On Operation Pillar of Defense’s second day, rocket fire brought life in southern and central Israel to a standstill while the IDF inflicted heavy blows on Gaza terror groups. The Times of Israel live-blogged throughout the day. Click here to read our coverage of day 3 developments.
PREAMBLE: Here’s a recap of yesterday and the morning’s incidents:
Operation Pillar of Defense was launched Wednesday afternoon following a drastic escalation in rocket fire from Gaza since Saturday. That escalation in turn followed an attack on an IDF jeep inside the Israeli border with Gaza on Saturday, and retaliatory fire on terror targets in Gaza.
Initial indications that the upsurge was over on Tuesday swiftly proved inaccurate. The government decided it could not tolerate the intermittent rounds of rocket fire on southern Israel, and began an Israel Air Force-led assault on Hamas targets.
Here’s our initial wrap-up of the resort to force yesterday afternoon: Israel hits Hamas military leader, targets missile sites in major air assault on Gaza Strip.
And here’s our piece reporting on the press conference last night at which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak set out the reasons for and goals of the operation: Wider offensive and possible ground operation on the table, as cabinet okays reserves call-up.
This is a profile of Ahmed Jabari, the Hamas military commander and terror chief who was killed by Israel in the air strike on Gaza that began the operation: Ahmed Jabari: The ruthless terror chief whose bloody end was only a matter of time.
And this is Mitch Ginsburg’s analysis of the state of affairs at the end of day one: A stunning initial success for the IDF. Now what?
David Horovitz’s Op-Ed examines the goals, and the precedents, for the operation: The wisdom will lie in knowing when to stop.
Rocket attacks have deepened ever since Israel began the assault on terror targets. Already today, three people were killed and a baby was critically injured this morning after a rocket blasted into a four story building in Kiryat Malachi.
As emergency services scrambled to rescue those still trapped inside the shattered structure another five missiles were fired at the town but the Iron Dome system intercepted them before they landed.
Two salvos of rockets were fired at Ashdod and the Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted some of the incoming rockets. However, one missile landed near a house in Ashdod lightly injuring three people. A chicken coop in Eshkol Region was also hit, causing damage but no injuries.
During Thursday morning, Israeli media reported on several salvos of missiles some of which penetrated the Iron Dome defenses. One missile was reported to have landed near Beersheba and another hit Kiryat Gat. Missiles were also fired at the port city of Ashkelon.
The Home Front command ordered residents in the areas under attack to remain in shelters until further notice.
The IDF Spokesman’s Office reported that seven terrorists were killed overnight in Israeli airstrikes across the Strip, as the army continued its day-old offensive against Gaza terror groups. Israel carried out strikes on more than 100 terror targets overnight, successfully hitting five rocket launching squads. The air force also distributed leaflets over Gaza warning residents to stay away from terrorist bases and weapons depots, stressing that civilians were not the targets of the strikes.
At least eight rockets were fired Thursday morning at Beersheba, which took the brunt of the 90 rockets Gaza hurled at Israel a day earlier following the assassination of Hamas military commander Jabari. Five rockets were shot down by the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system, which is programmed to intercept rockets heading towards populated areas. The rest fell in open areas, causing no injuries or damage.
Iron Dome also intercepted rockets fired towards Ashdod and Ashkelon.
IDF denies that rockets were fired towards Tel Aviv, contradicting earlier claim by Hamas that it targeted the major city.
Two rockets intercepted over Ashdod. Another missile lands in an open area near Kiryat Malachi.
Iron Dome intercepts rockets fired at Gan Yavne.
Two rockets fired at Eshkol Region, no reports of damage or injuries.
Several roads closed in the south as a security precaution against rocket fire from Gaza. Police are redirecting traffic away from the area.
Air-raid sirens sound in Ashkelon, missiles intercepted by Iron Dome.
Israeli media reports that the foreign ministry has appealed to residents in the south to send in pictures and video of their lives under rocket fire. The ministry intends to use the material as part of its advocacy drive to explain Israel’s actions on the Internet and through its representatives abroad.
IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz says that targeting rocket launch crews in Gaza should be made the top priority. Intelligence services are making determined efforts to identify and locate terror group leaders in Gaza. The IDF also says it is concerned that terrorists may try and attack naval vessels patrolling off the coast of Gaza.
Israeli air force continues sorties over Gaza to locate and destroy rocket launchers and missile stockpiles.
Throughout the day, the army has been dropping leaflets over Gaza, warning residents of impending attacks.
Translated, the leaflet reads:
“Important announcement for the residents of the Gaza Strip:
For your own safety, take responsibility for yourselves and avoid being present in the vicinity of Hamas operatives and facilities and those of other terror organizations that pose a risk to your safety.
Hamas is once again dragging the region to violence and bloodshed. The IDF is determined to defend the residents of the State of Israel. This announcement is valid until quiet is restored to the region.
Israel Defense Forces Command.”
Police commissioner Yohanan Danino says he expects the rocket fire from Gaza to increase in the near future.
“Our expectations are that the rate of rocket fire that we have seen in that past hours will increase,” he says and adds that the primary objective of the police right now is to reduce the number of injured people.
Four rockets land in an open area in Eshkol region.
Palestinian Authority is preventing Hamas from holding marches and demonstrations on the West Bank in memory of slain military commander Ahmed Jabari and in protest of the ongoing action in Gaza. Meanwhile, thousands in Gaza join Jabari’s funeral procession.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas decides to cancel meetings in Europe and return to the West Bank ahead of schedule in light of Israel’s operation in Gaza.
Israel is “fully responsible” for its acts, PA official Saeb Erekat stated.
Palestinians say four people, including a woman and two children, injured in airstrike on Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.
Since the start of Operation Pillar of Defense yesterday, Iron Dome system has successfully intercepted 74 missiles from Gaza.
Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry announces the opening of a new center that “will focus on coordinating public diplomacy efforts” around the world.
In a statement, minister Yuli Edelstein says the idea is “to provide for coordination between the government and civilian elements.” The forum, he explains, will allow for the use of “significant force multipliers in the form of tens of thousands of activists” worldwide, all of whom support Israel in its war against terror.
Marwan Issa named as new commander of Hamas military wing. Issa was the deputy of Ahmed Jabari who was killed yesterday in an air strike.
Reports say an IDF soldier was lightly injured in the Golan Heights from stray Syrian fire.
The automatic fire hit Tel Hazeka – on the Israeli-Syiran border, where mortar shells fell last week, causing Israel to fire across the border for the first time since 1973.
Firefighting services in the south to be bolstered with a hundred firefighters from other stations around the country.
Ramat Gan municipality, adjacent to Tel Aviv, opens a hotline where its residents can sign up to host families from southern communities seeking safety from the rocket fire.
The IDF uploads a new video, showing an airstrike against rockets and a warehouse used to store munitions.
Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter tours Kiryat Malachi to inspect apartment building where three people were killed by a rocket this morning. Dichter calls on the public to listen to Home Front instructions during air raid warnings and immediately find shelter in a safe place. Dichter asserts that if those in the apartment building had followed those instructions they would still be alive.
Speaking of the ongoing offensive against Gaza rocket launching groups the minister says the IDF has no deadline on its current operations.
“The IDF has no restrictions on what it can to achieve its objectives,” he says. Although not ruling out a ground offensive Dichter says the army will not endanger soldiers’ lives when the same objectives can be achieved with other means.
“We will achieve those objectives even it takes days or longer,” he says.
Two more rockets fired from Gaza. One missile targeting Ashkeon intercepted, the other fell in an open area near Eshkol without causing injury or damage.
Beersheba Theater calls off performances due to ongoing rocket fire.
Salvo of rockets at Sderot, some intercepted, two hit the town. No reports of injuries.
During visit to Southern Command headquarters Defense Minister Ehud Barak says Israel is determined to restore the deterrence in the south.
“We are in a throes of a struggle that is not easy and may not be short,” Barak says. “There will be successes and we will take some hits, but we are determined to restore the deterrence as it was in the first place and to restore the quiet as it was; we will do whatever it takes to get that result.”
Rocket scores direct hit on house in Sderot. No injuries, several people treated for shock.
OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Tal Russo says the killing of Hamas military commander Ahmed Jabari and the destruction of rocket firing systems in Gaza is “just the beginning.” Russo says that the IDF has additional steps planned in Operation Pillar of Defense.
In light of the military ban on events of more than 100 people, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel says people shouldn’t cancel their planned weddings but rather have an intimate celebration or relocate the party, Ynet News reports.
After an hour of relative quiet, rocket fire from Gaza increases.
Palestinians say two killed in airstrike in Jabaliya.
Air raid siren sounds in Beersheba, no report of missile landing in city.
Egypt’s foreign minister asks the US to end Israel’s operation in Gaza, before “matters escalate out of control.”
As the fighting goes on, it appears that in the war taking place on social networks, Hamas has resorted to faking casualties. The organization (using Twitter handle @AlqassamBrigade) uploaded pictures of civilians injured in the Syrian civil war, claiming they were hurt by Israel’s airstrikes in Gaza.
In an interesting twist, a number of Syrian opposition supporters called Hamas out for recycling the pictures, but noted they were doing so in order to help in their war with Israel.
The scene in Kiryat Malachi where three people were killed after a rocket hit an apartment building.
Rockets fired at Ofakim and Ashkelon.
Jordanian Media Minister and Government Spokeman Sameeh Al Maayteh condemns Israel for military activity in Gaza, Ynet reports.
“Israel’s aggressive policies are once again putting the whole area into a cycle of violence and instability,” Al-Maayteh says.
Channel 2 reports that 43 diplomats from countries around the world who are currently in the Gaza Strip and who were due to be evacuated into Israel via the Erez crossing are now being prevented from leaving by Hamas.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu says his country will takes steps in the international community against Israel’s “aggressive position” toward Gaza.
The Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman reports that Davutoglu made the comments to reporters at a meeting of Organization for Islamic Cooperation.
Hackers claiming to be associated with Anonymous — an international hacktivist collective — on Thursday hijacked an Israeli company’s website in protest of Operation Pillar of Defense.
The company, Falcon Security and Cleaning, offers cleaning and security services to businesses, malls, and other public buildings in central Israel. The hackers, however, told Israel that they had successfully “taken down your top security and surveillance website down.”
The hackers entreated visitors to the site to “stop bombing Gaza!” and warned that “We Anonymous will not sit back and watch a cowardly Zionist State demolish innocent people’s lives.”
Defense Minister Ehud Barak visits troops operating the Iron Dome anti-missile system near Beersheba. Since yesterday the system has intercepted 89 rockets fired at southern towns and communities.
Barak thanks the soldiers for their work, but also warns them that heavier barrages from Gaza may be on the way.
Army Radio is interviewing previous rocket trauma victims; one man says he was on his way to his regular psychological counselling when a rocket alarm sounded and he had to head to a secure room. A counselor said the constant alarms are deeply traumatizing as you brace for rockets to fall, even though intellectually, everyone knows that the alarms are there to save lives and do save lives.
Three people injured from a salvo of rockets fired at Hof Ashkelon and the surrounding region. Emergency services are rushing to the scene to provide medial assistance.
Egyptian media reports that hundreds have taken to the streets in Cairo to protest Israel’s action in Gaza.
The crowds are chanting “The people want to bomb Tel Aviv” and waving banners calling for an end to the Camp David peace agreement between Israel and Egypt, a severing of relations with the “Zionist enemy,” and the opening of the border crossing with Gaza.
The demonstration is forming a procession that begins at the Omar Makram Mosque and ends at the Arab League building.
Ahmed Jabari, the head of Hamas’s military wing killed by Israel on Wednesday, was buried in Gaza. Thousands attended his funeral and called for revenge.
Channel 2 Arab affairs correspondent Ehud Yaari says it’s likely Hamas will now step up its actions against Israel.
The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense committee approves a limited calling up of reserve army forces.
The approval allows the army to draw up reserve units only to bolster forces for Operation Pillar of Defense.
The committee also gives the defense minister and chief of general staff the right to declare a state of emergency, on condition that if it continues for more than 48 hours they explain in person to the committee why it is necessary. If they fail to show up, then after 72 hours the committee reconvenes.
