Jerusalem—Hours after Hamas sent volleys of rockets at Tel Aviv, the Israeli Defense Forces today advised Palestinian residents of a neighborhood in northern Gaza to evacuate because the Israeli Air Force intended to carry out a massive attack in the area.
Thousands of residents in the area, a major launching point for rockets fired into Israel, began to stream to United Nations facilities in an adjacent neighborhood to find shelter.
The flight followed a failed Palestinian attempt to defeat Israel’s anti-missile system, Iron Dome. Stymied in its efforts to penetrate Israel’s defenses by rocket attacks on its urban centers and through special operations, Hamas on Saturday attempted a blatant public relations exercise that achieved limited success, at least on its home front.
At 8 p.m., Hamas Television announced that in an hour’s time a massive rocket barrage would be unleashed on Tel Aviv that would overcome Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. A ticking clock was left visible onscreen to heighten the tension.
Shortly after 9 p.m., viewers watching Israeli television saw incoming rockets—white tennis balls in the dark sky—arcing northward through the sky towards the Tel Aviv metropolitan area. Meanwhile, smaller points of light rising from Iron Dome batteries in their path to meet them.
One by one, the white lights were snuffed out. The scene was repeated several times. Each time, the rockets were either intercepted or, if on a trajectory to an unpopulated area, left to explode harmlessly on the ground.
Israelis, who had already seen rockets fired at Tel Aviv several times since the fighting began earlier last week, were puzzled at what Hamas had attempted to achieve in dramatizing a form of attack which had been consistently thwarted before.
The answer appeared to come from a subsequent scene on Hamas Television: children in Gaza dancing in the streets. A commentator on Israel Television said that Hamas knew it would boost spirits at home to show how its rockets could reach Israel’s major city and send its population scurrying to shelters, even if Iron Dome shot down all the rockets.
Hamas had previously attempted an attack by its special forces through a tunnel under the border but the effort was foiled by Israel. It then sent naval commandos in a night attack against a southern Israeli coastal village but the attack force was wiped out shortly after emerging from the Mediterranean.
Hamas was also intending to send drones loaded with explosives into Israeli cities, according to Israeli military spokesmen who said that all the drones had been destroyed by the Israeli air force before they could be sent aloft.
Despite hundreds of rockets fired at Israel over six days, there have yet been no fatalities and only a handful of wounded.