Schools and shopping centers throughout southern and central Israel, including in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, were ordered closed by the Israel Defense Forces as terror groups in the Gaza Strip fired barrages of rockets at cities and towns throughout the country following the assassination of a senior Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza.

Throughout the day, as many as 200 rockets were launched from Gaza, with about 90 percent of those headed for population centers intercepted by the Iron Dome missile-defense system. Most fell in sparsely populated areas. One Israeli was lightly injured by shrapnel after a rocket landed near Gan Yavne, and medics resuscitated an 8-year-old girl in Holon who lost consciousness during a rocket attack. Dozens of other Israelis were hospitalized after sustaining minor injuries while running for cover during Red Alert sirens.

In typical fashion, Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries were fighting back with the best in spiritual artillery.

Rabbi Yosef Gerlitzky, director of central Chabad-Lubavitch of Tel Aviv, told Chabad.org he had instructed the 50 Chabad centers around the city to set up public tefillin tables to perform the mitzvah with as many men as possible. He also said he sent extra volunteers from Chabad centers to provide help at a popular soup kitchen in Tel Aviv’s working-class neighborhood of Hatikva to accommodate additional patrons seeking food and shelter.

“Meanwhile, we are seeing miracles upon miracles ... with all the explosions and rockets, there have been few reported serious casualties or serious damage,” he said.

“We were also surprised to see not less, but more men than usual, showing up to learn at a special kollel (Torah learning institution for adult men) program we have for the elderly,” he added.

A rocket fired from Gaza hit a busy road near Gan Yavne, barely missing traffic. It was part of an ongoing barrage that targeted Israel's center and south. (Photo: Flash90)
A rocket fired from Gaza hit a busy road near Gan Yavne, barely missing traffic. It was part of an ongoing barrage that targeted Israel's center and south. (Photo: Flash90)

Attacks Expected to Continue

Banks, public transportation and non-essential businesses were ordered closed early in the day, but businesses and offices with bomb shelters were permitted to reopen, and public transportation returned following a security reassessment midday. Dizengoff Center, the major shopping mall in Tel Aviv remained closed, as did other shopping centers in the southern and central regions.

Security officials said they expected the attacks to continue for at least a few days, and banned large gatherings as Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad confirmed that Abu al-Atta, its northern Gaza Strip commander, had been killed and vowed to avenge his death. The terrorist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza strip and is often at odds with Islamic Jihad, claimed solidarity with the group.

The rocket attacks started at around 5 a.m., mostly focused on Israeli towns and cities around the Gaza Strip. Soon after, sirens sounded in the Tel Aviv suburbs of Rishon Letzion and Holon. Later in the morning, sirens blared in Tel Aviv, Bat Yam and in nearby Modi’in. Officials called upon specially trained mental-health workers in Jerusalem and the north to travel to the impacted areas and administer trauma therapy to people shaken by the rocket invasions.

Awakening to Pre-Dawn Terror

Given the pre-dawn timing, frequency and range of Red Alert sirens, there was widespread uncertainty and fear in much of the country, especially in areas unaccustomed to being under attack. The sound of bombs could be heard in the early morning hours as far away from Gaza as the city of Lod, near Ben-Gurion International Airport. “I just woke up and my husband said there is a war going on and everyone was running around the house screaming,” said Lod resident Chana Benharosh. “Then my office WhatsApped to say that, due to the safety situation, there was no work today. It was hard to tell what was happening, and I was afraid to leave the safe room.”

Two days before the rocket attacks from Gaza began, Chabad of Tel Aviv held its annual conference of what are now 70 emissaries who are spread out throughout all neighborhoods of the city. They continue to work as residents cope with the attacks.
Two days before the rocket attacks from Gaza began, Chabad of Tel Aviv held its annual conference of what are now 70 emissaries who are spread out throughout all neighborhoods of the city. They continue to work as residents cope with the attacks.

Despite the widespread fear, after a direct hit at a home in Sderot and with the sound of gunfire from Gaza nearby, Rabbi Moshe Ze’ev Pizam, director of Chabad of Sderot, stood alongside a group of worshippers outside a synagogue before morning services and confidently claimed that they were in the safest town in Israel, repeating the assurance of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, that Israel was the safest place in the world.

“We enter the morning prayers with joy and confidence in G‑d, Who watches over Israel and neither slumbers nor sleeps,” said Pizam.

This story will be updated with developments throughout the day.