The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas threatened again on Monday to target the Israeli city of Tel Aviv with rockets after Israel’s military killed the top military commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).
Hamas launched barrages of rockets toward Tel Aviv during the past week following Israeli strikes on what the Palestinian group says are civilian residences in the Gaza Strip. Israel accuses Hamas operatives of using civilian properties to plan and conduct operations.
More than 150 rockets have been launched toward Tel Aviv since fighting between Palestinian factions and Israel broke out last Monday. Meanwhile, the Gaza Strip continues to be hit by Israeli bombardment.
Israel’s military killed top PIJ commander Hussam Abu Harbeed in an airstrike coordinated with Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence service in the northern Gaza Strip earlier today. Rockets landed in southern Israeli towns of Ashdod, Beersheba, Ashkelon and Kiryat Malachi in response to his killing, according to Israeli reports. Three people were injured when a house in Ashdod was struck.
Tel Aviv, Israel’s premier seaside tourist destination, has long been largely spared from Hamas’ rocket barrages by virtue of the city’s distance from the Gaza Strip.
Israel’s air force (IAF) again pounded Hamas’ underground tunnel network on Monday in a bid to collapse the extensive subterranean shelters. Israeli fighters also took out what IDF spokesperson Hidai Zilberman said were Palestinian operatives planning to launch a maritime attack against Israel via a submersible vehicle.
Zilberman told reporters today that Hamas spent tens of millions of dollars on the tunnel network. Israel’s rapid succession of killings of Hamas commanders has baffled the militant group and spurred an internal security leak investigation, Al-Monitor has reported.
The IAF struck more than a dozen residences belonging to Hamas commanders used for operations and weapons storage, Zilberman said.
On Saturday, the IAF bombed a multi-story building that housed Gaza’s local offices of The Associated Press and Al Jazeera, drawing outcry from rights groups and statements of concern from foreign officials.
Israeli officials claimed Hamas and PIJ utilized the building for intelligence and other operations, though the president and CEO of AP, Gary Pruitt, said the agency was unaware of such a presence.
Zilberman is the latest Israeli official to suggest that operations against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip will continue for the foreseeable future.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told CBS that the operations against Hamas will “take some time.”
“I hope it won’t take long, but it’s not immediate,” he said.