Security cabinet to meet as over 350 rockets target Israel, sirens sound in Tel Aviv

Fighting between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror group in the Gaza Strip continued for a second day on Saturday, with numerous Israeli attacks on the Strip and hundreds of rocket launches into Israeli communities.

By Saturday night, Israeli officials said more than 350 rockets had been launched from the Palestinian enclave. And for the first time in the current conflict, rocket sirens sounded in the central metropolis of Tel Aviv. Two incoming missiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system and two more fell into the sea.

The vast majority of the missiles did not endanger Israeli communities, but a few hit cities, causing damage but no casualties. One hit a street in Ashkelon and damaged nearby cars; a second hit a house in Sderot while the family hid in a fortified room; a third hit the site of a factory in Sderot; and a fourth hit a factory in an unknown city close to the border.

Israel’s high-level security cabinet met on Saturday evening to discuss the state of Operation Breaking Dawn and consider the military’s next actions.

As Israeli airstrikes on PIJ sites in the Strip continued, the chief of the army’s Gaza division told Channel 12 that “many” targets were still to be hit.

The military launched the operation with airstrikes in Gaza on Friday afternoon in response to what officials said was an ongoing “concrete” threat from PIJ to attack Israeli civilians and soldiers. Islamic Jihad then began firing a relentless barrage of rockets at Israeli communities in southern and central Israel, with the rocket fire continuing until Saturday night.

According to the latest data from the Israel Defense Forces, the number of rockets fired at Israel is 350. Of them, 94 fell short in the Gaza Strip and another 29 in the Mediterranean.

The Iron Dome air defense system is said to have intercepted 162 projectiles. The military said Iron Dome showed a 95.9 percent success rate in intercepting projectiles fired into populated areas. The system is programmed to ignore missiles that are not considered a threat.

A rocket attack in the southern city of Ashkelon after a barrage launched into Israel by a terror group in Gaza, Aug. 6, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Three people, including two soldiers, were also slightly injured in a separate mortar bombing near a town in the Eshkol Regional Council.

Magen David Adom’s ambulance service said it had evacuated 21 people to hospitals since the fighting began, including two people who were slightly injured by rocket-propelled grenades, 13 after they fell while running for shelter and six because of fear.

Army Chief Aviv Kohavi said Israel would target the PIJ in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and elsewhere. During a visit to Southern Command, Kohavi said the IDF had two main objectives. “One is to prevent all attacks, and two, to critically hit the Islamic Jihad organization here, in Judea and Samaria, and all other sectors,” he said.

People carry the body of Palestinian Hassan Mansour, who was killed in an Israeli airstrike, during his funeral in Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip on Aug. 6, 2022. (Anas Baba/AFP)

“We will not allow any organization in any arena to harm the sovereignty of the State of Israel,” he said.

Defense Secretary Benny Gantz has issued a similar threat to the leaders of the PIJ, which mainly operate from other countries hostile to Israel. “The Islamic Jihad leadership, which sits in restaurants abroad and hotels in Tehran, Syria and Lebanon, is disconnected from their people,” he said during a tour of an Iron Dome air defense battery in southern Israel.

He said they are “seriously damaging the livelihoods of Gazans” amid the current escalation of violence, and that they would also “pay the bill”.

Earlier Saturday, the IDF said it was prepared for a possible week of fighting against the PIJ, later announcing that it had hit numerous terror group observation posts and weapons depots in the Gaza Strip.

The Hamas-led health ministry has said that at least 15 people have been killed, including a five-year-old girl, and 125 others injured in Israeli attacks.

Smoke rises from an Israeli airstrike in Khan Yuunis in the southern Gaza Strip on Aug. 6, 2022. (AFP)

In the opening round of Israeli strikes, the military killed one of PIJ’s senior commanders, Tayseer Jabari, who officials said planned to attack Israeli civilians near the border. Jabari replaced Baha Abu al-Ata as commander of the group in northern Gaza after the latter was killed in an Israeli attack in 2019.

Israeli leaders said the airstrikes were necessary after the group refused to go back on its intentions to carry out attacks on the Gaza border. Along with Jabari, the IDF also said it targeted the head of PIJ’s anti-tank guided missile array and several squadrons preparing attacks.

Islamic Jihad has been threatening an attack since Tuesday — bolstering its demand that Israel release its West Bank commander Bassem Saadi, who was arrested Monday in an IDF attack in Jenin — causing days of road and community closures in areas. were caused near the Gaza Strip. border is directly threatened.

Egypt has tried to mediate between the parties in recent days, but failed to convince Islamic Jihad to withdraw. Egyptian negotiators on Saturday proposed to suspend hostilities to create an opportunity for a longer-lasting ceasefire.

A missile of Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system is launched on August 6, 2022 from the outskirts of the southern Israeli city of Sderot. (Jack Guez/AFP)

The PIJ rejected the proposal for a temporary ceasefire, Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Mayadeen TV reported. “Now is the time to respond to the crimes of the occupation,” a PIJ source told the network.

Israeli officials said the Gaza operation targeted PIJ specifically, hoping to keep Hamas largely out of the conflict, such as during a flare-up in 2019 following the assassination of a previous Islamic Jihad leader, Abu al-Ata.

As of Saturday evening, Hamas indeed appeared to be out of the fray for the time being. While the leaders have included fiery rhetoric against Israel in the statements, it has so far avoided participating in attacks.

Palestinians in Gaza fire rockets at Israel on August 5, 2022. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

The IDF has begun calling in reservists to bolster Confederate Command, Home Front Command, air defense and combat forces in the event of further escalation. Gantz agreed to call up as many as 25,000 reservists, his office said.

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