Voice of Israel public radio said that the rocket is believed to have struck in a southern suburb of Tel Aviv, but Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter said that the rocket apparently fell into the sea near Bat Yam.
Minister of Public Security Yitzchak Aharonovich gave a conflicting account and said that a missile fell into the sea.
The IDF is amassing ground forces near Gaza and preparing for a possible assault. Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) told Voice of Israel that Gaza is in for an “unprecedented attack.”
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Thursday approved the call-up of 30,000 reserve soldiers, who can be called into action by the military at any point, the army’s official spokesman said.
“We are in the process of expanding the campaign,” Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai told Channel 2 television as Israel pressed a massive air campaign against Gaza terrorists.
“The Defense Minister approved a few minutes ago, based on the army’s request, the recruitment of another 30,000 soldiers. We will determine how many of them will be called in,” he said. “All options are on the table.”
The United States is calling on Egypt to use its sway with the Palestinians to try to end the violence from Gaza, a top U.S. official said Thursday, adding Hamas must stop its rocket attacks on Israel.
“We ask Egypt to use its influence in the region to help de-escalate the situation,” deputy State Department spokesman Mark Toner said, adding that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had spoken with her Egyptian counterpart.
Egypt’s prime minister is to visit Gaza Friday.
Three sirens were also sounded in Be’er Sheva a few minutes before 7:00 p.m. and Magen David Adom said that a salvo of rockets was fired at the city. The Iron Dome system reportedly succeeded in intercepting seven rockets, bringing the total of interceptions by Iron Dome to 105. A few minutes before 8:00 p.m., Color Red sirens were sounded in Be’er Sheva and additional southern communities, including IAF Base Hatzerim.
A rocket fired from Gaza on Thursday struck Rishon Letzion, some 15 kilometers (nine miles) south of Tel Aviv, but there were no injuries or damage. Experts said it was most likely an Iranian-built Fajr 5 from Hamas’s arsenal, which have a range of up to 75 kilometers (46 miles).
“There was a rocket that hit in an open field in the Rishon Letzion area. There were no injuries or damage,” an army spokeswoman said. The city, with a population of some 228,000, lies about 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Gaza. It borders on the greater Tel Aviv metropolitan zone.
Meanwhile, over 250 rockets have been fired at Israel since the beginning of operation “Pillar of Defense,” according to IDF spokespersons, things could have been worse still.
Since the start of Wednesday’s military operation, the Iron Dome system has intercepted over 80 rockets, en route to cities in the south of the country.
The IDF spokesman also said that the IDF continued to use air force Thursday and carried out more than 150 air strikes aimed at known rocket launching sites in Gaza, noting that the air force succeeded in inflicting significant damage to the sites. Since the beginning of the operation, the Air Force has hit over 200 targets throughout Gaza. The purpose of the attacks is to disrupt launching capabilities, destroy the terrorists’ weapons stockpiles and to prevent the terrorists from continuing their rocket assaults towards Israel.
Military officials said that the targets hit were identified by accurate intelligence accumulated from months’ worth of data.
Although the strikes were successful, terrorists within Gaza still succeeded Thursday in carrying out hundreds of rocket attacks, prompting warnings from government officials to the people of the south to stay off of the streets Thursday and to stay as close to bomb shelters as possible.
Doing its best to avoid civilian casulaties, the IDF has called thousands of residents in Gaza by phone to warn them of possible strikes and dropped leaflets in Gaza warning civilians to “avoid being present in the vicinity of Hamas operatives,” the IDF said.
The IDF also said they often target a building “with a loud but non-lethal bomb that warns civilians that they are in the vicinity of a weapons cache or other target. This method is used to allow all residents to leave the area before the IDF targets the site with live ammunition.”
And “whenever possible,” the IDF said, it “singles out terrorists and targets them in a way that will endanger few or no bystanders.”