Hamas broadened its massive rocket blitz Monday night, July 7 – edging further north and east to locales hitherto unscathed, after warning that its response to the deaths of seven operatives in Israeli air strikes would be “unprecedented.”
Iron Dome intercepted at least 10 of the scores of rockets aimed at new urban areas – Lachish, Gan Yavneh, Kiryat Malachi, Beer Tuvia and Ashdod. Eleven rockets hit Gan Yavneh alone. The last rocket targeted Rehovot. Sirens sounded in the towns of Modiin, Ness Ziona, Gedera, Beit Shemes and Abu Ghosh indicating the approach of rockets. There was one casualty – a man in Ashdod injured by shrapnel.
The IDF Homeland Command has ordered towns and villages up to 40-km from Gaza to open public shelters, including Beersheba and Ashkelon. Closer to the border, dozens of events have been cancelled and summer schools shut down for the emergency.
The IDF mobilized another 1,500 reservists Monday, July 7, in readiness for a broad operation to curb the escalating rocket fire. A troop buildup at the Gaza border is about to be backed by intensified air strikes against Palestinian rocket launchers. The Palestinians have also redoubled their missile blitz against Israel from day to day these last three weeks. By Monday sundown, 40 rockets had been slammed into Israel, causing damage in several locales – both near the Gaza border and further away up to the outskirts of Beersheba. The IDF is getting set to counter Hamas’ plans to bring its rocket offensive as far north as central Israel. Israel’s military planners have to take into consideration that, while the IDF is fighting in Gaza to knock out Hamas’ missile capability, the country’s heartland may well be beset by an upsurge of violent Palestinian and Israeli disturbances.
DEBKAfile reported Monday morning:
There is not the slightest chance of the Palestinian Islamist Hamas halting its three-week barrage of rockets against Israel in the foreseeable future, high-placed sources in Cairo, Washington and the IDF told DEBKAfile’s military sources Sunday night, July 6. They all agreed that Israeli-Gaza border tensions would continue to escalate in the absence of serious Israeli military punishment for cutting Hamas down
Following this assessment, the Israeli Air Force went into its first serious action against terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip during Sunday night – not just bombing empty buildings, but hitting Hamas operatives. Seven were killed in Rafah and another two in Al Bureij.
The Hamas spokesman said that this was the biggest single Israeli hit against the Islamist group since the 2012 Pillar of Defense operation and “The enemy would pay dearly.”
A senior US intelligence official familiar with the sector offered the view that, so long as Israel did not show it was serious about a military reprisal – like for instance positioning two whole IDF armored divisions right up to the Gaza border – Hamas would not feel pressured enough to stop firing rockets and accept a truce. Every passing day without real punishment for kidnapping and murdering the Israeli teenagers, Gil-Ad Shear, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach, leaves the Islamists certain they have got away with it and in no mood to talk terms.
The source reported that, as far as he knew, Cairo had given up on its earlier effort at brokering a Gaza ceasefire. Cairo sources confirmed that Hamas had made unacceptable demands of the Egyptian government as its price for halting rocket attacks on Israel. The list was presented to Gen. Mohammed Farid el-Tohamy, head of Egyptian intelligence, who had been acting as the intermediary between Hamas and Israel in the truce effort.
One of those demands was for Egypt to reverse its six-month crackdown for reducing Hamas’ aggressive capabilities for terror in and from Sinai, including the reopening of the smuggling tunnels Sinai which long furnished the Hamas regime with arms, smuggled goods and revenue.
Cairo lashed out against Hamas as a terrorist group harmful to Egyptian security and a helpful offshoot of the proscribed Muslim Brotherhood.
There is no sign that President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has any intention of meeting Hamas demands.
Indeed, all the parties following the conflict agree that the ball is now in Israel’s court and not, as it is presented by Israeli officials, up to Hamas to take the initiative. The Islamist group has already made its decision, which is to continue shooting rockets, in line with its unswerving commitment to fight Israel.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz must decide if and how to fight back.
Contrary to Israeli media reports, the chief of staff and the high IDF command have clearly informed the government that they are fully prepared to undertake any military operation without delay if so ordered. The elimination of seven Hamas members of its fighting army Sunday night may be the first step.