Israel Launches Retaliatory Aerial Offensive as Gaza Rains Rockets on Israel's South
Israel launched a series of airstrikes on Gaza militants early on Tuesday, dubbing the offensive "Operation Protective Edge." More than 50 targets were hit in the offensive, according to Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz.
Meanwhile, rocket fire on Israel's south continued. Militants in Gaza fired approximately 100 rockets toward Israel on Monday evening and Tuesday morning, with Hamas openly claiming responsibility for some of the launches for the first time since the current round of fighting began.
The rockets hit several cities in the south and, also for the first time in the current round of fighting, caused air raid sirens to go off in much of central Israel and Jerusalem.
The Israel Defense Forces called up 1,500 reservists in preparation for further escalation, after the security cabinet decided on Monday afternoon to intensify attacks against Hamas and other terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip. The IDF intends to call up several thousand more reservists ahead of a possible ground offensive in Gaza.
The steps taken by the IDF are still relatively restrained, and Israel is so far avoiding a full-scale aerial assault against Hamas. A senior official said the ministers want to refrain from a large-scale military operation for now, but they instructed the army to prepare for significant expansion of its current operations.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon warned, "We're heading toward a campaign against Hamas, which will not be over after a few days," adding that Hamas intends to exact a price from the Israeli home front.
Palestinian officials said Gaza was bracing for further Israeli attacks. They said Hamas had evacuated likely targets and its leaders had gone underground to avoid any Israeli attempt to assassinate them. Hamas, which entered a national unity agreement with the Palestinian Authority a few weeks ago, also issued a statement on Monday night demanding that the PA take action against Israel, saying "national unity sometimes requires paying a price."
The United States on Monday night condemned the rocket fire by Hamas pounding southern Israel. However, even in the wake of such heavy rocket fire against Israel, the administration called on Israel to "act with restraint."