Israel claims to have destroyed most of Hamas’ Fajr (Dawn) 4 and 5 missiles through more than 100 targeted strikes as fighting in Gaza continues.The two missile variants made by Iran both have striking distances of more than 25 miles, but the latter model reaches up to 48 miles and that’s enough to strike the heart of Tel Aviv, not only the country’s largest city, but its financial centre as well.
Despite Israel’s success, Hamas has ratcheted up its short range rocket attacks and killed 3 Israeli civilians.
The residents were apparently standing before a window in their home, against regulations, as their neighbours heeded warnings to evacuate to a hardened stairwell, when the rocket struck their apartment complex.
Though an unknown amount of the smaller Fajr 3’s remain, if Israel did take out the Fajr 4 & 5 stockpiles, then its most significant threat has been neutralized and this attacks goals may have been achieved. That means there’s still a chance that this won’t escalate any further, blowing up into a full blown war.
Not only would that end the threat, but it would end the threat of unplanned escalation. For if Tel Aviv suffered casualties from rocket attacks, the government would have no choice but to order the ground invasion of Gaza.
So far Tel Aviv remains unscathed and only the air assault has intensified, with Israel “dropping dozens of targets overnight in an intense air campaign” of jets and drones, according to the Washington Post.
While the current conflict may not dramatically escalate it also doesn’t look look like it’s winding down any time soon. “We are at the start of the event and not at its end,” Israel’s defence Minister Ehud Barak says and will do “whatever is necessary to restore quiet to the south.”
Meanwhile Hamas health department workers released a statement saying that Israeli strikes had killed several civilians, including two children. They seem most upset about the loss of their leader though, and like Barak, say the fight is far from over.
Killing top Hamas leader Ahmed al-Jabari “is a serious crime, and they crossed the red line,” said Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman. “It’s time to declare war.”In a predictable response to the Israeli pounding, Hamas fighters have taken refuge in the heavily populated Gaza City. The move is problematic, as Palestinian civilians find themselves yet again thrust in between the two warring sides with little option but to try and weather the storm.
In response and showing a certain awareness, Israel dropped leaflets over the city calling for civilians to remain calm and stay away from Hamas operatives. So far, Hamas says 13 have been killed, including Jabari, and six civilians, among them a pregnant woman with twin babies.
Already international communities are taking sides with the U.K. and U.S. backing Israel, and Qatar, Turkey, Egypt and Russia condemning the action. Egypt’s President Morsi harshly condemned the act, and recalled his ambassador from Israel.
The fighting is likely to continue despite U.N. calls to stop the violence. Hamas vows to fight to the death and Israel plans to cripple their militant wing.
Hamas is certainly outgunned, from Reuters:
Gaza has an estimated 35,000 Palestinian fighters, no match for Israel’s F-16 fighter-bombers, Apache helicopter gunships, Merkava tanks and other modern weapons systems in the hands of a conscript force of 175,000, with 450,000 in reserve.
Unless Hamas fighters start to relent, it seems unlikely that the fight will do anything other than escalate — and with every rocket that flies into Israeli airspace, a ground invasion becomes more and more probable.
Here’s the leaflet Israel dropped over Gaza (translated into English) bearing a remarkably similar message to the leaflets the U.S. dropped over Fallujah before sending ground forces in during Operation New Dawn.
Photo: via IDF
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