UPDATE 10:30 pm Israel time:
Residents of the Eshkol region are being ordered to sleep in their bomb shelters tonight. To give you some idea of the rocket fire emanating from Gaza, during the last hour rockets were hitting the Eshkol region at the rate of 10 rockets every 20 minutes.
Initial reports, which are usually understated by at least half, say that at least 60 rockets have hit southern Israel in the last few hours.
There have been direct hits on homes in Beersheva, Ofakim, and here in Ashdod. There is no information concerning injuries–but we know that much damage to property has been done in Beersheva.
UPDATE 9:30 pm Israel time:
Despite the fact that all Israeli TV networks are obviously broadcasting nonstop information about Gaza, very little is actually being said. Few details are forthcoming about targets that have been hit or IDF goals that have been achieved.
Similarly, rockets are being fired so frequently out of Gaza at so many locations that there is no accurate account of how many have fallen. The “red siren” app on our phones here in Ashdod that rings each time there is a rocket launch has literally not stopped ringing for the last hour. As was reported in the last update, Beersheva has been targeted numerous times in the last hour, but the Iron Dome system has brought down most of those missiles. . . .in the middle of this sentence . . .
the alarms have gone off here in Ashdod–down in our bomb shelter we have just heard 4 explosions including one that extremely close to our position . . . back at the computer . . .
Dimona has just been hit in the last 20 minutes.
It is safe to say that virtually every city, town, community, kibbutz, and moshav in southern Israel will come under fire tonight. It is a price we are willing to pay now that the Israeli government and IDF are finally taking on Hamas.
UPDATE 8:35 pm Israel time:
So far the Iron Dome has shot down more than 15 missiles in the South. Beersheva has been hit as have other communities. The IDF continues targeting Hamas leaders. Netanyahu is now speaking on TV to the nation followed by Barak giving an update. No news about what is happening on the ground.
Barak has just said that “we are at the beginning, not the end.”
UPDATE 7:30 pm Israel time:
The IDF confirms that at least 6 terrorists in the Hamas military leadership have been killed. Jabari’s second in command has been critically injured. Rockets continue hitting Netivot, Sdot Negev, Sderot, and many other communities. Because of IDF bombing Gaza–it is not clear to those on the ground in southern communities whether explosions are the result of the IDF or Hamas.
UPDATE 7:00 pm Israel time:
1. MADA has gone on highest alert.
2. IDF attacking targets in Khan Younis. Unclear what this means.
3. IDF Spokesman: “These are just the opening salvos.”
4. Hamas’ repository of Fajr 4 rockets intended for Tel Aviv and north has been hit.
5. IDF firing artillery at various locations in Gaza.
UPDATE 6:00 pm:
1. The IDF has just issued an order calling up the reserves.
2. Hamas and Islamic Jihad have declared “an all out war” against Israel.
3. Another top Hamas leader, as yet unnamed, has been killed in another strike in Gaza.
4. There are red sirens throughout the communities closest to Gaza–too numerous to enumerate. The entire country has been put on highest alert.
5. All public events have been canceled south of Tel Aviv. Most schools south of Tel Aviv have been canceled tomorrow and for the foreseeable future.
Ahmed Jabari, second in command of Hamas and the head of Hamas military wing was just killed by an Israeli air strike in Gaza.
The day of reckoning has perhaps come. An IDF spokesman has just declared that the IDF is undertaking a broad offensive against Hamas. Numerous red sirens have been sounding throughout the South for the last hour since the news of Jabari’s death was announced at 4:15 pm. Currently (at 5:15 pm Israel time) we are watching images on Israeli TV being fed from either Egyptian TV or Al-Jazeera of billowing smoke coming from IAF strikes all over Gaza.
The IDF is calling this operation “Pillar of Smoke” or “Amud Anan”.
Israelstreet will be providing updates on the hour beginning at 6:00 pm Israel time or as events warrant.