By Ze’ev Ben-Yechiel
Tazpit News Agency
The current rain of rocket fire from Gaza continues unabated throughout the afternoon, with over 170 rockets launched into Israel by Hamas since the terror group broke the last ceasefire yesterday. A spell of relative quiet was ruptured by yesterday’s volley of rockets aimed at Be’er Sheva, coming just as the two sides seemed to be converging on a long-term truce agreement, and Code Red rocket sirens in Israel continue to pierce the air through the late afternoon hours on Wednesday.
In return, Israel has renewed airstrikes against terror targets in Gaza, scoring hits on rocket launchers, storage facilities and personnel. As of Wednesday evening 97 strikes have been confirmed, an IDF spokesman told the Tazpit News Agency. One airstrike targeted the home of Mohammed Deif, leader of Hamas’ military wing, resulting in the death of his wife and two of his children.
A third body from the attack remains unidentified and is suspected to be that of Deif himself. Hamas maintains he is still alive, while the American Fox News network quotes Israeli intelligence officials as saying that he died in the airstrike as well.
The Deif killings prompted a massive salvo of 50 Hamas rockets that peaked around 10:30 pm Tuesday, including landings near Jerusalem as well as southern and central Israel. An IDF spokesman told the Tazpit News Agency that an additional 122 rockets were fired since midnight, an average of one rocket every nine minutes. Of these, 94 landed in open areas, with 15 interceptions by the Iron Dome system.
The IDF also announced on Wednesday that it has recalled 2,000 reservists who were previously scheduled for release.
Meanwhile, the security cabinet met on Wednesday to decide Israel’s response to the continued escalation. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened the meeting in the Defense Ministry’s headquarters in Tel Aviv in order to discuss the latest developments and to plan the next course of action in Operation Protective Edge.
Senior government officials as well as local leaders responded to the latest provocation by calling for another ground incursion into the Gaza Strip. Housing Minister Uri Ariel told Israel’s Channel 2 news outlet that “the actions until now did not bring quiet. It’s clear there is no choice but a ground offensive.”
Alon Strauss, head of the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council, vowed that continued attacks by Hamas will bring their own downfall. Evidently, he said, “Hamas wants the IDF to enter Gaza, impose order, drive them out of power, and give us a life of dignity devoid of their terror.”
Strauss vowed this is what will happen if Hamas continues down the path of violence. “An alternative is that Hamas will mature to the point of being able to sit down with us in Cairo” to pursue a genuine commitment to peace, he added.
“In the next months, there will be no war of attrition,” he continued, referring to Hamas’s recent threat to drag Israel into a prolonged struggle. “There will be a full-out war if this continues.”
“This is not a prediction,” declared Strauss. “If they want to improve the conditions of citizens, they will have no choice but to be able to sit down at the negotiating table.” Otherwise, he said, “the war will be in backyards, alleyways, and the bunkers of Hamas.”