Hamas continued to launch rockets into Israel today — even after the Israeli military said ground troops entered northern Gaza to take out a number of missile launch sites.
Hamas said it fired four rockets at 6 a.m. local time today (11 p.m. Saturday ET) on Israel’s Rehovot military base, and the Israel Defense Forces said Israel’s Iron Dome defenses intercepted a rocket over the city of Ashdod and three more above the city of Ramla. Hamas has fired more than 809 rockets at Israel in five days, the IDF said today.
Israel’s earlier move into Gaza launched early Sunday local time, Saturday evening ET, came after weeks of growing tensions, nearly a week of escalating missile strikes from both sides, and after the U.N. Security Council urged the two sides to reach a cease fire
The Israeli government said it hit northern Gaza “with great force” to prevent more Hamas rocket attacks.
The IDF said its goal in crossing into northern Gaza was to dismantle some of the sites that Hamas militants have been using to launch rockets into Israel.
During the incursion, there was an exchange of fire with militants that left four Israeli soldiers lightly wounded, according to the IDF.
The IDF troops returned to Israel after the mission, and no soldiers were left in Gaza, the Israeli military said.
The Israeli naval commando raid in Gaza reported earlier occurred in the Al-Sudaniya beach to the northwest of the Gaza Strip, Al Jazeera reported.
The Israeli force encountered Palestinian gunmen, and a battle ensued that included the use of heavy arms. Palestinian sources said three Hamas fighters were killed, DPA reported.
It was not clear whether this brief surge into northern Gaza by the Israeli military was a precursor to a full-scale ground invasion. All along the road toward northern Gaza, ABC News correspondents have seen what appeared to be preparations for one. There were tanks and troops amassed by the border.
The Israeli military has been saying for a couple of days that it is ready, and tens of thousands of troops have been mobilized in support of a potential ground invasion.
This morning, the IDF said it was dropping leaflets over northern Gaza warning residents to evacuate.
“To the residents of Beit Lahiya, The IDF intends to attack terrorists and terror infrastructures in the area east of Al-Atatra and Al-Salatin St., and in the area west and north of Ma’bscar Jabalyia,” the leaflets read, according to an IDF spokesman. “Israel is currently attacking, and will continue to attack, every area from which rockets are being launched at its territory. The civilians are requested to evacuate their residences immediately and move by 12:00 PM today, south of Jabalyia Al-Badr via Shar’a Al-Faluja. The IDF’s campaign is to be short and temporary. Those who fail to comply with the instructions will endanger their lives and the lives of their families. Beware.”
The conflict had already escalated Saturday, with Hamas bombarding Tel Aviv with the most rockets yet, and Israel responding by pummeling the Gaza Strip.
Over the past several days of bombardment by Israeli missiles, at least 163 Palestinians have been killed, according to Palestinian officials.
One of the Israeli strikes hit a center for the disabled where Palestinians said two patients were killed and four people seriously hurt. In a second attack, on Saturday evening, an Israeli warplane flattened the home of Gaza’s police chief and damaged a nearby mosque as evening prayers ended, killing at least 18 people, officials said.