After confirming the death of the master-terrorist Ahmed Jabari, commander of Hamas’s military arm, Ezz e-din al-Qassam, Hamas announced: We are now at war with Israel. Jabari, 52, was killed by a targeted Israeli air attack in Gaza City. A key figure in the radical Palestinian Hamas movement, he was caught driving in a black Mercedes in Gaza City.
Hamas has announced a general call-up and threatened to respond not just with rockets but suicide attacks inside Israel. Its leaders warned that their Fajr-5 rockets had a range of 75 kilometers and could reach locations north of Tel Aviv.
Israeli sources say the air operation called Pillar of Cloud aimed at targeting more Hamas leaders, degrading its military infrastructure and demolishing its rocket stocks, especially the long-range Fajrs.
The Israeli Navy joined the air force in striking Palestinian missile sites in southern Gaza from the sea.
In their first report on progress, Wednesday night, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reported that the wave of Israeli air strikes over Gaza had seriously degraded the Hamas terrorists’ ability to conduct missile attacks on central Israel, despite a major effort to avoid harming civilians. “We are set to expand out counter-terror operation if necessary.” He said.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that most of Hamas’s Fajr rockets and their silos had been hit as well as many other strategic sites. Operation Pillar of Cloud had four objectives, said Barak: restoring Israel’s deterrence; seriously reducing the terrorists’ rocket arsenal; harming their high-profile leaders and restoring peace to southern Israel.
The IDF spokesman reported that reserve units are standing by in case a ground operation is called for by a Palestininan escalation. Special police units are on the ready in all parts of Israel for possible terrorist attacks. Locations within 40 kilometers range of the Gaza Strip were advised to stand ready to take rocket attacks from Gaza until the Operation Pillar of Cloud was over. All schools within rocket range of the Gaza Strip will remain closed Thursday and emergency services are on high alert. The million Israeli civilians suffering perennial Palestinian rocket assaults are advised to stay close to shelters for the duration of the operation.