An Iron Dome launcher fires an interceptor rocket in the
southern Israeli city of Ashdod. Photo by Reuters
At least 20 people have been killed across Gaza,
according to Palestinian officials, by a bombardment Israel
says may be just the start of a lengthy offensive against
Islamist militants whose rockets reached hit unprecedented
depths of its interior.
Israelis ran for cover as air-raid sirens sounded in the
business capital Tel Aviv and the holy city of Jerusalem,
both of which were hit in the previous Gaza war of November
Hamas said it also fired at rocket at northern Haifa, 140km
away, and though this was not confirmed Israel said a rocket
had landed in Hadera, 100km from Gaza - further than had
previously been reached.
While the Israelis reported no casualties, the long-range
salvo was celebrated by the outgunned Palestinians as proof
of their resolve in hostilities that flared three weeks ago
after the abduction and murder of three Jewish seminary
The rocket strikes could, however, draw an Israeli invasion,
something officials have said is a possible option.
In densely populated Gaza, explosions echoed day and night,
shaking buildings and sending up plumes of smoke. At least 12
civilians, including five children, were among the 20 dead,
Palestinian officials said. On the Israeli side, at least two
people were wounded, medics said.
On Tuesday afternoon, Israel's Iron Dome interceptor shot
down a rocket fired at Tel Aviv by Gaza faction Islamic
"We will not tolerate rocket fire against our cities and
townships, and therefore I ordered a significant broadening
of IDF (Israel Defence Force) operations against the
terrorists of Hamas and other terror groups in the Gaza
Strip," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a
He called on Israelis to rally together and "show resilience,
because this operation could take time".
Israel has threatened to invade Gaza if the rockets persist.
In a bold infiltration, gunmen from Hamas landed on the shore
near Zikim, where a kibbutz and an army base are located,
just over the Gaza border. Israel's army initially said it
killed five gunmen, but later put the death toll at four.
ABBAS TALKS TO EGYPT
U.S.-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is based
in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and entered a power-share
with Hamas in April after years of feuding, said he had
spoken to regional powerbroker Egypt about the Gaza crisis.
Under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Cairo has tightened
closures on the Egyptian-Gaza border, increasing economic
pressure on Hamas from a long-running Israeli blockade.
"Sisi stressed Egypt was interested in the safety of the
Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and sparing this grave
assault," a statement from Abbas's office said, adding that
Cairo would "exert efforts to reach an immediate ceasefire".
Washington backed Israel's actions in Gaza while the European
Union and United Nations urged restraint on both sides.
"We strongly condemn the continuing rocket fire inside of
Israel and the deliberate targeting of civilians by terrorist
organisations in Gaza," White House spokesman Josh Earnest
"No country can accept rocket fire aimed at civilians and we
support Israel's right to defend itself against these vicious
The surge in violence along the Gaza border - the worst since
an eight-day war in 2012, when Tel Aviv was also targeted -
followed a chain of events begun by the abduction of three
Jewish seminary students in the occupied West Bank on June
Blaming Hamas, which neither confirmed nor denied a role, the
Israelis arrested hundreds of its activists in their search
for the teenagers who were eventually found dead, as was a
Palestinian youth abducted in Jerusalem last Wednesday in a
suspected revenge murder.
Palestinians have since launched more than 200 rockets from
Gaza, Israel says.
While threatening an "earthquake" of escalation against
Israel, Hamas said it could restore calm if Israel halted the
Gaza offensive, recommitted to a 2012 Egyptian-brokered truce
and freed prisoners it detained in the West Bank last month.
"The enemy must not think about enjoying security unless
these terms are met," the Hamas armed wing spokesman said.
The Israeli military said on Tuesday that, to support regular
forces, it had called up 1,000 reserve troops out of a pool
of 40,000 approved on Tuesday by the security cabinet. Some
1,500 other reservists have already been mobilised.
One Israeli attack overnight destroyed the house of a Hamas
member's family, killing six people inside, locals said. The
Palestinian Interior Ministry said the family had received a
telephone call from an Israeli officer telling them to leave.
Locals said people had been urged to gather there as "human
shields" to deter a second attack after it was hit earlier.
Another strike killed a Hamas commander, identified as
Mohammed Shaaban, and three others travelling in a car
together, a pro-Hamas website said.