According to initial reports, a woman was killed and 15 people were injured in massive and surprising rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip in Israel on Saturday. The Islamist Hamas, which rules in the Gaza Strip, declared the start of a “military operation” against Israel this morning. Hamas has decided to put an end to Israeli “crimes,” military chief Mohammed Deif said in a message.
Warning sirens wailed in various cities in Israel, the army said. Rocket alarms were also heard in Tel Aviv. The military called on residents of the southern and central parts of the country to stay in protected areas. Israel is currently celebrating the Jewish festival of Simchat Torah (Joy of the Torah). Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wanted to hold security consultations with representatives of the Defense Ministry and the army later in the day.
Dozens injured and one dead in rocket attack on Israel
The Magen David Adom rescue service said a woman aged around 60 was fatally injured in a direct hit near Gedera. Two people suffered serious injuries in the attacks from Gaza. According to emergency services, more people in the south and the coastal plain were taken to hospitals.
According to the army, a house was also hit in the coastal metropolis of Tel Aviv. It was initially unclear whether there were any injuries. The emergency services called for urgent blood donations at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv due to a shortage of blood supplies. Medics also reported injuries in the rocket attacks in the areas of Ashkelon, Gedera and Javne.
The massive attack from the Gaza Strip was unexpected. However, the situation, particularly in the occupied West Bank, had recently worsened again. Four Palestinians have been killed there since Thursday in their own attacks or in confrontations with the army.
Several violent protests on the Gaza border in the past month
The security situation in Israel and the West Bank has long been tense. Since the beginning of the year, 27 Israelis, one Ukrainian and one Italian have been killed in attacks. During the same period, more than 200 Palestinians died in Israeli military operations, confrontations or after their own attacks.
Israel conquered the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967. The Palestinians claim these areas for an independent state of Palestine with the Arab-dominated eastern part of Jerusalem as its capital.
There have been several violent protests at the Gaza border in the past month. Explosive devices were also thrown at soldiers and several Palestinians were injured by gunfire. In light of the incidents, the Israeli air force repeatedly attacked posts of the militant Palestinian organization Hamas, which rules in the Gaza Strip.
According to the UN, more than two million people live in very poor conditions in the Gaza Strip. Hamas, classified as a terrorist organization by the EU, USA and Israel, violently seized sole power in 2007. Israel then tightened a blockade of the coastal area, which Egypt supported.