Israel was hit by a sustained attack of over 200 rockets and mortars that were fired from Gaza last night and this morning, injuring at least nine people, including one woman seriously, in the worst violence since 2014.
Nine civilians were injured and dozens more suffered panic attacks as several missiles struck the southern Israeli city of Sderot and the Eshkol Regional Council, including a 30-year-old foreign worker from Thailand who was “gravely wounded” suffering serious injuries to her chest and limbs after a rocket hit her home.
Rocket sirens were sounded throughout southern Israel today, including in the city of Beersheba and the coastal city of Ashkelon, as rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip entered deeper into Israeli territory. A rocket this afternoon fell outside the city of Beersheba, some 43 km from the Gaza Strip – the longest reach of a Hamas rocket since 2014.
A video was published yesterday evening showing footage of a rocket from Gaza exploding near a group of children in Sderot. Watch the video here.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) stated that it had responded by striking over 100 military sites in Gaza including training areas, production complexes, a factory used for making materials for building tunnels, and a tunnel intended for maritime terrorism. Other targeted strikes hit Hamas military sites which held a range of weapons and rockets, as well as a Hamas military compound that acts as a central logistic warehouse.
According to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza, three Palestinians, including a pregnant woman and her toddler daughter were killed and 11 were injured in the Israel Air Force’s (IAF) retaliatory strikes. Reports state that one Hamas operative was killed in the airstrike, with unconfirmed reports claiming he was the relative of a senior Hamas commander.
The Iron Dome missile defence system, which targets only missiles projected to strike Israeli communities, intercepted 30 of the incoming rockets, the army said. The majority of the rockets fired by Hamas hit open fields, causing no damage.
Wave after wave of rocket attacks triggered warning sirens throughout the night in the Hof Ashkelon, Sha’ar Hanegev, Sdot Negev and Eshkol regions of Israel which are located near Gaza, sending thousands of Israeli families into bomb shelters where they spent the night.
Hamas took responsibility for the attacks, saying it was avenging the deaths of two terrorists killed in an Israeli strike the day before — a strike that was in response to what the IDF identified as a shooting attack on its forces.
The terror group said: “In response to Israel aggression, the Palestinian resistance has launched a large number of rockets in recent hours at the enemy… There was a promise [to respond] and now it has been fulfilled”.
The rocket attacks were condemned by Minister for the Middle East Rt. Hon. Alistair Burt MP on Twitter, who called for a deescalation of violence, stating: “Concerned by deteriorating situation in Gaza/Israel and civilian casualties, inc. reports of death of pregnant woman and 1yr old child in Gaza. Hamas must end attacks against Israel. Support UN/Egypt efforts to restore calm and agree ceasefire. Escalation is in no-one’s interest”.
There were reports earlier today that terrorist groups indicated a desire for a ceasefire to the current violence, with a senior Palestinian official telling the Reuters news network that militants were declaring the current round of fighting “over” and that “continued calm now depends on Israel”.
The IDF said the Hamas terror group, with which it has fought three wars in the past decade, would bear the consequences of any further violence from the Gaza Strip. In a statement it said: “The IDF sees with severity the terrorist activities of Hamas. The IDF is prepared for a variety of scenarios and is determined to fulfil its mission of defending the citizens of Israel”.
The rocket attacks are a significant increase in tensions along the border, amid reports of intense talks between Israel and Hamas for a long-term ceasefire.
Last month, Israel was struck by a barrage of over 200 rockets and mortars fired by terrorists in Gaza. Two of the rockets hit a house and synagogue in the southern Israeli town of Sderot, hurting a family of four.
Israel has been hit by regular incendiary kite and balloon terror attacks from Gaza, which since 30th March have caused more than 850 fires, with about 10,000 acres of forests and agricultural crops destroyed.