In a rare statement, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas says Hamas needs to stop its rocket fire on Israel, as he calls on both sides to end the violence.
Speaking to France 24 News while in Europe, Abbas condemned the “killing of civilians, both Israeli and Palestinian,” saying the “firing of rockets” has to stop along with “Israeli attacks.”
Three Israeli soldiers, one in a moderate condition, who were injured by a rocket attack on Hof Ashkelon region are being helicoptered to hospital.
A number of protests are taking place and calling for the end of Israel’s operation against the Hamas in Gaza. In Ramallah and other towns throughout the West Bank, hundreds of people are waving Palestinian flags in the streets.
Demonstrations are also taking place on university campuses throughout Israel, with Israeli Arab students and left wing activists in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa demanding the end of the IDF’s actions.
A France 24 cameraman filmed the launch of rockets from Gaza into Israel.
Since Israel assassinated Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari nearly 24 hours ago, launching Operation Pillar of Defense, Israel has suffered three fatalities and Magon David Adom emergency services said it has treated 45 people, most of them for shock.
In Gaza, Palestinian sources said 13 people have been killed and 120 wounded. The IDF says it killed 10 terrorists during 200+ strikes on rocket launching crews and missile warehouses since Operation Pillar of Defense began on Wednesday afternoon.
Central to events is the battle played out in the sky as the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system tracks and destroys incoming rockets from Gaza.
The IDF said it has had an 85% success rate with Iron Dome, and in total 200 projectiles have landed in Israel since Operation Pillar of Defense began. The Iron Dome system only fires at missiles it identifies as heading towards populated areas, and many of the rockets fired in Gaza miss their target and land in open areas.
Three soldiers, one in a moderate condition, who were injured in rocket attack on Eshkol region earlier today are taken to Soroka Medical Center for treatment. All three have shrapnel wounds from the rocket.
Rocket slams into factory in Sha’ar Hanegev region. There were no reports of injuries. Another rocket hit a community in the area causing a fire and a power outage.
Four rockets were reported shot down by Iron Dome over Sderot. The IDF now says 245 projectiles have been launched at Israel since Operation Pillar of Defense began on Wednesday.
Egyptian media is reporting a build up of army forces in the Sinai Peninsula along the Israel-Egypt border, Walla News reports. In addition, Egyptian border guard units are also increasing their presence along the border.
As of Thursday afternoon, the IDF is reporting 230 targets hit in Gaza. The “absolute majority” of the targets, military sources say, are rocket launching points and weapons storage depots, targets that were amassed months ago and went through the full authorization process before entering the “target bank.”
The other strikes are being launched against targets that have presented themselves, military sources say, and are handled by what the IDF calls “chupat aish” — or hovering air cover.
Most of the strikes are being carried out by the Air Force, with some navy strikes along the coast as of last night. And there is also occasional tank fire.
A spokesman says the IDF is “achieving most of the goals of the operation with aerial force.”
The order for a “Tsav 9″ call-up of reservists is a limited emergency call up — similar to a “Tsav 8″ but limited in scope, the spokesman also says.
Asked about IDF troop buildups near the border, and the cycling of the troops south, he says only, “We are ready to implement all of the government’s orders.”
Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum says that the Palestinian Islamist group has adopted “new rules of engagement” with the Israeli Defense Forces, Channel 2 reports.
He also called on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to release Hamas prisoners in the West Bank in PA custody so that they can carry out terrorist attacks against Israel.
Speaking to France 24 News while in Europe, Abbas has condemned the “killing of civilians, both Israeli and Palestinian,” saying the “firing of rockets” has to stop, along with “Israeli attacks.”
Sirens have sounded in Rishon Letzion, 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) south of Tel Aviv. This is the furthest north that sirens have been heard yet. Rishon Letzion is approximately 55 kilometers (35 miles) north of the Gaza Strip.
A resident of Rishon reported he heard loud sirens and “a boom,” though there was no confirmed rocket strike in the city, Israel’s fourth largest.
Sirens were also reported in Holon, which borders Tel Aviv, according to Israel Radio.
