JERUSALEM: Israel and the Islamic Hamas movement continued their exchange of blows for the second day on Wednesday, inflicting human losses and property damages mainly in the Gaza Strip.
Israel intensified its Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, striking more than 600 targets in the coastal enclave since the operation started earlier on Tuesday with both naval and aerial capabilities, according to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).
The targets included Hamas commanders’ houses that were used as their command centers, as well as tunnels and rocket launchers.
On Wednesday evening alone the Israeli Air Force (IAF) attacked more than 100 targets in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian media reported that one of the strikes hit a car with eight journalists inside, killing at least one of them.
Medical sources in Gaza said that the death toll in the air strikes has reached 51 as of Wednesday evening, with more than 300 injuries.
In response Hamas militants fired more than 93 rockets towards Israeli communities on Wednesday. Hamas has expanded its rocket fire range with missiles that reached the northern Hof Hacarmel regional council near Haifa, some 120 km north of the Gaza Strip.
More rocket barrages were launched towards greater Tel Aviv area, the central and south central coastal plain, the northern coastal plain and the Jerusalem area, as well as southern communities adjacent to the strip.
Hamas military wing Izz Ad-Din al-Qassam claimed responsibility on Wednesday evening for launching a barrage of seven rockets towards Dimona, targeting Israel’s nuclear facility in this southern city. Israel’s Iron-Dome anti-missile battery intercepted three of those rockets, while the rest four exploded in open territories.
Also on Wednesday evening, the IDF thwarted an infiltration attempt on the Zikim Beach near Ashkelon, close to the Gaza Strip border. Israeli media reported that two Hamas operatives were spotted and that a fire exchange ensued. However, an IDF spokesperson told Xinhua that IDF forces scanned the area following the reports, yet found no indication at present time of any infiltration attempt. Residents of the nearby community were asked to remain in their homes for the time being.
A similar event took place on Tuesday when a group of five Hamas militants tried to infiltrate Israel apparently via the Mediterranean Sea, but ended in being killed in a fire exchange with Israeli soldiers.
The IDF intensified its forces along the Gaza Strip border throughout the day with tanks and armored vehicles on Wednesday. On Tuesday the Israeli cabinet authorized to recruit 40,000 reserve soldiers, part of who were summoned while others on standby.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday afternoon that Israel will “further increase” its attacks against Hamas and other terror organizations in the Gaza Strip. Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon also said that the operation will not end soon.
On the other side, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of conducting a “genocide” against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Abbas, who held an emergency meeting with Palestinian leaders in Ramallah, said that the Israeli operation is a “war not against Hamas or any faction but against the Palestinian people.”
The Palestinian President said that he had appealed to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi for brokering a cease fire agreement with Israel, one that is similar to the deal after Israel’s 2012 operation Pillar of Defense in the strip. PNA