UPDATE - Thursday 09:38 AM: Three Israeli civilians were killed Thursday morning when a Hamas missile scored a direct hit on a family home in the southern Israel town of Kiryat Malachi. Three more people were seriously wounded, including a four-year-old toddler. The casualties are almost certain to escalate Israel's ongoing military response to the terrorist rocket fire.
Israel on Wednesday evening suddenly launched a major aerial campaign against terrorist targets across the Gaza Strip under the banner of "Operation Pillar of Cloud."
The action comes after days of incessant terrorist rocket fire against the residents of southern Israel. Israel's leaders mulled what response to take, but by Wednesday it appeared that there would be no serious military retaliation.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the primarily target of Operation Pillar of Defense is the stockpile of medium and long-range missiles that Gaza terrorists had accumulated in recent years. By late evening Wednesday, Barak said most of those missiles had been destroyed.
Also eliminated in the early round of bombing was top Hamas commander Ahmad Jabari, a blood-soaked terrorist who was behind numerous attacks, including the 2006 abduction of Gilad Shalit.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the killing of Jabari and the destruction of Hamas' missile stockpiles had sent a clear message that Israel will not tolerate indiscriminate rocket attacks on its civilian population centers.
Late in the evening hours, Hamas and its allied terror groups began raining down rockets on southern Israel. Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system managed to down at least 20 missiles overnight, but many more found their mark in towns and villages across southern Israel.
Israeli officials said the aerial action will continue, and that ground troops are standing by for an invasion should it become necessary.
The leaders of the Labor and Kadima opposition parties said they fully support the Netanyahu government in its current action against the Gaza terrorist infrastructure.
Israel Today will provide updates on the situation in the coming hours. Stay tuned...