The IDF said it destroyed depots of long range Fajr rockets at the beginning of the Pillar of Defense operation.
Channel 2 is now reporting that there was a confirmed rocket strike near Rishon Letzion, on the southern edge of Israel’s heavily populated Gush Dan region.
No injuries or damage are reported
There are unconfirmed reports that there was an explosion outside Be’er Yaakov, a small agricultural settlement outside the city of nearly 300,000.
Three rockets have been intercepted near the port city of Ashdod by the Iron Dome missile batteries stationed in the area.
The Israeli Air Force’s Iron Dome systems have downed at least 100 rockets fired by Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organizations in the past 24 hours.
The names of the three people killed this morning in Kiryat Malachi were cleared for publication late Thursday afternoon. Aharon Smadga, 49, Itzik Amsalem, 24, and Mirah Sharf, 26 will all be buried Thursday evening.
According to Chabad sources, all three victims were members of the Chabad community. Sharf, who was pregnant, was a Chabad emissary in India. She was visiting Israel to attend a special service marking the anniversary of the attack on the Chabad House in 2008, killing nine, including Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg.
Following the IDF’s announcement of a limited call-up of reservists, a senior diplomatic source in Jerusalem tells Israel Radio that a far larger call-up is expected because the IDF has plans to send ground forces into the Gaza Strip.
The source adds that Israel is not interested in getting dragged into a prolonged ground operation, and that Hamas’s reaction to Operation Pillar of Defense determines the future of the IDF’s operation. Pillar of Defense is not expected to end anytime soon, he says; it won’t be a matter of days, rather, a matter of weeks.
Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil and a number of other Egyptian ministers plan to visit Gaza in a show of support on Friday, Arabic satellite channel Al Arabiya reported Thursday.
Egypt has slammed Israel for launching the Pillar of Defense operation against Hamas on Wednesday.
The country’s Islamist President Mohammed Morsi spoke with US President Barack Obama, and Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr spoke with his American counterpart, Hillary Clinton, late Wednesday night, asking them for immediate US intervention “to stop the Israeli aggression,” Cairo said in a statement.
Egypt also recalled its ambassador in Tel Aviv to protest Israel’s military campaign.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, strongly condemned Israel’s assassination of Hamas’s military chief Ahmed Jabari on Wednesday. In a statement, the party called the targeted killing a “crime which should see a fast Arab and international response to stop a wave of similarly bloody massacres against the Palestinian people besieged in the Gaza Strip, and which are being used by the Israeli government for leverage in political conflicts raging within Israel.”
Israeli media is reporting that air raid sirens have sounded in Tel Aviv for the first time since the 1991 Gulf War. Sirens also went off in the Tel Aviv suburbs of Bnei Brak, Givatayim, and Ramat Gan.
Tel Aviv is located approximately 65 kilometers from the Gaza Strip and has a population of over 1 million.
A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip would take approximately two minutes to reach Tel Aviv, but there are no reports of an explosion as of yet.
Islamic Jihad claims responsibility for the Fajr missile that it says it fired at Tel Aviv minutes ago, Channel 10 reports.
There are no reports of injuries in the rocket strike.
Two rockets have apparently landed near Tel Aviv in the past several minutes.
Haaretz is reporting that one rocket fired by Islamic Jihad at Tel Aviv exploded near the southern suburb of Holon.
No injuries were reported, according to Magen David Adom.
IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai says that no rockets have hit the greater Tel Aviv area. He added that “tonight is not expected to be quiet.”
Channel 2 reports that one rocket fell between Rishon Lezion and Tel Aviv in an open area.
Sky News has uploaded footage of the siren wailing in Tel Aviv.
In the last hour, the Iron Dome anti-missile system shot down seven rockets over Beersheba, out of seven attempts. In all, the Iron Dome defense system has shot down over 100 rockets shot into Israel from Gaza.
Sirens heard in Sderot.
The IDF Spokesperson tells The Times of Israel that 274 rockets have landed in Israel since the commencement of Operation Pillar of Defense Wednesday afternoon. The Iron Dome has shot down 105 rockets.
