VIDEO: Watch the terrifying moment a rocket from Gaza hits a busy Israeli road
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VIDEO: Watch the terrifying moment a rocket from Gaza hits a busy Israeli road

The missile landed at a junction near Gan Yavne near Ashdod after the IDF killed Islamic Jihad commander Bahaa Abu el-Atta

Israelis were forced to seek shelter from a barrage of rockets fired by Palestinian terrorists, after IDF airstrikes targeted senior Islamic Jihad commanders in Gaza and in Syria early Tuesday.

In northern Gaza, the Israeli strike killed Bahaa Abu el-Atta and his wife, setting off a furious barrage of rocket attacks reaching as far as Tel Aviv – as Islamic Jihad vowed further revenge.

The Israeli military says Abu el-Atta was the mastermind of recent attacks against it, and responsible for most of the rocket, sniper and drone fire from the region.

Meanwhile, Syrian state media said an Israeli airstrike in the capital, Damascus, targeted another Islamic Jihad commander, Akram al-Ajouri, who was not harmed.

The Israeli military had no comment on the strike in Damascus. Syria’s state-run news agency said Israeli warplanes fired three missiles at al-Ajouri’s home, killing his son and granddaughter.

The sudden surge in violence looked to awaken Israel’s increasingly open conflict with Iran and its proxies in the region.

The Israeli government has been criticised by southern border residents for its relative inaction in response to recent terror attacks. A video by the IDF showed its Iron Dome defence mechanism in action, though some rockets did strike Israeli territory.

The airstrikes come at a tenuous time politically for Israel, as prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a caretaker government after two inconclusive elections.

A video on Twitter shows the moment an Israeli bus driver witnessed a rocket landing in southern Israel:

Military spokesman Jonathan Conricus told reporters that Abu el-Atta was a “ticking time bomb”, saying he had been responsible for a number of recent rocket attacks on southern Israel and claimed that he was actively planning new attacks.

“We essentially, over the last week, have been waiting for the opportune moment to conduct this surgical strike,” he said.

Mr Conricus added that the airstrike had been carried out with a warplane that destroyed only the floor of the building where Abu el-Atta was hiding in order to minimise “collateral damage”.

The airstrike damaged the half of the second and most of the third floor of a house in the Shejaeya neighbourhood, in the eastern part of Gaza City. The house was known to be Abu el-Atta’s home.

His relatives and the Islamic Jihad said the woman killed in the strike was Abu el-Atta’s wife and the two wounded were their children.

The terror group said Abu el-Atta, 42, was undergoing “a heroic act” when he was assassinated. It did not elaborate, but vowed revenge.

Minutes after the Iran-backed group confirmed the death, barrages of rockets could be heard fired toward Israel. Air raid sirens continued to go off throughout the morning, in rapid succession, as far as Tel Aviv.

Israel also shut down crossing points into Gaza and reduced the permissible fishing area off the territory’s coast to six nautical miles in anticipation of a looming confrontation.

Schools were cancelled in Israeli communities and towns along the Gaza Strip’s boundary and all the way to Tel Aviv, about 56 miles north of Gaza.

British Jewish groups issued concern, with Senior Vice-President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews Sheila Gewolb saying: “Our thoughts and prayers go out to communities in Israel in the range of the latest bombardment from terrorists in the Gaza Strip. We call on the international community to stand with Israel as it faces this menace and help return a state of calm along the border, so both communities can live in peace and security.”

Yachad UK, which campaigns for peace and against Israel’s presence in the West Bank said: “our thoughts and prayers are with the people on both sides of the Gaza border. Israelis deserve to live without being subjected to indiscriminate rocket fire. Both sides deserve to feel safe and secure.

“As tensions escalate between Israel and Gaza, it is important to remember that another round of violence will not make anyone safer, only brave political leadership will.”

 

Islamic Jihad often carries out attacks independent of Hamas, the larger terrorist group that controls Gaza.

Mr Conricus described Abu el-Atta as a powerful figure in Gaza who often acts alone without instruction from Tehran or Hamas.

Israel had no further plans to resume its assassinations of terror leaders – a practice that in the past has triggered heavy fighting. “There was no other choice,” Mr Conricus said.

In Damascus, a military official said Israeli warplanes fired three missiles toward the Syrian capital, with one being destroyed by Syria’s air defences before reaching its target.

The two others struck the home of al-Ajouri in the Mezzeh neighbourhood, the official said.

Al-Ajouri’s son Muath was killed, along with his granddaughter Batoul. A second man identified as Abdullah Yousef Hassan was killed and nine civilians wounded, the unidentified official said according to Syrian state-media.

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