Israel and Gaza are on edge after an Israeli airstrike took out a senior Islamic Jihad commander in the Strip early Tuesday. Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants have since fired some 150 rockets into southern and central Israel, resulting in the closure of schools and public buildings, even in Tel Aviv.
Dozens of rockets have been reported hitting towns and cities throughout Israel after the rare targeted assassination of Islamic Jihad's Baha Abu al-Ata. The Israeli army is now signalling preparations for war: “We are prepared for several days of battle with an aerial defense shield, including in the center of the country,” IDF spokesperson Hidai Zilberman said.
"Approximately 150 rockets and mortar shells were fired from the Gaza Strip at central and southern Israel on Tuesday as of 1 p.m., according to unofficial tallies," The Times of Israel reports. "Soldiers operating the Iron Dome missile defense system shot down some 60 of those incoming projectiles."
Israel's security cabinet held an emergency meeting on Tuesday to mull a response as things escalate quickly. This after Israel expanded its anti-Palestinian militant operations into neighboring Syria, where Israeli strikes additionally targeted another senior Islamic Jihad official, Akram Ajuri.
Large rocket fired from the southern part of Gaza City just now pic.twitter.com/koC1BFStTs— Trey Yingst (@TreyYingst) November 12, 2019
Reports note that this is the first time in a few years that such a string of high level assassinations have been carried out by the IDF. Drones are still said to be active over Gaza, and Palestinian health authorities have cited multiple civilian deaths and injuries.
Militants in Gaza also said they are "going to war" against Israel: "Palestinian Islamic Jihad declared Tuesday that it was preparing for war with Israel after the IDF carried out a dawn assassination of one of the terror group’s senior leaders in the northern Gaza Strip," according to local reports.
A follow-up IDF statement said further: “We are ready for various scenarios, both offensive and defensive. We are not interested in escalating the situation.” Israeli officials, in an apparent attempt to excuse the mounting civilian casualties, also accused the Islamic Jihad commander who was targeted as surrounding himself with women and children.
Israel's Foreign Ministry has said "millions" are now seeking the safety of bomb shelters as rockets from Gaza rain down.
“We tried to send a message to Abu al-Ata and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad that we are aware of his actions and to persuade him to stop these attacks. Obviously, these warnings were not successful,” said the IDF.
“Over the last week, we have been waiting for the opportune moment to conduct the surgical strike,” the IDF spokesman added.
Chaos has gripped Israeli cities and towns especially in the south, where missile warning sirens are blaring and hospitals are on high alert.
According to the Jerusalem Post, southern Israel is currently under a mandatory emergency advisory:
All non-essential work has been cancelled. Those working in life-saving jobs, such as healthcare workers, are not under the advisory.
The Health Ministry opened an emergency situation room and is working with emergency services, including the Home Front Command, the IDF and Magen David Adom.
Additionally, the ministry announced that all health institutions are prepared for a potential influx of patients.
The Israeli Prime Minister’s office of the successful operation against the Islamic Jihad leader that he was "responsible for many terrorist attacks and the firing of rockets at Israel in recent months and had intended to carry out imminent attacks."