On Sunday afternoon , for the first time in the latest round of cross-border violence, Gaza terrorists fired Grad rockets at the southern Israeli city of Beersheba. The rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system.
In the morning, four Israelis were wounded by shrapnel when Palestinian terrorists fired a barrage of rockets at the Sha’ar Hanegev region. Two people in their fifties were wounded when a rocket scored a direct hit on a car, while a third woman was hurt as a rocket fell near a school in a nearby town. Two residents of Sderot were treated for shock.
All of the casualties were evacuated to hospitals in Beersheba and Ashkelon.
All in all, over 70 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel on Saturday and Sunday. Hamas’s armed wing announced that it was actively participating in the fighting by firing mortar shells at IDF positions around the Gaza Strip.
Earlier, Palestinians reported that a Gaza man had been killed in an overnight Israeli airstrike, bringing to six the number of Palestinians killed in strikes over the weekend. The IDF said the man was an Islamic Jihad terrorist. On Saturday night, the Israeli Air Force targeted a weapons manufacturing facility, two weapons storage facilities, and two rocket-launching sites in the northern Gaza Strip, in response to the ongoing rocket fire from Gaza.
The cross-border fire followed an earlier terrorist attack that injured four soldiers, one of them critically.
No Israelis were hurt by the rocket fire, although a woman in Ashdod broke her leg running to a safe area as the rocket alarm sounded. A car took a direct hit in a town in the Sha’ar Hanegev region adjacent to the Gaza Strip.
Schools were ordered closed Sunday throughout towns in the immediate area of the Gaza Strip, including in Sderot. In the coastal cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon, school was slated to take place as usual. Commercial traffic through the Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel into Gaza was canceled.
Rockets fell in the Hof Ashkelon and Eshkol regions, with at least one rocket reported to have landed near a kibbutz. One rocket hit a power line in a town in the Eshkol region, causing local power outages.
Alarms also sounded in the Ashdod and Ashkelon areas. The Iron Dome missile defense system shot down three rockets heading toward residential areas in Ashdod and Ashkelon.
Residents of communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip were told to remain within 15 seconds of a shelter or other protected space.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the IDF had responded forcefully to the terrorist fire and would consider additional responses in the upcoming days.
“We will not let such border incidents go unanswered,” said Barak.
Earlier Saturday the IDF reported that it targeted and hit a rocket-launching squad in the northern Gaza Strip just after the squad had fired rockets. Palestinian sources said one member of the squad was killed and one was injured; they said the crew was likely from Islamic Jihad.
Palestinian media reported that Islamic Jihad’s military wing, the al-Quds Brigades, claimed responsibility for the majority of the rockets fired at southern Israel, while the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigade of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and various other factions, claimed responsibility for the remainder of the attacks.
Hamas said it had ordered its facilities evacuated in anticipation of air strikes.
The dramatic escalation came after an anti-tank missile fired from the Gaza Strip struck and penetrated an Israeli army jeep patrolling some 200 meters inside the Israeli border with Gaza and injured four soldiers on Saturday evening.
Retaliatory strikes by the IDF against terrorists in the Gaza Strip left four Palestinians killed and roughly 30 wounded.
Ashraf al-Kidra, a Gaza health ministry spokesman, said all four Palestinians killed were civilians between the ages of 16 and 18 and that among the wounded were some children.
In a text message to reporters, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum threatened to respond.
“Targeting civilians is a dangerous escalation that cannot be tolerated. The resistance has the full right to respond to the Israeli crimes,” he said.
The upsurge in rocket attacks followed soon after.
A statement issued by Hamas, which rules Gaza, said that like all Israeli military targets, the jeep was a “legitimate” object of attack.
Likud Knesset member Danny Danon urged the government to cut off electricity supplies to Gaza. Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein called for the IDF to “deliver a decisive blow” against Gaza’s terror cells.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz convened with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Barak late Saturday to assess the situation along the border.
Former IDF chief of staff, Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz said that Gaza required “thorough treatment.”
“The terror organizations should be busy running for their lives instead of carrying out attacks,” said Mofaz
Television reports noted that recent cross-border fire from Gaza had included highly accurate Katyusha rockets, capable of doing far more damage than previous rocket fire.