In response, Israel struck dozens of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad targets in the Gaza Strip.
Israel and Hamas have appeared to agree an unofficial ceasefire following the violence.
The attacks began on Monday morning after a rocket hit the home of a British-Israeli family in central Israel, north-east of Tel Aviv. The attack wounded seven members of the family, including a 12-year-old girl, three-year-old boy and a six month old baby.
It is believed that the Iron Dome missile defence system failed to intercept the rocket as an Iron Dome battery had not been deployed in the area.
Robert and Susan Wolf, originally from London, were at home with their son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren when the long-range rocket from Gaza struck their home in the early hours of Monday morning. Mr Wolf said: “If we hadn’t got to the bomb shelter in time I would be burying all my family”.
Monday morning’s terror attack has been condemned by Foreign Secretary Rt. Hon. Jeremy Hunt MP, then-Middle East Minister Rt. Hon. Alistair Burt MP and British Ambassador to Israel, H.E. David Quarrey. Ambassador Quarrey visited Robert Wolf today at the site of his family home.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Twitter: “Appalled by terrorist attack from Gaza against civilians, including British-Israeli dual nationals. My thoughts are with all those affected. Completely UNACCEPTABLE actions by militant groups”.
Then-Middle East Minister Rt. Hon. Alistair Burt MP said: “I condemn the rocket attack from Gaza, which destroyed a family home in Mishmeret with innocent civilians inside. Shocked to hear that dual British-Israeli citizens are among those injured. Such acts are unacceptable and part of a hopeless cycle of violence and suffering”. Mr Burt resigned from his post today after rebelling to vote against the Government last night over Brexit proceedings.
Ambassador H.E. David Quarrey said: “We unequivocally condemn today’s rocket attack into Israel from Gaza. Our thoughts are with the British-Israeli family whose house in Mishmeret was hit. There can be no justification of any kind for this attack, whose consequences could have been devastating”.
Approximately 12 hours later the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) carried out retaliatory strikes on dozens of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad targets, including their military compounds in the north of Gaza. The IDF said that Hamas’s “secret headquarters” located in Gaza City was hit, used by the terror group’s internal security, central intelligence and military intelligence services. Hamas reported that seven people were injured during the airstrikes. In addition, the military said it also targeted a five-story building in Rimal that was used by the Hamas terror group’s internal security service.
The IDF also confirmed that Israeli fighter jets targeted a building used as an office by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in an upscale neighbourhood of Gaza City. Haniyeh was not present in the building at the time. According to Palestinian media, the IDF used the so-called “knock on the roof” technique, in which a non-explosive round is fired at a building to encourage those inside to leave before the real attack.
In addition to the high profile targets, the IDF said it bombed dozens of other terror targets located in Khan Younis, Deir el-Balah, Rafah, Gaza City, al-Shati and Beit Hanoun. The IDF said these comprised of “military bases, the entrances to tunnels used for weapons smuggling, observation posts and rocket launchpads”.
Shortly after the Israeli retaliatory strikes, Hamas fired 30 rockets towards southern Israeli communities. The terror group announced at 22:00 that they had accepted an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire agreement with Israel, however southern Israel continued to be attacked into the night, with the IDF confirming that a further 30 missiles and mortars were launched from Gaza between 20:00 and 03:15.
The Iron Dome missile defence system intercepted several of the incoming rockets, and most of the other rockets and mortars fell in open areas, according to the IDF.
In response to the attacks throughout the night, Israel Air Force fighter jets and helicopters struck an additional 15 targets in Gaza.
There has been calm on the Israeli side of the border since 03:15, however schools have remained closed today in the Israeli communities near the Gaza border, as well as in the southern cities of Beersheba, Ashkelon and Ashdod.
Throughout the morning, residents of the Israeli town of Sderot found fragments of rockets from the night before.
There are fears in Israel that violence will escalate this week, as Hamas is reported to be planning a ‘million man march’ to mark the one year anniversary of the ‘March of Return’ protests held last year on the Israel-Gaza border. The IDF is preparing for tens of thousands of Palestinians to gather along the Israel-Gaza border next weekend in anticipation of the march, set to take place on 29th March.
This morning, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told Israeli army radio: “We will continue to exact a very heavy price from Hamas for its attacks on Israeli citizens, and that’s why all rumours and hearsay of a cease-fire are incorrect”.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut short his visit to the US to return to Israel. Before departing at 02:00 Israeli time, he said: “We gave a very powerful response. Hamas needs to know that we won’t hesitate to go in [to Gaza] and take any required steps”.
Indiscriminate rocket fire into Israel by Hamas and other Gaza-based Palestinian terror groups including Islamic Jihad has continued for more than a decade, with rocket attacks threatening more than 70% of Israel’s population.
Around 1,000 rockets and mortars were fired by terrorist groups in Gaza towards Israel in 2018.