Senior Islamic Jihad officials said the “real response” to Abu al-Ata’s elimination has yet to come, Channel 12 reported on Tuesday.

“The coming hours will speak for themselves,” Islamic Jihad spokesman Musab al-Breim told the Islamic Jihad-linked Palestine Today news site.

There was no statement from either side on a ceasefire. Egyptian and UN officials on Tuesday night said were pushing for a truce between Israel and Gaza terrorist groups.

Egyptian officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Cairo was attempting to de-escalate tensions between Israel and the terror groups. The officials added the Egyptian General Intelligence Service stepped up communications and “opened channels” with the US and the European Union.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Defense Minister Naftali Bennett (2L) mmet with military chiefs in Tel Aviv on November 12 2019 (Haim Tzach/GPO)

In the past year, both the Egyptian General Intelligence Services and UN Special Coordinator to the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov have been involved in brokering unofficial ceasefires between Israel and the terror groups.

Despite the quiet night, schools in southern Israel will remain closed Wednesday.

In light of the security situation, the municipality of the Gaza-adjacent city of Sderot, one of the most frequent targets of the terror groups, said educational institutions would not operate Wednesday for the second consecutive day.

It was joined by similar announcements by the municipalities of the larger southern cities of Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beersheba and Yavne, as well as the central cities Bnei Brak, Ramat Gan, Rishon Lezion, Rehovot, Givatayim and Modiin.

But the Home Front Command said late Tuesday night there were no security restrictions preventing schools and businesses in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area and Shfela region from operating normally.

In accordance with Home Front Command orders, gatherings of more than 100 people will only be allowed in closed locations in areas close to Gaza, including the Gaza envelope region and the Lachish, Western Negev, Central Negev and Shfela regions. In the Tel Aviv metropolis, that order will be relevant to gatherings of more than 300 people.

Studies in Gaza will also not be held.

Ziyad al-Thabet, deputy minister of the Hamas-run education ministry, told the Hamas-linked al-Rai news site that it was decided that educational institutions in the Palestinian enclave would be closed Wednesday.

The high-level security cabinet convened Tuesday evening to discuss the situation and Israel’s further actions. They were to meet again Wednesday morning.

On Tuesday morning, the IDF Home Front Command ordered all schools and non-essential businesses closed in the following areas: the Gaza periphery; the Lachish region; the western Negev; the central Negev; and the Shfela region.

Tel Aviv’s usually crowded Habima Square, which sits above the city’s largest bomb shelter, is empty on the afternoon of November 12, 2019. (Melanie Lidman/Times of Israel)

Schools were also closed in the Dan region, including Tel Aviv, and in the Yarkon region. Businesses were temporarily ordered shut there as well, but were allowed to reopen on Tuesday morning, providing there was a bomb shelter nearby, the military said.

It was the first time that the IDF ordered a closure of both schools and businesses in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area since 1990 in the First Gulf War. Over a million Israeli students did not attend classes.

Ben Gurion Airport operated as usual.

In the predawn hours of Tuesday morning, Israeli Air Force jets fired precision ammunition at a building in the Shejaiya area of Gaza City where Abu al-Ata was located, killing him and his wife, in a joint operation by the IDF and Shin Bet security service.

According to the IDF, Abu al-Ata was the true “senior commander” of the Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, having ordered the group to carry out most of the significant rocket and border attacks from the Palestinian enclave in recent months and planning to carry out more.

Shortly after Abu al-Ata’s assassination, the PIJ began launching dozens of short- and long-range rockets, firing the majority of them at the Israeli communities around Gaza and a smaller number at major cities in central Israel throughout the morning.

Dozens of the incoming projectiles were shot down by soldiers operating the Iron Dome missile defense system, representing a 90% interception rate for rockets heading toward populated areas, the army said.

The remaining 10% of projectiles struck homes, businesses and roadways, causing significant damage, but relatively few injuries.

One man was lightly injured by a rocket attack that struck a highway near the town of Gan Yavne, and an eight-year-old girl was in serious condition after she collapsed suddenly while hiding in a bomb shelter during a rocket attack on the city of Holon. It was not immediately clear if her injury was caused by the rocket attack. In addition, several people were hospitalized with light injuries that occurred as they ran to bomb shelters.

In response, the military said its fighter jets, helicopters and other aircraft targeted Palestinian Islamic Jihad “training compounds, including one used by PIJ’s naval commando unit, the shaft of an offensive terror tunnel in the northern Gaza Strip and a tunnel digging site in the central Gaza Strip,” as well as several underground facilities used to manufacture and store weapons, observation posts and training camps in three rounds of airstrikes.

These sites — specifically the underground ones — are seen as critical facilities for PIJ, which the terror group has invested large sums of money to construct.

Israeli firefighter trucks douse a burning factory in the southern Israeli town of Sderot, after it was hit with rockets fired from the Gaza Strip on November 12, 2019. (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

In total, 10 Palestinians were killed in Israeli strikes on Tuesday, including Abu al-Ata and his wife, and 45 others were injured, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. PIJ said five of the dead were its members.

In Israel, a rocket struck a factory in the town of Sderot, northeast of Gaza, causing a large fire that threatened to collapse the building, the local fire department said.

Another rocket hit a home in the southern town of Netivot, causing a large amount of damage, police said. One also hit the roof of a home in the Eshkol region of southern Israel while the family was taking cover in the bomb shelter. There were no injuries.

A rocket struck the Route 4 highway near the Gan Yavne Junction, lightly injuring a man and causing significant damage to the road and several cars. Police sappers were called to the scene to remove the projectile.

Several rockets also struck elsewhere in the town of Sderot, northeast of the Gaza Strip, causing light property damage; one hit the city of Ashdod, damaging a car; and one struck a street in Rishon Lezion.

Hospitals and other emergency services were put on high alert in light of the ongoing rocket attacks.

Israel and Gaza have engaged in several sporadic rounds of violence over the last two years as the sides attempted to reach a long-term ceasefire.

 

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