On the third day of Operation Pillar of Defense, rockets are again pounding deep into Israel, bringing the war to millions of people. As the IDF begins calling up thousands of soldiers, a ground war seems imminent, even as airstrikes on Gaza continue. The Times of Israel is live-blogging. Press “Refresh” for latest updates andclick here for our previous live blog detailing events as they unfolded on Thursday.
Air raid sirens sound across the Tel Aviv metropolitan area. Residents are advised to take cover.
This is the second time since the 1991 Gulf War that air raid sirens have gone off in the center of the country, the first time being last night.
There’s an explosion outside Tel Aviv after the rocket lands in an open area. No injuries or damage are reported.
Earlier, terrorists in the Gaza Strip launched a volley of rockets at the southern city of Beersheba and the Eshkol border region. A rocket landed in a parking lot in Beersheba, and three people were injured by a rocket that hit near Eshkol.
The Iron Dome downed four rockets over Beersheba in the latest salvo.
Two long-range Fajr-5 missiles exploded Friday, Nov. 16 on open ground in and around Tel Aviv without causing casualties or damage. Warning sirens sounded first. Residents told to open bomb shelters. Three civilians were injured in the Eshkol district in the continuous Palestinian rocket fire raking southern towns and villages from early Friday morning. Iron Dome intercepted some missiles before they hit Beersheba, Ashdod and Ashkelon in salvoes. Israeli ground forces continue to build up on the Gaza border awaiting government orders to go in.
As Hamas government officials greeted Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil on his arrival for a short visit to the Gaza Strip, Friday morning, Nov. 16, Palestinian rocket crews stepped up their barrage against Israel.
Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz and the high IDF command are pushing for the ground operation, Stage B of the Pillar of Cloud operation, to start without delay. The prime minister and defense minister prefer to wait.
They fear Ben Gurion international airport at Lod may be next.
The sources noted that the landing of a rocket in the sea off Bat Yam posed a serious aviation hazard because it occurred under the flight path of passenger planes bound for and departing Israel. Intense Israeli Air Force activity over Gaza was making commercial flights additionally “hazardous if not impossible,” they said.
Also on Thursday, the US embassy in Tel Aviv advised its nationals and staff to avoid non-essential travel to southern Israel and the children of staff to stay home from their schools in the Tel Aviv area.
Palestinian terrorists barraged Israel with more than 200 rockets on Thursday, killing three people as Israel pressed a punishing campaign of airstrikes on militant targets across the Gaza Strip. Three rockets targeted the densely populated Tel Aviv area, setting off air-raid sirens in brazen attacks that threatened to trigger an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza.
Late in the day, Israel signaled a ground operation may be imminent as forces moved toward the border area with Gaza. At least 12 trucks were seen transporting tanks and armoured personnel carriers, and a number of buses carrying soldiers arrived. Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said he had authorized the army to call-up additional reservists for possible action. The army said it was prepared to draft up to 30,000 additional troops.
The fighting showed no signs of slowing after dark. Israeli aircraft carried out dozens of attacks on militant targets in Gaza, while terrorists fired barrages of rockets throughout the day. The fighting began on Wednesday after Israel killed Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari in an airstrike, then attacked dozens of rocket launchers. The offensive follows weeks of rocket fire out of Gaza.
Thursday’s attacks on Tel Aviv, some of the deepest rocket strikes from Gaza on record, set air raid sirens blaring and sparked panic in the streets of the normally laid-back commercial and cultural capital. Israeli Channel 2 TV showed panicked Tel Aviv residents running for cover and lying down on the ground after the sirens began wailing. Diners hid under tables in a restaurant, and traffic snarled on the city’s main north-south highway. There were no injuries.
Things are also heating up in Jordan - right on schedule:
Around 2,000 people called for the removal Jordan's King Abdullah at a rally in downtown Amman on Friday in protest at fuel price hikes, in a marked escalation of street anger in the third day of demonstrations in the Western-backed kingdom.
"Go down Abdullah, go down," the protesters chanted as police, some in riot gear, largely stayed away from crowd, near the main Husseini Mosque.
The crowed also chanted "The people want the downfall of the regime", the rallying cry of the Arab Spring uprisings that have shaken the Middle East and toppled leaders in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.
Could the revolutionary spirit that brought to power the new Islamist regimes in Egypt and Tunisia find a new destination, Jordan, and threaten the Hashemite monarchy of King Abdullah? That possibility became a whole lot more realistic after several days of fiery, violent protests this week in the Middle Eastern nation that has so far been spared the so-called “Arab Spring.”
Add to this the explosion of violence underway in next-door Israel and Gaza and the threat of spillover could make an unstable situation even worse for King Abdullah, who for years has been a force for stability in a volatile region.
Significantly, an estimated 60% of Jordan’s population is made up of Palestinians, who naturally identify with the current struggle of their West Bank and Gaza brethren, while the Muslim Brotherhood is the main opposition force to King Abdullah and the Jordanian government.
Angry protesters immediately on Tuesday took to the streets in violent, daily, nationwide demonstrations that have not yet let up. The Jordan Times reports:
Security forces clashed with rioters in cities stretching from Irbid to the southern city of Maan late Thursday, renewing violent protests that have led to damaged government buildings, dozens of injuries and one fatality.
According to eyewitnesses, rioters traded gunfire with anti-riot forces in the southern cities of Karak and Tafileh, as hundreds of citizens attempted to torch various public buildings in protest of the government decision to lift fuel subsidies.
As in other countries in the region, in Jordan, the Muslim Brotherhood is seizing the opportunity to promote its agenda, calling on King Abdullah to reverse the cabinet decision. MEMRI reports:
In a statement posted on the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood’s website, the organisation called on the King to issue an “emergency decision rescinding the raise in fuel prices” and the formation of a “national salvation government” comprising various political and social groups from across the Jordanian society.