What happened: After a relatively quiet few hours overnight, a large number of rockets were fired early this morning from Gaza into Israel. In response Israeli air strikes targeted Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) rocket crews and other military sites.
- More than 250 rockets have now been fired at Israel since yesterday morning – primarily at the southern region near the Gaza Strip but also reaching Tel Aviv and other cities in central Israel. This morning sirens were heard in towns west of Jerusalem. The Iron Dome aerial defence system is reported to have had a 90 per cent success rate intercepting rockets but two houses and a major road were hit yesterday.
- Approximately 17 fatalities have been reported so far inside Gaza, the vast majority PIJ fighters. 48 Israelis have been injured.
- Schools and non-essential workplaces were again shut in southern Israel although normal activities have resumed in most of central Israel.
Context: The assassination of PIJ leader Baha Abu Al-Atta, who was described by Benjamin Netanyahu as a “ticking bomb,” led to PIJ’s rocket attacks yesterday. Yet after initial long-range barrages at the greater Tel Aviv metro area, PIJ has mostly fired short-range rockets and mortar shells at Israeli villages and towns in the southern region.
- The IDF spokesman said this morning that PIJ was likely to continue firing today and for the next several days as it recovered from the initial confusion after the Al-Atta operation and IDF airstrikes. The IDF said PIJ has been able to calibrate its response and conserve its rocket arsenal with an eye to a sustained period of conflict. As a result, the IDF has reinforced its Iron Dome batteries in central Israel and artillery batteries have been moved to the Gaza border with an infantry battalion in support.
- Despite statements of support for PIJ and against Israel, Hamas has until now stayed out of the fighting. In a departure from recent policy, the IDF has only been targeting PIJ personnel and military sites and has left Hamas untouched.
- An Egyptian intelligence delegation was reportedly in Israel yesterday working towards a ceasefire, while other reports said UN Special Envoy Nickolay Mladenov has flown to Cairo to help broker an end to the conflict.
Looking ahead: The key question now is whether Hamas joins PIJ and attacks Israel. The IDF said that while Hamas has so far remained out of the conflict, the “situation is fragile.” But if casualties in Gaza increase, Hamas may feel compelled to respond.
- Israel has not attacked inside dense population centres or high-rise buildings so as to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza.