Two long-range rockets fired from Gaza were fired at Tel-Aviv Thursday night. No injuries were reported as sirens howled over Israel’s commercial capital. One missile missed built-up areas and no casualties or damage were reported. The rockets set off Israel’s Iron Dome interceptor missiles and one of the Hamas rockets was shot down.
In response, overnight Thursday and early Friday morning, Israeli Air Force combat aircraft and helicopters attacked about 100 terrorist targets belonging to the Hamas terrorist organization throughout the Gaza Strip, an IDF Spokesperson said. Among the terrorist targets was the offices of the Hamas headquarters in Gaza City responsible for directing terrorist operatives in Judea and Samaria, building terrorist infrastructures and transferring money to those responsible for terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens. In addition, an underground compound to produce rockets was destroyed, several military compounds were attacked as well as a Hamas naval post which is also used to manufacture weapons, the IDF spokesperson reported.
There was no immediate word of casualties from the air strikes on the terrorist strongholds, some of which had been evacuated as a precaution. Witnesses said the powerful explosions from the air strikes rocked buildings in Gaza and lit up the skies over the targeted sites. Sirens were also sounded in Israeli communities near the Gaza border.
This is the first attack on Tel Aviv since the 2014 Gaza war between Hamas and Israel. “This was basically a surprise,” military spokesman Brigadier-General Ronen Manelis told Israel Radio. “Hamas carried out the rocket fire against Tel Aviv yesterday evening,” Lieutenant-Colonel Avichay Adraee said.
The attack on Israel’s largest metropolitan area took place as Hamas leaders met Egyptian delegates in Gaza to discuss efforts to secure a long-term ceasefire with Israel. Israeli analysts speculated that Palestinian militants opposed to any deal between Hamas and Israel were behind the missile attack. The Egyptian delegation were reportedly leaving to avoid being caught in IDF air raids.
Earlier on Thursday, Hamas was forced to aggressively put down riots in Gaza City in protest over eroding economic conditions caused by the corrupt Islamic leadership. Israeli media suggested that the terror group might have resorted to the rocket attack on Israel in order to divert attention away from the rising civilian turmoil. Tensions have been high for the past year since Palestinians began violent protests near Israel’s border.
The attack on Tel Aviv brought swift US support for Israel. “Hamas and other terror organizations in Gaza continue to fail their people day after day and drag Gaza further and further down by constantly choosing violence,” tweeted Jason Greenblatt, the White House’s Middle East envoy. “This method will never work. Ever!”
Israel’s Education Minister and security cabinet member Naftali Bennett urged: “The time has come to defeat Hamas and eliminate its leaders, I am calling on the prime minister to convene the cabinet and to force the IDF to present a plan for the destruction of Hamas.” Bennet’s New Right party issued a statement saying: “The Israeli government’s containment policy failed tonight. We received a rocket to the center of Tel Aviv. Security consultations and words should be replaced by actions. Only a strong response will bring security and honor back to the people of Israel.”
Netanyahu’s main rivalry in the upcoming elections, former army chief of staff Benny Gantz and leader of the Blue and White party said, “Only an aggressive and severe response” was necessary, “otherwise it will be impossible to renew our deterrence.”
Former Defense Minister and head of Yisrael Beitenu, Avigdor Liberman, called on Israel to “return to the policy of punishing those responsible.”
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai called to open all the city’s bomb shelters as a precaution against any further attacks. A Jerusalem marathon organized for Friday morning is scheduled to take place as planned.
People standing outside a bomb shelter after it was open by the Tel Aviv municipality on March 14, 2019, after earlier two rockets from the Gaza Strip were fired towards central Israel. (Adam Shuldman/Flash90)