More than 100 rockets were fired into Israel from Gaza over Sunday night and Monday after an undercover Israeli team killed a top Hamas commander on Sunday.
The bombardment – the heaviest since 2014 – was such that the sheer number of projectiles overwhelmed Israel’s advanced Iron Dome missile defence system, wounding at least five Israelis.
As sirens wailed across southern Israel, several rockets were not intercepted, and two houses were hit, including one in Netivot. An empty bus was also struck, with early reports suggesting it was hit by anti-tank fire. The explosion seriously injured a 19-year old Israeli who was nearby at the time.
On Monday afternoon, Hamas also began attacking IDF positions on the Gaza border, with one Israeli soldier reportedly wounded. Schools and railways were closed in Israeli towns near the Gaza border, as Israeli jets targeted Hamas and Islamic Jihad compounds in retaliation.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raced back from First World War commemorations in France after Hamas hit back hard following a daring Israeli raid into Gaza that backfired.
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDFSpokesperson) 12 November 2018
Nur Barakeh, a local commander 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, adding that this was “the most serious escalation in fighting between Israel and Hamas since 2014 and in terms of the number of Israelis injured by missiles”.
The following has all happened in the last 23 minutes. Every rocket was fired indiscriminately towards civilians! pic.twitter.com/CyUwonDkgW
— SussexFriendsIsrael (@SussexFriends) 12 November 2018