Islamic Jihad terrorists in Gaza resumed rocket attacks at Israeli border communities within hours of a ceasefire with Israel brokered by Egyptian mediators on Thursday morning.
Two days of violence began with a predawn Israeli strike in Gaza City that killed Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Ata on Tuesday.
Southern and central Israeli towns and cities including Tel Aviv and Modiin near Jerusalem were bombarded by over 400 hundred rockets from the Gaza Strip.
The wave of attacks followed a pre-emptive predawn Israeli airstrike that killed Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Atta.
The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted 90 percent of rockets.
UN special envoy Nickolay Mladenov called on all parties to show maximum restraint after a truce was reached.
“The coming hours and days will be critical,” he noted on Twitter. “All must show maximum restraint and do their part to prevent bloodshed. The Middle East does not need more wars.”
Foreign Minister Israel Katz respected Mladenov’s comments but had a clear message for militants.
“Israel will harm anyone who tries to harm it,” he said, reaffirming comments by Israel officials in recent days.
Palestinian officials reported 34 deaths, no Israeli deaths were reported but homes suffered strikes.
Israel’s Magen David Adom said 77 people were treated for injuries.
As the escalation of missile attacks unfolded Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held security briefings with Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi and Shin Bet Director Nadav Argaman.
“They know we will continue to strike them without mercy,” Netanyahu explained. “They have one choice, either stop these attacks or absorb more and more blows.”
Netanyahu added al-Atta was planning further attacks and a “ticking bomb”.
“Shin Bet identified a unique window of opportunity with maximum success and minimal collateral damage,” he said.
“We are preparing air, naval and ground defenses as well as for continued fighting. If we must, we will also move to targeted killings,” commented Kochavi.
“al-Atta was the man responsible for most of the attacks that emanated from the Gaza Strip during the past year. He was responsible for sniper fire and shooting attacks, he was responsible for dozens of rocket strikes. He was the man who greatly undermined security and stability in the south of the country, especially in the communities bordering the Gaza Strip. He was the man who took every action to sabotage attempts to calm the situation with Hamas.”
Gantz supported a decision to target al-Atta.
“The battle against terrorism requires difficult decisions,” Gantz noted. “Blue and White places every proper action taken for the safety of Israel above politics.
“Every terrorist who endangers our security knows he is marked for death.”
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said Israel would not hesitate to strike.
“We are sending a clear message to our enemies on all fronts, that anyone intending to harm Israel will never be safe,” he noted.
The escalation in violence saw Israel close schools, non-essential workplaces and rail travel from the border region to Tel Aviv.
Border crossings with Gaza were also shut and the Gaza fishing zone was limited to six nautical miles.
By David Saffer