Hamas fired missiles deeper into Israel after the Israeli defense minister promised to continue the military operation in Gaza until “complete silence” was reached.
Thousands of Israelis entered shelters early Thursday after warning sirens sounded in the economic capital of Tel Aviv in the middle of the country but also in the Ezrael Valley to the north, the army said for the first time since the unrest escalated this week, I said. There was no immediate news of casualties from the pre-dawn volley.
Israel continued to carry out air strikes on Gaza early Thursday, according to a AFP journalist. The Israeli military has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Gaza since Monday, killing four senior Hamas commanders and a dozen other Hamas operatives. Two tall buildings containing apartments and offices in Gaza City were targeted.
At least 67 people have been killed in Gaza since the violence escalated on Monday, according to the enclave’s health ministry. Seven people have been killed in Israel, medical officials said.
As the crisis continues, the US energy corporation Chevron said it had shut down the Tamar natural gas platform off the Israeli coast as a precaution. Israel has said its energy needs will continue to be met.
At least two US airlines canceled flights to Tel Aviv on Wednesday and Thursday. Israel, which briefly shut down Ben Gurion Airport on Monday after a rocket attack in Tel Aviv, said the national airline El Al was ready to provide additional flights.
A barrage in Tel Aviv on Thursday prompted Israel to divert El Al’s flight from Brussels away from Ben Gurion to its destination, to Ramon Airport in the south. It seems that Israel is using Ramon for the first time as an alternative to Ben Gurion due to the conflict. Earlier, the flight was diverted there due to bad weather, according to aviation tracker Avi Scharf.
The latest unrest came after US President Joe Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Biden expressed hope that the recent influx of violence would soon end, saying: “My expectation and hope is that it will close sooner rather than later, but Israel has the right to defend itself.”
Biden did not explain the reasons for his optimism. Netanyahu’s cabinet said he had told the US president that Israel “will continue to act to strike at the military capabilities of Hamas and other terrorist groups operating in the Gaza Strip.”
Amid reports that Egyptian mediators were trying to reach a ceasefire deal, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Ganz said: “Israel is not preparing for a ceasefire. There is currently no end date for the operation. Only when we achieve complete silence can we speak of peace. ”
US Secretary of State Tony Blinken condemned the rocket attacks during talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday and stressed the need to de-escalate tensions, the US State Department said. Abbas is a rival to Hamas, whose power is limited to the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Hadi Amr, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs, must travel to the region immediately to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. A nominee for the vacant post of US ambassador to Israel is due to be appointed in the next few weeks, the White House said.
Since hostilities escalated on Monday night, Hamas has fired about 1,500 rockets from Gaza into Israeli territory, according to the latest Israeli military estimates. The launch of about 350 missiles failed, while hundreds more were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system, the military said.
The Israeli military said earlier that it had killed four senior Hamas commanders in a “complex and first-of-its-kind operation” in conjunction with Shin Bet’s security service. The dead included Basem Isa, commander of the Gaza City Brigade, head of the cyber command and head of Hamas’ production network, a security agency said in a statement.
“We have eliminated senior Hamas commanders, and this is just the beginning,” Netanyahu said. “We will strike at them that they could not even dream of.” The Israeli military will use “increasing force,” he added.
Amid airstrikes and rocket fire, cities with a mixed Jewish and Arab population have been hit by some of the worst municipal violence Israel has seen in years.
Late Wednesday, a crowd of far-right Israelis pulled a man they thought was an Arab from their car and beat him as he lay on the ground motionless and bloodied.
Footage of the attack in Bat Yam, a suburb of Tel Aviv, was broadcast live on television, but police and emergency services arrived on the scene only 15 minutes later as the victim lay motionless on his back in the middle of the street.
With Reuters and Agence France-Presse