Warning sirens went off in Tel Aviv on Friday for the first time since the first Gulf war 20 years ago after an Iran-made Fajr-5 missile launched by Gaza-based militant groups landed near the Israeli capital.
In Jerusalem, sirens were also heard after Hamas’s military wing launched three rockets on the eastern and northern parts of the city, Al Arabiya correspondent reported.
The Fajr 5 is an Iranian-made replica of the Chinese-made WS1 missile.
Iran bought the missile from China in the 1980s and produced copies of it beginning from 1992. Fajr 5 is a surface-to-surface rocket, with six meters in length and 75 kilometers in range, making it capable of reaching Tel Aviv.
The rocket is fired on a transportable launching pad, capable of carrying four Fajr 5 missiles and launching them with an interval time of eight second. This poses a challenge for militants in Gaza, whose open space makes it difficult to hide from birds eyes of Israeli drones and fighter jets.
The missile on Tel Aviv was a response to a campaign of bombing by Israeli fighter jets and war ships on Hamas targets in the besieged enclave.
The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for launching the missile towards Tel Aviv. The group said it “widened the range of the battle to reach Tel Aviv and what is coming will be greater.”
The Jerusalem Post reported that two blasts were heard shortly after the sirens went off, and the daily Haaretz newspaper reported the missile landed in Holon, south of Tel Aviv.
They exploded harmlessly, police said. But they shook the 40 percent of Israelis who, until now, lived in safety beyond range of the southern rocket zone.
“Even Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu was rushed into a reinforced room,” said cabinet minister Gilad Eldan.
Just as in late 2008, Israel’s demands that Hamas and other militants stop firing rockets at southern towns appeared to be being ignored, and the fire was increasing.
The last Gaza war, involving a three-week long Israeli air blitz and ground invasion over the New Year period of 2008-2009, left more than 1,400 Palestinians dead, mostly civilian, and killed 13 Israelis.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned that Hamas would pay the price for targeting Tel Aviv. “This escalation will exact a price that the other side will have to pay,” Reuters quoted him as saying.
“As part of Operation Pillar of Defense, the IDF (army) will begin recruiting 16,000 reservists,” the military said on its official Twitter feed.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah commented on the rocket that hit Tel Aviv saying, “The Arab-Israeli conflict witnessed a great development after missiles hit Tel Aviv and the enemy acknowledged them,” adding that “the goals that the enemy announced reveal that it had learned from July 2006 war and the 2008 war on Gaza.”
Palestinian medical sources said 24 people have been killed in 250 wounded in the new Israeli escalation on Gaza. On Friday five Palestinians were killed, including women and children.
A Hamas source said the Israeli air force launched an attack on the house of Hamas’s commander for southern Gaza which resulted in the death of two civilians, one a child.