Rocket fire targets Eilat as IDF units continue to train for operations

Seth Frantzman is reporting from Israel.

A rocket fired from Gaza targeted the southern Israeli city of Eilat on Wednesday, headlining the 19th day of the war between Israel and Hamas that began after a surprise Hamas attack on Oct. 7 that killed 1,400 people in Israel. The Israel Defense Forces said “one rocket was identified from the Gaza Strip toward Hevel Eilot Regional Council in southern Israel, which fell in an open area.” Eilat is 130 miles from Gaza. 

The rocket fired toward Eilat is the first time that a long-range rocket targeted the city which sits on the Red Sea. In addition, another rocket targeted the city of Haifa, some 100 miles from Gaza. On Oct. 24, Hamas carried out a large barrage of rocket attacks targeting central Israel, illustrating the group’s ability to carry out long range attacks two weeks into the war. 

Threats from Hezbollah also continued on Wednesday. The IDF said it confronted a “terrorist cell” that was attempting to carry out anti-tank fire near Mount Dov, on the border with Lebanon. More anti-tank missiles were fired at Avivim and Zarit, two communities on the border of Lebanon. Israel has evacuated civilians from the entire border region, leaving around 42 communities empty of most civilians. Israel says it responded to these attacks in the north using aircraft and artillery. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah hosted Hamas deputy commander Salah al-Arouri and Islamic Jihad chief Ziad al-Nakhalah. The meeting came as Hezbollah continues to announce losses in Lebanon as a result of two weeks of attacks on Israel. More than two dozen Hezbollah members have been killed. 

IDF spokesperson Real Admiral Daniel Hagari also highlighted Iran’s role in the current conflict. “Iran supported Hamas before the war directly, training, in providing weapons, money and technological know-how. Even in these moments, Iranian support to Hamas continues with intelligence assistance alongside incitement on social media and fueling incitement worldwide against the State of Israel,” he said. “In the Middle East where the Iranian proxies operate from within Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon, the instructions come from only one place — from Iran.”

Iranian-backed proxies in Iraq and Syria have targeted U.S. forces over the last two weeks and the Iranian-backed Houthis also fired missiles and drones at Israel on October 18. A U.S. warship intercepted the drones and missiles. 

Israel’s army continues to train to prepare for a possible ground incursion into Gaza. The IDF has also continued to announce details about the Oct. 7 attack. It has already revealed the amount of munitions Hamas brought into Israel during the attack and has provided journalists with footage from the attack. On Oct. 25 the IDF also revealed “a handwritten note was found on one of the terrorists which was given to him before the invasion. The words from Hamas commanders consist of an order to kill Jews and encouragement to decapitate their victims and tear out their hearts and livers.”

The IDF Chief of Staff, Defense Minister and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been speaking to many of the key units in the IDF ahead of a possible new phase of the war. Netanyahu spoke to the IDF Yahalom Unit (special unit of the Combat Engineering Corps) alongside the IDF’s head of the Ground Forces Maj.-Gen. Tamir Yadai and IDF Chief Engineering Officer Brig.-Gen. Ido Mizrachi on Tuesday. “The Prime Minister was also shown the elite unit’s special capabilities, including underground activity and explosive,” the Government Press Office said. 

At the same time, the Golani brigade emphasized that two of their units – the 13th and 51st battalions – that bore the brunt of the attack on Oct. 7 and suffered dozens of casualties, are prepared to fight any incursion that may come in Gaza. These two battalions fought in the Kissufim and Nahal Oz sector on Oct. 7.

They have now been training and preparing since the difficult first days of the war. The officers in charge of these two units, Lt. Col. Tomer Greenberg and Lt. Col. Meir Ohayon, discussed how they are ready for their mission. “There will be a maneuver, and when it arrives, we will win,” said Ohayon on Wednesday morning. Other units from the Givati brigade are also preparing for the next phase, going through similar training and preparation for urban combat that the units will face if they enter the densely populated Gaza Strip.

Reporting from Israel, Seth J. Frantzman is an adjunct fellow at FDD and a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal. He is the acting news editor and senior Middle East correspondent and analyst at The Jerusalem Post. 

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