On Tuesday, while Israel accepted an Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire, Hamas rejected it and continued its rocket fire into Israel. An Israeli was killed by mortar fire. In mid-afternoon, Israel resumed attacks on Hamas targets, as Foreign Minister Liberman called to retake full control of the Strip, an idea Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects. (Tuesday’s liveblog is here.)
Hamas threatens massive attack on Israeli cities Wednesday
Rockets were launched from Gaza after 9 pm Tuesday night, the hour set for the failed Egyptian ceasefire initiative, as Code Red sirens sounded in the Jerusalem area in Beit Shemesh, Abu Gosh, and Mevassert Zion.
An Israeli man succumbed to his wounds after being hit by mortar fire from Gaza near the Erez border crossing. The incident marks the first Israeli death since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge.
Gaza militants launched a heavy barrage of rockets on central and southern Israel before 7 pm on Tuesday evening. Code Red sirens wailed from Netivot to Be'er Sheva, while Iron Dome intercepted two rockets over the skies of Tel Aviv. Hamas and Islamic Jihad claimed joint responsibility for four M-75 rockets fire on Tel Aviv.
Iron Dome intercepted two rockets launched from Gaza over the skies of Ashkelon and one over Netivot, as Code Red sirens blared in Netivot, Ashkelon, Sderot and the Eshkol, Sha'ar HaNegev, Sdot Negev and Hof Ashkelon Regional Councils after 5 pm on Tuesday.
The celebrations in Israel Tuesday morning over the Egyptian ceasefire initiative were premature. Contrary to the assessment of all manner of eminent Israeli notables, Hamas is not sufficiently weakened to accept an immediate ceasefire that meets none of its demands. Far from it. As Hamas made clear in the course of a rocket-filled Tuesday, it doesn’t give a damn about Egypt or Arab public opinion, and it is continuing on its own path, one of escalation.
Hamas not only rejected the ceasefire, but made plain it was ready to fight to the last of its soldiers. Except perhaps that should be formulated a little differently: Hamas is ready to right to the last drop of blood… of the residents of Gaza.
The military wing had made clear even before dawn that it would not agree a ceasefire until its demands were met. And Israel evidently hadn’t realized that Hamas’s politicians are taking orders from the military wing these days, not the other way around. Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas political spokesman, put it best in noting that there would be a truce only when the demands of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades were met.
Hamas is still looking at many more days of conflict. It realizes that international opinion is against it, and that the world regards Hamas as having escalated the conflict, but believes that as reports of Gaza civilian casualties mount, world opinion will turn increasingly against Israel. It also believes that in a week or two, the Israeli public will start to become increasingly frustrated by the conflict, by the battering of the rockets, and differences of opinion in Israel will become bitter. And it calculates that if Israeli soldiers start dying, Israeli public pressure will demand an end to the conflict… on better terms for Hamas.
It seems that Israel has had just about enough of the endless barrage of rockets directed at them from the Gaza strip and, increasingly, from sites to Israel’s north.
The intensity of the conflict in Israel is demonstrable even from the comfort of cable news studios. In an appearance with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Wednesday, a spokesman for Israel showed the scale of the threat cleverly by leaving his phone on during his live discussion with the host. While they were talking, a series of incoming missile alerts come in on his phone.
It was a sobering reminder of the ubiquity and regularity of the threat rocket attacks pose to Israeli civilians, even in spite of the amazing “Iron Dome” missile interceptor system which has spared many Israeli lives.
Many, but not all. On Wednesday, a 30-year-old Israeli man, a volunteer who delivered food to IDF troops manning a Gaza border crossing, was hit and killed by an incoming rocket.
In response to this escalation, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to use “great force” against Hamas to bring about a truce.
The White House has warned Israel against a ground invasion of Gaza, but an escalation of that kind may be forthcoming. Israeli forces are deployed on the border and have beenpreparing for an incursion into Palestinian territory for some time.
The IDF called on residents of eastern and northern Gaza to evacuate their homes Tuesday night, apparently ahead of planned military strikes in the areas. A military source said that some 100,000 residents had received warnings to leave their homes.
Specifically, voice messages were left for residents in the eastern Shuja'iyya neighborhood in Gaza City telling them to, "evacuate for the sake of your safety by 8am." Further messages and instructions are expected to be sent Wednesday morning.
Meanwhile a ceaseless barrages of rockets after the unilateral truce led the IDF to resume its aerial strikes throughout the Gaza Strip, earlier on Tuesday afternoon.
The resumption of aerial strikes might just be the first step towards a ground offensive, which seemed like a long-shot this morning when the cabinet accepted the Egyptian ceasefire proposal.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke before a Security Cabinet meeting on Tuesday saying that, "Hamas will pay the price for the decision to continue the escalation."
"We will continue striking Hamas until we bring the quiet back to Israeli civilians," continued the prime minister.
His comments came just moments after the first Israeli death was confirmed in the recent military conflict with Gaza. The man was critically injured by mortar fire at the Erez border crossing with Gaza and immediately evacuated to a nearby hospital in Ashkelon.
Police confirmed that he had passed away before reaching the hospital, and that attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon also spoke before the Security Cabinet meeting due to take place at 9pm saying, "We are determined to continue action. We won't compromise on the security of the country."