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More Than 50% of Israel under Hamas Rocket Attack - From Be'er Sheva to Greater Tel Aviv to Jerusalem

By DEBKAfile &

Three rockets landed in Jerusalem for the first time Tuesday night, one hitting a house southwest of the city. A concert was interrupted at the Sultan Pool near the Old City and the audience of several thousands dispersed. Shows in Tel Aviv were also cancelled.

A video has emerged showing hundreds of Arabs flooding the plaza of the Al Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount to celebrate the sounding of air raid sirens in Jerusalem. The crowds can be heard whistling and chanting in celebration of the fact that Hamas rockets reached as far as the capital city Tuesday evening.

Some 120 rockets from Gaza were fired at Israel on Tuesday, the first day of the IDF's Operation Protective Edge. IDF Spokesperson Peter Lerner told the AFP news agency that 23 of the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, with most of the rest exploding on open ground causing no damage or casualties.

Hamas upped the ante on Tuesday and extended the range of the rockets. The latest salvo of rockets on Tuesday evening hit Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and as far as Hadera, which is located 45 kilometers (28 miles) north of Tel Aviv and south of Haifa. Hadera is the furthest point to date that a Gaza rocket has reached.

An Iron Dome battery intercepted a Palestinian rocket over Tel Aviv in central Israel. Public shelters have been opened in Tel Aviv, the beaches along the Mediterranean coast have been cleared of bathers from the south up to Netanya, north of Tel Aviv. Sde Dov airport has been closed. Arrivals and departures of flights at Ben Gurion international and Eilat airports have been thrown off schedule by Israeli Air Force sorties against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Strong explosions boomed over Modi'in and Rehovot in the early evening. Witnesses reported mid-air interceptions.

"Color Red" rocket warning sirens were sounded in the coastal region on Tuesday night in Tel Aviv, Herzliya, Kfar Shmaryahu, Rishon Letzion, Nes Tziona, Beit Shemesh and its environs, Rehovot, Gedera, as well as southern communities of the coastal region, the Gezer Regional Council area, Yavne and additional communities. Sirens reportedly sounded as far north as Binyamina.

According to reports in the area, several rockets were shot down by the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system, and no damage has yet been reported by the missiles. The rockets apparently are of the M75 model, a domestic creation produced by Hamas in Gaza which features a long range.

The barrage of rockets towards Tel Aviv apparently was launched from Beit Hanoun in Gaza; at least one of those rockets was intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system. In the latest escalation, over 170 rockets were reportedly fired at Israel as of Tuesday morning in the preceding 24 hour period.

IDF was surprised by a Hamas rocket covering the distance of 110 km from the Gaza Strip reaching to a point between Hadera and Binyamina, midway between Tel Aviv and Haifa. Tuesday night, 10-12 of these rockets were fired from Gaza, some exploding in the Sharon district north of Tel Aviv, including Kfar Saba and Raanana

A Hamas naval commando team which tried to land on Ashkelon's Zikkim Beach Tuesday evening was tackled by IDF forces defending the coast. In the clash, all four of the would-be invaders were killed

The terrorists entered Israel by sea and were on their way to Kibbutz Zikim, located roughly a kilometer and a half (around one mile) north of Gaza along the coast, when they encountered IDF forces from the Givati infantry brigade at a military base near the kibbutz. A gunfight broke out, with all four terrorists being eliminated in the exchange of fire.

"A number of terrorists came out of the ocean and attacked the base with Kalashnikov rifles and hand grenades," said army spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner. He said soldiers on the base near kibbutz Zikim, just north of the Gaza Strip, shot two of the terrorists, aircraft killed a third and the navy killed the fourth. One IDF soldier was lightly injured in the exchange. On the bodies of the four terrorists large quantities of weapons and ammunition were found, including RPGs (rocket propelled grenades), explosives and hand grenades.

On the Gaza side, emergency services told AFP, 27 people were killed and more than 100 wounded in Israeli airstrikes. Emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra told the news agency two teenagers were among the dead and that at least another 25 people were wounded in one of the airstrikes.

It was the most serious flare-up in and around the Islamist-controlled territory since November 2012, and came as Israel's cabinet reportedly authorized the army to call up 40,000 reservists for a possible ground assault on Gaza.

Some of the civilian casualties were a result of terrorists using civilians as human shields, a fact which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu emphasized in a statement on Tuesday evening. "The IDF aims its actions against Hamas terrorists and not against innocent civilians," Netanyahu stressed. "But Hamas purposely hides behind Palestinian civilians, and therefore bears responsibility when they are inadvertently hit."

DEBKAfile reported earlier Tuesday: Israeli finally launched its military operation Solid Rock against Hamas Monday night after the Palestinians directed a steady stream of 100 rockets from Gaza to expanded targets as far as Rehovot, 50 km away. Most of the 50 IDF strikes were conducted from the air and two from the sea.

he government and the IDF have billed the operation as a long-term, staged offensive to destroy Hamas' logistical and strategic infrastructure, to be escalated stage by stage as needed, up to a limited ground incursion, which would require additional reserve call-ups, as well targeted assassinations. This progression will be adjusted to the enemy's response and how quickly "quiet is restored to the South."

Israel's security cabinet and the IDF command are counting on the prospect of losing its infrastructure deterring Hamas and persuading it to halt its rocket war on Israel. But Hamas has its own game book and is unlikely to play by the rules dictated by Israel. Both sides have therefore entered a dark corridor in which the two adversaries will try and outdo each other in damage. Israel began by limiting itself to air strikes.

The rules of Operation Solid Rock now require Israel to scale its response up to the next stage, in response to which Hamas will no doubt go for Tel Aviv. No one seems to know how this tit-for-tat duel will end.

