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Three Israeli civilians have been killed and six were injured by rockets fired from Gaza into Israel, which included a long-range missile that hit 8 miles south of Tel Aviv.
Israel launched numerous airstrikes back across the Gaza Strip to further heighten turmoil within the area. Fifteen civilians have been killed and more than 100 injured in Gaza since Wednesday morning.
The Israeli army said in a statement that a rocket had hit right outside Tel Aviv, the closesrt Gaza militant strike to date. The rocket landed in Rishon Lezion which is just south of Tel Aviv.
Tel Aviv has population of more than 400,000, but larger numbers of civilians live in the surrounding area or work within the city. The Israeli military also has its headquarters is located in the center of the city.
The extremist group Islamic Jihad took full responsibility for firing a Fajr 5 rocket at the city. “We have widened the range of the battle to reach Tel Aviv and what is coming will be greater,” the group said.
“There is a great sense of anxiety and tension in the air here. People are very much worried about the ongoing operation,” said NBC reporter Ayman Mohyeldin from Tel Aviv.
In Washington, the United States is supporting Israel. “We support Israel’s right to defend itself, and we encourage Israel to continue to take every effort to avoid civilian casualties,” said State Department spokesman Mark Toner.
President Obama spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the two men agreed that for tensions to ease, attacks from Hamas need to come to a halt.
“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 this situation. And this is why Israel will continue to take whatever action is necessary to defend our people,” said Prime Minister Netanyahu