While the numbers are being constantly updated, as many as 245 Hamas rockets have landed in Israel over the past couple of days, with Israel’s Iron Dome system intercepting as many as 80, according to the IDF’s website. This morning, three Israeli civilians were killed:
Every city in southern Israel has been hit.
At 8 a.m. Thursday (1 a.m. in Washington), a missile slammed into the top floor of a four-story apartment building in this modest town near Ashkelon, decimating one apartment and severely damaging another.
Two men and one woman were killed, Israeli officials said, and an 11-month-old baby was critically injured. Three Israeli soldiers also have been wounded by rocket fire in southern Israel, the military said.
The Washington Post’s cover photo this morning was of an 11-month old child who was killed in Gaza by an Israeli air strike:
Their account of the toll in Gaza:
In Gaza, officials from the Hamas-run health ministry told news services that 15 people have been killed in two days of Israeli strikes, including Jabari.
The health ministry said seven of the dead were militants, including three people killed by an air strike as they were riding a motor bike in Khan Yunis refugee camp. The other eight were civilians — at least two of them children, the Associated Press reported.
At least 120 people, many of them civilians, have been injured.
Israel’s offensive, aimed at ending the barrage of rocket attacks, began with the air strike that assassinated Hamas military commander Ahmed al-Jabari on Wednesday.
The violence — by far the most intense since Israel’s controversial invasion of Gaza nearly four years ago — drew concern and outrage from leaders of Arab countries and Iran, significantly increasing tensions in a volatile region that over the last two years has seen extensive political upheaval and realignment.
Of course, it is clear to all observers that Hamas instigated this round of attacks — David Pryce-Jones has a piece on his blog this morning explaining how, while rocket attacks are nothing new and of course Israel should never have to tolerate them, Hamas’s withering barrage over the past couple days is intended to provoke.
Tablet has a very useful interview with an International Crisis Group analyst parsing what this escalation means for the conflict: He doesn’t see these events fundamentally altering the situation vis-á-vis Gaza, unless Israel actually tries to take back parts of territory. There have been reports that IDF troops were massing troops in staging areas near Gaza, but a spokesperson denied to the Guardian just now that there are definite plans for such operations.