Hamas launches major salvo on Tel Aviv
Rockets fired from the Gaza Strip on Israel, May 12, 2021.

After Operation Guardian of the Walls entered its 4th day, Hamas launched a string of salvos on Israeli cities, resulting in intense rocket fire for extended periods.

Sirens and air horn alerts were heard in Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip in the early noon hours, and later, at around 2:30 p.m., the rockets were directed at Israeli cities in the Tel Aviv metropolis.

An estimated 100 projectiles made their way toward Israel's financial hub in that attack, forcing close to a million Israelis into bomb shelters and protected spaces. Israeli media channels reported at least 10 interceptions, while first responders said it was not immediately aware of any casualties although according to one outlet there were several people who suffered minor injuries from shrapnel.

Just before the attack, Hamas spokesman boasted that "the decision to bomb Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Dimona, Ashkelon, Ashdod and Beersheba is much easier for us than decided to drink water." He also said that the ongoing ethnic clashes in some mixed Israeli cities were a testament to Hamas' success. "Our people have united on all fronts and made a joint decision to band against Israel," he said.

Israeli authorities also said that a rocket may have struck the Arava region, more than 100 miles from the Gaza Strip, which would make this perhaps the longest range so far.

Gaza Strip-based terrorists expanded the range of rocket fire into Israel overnight Thursday, launching projectiles at the Tel Aviv metropolitan area as well as the greater Jerusalem area as Israel vowed to keep pummeling the coastal enclave.

The four-day conflict has seen Hamas and Islamic Jihad fire over 1,500 rockets on southern and central Israel. According to the IDF, the Iron Dome air defense system has intercepted 90% of the projectiles.

Some 650 terror targets, including tunnels, rocket pits, offensive positions, Hamas offices and homes of Hamas officials have been destroyed overnight, the military said.

Hamas launches major salvo on Tel Aviv
Rockets fired from the Gaza Strip on Israel, May 12, 2021. (AP/Khalil Hamra)

Seven Israelis were killed in the conflict so far, including IDF Staff Sgt. Omer Tabib, 21, a 5-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl. Dozens of Israelis have been wounded, some sustaining life-threatening injuries.

Around noon Thursday, the IDF eliminated four Hamas cells gearing up to execute attacks using anti-tank missiles.

A similar attack by Hamas Wednesday saw Hamas terrorists fire a Kornet anti-tank missile over the border at a military vehicle, killing one soldier and seriously wounding two others.

There was no immediate word of casualties from the pre-dawn salvo that saw a building in Petach Tikva, in central Israel, hit by a rocket. The barrage triggered sirens as far as Nahalal, 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Gaza.

Military strikes have inflicted massive damage on Hamas infrastructure, IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Hidai Zilberman said during a press briefing on Thursday, adding, "Gazans are losing patience with the situation and with Hamas.

"The other side was stunned by the force of our strikes. They are struggling to maintain the same momentum [of attacks]. We are now primarily focusing on new targets — government targets. A decision was made to address every Hamas building and institution. The banking system, internal security [police] — Hamas is losing its assets."

The IDF, he continued, also targets the homes of Hamas officials, "so even if they survive [airstrikes] they have nowhere to go back to. We have also targeted Hamas naval forces, a terror tunnel dug under a school, rocket pits, and [weapons] mills.

"There aren't many targets left — we've destroyed them," he asserted.

Zilberman noted that during the four days of Operation Guardian of the Walls, the IDF has eliminated 50 terrorists, including a dozen high-ranking Hamas officials.

"Our offensive efforts are ongoing. We're putting the pedal to the metal."

Hamas operatives, he noted, "Are scared. They can't carry out more anti-tank or sniping attacks. Our strikes are effective. This doesn't mean Hamas is down and out but they are struggling.

"They have plenty of rockets left," he said.

Hamas launches major salvo on Tel Aviv
Smoke billows over a Hamas compound in Gaza following an Israeli airstrike, May 11, 2021.

On Thursday, Israel decided to divert air traffic from Ben-Gurion International Airport to Ramon Airport near Eilat, citing safety concerns due to the nonstop rocket fire from Gaza.

With world powers demanding de-escalation of the worst flare-up between the Jewish state and the Gaza terrorists since 2014, Washington planned to send an envoy, Hady Amr, for talks with Israel and Palestinians.

Hamas signaled defiance, with leader Ismail Haniyeh saying, "The confrontation with the enemy is open-ended."

A Palestinian Islamic Jihad official told Arabic media that IDF strikes in Gaza overnight will lead to "an even wider response," from the terror group.

At least 67 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since violence escalated on Monday, according to the enclave's health ministry.

On Wednesday, the IDF eliminated a cadre of senior Hamas commanders and bombed several buildings, including high-rises and a bank, which Israel said was linked to the faction's activities.

The IDF said the operation, which involved the Shin Bet security agency and was described as "first-of-its-kind," targeted top Hamas weapon specialists and commanders in two cities simultaneously.

The IDF indicated that the operatives killed in the joint operation were close associates of Hamas arch-terrorist Mohammed Deif, who himself has evaded multiple attempts on his life.

Israel launched its offensive after Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in retaliation for Israeli police clashes with Palestinians near the Al-Aqsa Mosque in east Jerusalem. The riots were triggered by what is essentially a property dispute in a small east Jerusalem neighborhood.

The clashes escalated ahead of a now-postponed court hearing that could lead to the eviction of Palestinian families from homes claimed by Israelis.

For Israel, the targeting of the two major cities posed a new challenge in tensions vis-á-vis Hamas, which have been simmering for weeks.

A Palestinian source said truce efforts by Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations had made no progress to end the violence.

The UN Mideast envoy has told the Security Council the current violence is "the most serious escalation between Israel and Palestinian militants in years.

Diplomats say Tor Wennesland is worried it could erupt into a war. He briefed the council on Wednesday behind closed doors, for the second time in three days, on the deteriorating situation on the ground but the UN's most powerful body again took no action.

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