Israeli air strikes killed two Islamic Jihad terrorists in Gaza as rocket fire towards Israel increased to 350 projectiles, forcing schools to close and civilians to take cover.
The latest round of violence has seen the Palestinian death toll in Gaza ruse to 16, and comes in the wake of an Israeli air strike which killed a senior Islamic Jihad commander Bahaa Abu el-Atta, accused of being the mastermind of recent terror attacks.
Schools remained closed in Israeli communities near the Gaza border as rockets continued to rain down, although it was less intense than a relentless barrage the previous day. In nearby Ashkelon, people were forced to take cover as rocket sirens sounded the alarm regularly over the last 24-hours.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a special Cabinet meeting that Israel has no interest in sparking a wider confrontation but warned the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad that Israel will keep pounding them until the rockets stop.
“They know we will continue to strike them without mercy,” Mr Netanyahu said. “They have one choice: either stop these attacks or absorb more and more blows.”
On Tuesday shocking footage showed the moment a rocket narrowly missed two passing cars on an Israeli road. A dash cam video on a bus showed the incident here:
#Israeli Bus driver captures on film moment a rocket from #Gaza hits a busy intersection in southern Israel. @IDF says more than 50 rockets fired on central/southern Israrl@after Israel assassinated senior PIJ leader in Gaza…. pic.twitter.com/afypvFb7b2
— Ruth Marks Eglash (@reglash) November 12, 2019
But in a sign that the current round could be brief, Gaza’s Hamas rulers have yet to enter the fray.
Although larger and more powerful than the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad, Hamas is also more pragmatic. With Gaza’s economy in tatters, it appears to have little desire for another round of fighting with Israel.
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.”
Egypt, which frequently mediates between Israel and Gaza militants, has been working to de-escalate tensions, according to officials in Cairo.
Seeking to keep the outburst under control, the Israeli military has restricted its operations to Islamic Jihad, and nearly all the casualties so far are members of the militant group.
The initial pre-dawn Israeli strike on Gaza came as another strike attributed to Israel targeted a senior Islamic Jihad commander based in Syria. The strikes appeared to be a new surge in the open warfare between Israel and Iranian proxies in the region.
Iran has forces based in Syria, Israel’s northern neighbour, and supports Hezbollah militants in Lebanon. In Gaza, it supplies Islamic Jihad with cash, weapons and expertise.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims Iran is using Iraq and far-off Yemen – where Tehran supports Shiite Houthi rebels at war with a Saudi-led coalition backing the government – to plan attacks against Israel. Hamas also receives some support from Iran.
Israel frequently strikes Iranian interests in Syria but Tuesday’s attack in Damascus appeared to be a rare assassination attempt of a Palestinian militant in the Syrian capital