The Security Cabinet meets as over 350 rockets are aimed at Israel, sirens sound in Tel Aviv

Written by Javed Iqbal

Fighting between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terrorist group in the Gaza Strip continued on Saturday for a second day, with numerous Israeli attacks on the Strip and hundreds of rockets fired at Israeli communities.

On Saturday night, Israeli officials said more than 350 rockets had been fired from the Palestinian enclave. And for the first time in the current conflict, rocket sirens sounded in the central metropolis of Tel Aviv. Two incoming rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, and two more fell into the sea.

The vast majority of rockets did not threaten Israeli communities, but a few hit cities, causing damage but no injuries. One hit a street in Ashkelon, damaging nearby cars; another hit a home in Sderot as the family hid in a reinforced room; a third hit the premises of a Sderot factory; and a fourth hit a factory in an undisclosed town close to the border.

Israel’s high-level security cabinet met Saturday night to review the state of Operation Breaking Dawn and consider the military’s next actions.

As Israeli airstrikes continued on PIJ sites in the Strip, the head of the military’s Gaza division told Channel 12 news that there were still “many” more targets to hit.

The military launched the operation with airstrikes in Gaza on Friday afternoon in response to what officials said was an ongoing “concrete” threat by the PIJ against Israeli civilians and soldiers. Islamic Jihad then began firing a relentless barrage of rockets at Israeli communities in southern and central Israel, with rocket fire continuing into Saturday night.

The latest data from the Israel Defense Forces puts the number of rockets fired at Israel at 350. Of those, 94 fell short in the Gaza Strip and another 29 fell in the Mediterranean.

The Iron Dome air defense system intercepted 162 projectiles, according to the data. The military said the Iron Dome showed a 95.9 percent success rate in intercepting projectiles fired at populated areas. The system is programmed to ignore rockets that are not considered a threat.

A rocket attack in the southern city of Ashkelon after a barrage launched against Israel by a terrorist group in Gaza, August 6, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Three people, including two soldiers, were also slightly wounded in a separate mortar shelling near a town in the Eshkol Regional Council.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service said it had evacuated 21 people to hospitals since the start of the fighting, including two people who were slightly injured by rocket shrapnel, 13 after falling while running for shelter, and six because of anxiety .

Military chief Aviv Kohavi said Israel would target the PIJ in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and elsewhere. During a visit to the Southern Command, Kohavi said the IDF had two main objectives. “One is to prevent all attacks, and two, to hit the Islamic Jihad organization critically here, in Judea and Samaria and all other sectors,” he said.

People carry the body of Palestinian Hassan Mansour, who was killed in an Israeli airstrike, during his funeral in Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip on August 6, 2022. (Anas Baba/AFP)

“We will not allow any organization in any arena to harm the sovereignty of the State of Israel,” he said.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz issued a similar threat to the leaders of the PIJ, which mainly operates from other countries hostile to Israel. “The leadership of Islamic Jihad, who are sitting abroad in restaurants and staying in hotels in Tehran, Syria and Lebanon, are cut off from their people,” he said during a tour of an Iron Dome air defense battery in southern Israel.

He said they were “severely damaging” the livelihoods of Gazans amid the current escalation of violence and that they would “also pay the bill.”

Earlier Saturday, the IDF said it was prepared for a potential week of fighting against the PIJ and later announced it had hit several observation posts and weapons caches belonging to the terrorist group across the Gaza Strip.

The Hamas-run Health Ministry has said at least 15 people have been killed in Israeli strikes, including a five-year-old girl, and 125 others have been wounded.

Smoke billows from an Israeli airstrike in Khan Ymunis in the southern Gaza Strip on August 6, 2022. (AFP)

In the initial round of Israeli attacks, the military killed one of PIJ’s top commanders, Tayseer Jabari, who officials said was planning to attack Israeli civilians near the border. Jabari replaced Baha Abu al-Ata as the group’s commander in northern Gaza after the latter was killed in an Israeli strike in 2019.

Israeli leaders said the airstrikes were necessary after the group refused to back down from its intentions to carry out attacks on the Gaza border. Along with Jabari, the IDF also said it targeted the leader of the PIJ’s anti-tank guided missile array and several squads preparing attacks.

Islamic Jihad had since Tuesday threatened to attack – to reinforce its demand that Israel release its West Bank commander, Bassem Saadi, who was arrested in an IDF raid in Jenin on Monday – causing days of roadblocks and cordoning off communities in areas near Gaza. border under immediate threat.

Egypt, meanwhile, has tried to mediate between the sides in recent days, but failed to convince Islamic Jihad to withdraw. Egyptian negotiators on Saturday proposed a pause in hostilities to create an opportunity for a longer-term ceasefire to be negotiated.

A missile from Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system is fired from the outskirts of the southern Israeli city of Sderot on August 6, 2022. (Jack Guez/AFP)

The PIJ rejected the proposal for a temporary ceasefire, Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Mayadeen TV reported. “Now is the time to respond to the crimes of the occupation,” a PIJ source told the network.

Israeli officials said the Gaza operation specifically targeted the PIJ, hoping to keep Hamas largely out of the conflict, as it did during a flare-up in 2019 following the killing of a former Islamic Jihad leader, Abu al-Ata.

As of Saturday night, Hamas appeared to be staying out of the fray for the time being. Although its leaders’ statements contained fiery rhetoric against Israel, it has so far avoided engaging in attacks.

Palestinians in Gaza fire rockets at Israel on August 5, 2022. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

The IDF has begun calling up reservists to bolster its Southern Command, Home Front Command, Air Defense Arrangement and combat troops in case of further escalation. Gantz authorized calling up as many as 25,000 reservist troops, his office said.

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Javed Iqbal

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