Israel came under heavy bombardment Tuesday as almost 200 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip in retaliation for the targeted killing of a senior Islamic Jihad leader.
Two Israelis were injured by shrapnel in the barrage of some 190 rockets since Baha Abu Al-Atta — the top commander of the Iranian-backed Palestinian militant group — and his wife were killed in their home in the Gaza Strip, according to the Times of Israel.
Israel described Abu Al-Atta as a “ticking bomb,” prompting the terror group to declare that it will “rock the Zionist entity.”
Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas, which has fought three wars with Israel since taking power in the Gaza Strip in 2007, said the response to the assassination “will continue, but with wisdom,” according to the Times of Israel.
The Israeli Iron Dome missile defense system managed to intercept dozens of the incoming rockets, some of which reached as far as Tel Aviv in the worst cross-border fighting in months, according to military officials.
Twenty-one Israeli victims suffered from anxiety and 23 were treated for injuries sustained after falling while running to bomb shelters during the rocket sirens that reverberated across several southern communities, officials said.
In Holon, an 8-year-old girl collapsed while running for shelter. She was evacuated to a hospital in serious condition, according to the Jerusalem Post.
The rare targeted strike that killed Abu Al-Atta came as Syrian state media said a separate missile attack had hit the home of Akram al-Ajouri, an Islamic Jihad official in Damascus, killing one of his sons and a granddaughter.
Israel did not comment about the Syrian assertion that it carried out the strike.
Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces carried out three waves of retaliatory strikes after being pounded by the rockets.
The IDF said all the airstrikes in the first wave targeted Islamic Jihad underground facilities used for storage and manufacturing of weapons and training camps, the Jerusalem Post reported.
The second wave targeted training compounds, including one used by the group’s naval commando unit, the shaft of a cross-border attack tunnel and a tunnel digging site.
Israeli tanks also struck two outposts and jet fighters hit several militants preparing to launch long-range rockets.
The Palestinian Wafa news agency said five Palestinians were killed and dozens injured in the retaliatory airstrikes.
None of the Israeli retaliatory strikes targeted Hamas, the group the IDF tends to strike following violence from the Gaza Strip.
Earlier in the day, defense officials said that if Islamic Jihad restrained itself and Hamas did not join the rocket fire, Israel would hold back from targeting Hamas.
“Terrorists think they can hit civilians and hide behind civilians,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said from the Kirya Military Headquarters in Tel Aviv, where he was joined by IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi and Nadav Argaman, head of the Shin Bet, Israel’s security agency.
“We showed that we can hit the terrorist with minimal damage to civilians. Anyone who thinks they can hit our civilians and get away with it is wrong. If you hit us, we will hit you,” Netanyahu said.
Kochavi said that while the IDF was not interested in a conflict in the coastal enclave, it was preparing for an escalation of violence and that it would return to a policy of targeted killings if necessary.
“We are not interested in an escalation but we are ready — on the ground, in the air and at sea,” the IDF chief said.
With Post wires
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