The IDF emphasizes the fact that those two figures are not the total number of rockets fired at Israel in the past day.
Palestinian sources report that at least 15 Gaza Strip residents have been killed and over 100 injured in the past day. Three Israelis died earlier on Thursday when a rocket struck their building in Kiryat Malachi. Magen David Adom reports 45 Israelis injured by rockets.
A rocket fired at Beersheba has scored a direct hit on a home in the city, Israeli media say. No injuries are reported. There are also reports of damage to a factory and vehicle in the city, which has been targeted by several dozen rockets since the beginning of the Pillar of Defense operation against Hamas.
Many of the rockets fired at the city from Gaza have been shot down by the Iron Dome anti-missile battery, including at least seven in the past hour.
The IDF has also reported it will call up 30,000 reservists in the coming days, as it aims to widen the battle against Hamas in the wake of unrelenting rocket fire. It had earlier said it would carry out a limited call-up.
IDF spokesman Yoav Mordechai said earlier in the day that paratroopers and members of the Givati Brigade were heading south to assist in the operation.
Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal accuses Israel of launching Operation Pillar of Defense out of fear, rather than self defense.
“[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and [Defense Minister Ehud] Barak launched the attack on Gaza out of fear. Israel is a cancer in the heart of the Middle East and they grabbed the land,” the Hamas leader says.
Speaking at a conference in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, Mashaal says that “Jabari’s hands are clean, and we know that in order to found a Palestinian state sacrifices must be made. Jabari went up to heaven, and the Zionists will be expelled from this land.”
“Jabari is gone, but the fight continues,” Mashaal says.
Israeli media reports that Hamas sources claim to have hit an Israeli drone with anti-aircraft missiles. IDF sources deny knowledge of any such actions.
Hamas is widely seen to be engaged in a disinformation campaign, and the report of the attack on the drone may be a part of that.
Earlier in the day, Hamas claimed to have fired two Fajr missiles that hit Tel Aviv; this was several hours before any missiles were in fact fired at Israel’s largest city.
Also on Thursday, Hamas had publicized within the Gaza Strip that its missiles had struck an Israeli ship, and that Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter had been injured by a Hamas missile.
Neither of these reports was true.
The Israeli Air Force has launched a number of airstrikes against targets in the Gaza Strip. Sources in Gaza report via Twitter as many as eight or nine large explosions. A Channel 2 correspondent located just outside the Gaza Strip says some of the fireballs were visible from his location.
Darkness engulfs the Gaza Strip as power outages are reported, particularly in Gaza City, in the wake of the IAF airstrikes. Video images from Israel’s Channel 2 show the Strip blanketed in black, interrupted by occasional explosions.
Israeli media reports indicate that an Israeli Navy warship launched a targeted missile strike that hit a Hamas jeep near the home of Hamas Prime Minister in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh.
There is no immediate report of casualties.
The International Committee of the Red Cross’s Israel spokesperson tells Times of Israel that it is working in close cooperation with both Israeli and Palestinian medical authorities and monitoring the situation in the Gaza Strip. He added that the Red Cross has provided Gaza hospitals with medical supplies.
The spokesperson also says that the ICRC is still compiling information on casualties in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian Maan News Agency reports that the Gaza death toll has reached 16.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman has been spending the day discussing with foreign ministers around the world Israel’s policy regarding Operation Pillar of Defense, according to a ministry statement released Thursday evening.
Liberman told his counterparts in Germany, Italy, France, England, Canada and Bulgaria that Israel is doing its utmost to avoid civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip while continuing to target Hamas terror cells that are firing rockets into Israel.
Liberman has been emphasizing in his discussions that the rocket fire from Gaza is specifically aimed at Israeli civilian population centers.
The foreign minister said that Israel has no intention of settling for a ceasefire that will be violated in a week or two. Rather, Israel intends to create a level of deterrence that will prevent the Palestinians in Gaza from initiating terror attacks against Israel.
Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip report that Salim Thabet, commander of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in the Gaza Strip, evaded an assassination attempt by the Israeli Air Force in the latest round of airstrikes.
The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade is a coalition of Palestinian terrorist groups responsible for a number of attacks against Israeli civilians since its founding in 2000.
