Some 180 rockets were lobbed at Israel from Wednesday night through Thursday, obliterating discussion of a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
Residents of the coastal city of Ashkelon also scrambled to bomb shelters—a sign that Hamas is targeting Jewish communities deeper inside Israel—just as talk of a five-year ceasefire deal brokered by Egypt began to surface in the media.
So far, 11 people have been physically injured by falling rockets, including a 30-year-old foreign worker from Thailand who suffered serious injuries to her abdomen and limbs.
At least eight people were treated for panic attacks, and two pregnant women went into premature labor.
The Iron Dome missile-defense system destroyed 25 incoming rockets, with most of the remainder falling in open fields, causing no damage.
However, six rockets exploded in Sderot. Two homes suffered direct hits, as well as one factory. Another house was hit in Hof Ashkelon, causing damage but no injuries. A factory hit in the Sha’ar HaNegev region was damaged, but no one was in the building at the time.
Israel responded with a major reprisal on Hamas targets, bombing more than 100 sites in Gaza, including underground terror tunnels and weapons-manufacturing facilities.
A video taken by a resident of southern Israel at an undisclosed public location filled with families went viral on Wednesday night, showing a rocket landing close by, followed by screaming, people running and rising black smoke.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and senior military and intelligence officers, overnight at military headquarters in Tel Aviv.
Reports indicate that Israel is moving additional military equipment to the Gaza border, including a number of Iron Dome batteries.
The United Nations condemned the Hamas rocket fire. “I am deeply alarmed by the recent escalation of violence between Gaza and Israel, and particularly by today’s multiple rockets fired towards communities in southern Israel,” U.N. envoy Nickolay Mladenov said in a statement.
US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt also condemned Hamas. “Another night of terror & families huddling in fear as Israel defends itself,” he said in a tweet. “This is the Hamas regime’s choice. Hamas is subjecting people to the terrifying conditions of war again.”
The rocket attacks follow months of clashes and exchanges of fire on the Israel-Gaza border.
Hamas has encouraged residents of Gaza to participate in weekly “March of Return” riots, with as many as 30,000 Arabs converging on the Israeli border on one day. The terror organization has also launched hundreds of incendiary devices into Israel, burning more than 7,400 acres of land and causing millions of dollars in damage.