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3 Israelis killed in rocket attack as army continues striking Gaza

November 15, 2012|By Batsheva Sobelman | This post has been updated. See the note below for details.
  • An Israeli soldier throws a bloodstained table from an apartment building hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip on Thursday. The attack killed three people in the southern Israel town of Kiryat Malachi.
An Israeli soldier throws a bloodstained table from an apartment building… (Tsafrir Abayov / Associated…)

JERUSALEM -- Nonstop barrages of rocket and mortar fire from the Gaza Strip killed three Israelis on Thursday as their nation's forces continued to target militants in the coastal area for the second day.

Since Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defense to suppress rocket fire from the coastal strip, 220 more projectiles have been fired from Gaza into Israel. On Thursday morning, one hit a residential building in the town of Kiryat Malachi, tearing through two adjacent apartments on the fourth floor, killing a couple in one unit and a young woman in the other.

Several other people were injured in the attack, including children. Pictures of a medic gingerly handling the bloodied baby in a pink jumpsuit in an ambulance were broadcast repeatedly on television.

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"This picture says it all," said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "Hamas hits children on both sides, firing on Israeli children and hiding behind Palestinian children," Netanyahu said.

"No government would tolerate a situation where nearly a fifth of its people live under a constant barrage of rockets and missile fire, and Israel will not tolerate the situation," Netanyahu said in a statement to the foreign media. "Israel will continue to take whatever action is necessary to defend our people."

Throughout the day, Israeli officials repeated a similar message: that the operation aimed at restoring calm to Israel's south would continue as long as it takes. "We continue to strengthen deterrence and if necessary, we are preparing for a ground operation too," said Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz.

Meanwhile, Cabinet ministers approved an emergency call-up of army reserve forces.

[Updated 9:15 a.m. Nov. 15: Air-raid sirens sounded in Gush Dan, the greater Tel-Aviv area, on Wednesday evening, and residents reported explosions. Police and emergency teams could not initially locate the site of the impact but said a rocket apparently landed in an open area, the northernmost strike in the current clashes. Earlier a rocket landed in an open area near Palmachim, south of Tel-Aviv.

Palestinian television reported Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for firing a Fajr missile at Tel-Aviv. Israel destroyed large numbers of the long-range Fajr missiles at the start of the operation to prevent such an attack.

Tel-Aviv is the largest Israeli city near Gaza, and residents there would generally have about 90 seconds to take cover in case of a rocket attack.]

About 1 million Israelis living within 25 miles of Gaza were confined to bomb shelters and concrete-reinforced safe rooms. School sessions were canceled indefinitely and daily life has been replaced with a state of emergency.

"Living under constant rocket attacks is intolerable; an end must be put to this," said Sharon Galili, a 40-year-old lawyer who had taken to a safe room with his wife and three children in the community of Aseret, 24 miles from Gaza. "Living this way is impossible, and no other country in the world would put up with this."

Galili said he was wary of any promise for quick solutions.

"I do not know what the right solution is but I know it isn't tenable for 1 million people to live from one air-raid siren to the next," said Galili, commenting that their lives were being "dictated by terror organizations calling the shots."

The units hit in Kiryat Malachi were in an old apartment building that did not have the concrete-reinforced security rooms apartments built after the first Persian Gulf War have. A resident of the building who only gave his first name, Yitzhak, told Israeli media that residents had around 30 seconds to take cover in the stairwell.

Earlier in the day, he had been joking with his upstairs neighbor. A few minutes later a rocket ripped through the wall of the apartment building and killed him and two others.

"You can't be complacent; you never know when this will hit you," said Yitzhak, who ran upstairs to help after the attack and carried children to safety until emergency crews arrived.

As a steady barrage of rocket and mortar fire continued throughout the day, Israel's air force targeted more than 150 militant sites in Gaza, where Ahmad Jabari, the military commander of Hamas, was killed in an Israeli airstrike Wednesday at the beginning of Israel's offensive.

A state of emergency has been declared in southern Israel and government agencies are issuing instructions for essential service providers to continue working, including municipal services, banks, hospitals and essential industries.

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