[EARLIER UPDATES BELOW]
UPDATE 12:33AM IL: Minister of Public Security Yitzchak Aharonovich, now in Beersheva, states the operation can take a week, two, or longer, adding the IDF has full support to continue and do what has to be done. He adds the rocket fire from Gaza since the elimination of the Hamas chief of staff is within the parameters of the anticipated response.
The minister adds steps are being taken to prevent a terror attack inside Israel, aware that Hamas is trying to strike back any way possible.
UPDATE 12:31AM IL: Soroka Hospital in Beersheva and Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon working to discharge any patients that can be sent home as they continue working to set up for causalities chas v’sholom. Soroka has a large fortified area but this is not the case in Barzilai.
Channel 2 News reports that since the elimination of Hamas’ chief of staff, 83 rockets were fired into Israel, 23 intercepted by the Iron Dome.
UPDATE 12:23AM IL: Rockets fired towards Beersheva and Ofakim.
UPDATE 12:21AM IL: Arab media reporting another IAF strike in Gaza, with injuries reported. No IDF confirmation as of this moment.
4 rockets landed in open areas in last round of rocket fire into Beersheva.
UPDATE 12:20AM IL: The cabinet has convened and given the prime minister and defense minister authority to continue the counter-terrorism offensive for as long as necessary in the hope of bringing an end to rocket attacks in the south. The cabinet also approved activating reserve duty forces if necessary.
There are also numerous rockets in the area of Beersheva.
UPDATE 12:01AM IL: Last two hourshave brought sirens and rocket attacks in Eshkol Regional Council, Ofakim, Beersheva, Be’er Tuvia, Netivot, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gan Yavne, and other areas. Iron Dome has downed many of the incoming rockets. Only minor injuries reported along with a growing number of hysteria patients.
UPDATE 12:00AM IL: Security Message for U.S. Citizens, United States Embassy Tel Aviv:
November 14, 2012:
U.S. citizens are encouraged to exercise caution and take appropriate measures to ensure their safety and security in light of the escalating level of violence in Gaza and southern Israel. U.S. citizens should pay close attention to your surroundings and news reports, and follow the civil defense guidance provided by the Home Front Command. U.S. embassy personnel stationed in areas near Gaza have been instructed to curtail all non-essential travel and to shelter in place for the next 24 hours. Visitors and U.S. citizens living in Israel should also familiarize themselves with the locations of their nearest bomb shelters (often referred to as secure or protected rooms). The Government of Israel’s Home Front Command website provides information on how to choose a secure space or room in a home or apartment. Visitors may also seek information on shelters from hotel staff or building managers. Please click here for further emergency preparedness guidance provided by the Home Front Command .
For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State’s Internet website where the Worldwide Caution, Country Specific Information for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, Travel Warnings, and Travel Alerts can be found, including the current Travel Warning for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. You can also follow the Bureau of Consular Affairs on Twitter and on Facebook. Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada, or, for callers outside of the United States and Canada, on a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
U.S. citizens are advised to maintain valid travel documents and enroll with the Department of State or the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem through the State Department Smart Traveler Enrollment Program website.
For further information, U.S. citizens may telephone the Consulate General in Jerusalem at(972) (2) 630-4000 or the Embassy in Tel Aviv at (972) (3) 519-7575 during working hours. After hours (for emergencies), U.S. citizens may telephone either the Consulate General at:(972) (2) 622-7250, or the Embassy in Tel Aviv at: (972) (3) 519-7551. Up-to-date information on security conditions can also be accessed at http://israel.usembassy.gov or http://jerusalem.usconsulate.gov/ .
10:08PM IL: Gaza – reports one dead and others wounded in another IAF attack.
UPDATE 9:58PM IL: Unconfirmed reports of explosions in Kiryat Malachi.
UPDATE 9:56PM IL: IAF strikes a terrorist target in Khan Yunis. No additional information at this time.
UPDATE 9:55PM IL: Explosion heard in northern Druse village of Madj el-Shams. Officials checking to see if it was a rocket attack.
Sirens sounding in Eshkol Council.
UPDATE 9:51PM IL: Iron dome seems to have fired 8 rockets to intercept rockets heading to Beersheva and Ashdod.
UPDATE 9:49PM IL: Sirens in Beersheva, Ofakim, Ashod and Netivot.
UPDATE 9:45PM IL: One rocket landed in Ashdod, no injuries. A second rocket heading to the city was intercepted by the Iron Dome.
The Preemie ward of Soroka Medical Center in Beersheva is being evacuated according to Channel 2 News.
