On Tuesday morning, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) began to fire rockets into Israel, and by evening they had fired over 190 rockets. 90% of these rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome, Israel’s missile-defense system. The attack was in response to Israel’s targeted killing of the PIJ’s leader, Bahaa Abu Al-Ata.
According to the IDF, Israel responded to the rocket attacks with a series of airstrikes, targeting underground storage facilities, training compounds, and tunnel-digging facilities. They were also able to eliminate PIJ operatives preparing for long-range rocket strikes.
Hamas was not targeted by the IDF. Israel’s standard policy is to hold Hamas responsible for all attacks coming from Gaza, since Hamas is considered to be in charge and in control of all terror factions there. Now, Israel has drawn a clear distinction between Hamas and the PIJ, which has been gaining power in Gaza. As such, they are currently only striking PIJ targets, according to the IDF.
Hamas reported seven people killed by Israel’s strikes. Eight Israelis were injured by rockets, including an eight-year old girl who collapsed while running and is in serious condition. Some Israelis were more lucky, as two cars narrowly avoided being struck by a rocket as it exploded on a highway. The event was captured in a dramatic video.
Newly appointed Defense Minister Naftali Bennet declared special emergency measures for communities within 80km (50mi) of Gaza, including as far north as Raanana (north of Tel-Aviv). The security measures will last for 48-hours unless annulled.
Schools in southern and central Israel were shut down, non-essential work in the South was cancelled, and many businesses in the center closed as well. Trains through the South were stopped, and many roads near Gaza were shut down.
The PLO in Ramallah called on Egypt and the UN to push for calm. Hamas publicly called for continued attacks Israel, but also urged that the resistance should happen with “wisdom and confidence”. Channel 13 in Israel reported that Hamas had contacted Israel through back-channels and told them it hopes to avoid further escalation.
The sudden conflict may have a considerable impact on the negotiations to form a government in Israel. According to Times of Israel’s political correspondent Raoul Wootliff, the conflict will strengthen Netanyahu and Likud, and weaken Gantz and Blue and White. Gantz will be pressured to reach a deal with Netanyahu, since going to third elections in the midst of conflict with Gaza will be incredibly unpopular. Additionally, Netanyahu will be harder for Gantz to attack while the PM’s administration is fighting a war on Israel’s behalf. Gantz has in the past criticized Netanyahu of being too passive in combatting terrorism, but this time around he threw his support behind the governments response to the rockets, and praised the decision to kill the PIJ leader Bahaa Abu Al-Ata.