Hamas terrorists have fired more than 400 rockets into Israel in the past 36 hours, in a furious reaction to an Israeli raid into Gaza on Sunday night that killed one of its commanders.
The Strip’s rulers retaliated with what the IDF said was the largest-ever volley of rockets into southern Israel in a single day, overwhelming the Iron Dome missile defence system.
A 40-year-old Palestinian man was killed in Ashkelon on Monday night, and eight others were wounded in the strike – one of several to breach Israeli defences.
As of Tuesday morning, more than 50 Israelis had been injured or treated for trauma.
On Monday, terrorists from Hamas and Islamic Jihad used an anti-tank guided missile to hit an empty bus near the Gaza border, seriously injuring an Israeli soldier who was on board at the time.
Israeli jets have hit back, attacking dozens of posts around the Strip, as Israeli schools and train-lines remained closed, but commentators were united in their warnings that neither Israel nor Hamas wanted another war.
A senior Hamas official threatened to up the ante, however, saying: “Approximately one million Zionists will be within the range of our missiles if the Zionist enemy’s decision is to continue its aggression.”
The latest flare-up follows an operation from an undercover Israeli team, which travelled into Gaza in a civilian car to kill a top terrorist commander on Sunday.
Nur Barakeh, a local leader of Hamas’s Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, was killed in the ground raid, along with six other Palestinians, but the Israeli Special Forces team came under fire after they were spotted making their way back.
Analysts have reported “an unspecified malfunction” as exposing the team. An Israeli Lieutenant-Colonel – identified as Lt. Col. M – was killed and another officer was injured, as the Israeli Air Force sought to provide cover for the retreating team.
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot said: “An IDF special force operated tonight in a very meaningful operation to Israel’s security. The force and IAF troops fought a brave battle calmly and heroically. I salute our troops. The IDF owes Lt. Col. M. more than we can say. I embrace his family and wish the injured officer a quick recovery.”
James Sorene, chief executive of BICOM, tweeted that neither Hamas nor Israeli leaders wanted another war, but said: “The grim reality is that deaths on either side will mean a heavier retaliatory response.”
He added that the missiles’ ability to overwhelm Israel’s missile defences and hit houses will be “a terrible blow” to Israel, amid “the most serious escalation in fighting between Israel and Hamas since 2014 and in terms of the number of Israelis injured by missiles”.
Board of Deputies’ president Marie van der Zyl said the UK Jewish community “stands in solidarity with the State of Israel,” adding: “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and families of those who have been killed and wounded by Hamas rockets.”