UPDATE 9:29PM IL: President Peres spoke to US President Obama this afternoon about the situation in southern Israel and Gaza. At the start of the conversation President Peres updated President Obama about the situation on Israel’s southern border and said, “The head of the military force of Hamas was killed half an hour ago. He was a most extreme man and was in charge of all the attacks and assassinations from Gaza against Israel. We shall handle it with great care. Our intension is not to raise the flames, but already for days, day and night, they are shooting rockets at Israel. Women cannot fall asleep. I was today there with the children. You know, there are limits. So I want you to know and I wanted to explain our motives.”
President Peres congratulated President Obama on his re-election and said, “Your election is a great message for the entire world and for Israel. You are the best representative today of the future, looking ahead and doing it with a full heart.” President Peres wished President Obama success for the next four years and said, “I’m sure you’ll do it in the greatest way, this great mission.”
UPDATE 9:39PM IL: Channel 2 reports to the best of the IDF’s knowledge, “most” long range rockets, those capable of striking Tel Aviv, Beit Shemesh and other areas have been taken out.
UPDATE 9:26PM IL: Sirens sounding in Ashdod.
UPDATE 9:25PM IL: Egyptian President Morsi announces he is recalling his country’s ambassador from Israel.
UPDATE 9:23PM IL: Sirens in Ashkelon Coast Regional Council and Eshkol Regional Council. Appears there are injuries in Eshkol area this time.
UPDATE 9:21PM IL: Once again, sirens in Eshkol Regional Council. Sirens in Nachal Ohz.
UPDATE 9:19PM IL: During the last hour, 30 rockets to the Eshkol Regional Council area and 20 to Beersheva. One person injured lightly and several treated for hysteria.
UPDATE 9:07PM IL: Sirens in Beersheva, Eshkol Regional Council and other areas. MDA spokesman Zaki Heller reports injuries in Beersheva. More information as it becomes available.
UPDATE 8:59PM IL: The Iron Dome appears to have downed 14 katyusha rockets, 13 heading to Beersheva and one to Netivot.
Regarding sirens in Dimona earlier, the rocket landed north of the city limits.
UPDATE 8:56PM IL: Sirens sounding once again in Beersheva.
UPDATE 8:51PM IL: IDF has instructed all simcha halls in Beersheva with events involving over 100 people to disperse immediately as it appears the city is in the sights of terrorists.
UPDATE 8:50PM IL: Sirens sounding in Dimona. No more information at this time. One person reportedly injured lightly from glass shards from rocket that landed in Beersheva earlier.
UPDATE 8:42PM IL: Six rockets land in Eshkol Regional Council area. No injuries being reported.
UPDATE 8:34PM IL: The Security Cabinet has met and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is now addressing the nation, entering with the defense minister and Shin Bet director at his side. Mr. Netanyahu praised these officials as well as the residents of southern areas, under attack.
“We are unwilling to accept the current situation, in which residents of Israel live with constant rocket attacks… Earlier today we began striking out at Hamas, and they were hit hard and the organization’s ability to strike against Israel has already been compromised. They continue to use civilians to hide behind while we on the other hand do our utmost to avoid injuries to civilians on either side – the major difference between us… Today we sent a clear message to Hamas and other terror organizations and the IDF stands ready for any operation required.”
Defense Minister Ehud Barak:
A few hours ago, in line with instructions from the government, the IDF launched Operation Cloud Pillar. We are working with the Shin Bet and other agencies, working with intelligence information to strike out against Hamas to bring an end to the mortar shell and rocket fire into areas of Israel, including the recent rocket attack against an IDF patrol jeep… Israel will not tolerate such a situation as is the case with any nation.
The IDF and all forces will receive all the backing necessary. This is not an operation that will end quickly but we stand firmly behind the forces and we will do whatever necessary to return the deterrence to the area to bring a halt to rocket fire by Hamas or any terrorists… It is difficult now and I call on regional leaders to act responsibly and not take measures that will inflame the situation. In the long run I am confident this operation will bring peace back to southern Israel.
Report from Gaza:
Hamas sources now reporting that IAF strikes are continuing, reporting 8 dead and 28 injured.
UPDATE 8:32PM IL: Bnei Shimon, S’dot Negev and Eshkol Regional Councils hit with rockets a few minutes ago. No injuries reported.
UPDATE 8:26PM IL: IDF officials report that Hamas has over 10,000 rockets of various ranges, including Kassam rockets capable of reaching up to 20km (12 miles), katyusha rockets reaching 40km (24 miles) and Fajar rockets up to 70km (42 miles).
