The Hamas-IDF contest spiraled to its highest level in three frantic hours Saturday night, July 12: Hamas hurled 10 rockets at the broader Tel Aviv area, after one-hour’s notice, and for the first time targeted the Modiin-Maccabim-Reut cluster of central Israel. The Israeli air force reacted with a heavy carpet bombardment the length and breadth of the Gaza Strip.
This aimed at achieving two military targets:
1. The “suppression of enemy forces” capable of disrupting an Israeli ground invasion if and when Prime Minister Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu approves this operation in the coming hours.
2. To pin the bulk of Hamas chiefs and forces operating out of bunkers underground and afraid of coming out to fight. This also applies to the large stocks of rocket launchers held below ground.
An Israeli military official told DEBKAfile that the army had notified the Palestinian residents of the northern Gaza to evacuate their homes for their own safety, as the area would be hit with great force in the next 24 hours. This area served as the launching pad of the rocket blitz against Tel Aviv.
The official noted that Israel had in the Lebanon war employed the tactic of warning civilians in embattled areas to evacuate, so as to reduce collateral harm. This tactic was now being applied to the Gaza Strip for the first time.
In fact, DEBKAfile reported on Thursday, July 10 that IDF notices were sent to 100,000 residents of the northern Gaza towns of Beit Lahiya, Beit Hanoun, Greater Ibsen and Smaller Ibsen, advising them to leave their homes and make for the beach or the south. At that time, the prime minister had not yet decided to order an IDF ground incursion of Gaza.
The repetition of this message to northern Gazans, and the heavy Israel Air Force bombardment Saturday night, strongly indicated that a decision to send the IDF into the Hamas enclave for ground assaults on pinpointed targets at predetermined locations.
Northern Israel was also attacked for the second time in two days with rocket fire from Lebanon. Sirens alerted Nahariya, Rosh Hanikra and Shlomi to the launching of three rockets from the al Qlalayleh Plain south of the coastal Lebanese town of Tyre.
DEBKAfile reported earlier Saturday that for five days, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon had opted to confront Hamas rockets with Israel’s air force alone, without the IDF at large. They were not even willing to approve a small-scale raid by special forces for pinpointing a few key targets.
The Hamas blitz on Tel Aviv and subsequent celebration in Gaza Saturday night appear to have convinced Israel’s prime minister that without greater force by the IDF, Hamas would never stop shooting rockets.
Early Saturday, July 12, saw a few hours respite from Palestinian rocket fire before the first sirens starting wailing again in the western Negev and central Israel. The rockets fired …read more