First Hamas rockets were fired or intercepted Tuesday night, July 8, over Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Rishon Lezion, Givatayim, Raanana, Caesaria and Yavne, as well as southern Israeli cities. No casualties but a house was hit in North Jerusalem. Beyond shooting dozens of rockets, Hamas also made several attempts Tuesday, July 8, to smuggle terrorists into Israel for attacks. A Hamas naval commando which tried in the afternoon to land from the sea near Ashkelon’s Zikkim beach was repelled by an IDF coast guard. Later, another group of terrorists tried to creep into Israel through a tunnel running under the Kerem Shalom crossing. This was discovered when a tunnel exploded there under an Israeli military post. A large IDF force backed by tanks raked the entire area with fire in case of a network of hidden tunnels was serving Hamas to secretly transport terrorists to civilian locations in Israel. The people living there were told to stay at home and lock their doors.
A wide-ranging search continues in the Ashkelon coastal area in case Hamas terrorists made it through to land. Local roads are blocked.
During the day, the first Hamas rocket over Tel Aviv was blown up in mid-air by an Iron Dome battery after volley after volley hit southern and central Israel. .
In readiness for attack, public shelters were earlier opened in Tel Aviv, the beaches along the Mediterranean coast from the south to Netanyahu further north were cleared of bathers and Sdei Dov airport was been closed. Arrivals and departures of flights at Ben Gurion international and Eilat airports were thrown off schedule by Israeli Air Force sorties against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The IDF called up another 40,000 reservists Tuesday, July 8, after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ordered Operation Solid Rock expanded against mounting Palestinian rocket assaults – 100 by mid-afternoon. This was after Israel carried out dozens of air strikes Monday night, culminating during the day in raids that killed five leading Hamas operatives: Hamas Naval Commando chief Mahmoud Shaaban, 24, and three passengers were killed when their car was hit from the air. Another airborne raid bombed the Rafah home of Abdul Rahman Juda which served as a command and control center. Thirty Palestinians were injured.
Magen David Adom has treated nine people for minor injuries and anxiety attacks from emergency call centers in the southern and central Israeli regions under rocket attack.
The high-intensity rocket offensive from Gaza, now in its fourth week, has seriously disrupted normal life for millions of Israelis in the rocket-blasted regions – especially within a 40km radius from Gaza. Ashdod port has stopped working, major transport routes like the Ashkelon-Sderot railway halted, end-of-term exams in colleges postponed, children sent home from summer camps and social events called off.
DEBKAfile reported earlier Tuesday: Israeli finally launched its military operation Solid Rock against Hamas Monday night, July 7, after the Palestinians directed a steady stream of 100 rockets from Gaza to expanded targets as far as Rehovot, 50 km away. Most of the 50 IDF strikes were conducted from the air and two from the sea. Ten destroyed Hamas infrastructure facilities plus 4 private buildings which, according to the Palestinians, included the homes of the Hamas commander and a Democratic Front operative in Khan Younes, after Israel gave them advance warning. Hamas reported 17 injured – but kept on shooting rockets through the night and early Tuesday, threatening to further expand the range of their rocket fire.
The government and the IDF have billed the operation as a long-term, staged offensive to destroy Hamas’ logistical and strategic infrastructure, to be escalated stage by stage as needed, up to a limited ground incursion, which would require additional reserve call-ups, as well targeted assassinations. This progression will be adjusted to the enemy’s response and how quickly “quiet is restored to the South.”
The population has been forewarned that the contest may be protracted and asked to refrain from public events within a 40km radius from Gaza.
Iron Dome batteries are in place.
Israel’s security cabinet and the IDF command are counting on the prospect of losing its infrastructure deterring Hamas and persuading it to halt its rocket war on Israel.
But Hamas has its own game book and is unlikely to play by the rules dictated by Israel.
Both sides have therefore entered a dark corridor in which the two adversaries will try and outdo each other in damage. Israel began by limiting itself to air strikes. Hamas hit back with a mighty barrage of 100 missiles and expanding its range of targets.
The rules of Operation Solid Rock now require Israel to scale its response up to the next stage, in response to which Hamas will no doubt go for Tel Aviv. No one seems to know how this tit-for-tat duel will end.
The inherent weakness of the thinking behind Israeli military operation is that it requires the IDF to catch up with and undo the damage caused by Israel’s passivity after the three boys, Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach, were kidnapped and murdered on July 12. The IDF’s campaign against its facilities on the West Bank left Hamas more confident than ever. In the space of a month, the Palestinian Islamists have maneuvered Israel into launching not one but two major operations – Brother’s Keeper to find the kidnapped boys and their abductors (who are still at large) and now Solid Rock – and they still hold the initiative against Israel, as well as the whip hand in the Palestinian movement.
They certainly owe their advantage in part to the atrocious murder by a handful of Israelis of the Palestinian boy Muhammad Abu Khdeir from Shuafat, Jerusalem. This was a gift which Hamas had never dreamed of. The Islamists have been able to assert control over and calibrate Palestinian fury across the board, in Gaza, the West Bank and the Israeli Arab community – a second front against Israel.
With all these cards stacked against Solid Rock, the IDF will have its work cut out to repair the damage and bring its operation to a successful conclusion.
On the diplomatic front, Israel suffered another letdown when Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi disappointed the hopes Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had vested in him to intercede powerfully with Hamas for a ceasefire. El-Sisi decided that the Israeli-Hamas conflict was a minor episode in regional terms and no real threat to Egypt’s national interests and dropped his role as peace broker.
This was a bitter disappointment to Jerusalem. It left Israel facing the Palestinian aggressor alone, but for the Europeans. They are willing to assume this role, but they are seeking the restoration of the short-lived Palestinian reconciliation and a unity government, which is the direct opposite of Netanyahu’s most fervent objective.