IDF spokesman Brigadier-General Mordechai used the Channel 2 TV News forum to advise terrorists that their only chance is to hide underground.
UPDATE 8:25PM IL: Egypt has already denounced Israeli aggression and has demanded the IDF halt its offensive against the people of Gaza.
UPDATE 8:19PM IL: Channel 2 reports that 15 katyusha rockets were fired at Beersheva and at least “most” were downed by the Iron Dome Baruch Hashem. Channel 2 reports damage is minimal according to first reports from impact scenes. There are reports of damage to cars and an unspecified number of people are being treated for panic and hysteria.
UPDATE 8:13PM IL:Following the lead of MDA and Israel Police in the southern district, Ichud Hatzalah (United Hatzalah) has raised its operational status nationwide, calling on volunteers nationwide to be ‘on call’ at any moment. Responders in the south, in rocket areas, have been equipped with ceramic flak jackets and helmets.
Ichud officials add they have learned from experience and responders operating in the south have been stocked up for the long haul, to face whatever may come their way chas v’sholom. Ichud Hatzalah reminds residents nationwide of its emergency number, 1221.
As this update is prepared for publication, sirens are sounding in Beersheva once again for a third time in the last 10 minutes. Sirens are also sounding in Netivot and Tifrach.
Channel 2 News reports that despite previous reports to the contrary, there are no injuries in Beersheva Baruch Hashem.
UPDATE 8:08PM IL: Katyusha rockets strike Beersheva: 6-10 katyusha rockets were fired into Beersheva a few minutes ago. One rocket made a direct hit on a store. Preliminary reports indicate a number of injured. Their condition is unknown.
The IDF has ordered all schools within 40km (24 miles) of the Gaza border closed on Thursday, Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan 5773. In addition, residents of communities within 7km (4.2 miles) are prohibited from leaving their homes, including for work.
UPDATE 5:55PM IL:
Residents of this township as well as the entire Eshkol Regional Council are in shelters waiting out the beginning of the military offensive against Hamas terror. All schools in the area have been canceled for Thursday, Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5773.
STRONG GRASSROOTS SUPPORT:
Area leaders and residents are praising the military operation, giving koach to the IDF and asking that they not worry about the residents, but “Take it to the end until this evil is eliminated from the earth”, stressing over and over they are willing to sit in shelters for as long as it takes for as long as it leads to quiet.
Four Iron Dome batteries have been placed to protect major southern population centers. All forces in place as just earlier today, the IDF completed weeks of simulated training attacks with United States military forces.
Emergency call-up orders have been issued to members of the IDF Homefront Command. Combat units are NOT being activated at present.
HAMAS CONTINUES TO THREATEN
Hearing the interview with former IDF spokesman Binayahu regarding elimination of Fajar rockets, a Hamas official released a statement aired by Channel 2 News that “you will only know in the coming days if this is accurate or not.”
UPDATE 5:47 PM IL: It is now clear that the ongoing military operation is likely to lead to stepped up warfare and Hamas rockets which may penetrate into the center of the country chas v’sholom. The tzibur is asked to interrupt its daily schedule and begin reciting Tehillim for IDF pilots, soldiers and southern Israeli residents, as well as all residents of Eretz HaKodesh!
UPDATE 5:44PM IL: Following are some of the comments made by Brig.-Gen. Binayahu, the IDF spokesman during Operation Cast Lead during a live broadcast with Channel 2 TV News.
Hamas is now in shock, confused for we “hit their head. We got Jabari, and this is their Bin Laden. The IDF must be prepared for a major long operation. This is not going to pass in a number of Days…there is no doubt the air force is working to knock out the Fajar rockets that can hit deeper into Israel, including Gush Dan. I don’t think the IDF wants to send ground force in but nevertheless stands prepared…This is no less than the elimination of Bin Laden for this area, and Hamas is now contacting everyone it can despite strained relations, including Turkey and Jordan…”
UPDATE 5:31PM IL: IDF has ordered all Gaza area community residents to remain inside shelters until further notice.
Hamas reports at least 10-15 IAF sorties since its military commander was eliminated.
IDF Spokesman Brigadier-General Mordechai confirms that “just as the cloud pillar protected the camp then, it will do so now”, confirming air force attacks against senior Hamas commanders and Fajar rockets will continue during the coming hours.
The spokesman added “The coming days ahead will be most difficult ones but we will restore security to the south and the IDF can continue for as long as necessary”.
Mordechai confirms ground forces are ready for entry to Gaza if the order is given.
Mordechai was very cautious with his words, but stated this is not going to pass in a number of hours or even days, signaling what is being seen at this time, aerial strikes and artillery fire is only the beginning of a major counterterrorism offensive.