Jerusalem police announced Thursday that they will limit the Muslim worshipers on the Temple Mount Friday to men over the age of 40 with Israeli identity cards and women of any age.
Thousands of policemen will be on hand as reinforcements to help prevent any possible violent outbreaks as a result of the ongoing Pillar of Defense operation in the Gaza Strip.
Friday is the holiest day of the week for Muslims and often serves as a flashpoint for violence following prayers, which include a weekly sermon delivered by the imam.
Amid reports of a buildup of troops at the Gaza border ahead of a possible ground incursion, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke Thursday night with French President Francois Hollande about ways to return quiet to Israel and Gaza.
“They discussed ways to stop the rockets and bring back calm to the region,” a spokesperson for the French Embassy in Tel Aviv told the Times of Israel.
Netanyahu also spoke with Russian president Vladimir Putin and hopes to speak with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper soon, according to the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem. The office did not release any information on the content of the talks with Putin.
Also making efforts to pull Israel and Gaza back from war is UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who will reportedly travel to Israel and West Bank next week. He plans to visit Jerusalem and Ramallah on Wednesday next week and meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
Ban spoke with Netanyahu on Wednesday and called for the sides ”to exercise the utmost restraint and to respect international humanitarian law,” according to a press release from his office. He also condemned the rocket fire from Gaza.
An anonymous government source tells the Times of Israel that the government is “impressed” with the support Jerusalem has received from world leaders in the wake of Operation Pillar of Defense.
“The government is impressed with the number of world leaders who said that they recognize that Hamas bears responsibility for the current environment and who say Israel is legitimate in defending its population,” the source said. “We didn’t hear this from one world leader, we heard it from a number of world leaders.”
According to the the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), a teacher who worked for a relief agency was one of the people killed in Gaza on Thursday. UNRWA sources said that Marwan Abu El Qumsan was in a car when an Israeli airstrike landed nearby.
El Qumsan taught Arabic at UNRWA’s Preparatory Boys School in Jabalia. He was in his early 50s.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on Thursday said that the humanitarian situation in Gaza “remains precarious.”
Palestinian al-Aqsa TV has published footage of the Israeli Air Force drone allegedly shot down by Islamic Jihad over the Gaza Strip earlier on Thursday night.
The film appears to show a drone, which the video mistakenly calls an Israeli made Skylait B unmanned aerial vehicle. Elbit Systems produces a Skylark I and II UAV, but the fuselage, propeller and wings of the aircraft shown in the video do not match those of a Skylark.
The IDF Spokesperson has denied knowledge of the downing of any IAF aircraft, and government spokesperson Ofir Gendelman also denies the claim on Twitter.
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The Israel Defense Forces says it has carried out 340 strikes against targets in the Gaza Strip since the launch of Operation Pillar of Defense, Wednesday.
That tally includes 70 strikes against Hamas targets Thursday night, hours after Gazan terrorists targeted the Tel Aviv area with long range missiles. Sixteen Palestinians have been reported killed in Gaza and nearly 200 injured.
Two missiles fell near Tel Aviv at around 7 p.m., less than an hour after two missiles struck near Rishon Letzion. In all 305 rockets have struck Israel and 130 have been intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system, since the start of hostilities Wednesday.
Three people have been killed on the Israeli side, when a rocket hit a Kiryat Malachi apartment Thursday morning. An 8-month-old infant was also seriously injured in the strike. Some 45 people have been treated by rescue services, most of those light injuries and for shock.
The rocket launches Thursday evening against Israel’s heavy populated Gush Dan region – home to some 3 million people – marked an unheralded escalation in the ongoing conflict with Gaza.
For the first time since the Gulf War in 1991, air raid sirens rang out in the economic center of the country, sending thousands of people scrambling for shelter and bringing the realities of war outside the country’s periphery. Booms were heard in the south of the city and Holon.
The IDFs said no rockets had landed near Tel Aviv, seemingly indicating the missiles crashed into the sea.
Following the rocket strikes, the army said it had authorized the clal up of 30,000 reservists, a seeming precursor to a ground-based invasion of the Strip.