targeting at least 50 sites in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip
Israeli military officials said early Tuesday that they had carried out airstrikes targeting at least 50 sites in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip as part of a new offensive aimed at halting rocket attacks by militants as President Barack Obama urged both sides to exercise restraint.
In a statement, the military said it was seeking to “retrieve stability to the residents of southern Israel, eliminate Hamas’ capabilities and destroy terror infrastructure operating against the State of Israel and its civilians.”
“We have repeatedly warned Hamas that this must stop and Israel’s defense forces are currently acting to put an end of this once and for all,” said Mark Regev, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Among the 50 sites the military said it targeted early Tuesday were four houses it said were “activity sites” belonging to Hamas militants involved in launching rockets at Israel or other militant activity. There were no reported casualties in the strikes.
The military identified the men whose houses were targeted as Eiad Sakik, Abdullah Hshash, Samer Abu Daka, and Hassan Abdullah.
In addition, the military said it struck three militant compounds, 18 concealed rocket launchers, and other militant infrastructure sites. Most were targeted in airstrikes, and three were attacked from the sea.
“They chose the direction of escalation,” Israeli Army spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said in a telephone briefing to reporters. “So the mission will go on as long as we feel it is necessary to carry it out. We don’t expect it to be a short mission on our behalf.”
Lerner says the army will gradually increase attacks on Gaza, and is recruiting reservists for a potential ground invasion.
After a brief early morning lull, the rocket fire from Gaza resumed Tuesday with more than 15 rockets fired toward southern Israel, including the cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon.
The military said five were intercepted by the country’s sophisticated Iron Dome missile defense system. A German cruise operator docking in the Ashdod port said debris fell onto one of its ships late Monday as it was departing.
None of the 2,700 vacationers and crew aboard the AIDAdiva was harmed. “However, small debris that according to experts could have come from a defense missile were found on the passenger deck,” the company said. The ship continued to Crete without delay.
Israel’s defense minister announced a special state of emergency in the region Tuesday as summer camps and kindergartens were shut down and residents were encouraged to stay close to their homes.
The latest operation comes after militants fired dozens of rockets at southern Israel on Monday, setting off air raid sirens and forcing hundreds of thousands of Israelis to stay indoors.
Gaza health official Ashraf Al-Kedra told The Associated Press that at least nine Palestinian civilians were brought to a Gaza hospital with light to moderate injuries from the airstrikes, including several who suffered from shock. He said some of the injured Palestinians were treated and released.
Tensions have been high since three Israeli teenagers kidnapped June 12 in the West Bank were later found dead, followed by last week’s slaying of the Palestinian youth in what many suspect was a revenge attack.
The charged climate inspired President Barack Obama to pen an op-ed for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
“All parties must protect the innocent and act with reasonableness and restraint, not vengeance and retribution,” Obama said in the piece published Tuesday.
Obama warned of a “dangerous moment” for the region after the collapse of U.S.-backed peace talks.
“As I said last year in Jerusalem, peace is necessary, just, and possible. I believed it then. I believe it now,” he wrote. “Peace is necessary because it’s the only way to ensure a secure and democratic future for the Jewish state of Israel.”
Throughout the unrest, the Israeli army says Gaza militants have launched approximately 300 rockets and mortars into Israel, including 80 on Monday alone. The military said that 40 rockets were launched in a single hour after nightfall, setting off air raid sirens up to 50 miles from Gaza.
Twelve rockets were intercepted by rocket-defense batteries, it added, while the others landed in open areas. It was the deepest penetration of rocket strikes in the current round of fighting and raised the likelihood of an even tougher Israeli response.
The army later said that eight more rockets and mortars were fired at Israel from Gaza starting shortly before midnight and into early Tuesday, and an additional rocket was intercepted above the Israeli town of Sderot, close to the border with Gaza.
Hamas has amassed about 10,000 rockets, including longer-range rockets that can reach “up to Tel Aviv and beyond,” Lerner said, adding that the military was preparing for the possibility that Hamas would launch rockets toward Israel’s heartland and its commercial and cultural hub.
Israel has launched two broad military operations in Gaza in the past five years, most recently in 2012, when eight days of heavy fighting ended in an Egyptian-mediated truce.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Message to all the Muslim Nation in different races and ethnicities, and languages, and their countries …
Message to all the Muslim Nation in different races and ethnicities, and languages, and their countries … We in Gaza
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