At least 6 Israelis wounded as Gaza terrorists launch dozens of rockets, with Code Red alerts blaring throughout border area; Earlier, terrorists shoot at engineering equipment, tank shells Hamas position in response.
Ilana Curiel, Matan Tzuri
Palestinians in Gaza are reporting heavy bombardments by the Air Force in the northern Gaza Strip, primarily in the Jabalia and Rafah regions, in response to militants firing dozens of rockets at southern Israel Wednesday evening resulting in a number of injuries in Sderot. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to convene Security Cabinet Wednesday night.
The IDF reported that they struck 12 terror targets including a tunnel near the sea. Code Red sirens blared throughout the Gaza region. The Iron Dome was activated in response to the launchings and intercepted at least two rockets. Most of the rockets landed in open fields according to the IDF.
Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon reported that MDA medics brought in eight people with light injuries and one man, 54, who sustained moderate injuries and is being operated on.
MDA reported that 17 people were injured, many of them were treated for shock as well as three pregnant women who began having labor contractions due to to the stress.
Hamas released a statement saying: “We are delivering on our promise. The resistance accepted the responsibility to even the playing field with the enemy and it is succeeding in doing so.”
Earlier, terrorists from northern Gaza opened fire at civil engineering equipment near the border Wednesday evening causing some damage; nobody was hurt. The equipment is part of the anti-tunnel barrier project being constructed along the border. In response, an IDF tank shelled a Hamas position in the strip.
Earlier in the day, the IDF raised the level of alert on the Gaza border after seeing Hamas evacuate its position along the frontier.
“Following Hamas statements and the fact the terror organization Hamas is evacuating its positions, the Southern Command has decided to raise the level of alert and close several roads in the Gaza border are. Beyond that, there are no special instructions for residents,” the IDF Spokesman’s Office said.
“The IDF is working to ensure the safety of the residents of the area and will not allow harm to come to civilians or IDF soldiers. The army is prepared for a variety of scenarios.”
Khalil Al-Hayya, deputy Hamas chief in Gaza, told Al Jazeera on Wednesday that the UN- and Egyptian-mediated talks on a deal to tamp down tensions between Israel and the Gaza Strip are in “advanced stages.”
“We can say that actions led by the United Nations and Egypt are in advanced stages and we hope it could yield some good from them,” he said. “What is required is for calm to be restored along the border between us and the Zionist enemy (Israel).”
Two Hamas snipers who opened fire at IDF troops from an observation post near Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip were killed from Israeli retaliatory tank fire on Tuesday.
The 9th Battalion of the 401st Brigade shelled the manned Hamas position with a Merkava Mark IV tank mere minutes after the troops came under fire. Unlike previous incidents, the IDF returned fired immediately, without waiting for Hamas personnel to evacuate the position.
The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades identified the killed fighters as Ahmed Mourjan and Abdel Hafez al-Silawi, both 23 years old.
In a statement, the Qassam Brigades said it “mourns the two Mujahedeen” and that they had been “martyred in a Zionist bombardment.”
Hamas vowed to avenge its fighters, blaming Israel for the incident.
“We view Israel’s attack of the al-Qassam Brigades’ outpost, which caused the death of two fighters, very gravely,” Hamas said in a statement. “The resistance will not accept a policy of attacking its positions and fighters without Israel paying the price.”
Hamas later issued another statement saying the IDF shelling happened during a military exercise showcasing the fighting capabilities of Hamas’ naval commando unit. The statement also added that several Hamas leaders were present during the event.
A delegation of high-ranking Hamas political leaders, led by the terror group’s deputy chairman Saleh al-Arouri, left Gaza on Wednesday after spending the last few days in the strip for talks about a proposed ceasefire agreement with Israel under the auspices of the UN and Egyptian intelligence.
A senior member of Hamas expressed optimism Tuesday evening regarding the agreement, saying he expects negotiations to be completed by the end of August.
In an interview with Turkish media, the anonymous Hamas official said the agreement is set to cover the following issues: the opening of the Rafah Crossing permanently and the easing of conditions at the Kerem Shalom Crossing; a five year ceasefire between Israel and Hamas; returning the bodies of IDF soldiers and the living Israelis held by Hamas; a complete end to the launching of incendiary kites and balloons into Israel.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, however, told Ynet on Wednesday he did not think a broad, long-term ceasefire agreement with Hamas in Gaza is in the cards, but allowed that “there may be secret channels that even the ministers aren’t aware of yet, and when a proposal arrives, we’ll discuss it.”