JERUSALEM, Israel – Rocket sirens sounding throughout southern and central Israel are sending Israeli civilians to their bomb shelters Tuesday. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) ordered all residents throughout Israel to stay indoors and brace for a heavy shower of rockets from terrorists in the Gaza Strip.
The military says Gaza terrorists have fired at least 50 rockets at Israel since the early morning hours.
The rockets are in retaliation for the IDF assassinating senior Islamic Jihad terrorist Baha Abu Al-Ata in a precision airstrike in Gaza early Tuesday morning.
Israeli media reports at least one other person was killed and two others were wounded in the attack. Syrian sources also report that an Israeli airstrike targeted Islamic Jihad senior leader Akram Ajuri at his home in Damascus. Reports say the leader survived the airstrike. The attack in Damascus came just minutes after the airstrike that killed Al-Ata in Gaza.
According to Gaza news sources, Islamic Jihad leader Ziad al Nakhaleh vowed to retaliate.
“We are going to war .. Netanyahu crossed all the red lines by the assassination of Abu al-Ata .. We will respond strongly,” al Nakhaleh reportedly said.
Islamic Jihad leader Ziad al Nakhaleh: We are going to war. Netanyahu has crossed all red lines by assassinating Abu al Ata. https://t.co/U4FqVChbJA— Khaled Abu Toameh (@KhaledAbuToameh) November 12, 2019
The Al-Quds Brigades, Islamic Jihad’s military wing, called on all its fighters to attack Israel.
“We announce the general mobilization of our fighters and units and we affirm that the response to this crime will have no limits and will be tantamount to the size of the crime that the criminal enemy perpetrated,” the Al-Quds Brigades said in a statement.
Israeli media reports that the Iron Dome Defense system has intercepted several rockets over the southern city of Ashdod, Sderot, and Ashkelon beach. Meanwhile, sirens are sounding all over the center of the country and as far as Rishon LeTsiyon, Holon, and Tel Aviv.
The military ordered all the Israeli schools near the Gaza Strip, including Sderot and Ashkelon, to be closed and brace for retaliation from Islamic Jihad. Schools in Rishon LeTsiyon, Holon, and Tel Aviv were canceled too. All farmers are told not to go in their fields and all residents near Gaza are told to stay close to their bomb shelters.
“We are prepared for several days of battle, with an aerial defense shield, including in the center of the country,” the IDF spokesman told the Times of Israel.
The military has already begun striking targets in Gaza in response to the rocket fire.
“At this time, the IDf has begun to attack terror targets belonging to the PIJ terror group in the Gaza Strip. More details soon,” the army said.
Al-Ata was known as the powerful leader of the northern branch of Islamic Jihad’s military wing and was responsible for launching many rockets at Israeli citizens.
“Al Ata was directly responsible for hundreds of terror attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers. His next attack was imminent,” the army said.
BREAKING: We just targeted Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza, Baha Abu Al Ata.— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) November 12, 2019
Al Ata was directly responsible for hundreds of terror attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers.
His next attack was imminent.#JihadEnough pic.twitter.com/h6VXzdwcmz
Al-Ata is believed to have been involved in several rocket attacks against Sderot on November 1, and an earlier round of rockets against the city in August.
“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,” Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office said in a statement. “The IDF action was recommended by the IDF Chief-of-Staff and ISA Director and was approved by the Prime Minister and Defense Minister after it had been presented to – and approved by – the Security Cabinet.”
The IDF said al-Ata was a “ticking time bomb.”
“He is the man who acted in every way to sabotage attempts for calm with Hamas. He was a live ticking bomb, and even now he worked and planned attacks. He was responsible for the majority of attacks that took place over past year. We are preparing for escalation from the ground, air and sea,” IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi said.
Senior military officials told Israel radio that the IDF targeted the exact room where al-Ata was sleeping and did not destroy the entire building. An official also said Israel avoided casualties by bystanders.
PRECISION STRIKE: This is the building we surgically targeted overnight to thwart the imminent threat of Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza, Baha Abu Al Ata.— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) November 12, 2019
📍Shejaiyah, Gaza pic.twitter.com/NkNlWAPMhy