Aug 16, 2022
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Israelis headed to bomb shelters in southern Israel as hundreds of rockets were fired Friday evening from Gaza, targeting civilian centers. Color Red sirens sounded in communities near the border with Gaza around 9:00 PM and again at 10:00 as a second barrage was fired. 

The outbreak of hostilities comes after four days of closures of Israeli communities. The closures began after the IDF arrested the West Bank leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror group, Bassem Saadi, 61, leading to “concrete threats” of a PIJ reprisal. 

On Friday afternoon the Israeli military banned large gatherings in communities within 80 kilometers of the Gaza frontier and told residents in the area to stay near bomb shelters.

The latest Israel Defense Forces data put the number of rockets and mortars launched toward Israel by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group since Friday at 350. Of them, 94 fell short in the Gaza Strip and another 29 fell into the Mediterranean Sea, including two off Tel Aviv, according to the latest data, which is as of 6:30 PM. The Iron Dome air defense system intercepted 162 projectiles, according to the data. The military reported that the Iron Dome missile defense system has demonstrated a 95.9 percent success rate at intercepting projectiles fired toward populated areas.

The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for firing the rockets, and announced that “this is an open campaign and not limited only to the Gaza Strip.”

The IDF responded by launching strikes targeting PIJ targets inside Gaza. 

Earlier on Friday, the IDF launched the preemptive Operation Breaking Dawn, killing 15 PIJ terrorists including Tayseer al-Jabari, a commander in the PIJ. An airstrike on Friday evening destroyed a PIJ rocket launching site in Khan Yunis.  Also hit were a PIJ weapons production site, a site for the production of materials used in rockets, and a military post. Also attacked were sites for the production of mortar shells.

Early on Saturday, three Israelis were lightly injured in an Israeli town in the nearby Eshkol Regional Council. The wounded included a man in his 30s hit by shrapnel after a rocket landed near a cowshed, and two soldier sappers who the military said were lightly hurt in a second attack when they arrived in the area to clear ordnance.

Later on Saturday, a rocket hit a factory in a town close to the border and another struck a home in Sderot. No injuries were reported as the family was sheltering in the home’s reinforced room at the time of impact. Images showed damage to the interior of the house and a hole in the roof where the rocket struck. Extensive damage was reported. 

The Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon said it had treated 20 people so far amid the rocket attacks on southern Israel, including 15 people who were lightly hurt after falling over while running to bomb shelters, and a further five people for anxiety.

The IDF has begun calling up reservists and minister of Defense Benny Gantz approved calling up as many as 25,000 reservist troops.

“Following an assessment of the situation, it was decided on a large-scale recruitment of reservists, in order to strengthen the forces in the Southern Command, in the Air Defense, in the Home Front Command, in the fighting forces and in the headquarters,” an IDF statement said. 

IDF spokesman Ron Kochav told Channel 12 that the operation was “a targeted campaign against the Palestinian Islamic Jihad,” confirming reports that the army was trying not to drag Hamas into the ongoing conflict and is hoping to keep the campaign limited in scope.

Kochav explained the targeted killing of the PIJ commander, saying, “Jabari was responsible for the concrete threat in the last three-four days to fire anti-tank missiles and mow down Israeli civilians or soldiers in the Gaza border area.”

On Saturday morning, Kochav said, “We are preparing for a week of fighting under the guidance of the political echelon. If we can shorten [the fighting], we will.”

The PIJ responded by threatening a full-scale war against Israel.

“We collectively must defend ourselves and our people. We will not allow the enemy’s policy of undermining the resistance and our national perseverance,” the group said in a statement.

PIJ’s secretary-general Ziad Nakhaleh who is currently in Iran vowed that the group was “going into battle” and called on other Palestinian terror groups to join. “There are no ceasefires after an attack,” he said. “This is a test for all parts of the resistance.”

Tasnim news agency reported that at the meeting with Nakhaleh, Gen. Hossein Salami, head of the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, warned Israel could face massive rocket fire from Lebanon in a conflict with Hezbollah.

“In Lebanon, tens of thousands, even more than one hundred thousand missiles, are ready to be fired to create a hell for the Zionists at the moment of making the divine predestination happen,” Salami was quoted as saying.

He added that all Israeli towns, including Tel Aviv, are targets for attack and should be prepared to be targeted.

The Palestinian Authority expressed unity with the PIJ.

“The presidency condemns the Israeli aggression against our people in the Gaza Strip, demands its immediate cessation and holds the occupation forces responsible for this dangerous escalation,” a statement from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s office said.