Security cabinet to meet as more than 350 rockets target Israel, sirens sound in Tel Aviv

Fighting between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror group in the Gaza Strip continued for a second day on Saturday, with numerous Israeli strikes on the Strip and hundreds of rocket attacks on Israeli communities.

On Saturday evening, Israeli officials said more than 350 rockets had been launched from the Palestinian enclave. And for the first time in the current conflict, rocket sirens sounded in the central metropolis of Tel Aviv. Two incoming rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system and two others fell into the sea.

The vast majority of rockets did not endanger Israeli communities, but a few towns did hit, causing damage but no casualties. One hit a street in Ashkelon, damaging nearby cars; a second hit a house in Sderot as the family hid in a reinforced room; a third hit the premises of a factory in Sderot; and a fourth hit a factory in an undisclosed town near the border.

Israel’s top security cabinet met Saturday night to review the status of Operation Breaking Dawn and consider the military’s next moves.

As Israeli airstrikes continued on PIJ sites in the Gaza Strip, the head of Gaza’s military division told Channel 12 there were still “many” other targets to hit.

The army kicked off the operation with airstrikes in Gaza on Friday afternoon in response to what officials said was a continuing “concrete” PIJ threat targeting Israeli civilians and soldiers. Islamic Jihad then began firing relentless barrages of rockets at Israeli communities in southern and central Israel, with rocket fire continuing until Saturday evening.

The latest data from the Israel Defense Forces puts the number of rockets launched at Israel at 350. Of these, 94 landed in the Gaza Strip and another 29 fell in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Iron Dome air defense system intercepted 162 projectiles, according to the data. The military said Iron Dome demonstrated a 95.9 percent success rate in intercepting projectiles fired at populated areas. The system is programmed to ignore rockets that are not considered a threat.

A rocket strike in the southern city of Ashkelon after a barrage fired towards Israel by a terror group from Gaza, August 6, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Three people, including two soldiers, were also lightly injured in another mortar shelling near a town in the Eshkol regional council.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service said it had evacuated 21 people to hospitals since the fighting began, including two people lightly injured by rocket shrapnel, 13 after falling while running for shelter and six for anxiety.

Military leader Aviv Kohavi said Israel would target the PIJ in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and elsewhere. During a visit to Southern Command, Kohavi said the IDF had two main objectives. “The first is to prevent all attacks, and the second is to strike critically at the Islamic Jihad organization here in Judea and Samaria and in all other areas,” he said.

People carry the body of Palestinian Hassan Mansour, who was killed in an Israeli airstrike, during his funeral in Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip on August 6, 2022. (Anas Baba/AFP)

“We will not allow any organization in any arena to undermine the sovereignty of the State of Israel,” he said.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz issued a similar threat to PIJ leaders, who mainly operate from other countries hostile to Israel. “Islamic Jihad leaders, who sit abroad in restaurants and stay in hotels in Tehran, Syria and Lebanon, are disconnected from their people,” he said during a visit. of an Iron Dome air defense battery in southern Israel.

He said they were “seriously harming” the livelihoods of Gaza residents amid the current escalation of violence, and would “foot the bill too”.

Earlier Saturday, the IDF said it was ready for a potential week of fighting against the PIJ, and later announced it had struck numerous observation posts and weapons storage sites belonging to the terror group in the entire Gaza Strip.

The Hamas-run Health Ministry said at least 15 people were killed in Israeli strikes, including a five-year-old girl, and 125 others injured.

Smoke rises from an Israeli airstrike in Khan Yםunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 6, 2022. (AFP)

In the first series of Israeli strikes, the army killed one of the senior PIJ commanders, Tayseer Jabari, who officials said planned to attack Israeli civilians near the border. Jabari replaced Baha Abu al-Ata as the group’s commander in northern Gaza after the latter was killed in an Israeli strike in 2019.

Israeli leaders said the airstrikes were necessary after the group refused to back down from plans to carry out attacks on the Gaza border. In addition to Jabari, the IDF also said it targeted the head of the PIJ’s anti-tank guided missile network and several squads planning attacks.

Islamic Jihad had been threatening attacks since Tuesday – bolstering its demand that Israel release its commander in the West Bank, Bassem Saadi, who was arrested in an IDF raid in Jenin on Monday – prompting days of road closures and Community lockdowns in areas near Gaza border under immediate threat.

Meanwhile, Egypt has tried to mediate between the sides in recent days, but failed to convince Islamic Jihad to back down. Egyptian negotiators on Saturday proposed a pause in hostilities to create an opportunity to negotiate a longer ceasefire.

A missile from Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system is launched from the outskirts of the city of Sderot in southern Israel on August 6, 2022. (Jack Guez/AFP)

The PIJ rejected the proposed temporary ceasefire, Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Mayadeen TV reported. “Now is the time to respond to the crimes of the occupation,” a PIJ source told the channel.

Israeli officials said the operation in Gaza specifically targeted the PIJ, hoping to keep Hamas largely out of the conflict, as it did during a 2019 flare-up after the killing of a former Islamic Jihad leader, Abu al-Ata.

On Saturday evening, Hamas indeed seemed to be staying out of the fight for the time being. Although statements by its leaders have included fiery rhetoric against Israel, it has so far avoided taking part in attacks.

Palestinians in Gaza fire rockets at Israel on August 5, 2022. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

The IDF has begun calling up reservists to bolster its Southern Command, Home Front Command, air defense network and combat troops in the event of further escalation. Gantz approved the call for 25,000 reserve soldiers, his office said.

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