Hamas Terror Commander, 3 Israelis Killed as Gaza Op Launched

Faced with ongoing rocket fire, Israel launched a massive aerial bombardment campaign of Hamas terror sites on Wednesday, including the assassination of the head of Hamas military wing, Ahmad Jabari. In the last 24 hours, the IDF reported that 138 rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza, including one that killed three Israeli civilians when it hit an apartment complex.

According to the Hamas military wing’s website, Jabari was killed when an Israeli airstrike hit his car on Wednesday afternoon. Only Jabari and his bodyguard were mentioned as killed in the Hamas statement. The Gaza-leading terror group said Jabari was “directly responsible for executing resistance” against Israel, using a term that can refer to violent attacks.

As the head of Hamas’ military wing, Jabari was “responsible for all Hamas terrorist activity emanating from the Gaza Strip in the past decade,” the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on its website. The Israeli website also said that longer-range Fajr rocket sites, which can hit Tel Aviv, have also been targeted by Israel in the current campaign.

Altogether, the IDF website said Israel has targeted more than 150 Gaza terror sites since Operation Pillar of Defense began Wednesday afternoon. Gaza rocket attacks have been similarly prolific.

Tragic Firsthand Account

Thursday morning, one of those Gaza terror rocket attacks was especially tragic, as three Israelis were killed when the rocket hit an apartment building in the southern town of Kiryat Malachi.

A volunteer with the Israeli ZAKA rescue organization described his personal response to the tragedy in a statement released by the Israeli Government Press Office. Yedidah Halevy, ZAKA Commander and volunteer in Kiryat Malachi, noted that the apartment building “suffered a direct hit, with shrapnel throughout the rooms.”

“I live in the adjacent street to the building which received a direct hit,” said Halevy. “I heard the explosion and ran in the direction of the smoke. Other ZAKA and MDA [Israeli paramedics] volunteers arrived with me at the scene. We began to treat the injured. To my sorrow, two men and a woman were killed on the top floor of the building.”

The round of violence officially kickstarted last weekend, when Gaza terrorists fired an anti-tank rocket at an IDF jeep patrol. After Israel responded to the attack, Gaza rocket fire surged. Gaza violence against Israel has increased since the beginning of October with hundreds of rockets fired at Israel in the last six weeks, setting the stage for Operation Pillar of Defense.

The Israeli campaign comes roughly one month before the three-year anniversary of Operation Cast Lead, the Gaza war intended to stop what had been relatively persistent rocket fire. Since the end of the operation in early 2009, Gaza violence has been more restrained. The current uptick had therefore raised questions about the need for another operation to restore deterrence.

(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, November 15, 2012)