On the diplomatic front, Israel suffered another letdown when Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi disappointed the hopes Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had vested in him to intercede powerfully with Hamas for a ceasefire. El-Sisi decided that the Israeli-Hamas conflict was a minor episode in regional terms and no real threat to Egypt's national interests and dropped his role as peace broker.

This was a bitter disappointment to Jerusalem. It left Israel facing the Palestinian aggressor alone, but for the Europeans. They are willing to assume this role, but they are seeking the restoration of the short-lived Palestinian reconciliation and a unity government, which is the direct opposite of Netanyahu's most fervent objective.

In the heaviest fighting in the Gaza Strip in nearly two years, Israel launched dozens of air raids Tuesday as it edged closer to a ground invasion to halt incoming Palestinian rocket attacks.

Israel is prepared for a campaign against Hamas terrorists in Gaza that "will not end within days," its defense chief, Moshe Ya'alon, said in a statement. Its security cabinet also authorized the military to call up 40,000 reservists in addition to the 1,500 already mobilized.

In Washington, White House spokesman Josh Earnest condemned the Hamas rocket attacks and defended Israel's right to defend itself. "We strongly condemn the continuing rocket fire into Israel and the deliberate targeting of civilians by terrorist organizations in Gaza," Earnest said. "No country can accept rocket fire aimed at civilians, and we support Israel's right to defend itself against these vicious attacks.''

The European Union condemned the "indiscriminate" rocket firing into Israel and the Jewish state's retaliatory firing, saying in a statement that "the safety and security of all civilians must be of paramount importance." It called for an immediate cease-fire.

In an article published Tuesday in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, President Barack Hussein Obama said the two sides must protect the innocent and not use "vengeance and retribution." He said he still believes it is possible for Israel and the Palestinians to achieve peace, calling that the only path to security in Israel.

Life Under Fire: How Ordinary Israelis Live with the Rockets


The Home Front Command has issued fresh guidelines to Israelis in the wake of the extensive rocket barrage at southern communities.. For the first time since the IDF's Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, there is a ban on gatherings of more than 300 people within a 40km radius of the Gaza Strip. Furthermore, there will be no activities at summer camps, kindergartens and special education facilities within this range - except for the heavily defended towns close to the Gaza Strip.

Towns and cities affected by the new guidelines include Ashkelon, Ashdod, Be'er Sheva, Netivot, Sderot, Kiryat Malachi, Kiryat Gat, Gedera, Yavne, Gan Yavne, Lakiya and Rahat. Shopping centers and workplaces, however, are not required to follow the new instructions.

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Be'er Sheva announced Tuesday that exams have been postponed and will be rescheduled. Sapir College on the outskirts of Sderot has also delayed its exams, while the Shamoon College of Engineering has suspended classes and exams at its Be'er Sheva and Ashdod campuses, and Ahva College, east of Ashdod, has taken similar steps .

In addition, the local authorities bordering Gaza, as well as Ashkelon, Ashdod and Be'er Sheva , have opened their public shelters. And southern communities aside, the Iron Dome missile defense system has in recent days been deployed in other locations across the country.

In Be'er Sheva, Soroka Hospital has decided to transfer its neonatal ward – holding 23 premature babies, five of whom are on respirators - to a protected area. Hospital director Dr. Ehud Davidson said that the medical center had begun preparing based on the assumption that a difficult period lay ahead.

"The neonatal ward at Soroka is not reinforced, and out of concern for the premature babies, we decided it was time to transfer them temporarily to a protected area. The NICU staff has experience in this type of transfer from Operation Cast Lead, Pillar of Defense and other escalations."

Israel Railways also been affected by the barrage of rockets. Since the start of the heavy rocket fire, moving trains have slowed their speed, in accordance with Home Front Command guidelines. Following the heavy bombardment, there have been some train delays in parts of the country. According to Home Front Command instructions, trains that are at the station when the rocket alert sounds must remain there for seven minutes, after which they must continue at a reduced speed until leaving the area. Trains between stations during a rocket alert must slow down until they reach the boundaries of the sector.

Some 2,400 scouts were evacuated during a camping trip on Monday in the Haruvit forest, east of Ashdod. Dozens of buses evacuated the scouts, and took them home. The mother of two girls taking part in the trip told Ynet that they were very disappointed by the decision. "They called and said that they were taking them home. I do not see why they had to be split up right now. There were children crying hysterically and I'm sure there were parents who had taken time off who could go pick them up."

Making Aliyah Under Fire


Making Aliyah is never an easy task, and leaving family, friends and memories behind is enough of a challenge for any new oleh. But imagine making Aliyah under fire.

That is precisely what 26-year-old Becky Kupchan - one of the 64 new olim who arrived Tuesday from the USA - is doing. She is moving from Chicago straight to the southern Israeli city of Be'er Sheva, despite the fact that the city, like other Negev communities, is currently being rocked by waves of rocket-fire from Gaza.

Kupchan was part of a flight chartered by Nefesh B'Nefesh, in partnership with the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption, the Jewish Agency for Israel, KKL and JNF-USA.

Israel's newest citizens are a typically diverse bunch; they range in age from 8 months to 91 years, and hail from Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Virginia. Their choices of new communities are also varied, including Beit Shemesh, Givat Shmuel, Hadera, Jerusalem, Karmiel, Modi'in, Nes Tziona, Ra'anana, Ramat Beit Shemesh, Ramat Gan, Tel Aviv and - for Becky - Be'er Sheva.

"Although the security situation in Israel is very tense right now, and in Be'er Sheva where I'm about to move rockets are falling, I am not afraid and I trust the Israeli government and the IDF," Kupchan said upon arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport. "I'm a Jew and I've always dreamed about making Aliyah to Israel, my home - and at home you always feel safe."

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