“If I was a Hamas commander, junior or senior, I would seek cover underground” Mordechai completed his interview with Channel 2 TV News saying.
UPDATE 5:22PM IL: Hamas denies its southern district commander was eliminated in IAF strike. The terror organization admits other commanders were hit, refusing to release names at present.
Channel 2’s Ehud Ya’ari, who is fluent in Arabic as well, reports a senior Hamas official sends a message to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, that the warfare will not help their election bid but harm it. The terrorist official reminds them that when Shimon Peres ordered the elimination of Yechi Ayash, it cost him the election and the same will happen here.
UPDATE 5:17PM IL: One of the questions being asked by military analysts is if Hamas will use its Fajar rockets, which have a range of 70km (42 miles), capable of striking the Greater Tel Aviv Gush Dan area.
Undoubtedly this was among the considerations weighed by IDF and intelligence commanders.
UPDATE 5:13PM IL: As southern Israeli civilian life shuts down the air force and artillery continue to pound terrorist targets in Gaza. The cabinet is expected to convene in about one hour, at which time government ministers will be briefed on Operation Cloud Pillar.
Intelligence officials are reportedly pleased as it appears Hamas was taken by surprise, not aware of the quality of the intelligence data gathered by the Israeli agencies and the scope of this operation which was launched a short time ago.
UPDATE 5:10PM IL: IDF artillery fire is now joining the air force as they pound terrorist targets. Southern areas are shutting down as the military moves to emergency status.
In Ashkelon, the city marketplace has been ordered closed down. Ben-Gurion University has canceled all classes as has Sapir College. Sirens are sounding throughout southern townships.
UPDATE 5:00PM IL: The air force is now launching another strike, over southern Gaza. There is no information as to the target.
Some members of the IDF General Staff have moved down into The Pit and are running Operation Cloud Pillar from underground.
UPDATE 4:52PM IL: Without a doubt Israeli intelligence services have been busy during the recent period of rocket attacks, using all their contacts for extremely accurate information as to the vehicles used by the senior Hamas officials eliminated as well as information as to their whereabouts.
Veteran political and military analyst Ehud Yaari confirms that among Hamas’ concerns at present is finding the leak, the person who disclosed the information making the IAF attacks successful.
The IDF has now given this operation the name Operation Cloud Pillar.
UPDATE 4:50PM IL: Hamas reports that at least eight terrorists were killed in IAF surgical strikes over Khan Yunis. At least a third Hamas commander appears to have been eliminated as well.
Southern region mayors and officials are already conferring with IDF commanders about closing schools tomorrow, Thursday, Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5773.
UPDATE 4:43PM IL: Hamas now confirming that that a son of the Hamas chief of staff was also killed in a surgical strike. Also eliminated in the ongoing IAF strikes over Gaza was Hamas’ southern district commander.
UPDATE 4:37PM IL: The Israeli Air Force is now operating over Khan Yunis and Rafiach. No details are available at this time. Israel police and Magen David Adom are moving to the highest operational status in the southern areas and the IDF has instructed residents to move to rocket attack status.
Hamas continues releasing messages that “warfare is now open-ended with Israel”.
UPDATE 4:30PM IL: Following the elimination of the senior Hamas official, IDF issues rocket attack alert to all residents of southern communities up to 40km (24 miles) mark from Gaza border.
Hamas has announced that the elimination of this official marks a new heightened state of warfare with Israel.
Israel Police and Magen David Adom in the southern area have moved to highest operational alert status.
Rockets are falling in Sderot, Eshkol Council and elsewhere. The IDF spokesman confirms that the air force is carrying out other strikes at this time.
UPDATE 4:25PM IL: The air force is targeting another unknown terrorist objective over Khan Yunis at this time.
As expected, rockets are being launched into southern Israel. Sirens are heard in Eshkol Regional Council, Netivot, Kerem Shalom and other areas. B’chasdei Hashem no injuries are being reported at this time.
FIRST REPORT 4:11PM IL: Following rocket attacks into southern Israel earlier in the afternoon, Wednesday 29 Cheshvan 5773 the Israel Air Force launched a targeted surgical strike against a vehicle traveling in Gaza City.
According to Hamas officials in Gaza and other sources, eliminated in the surgical strike was Ahmed Jabari, Hamas’ military chief of staff, the head of the terror organization’s military wing.
Israel’s Shin Bet domestic intelligence service confirmed it had carried out the attack, saying it had killed Jaabri because of his “decade-long terrorist activity”.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)