Dozens of rockets and mortars were fired from the Gaza Strip towards Israeli communities in a major escalation in the southern part of the country Tuesday.
Israel’s Iron Dome Missile Defense system intercepted several rockets over towns and cities including Ashkelon and Sderot. Several others were reported to have fallen in open territory, causing no damage or injuries. The IDF Spokesman’s office reported that one rocket fell in the courtyard of a Sderot school. No injuries were reported.
The Israeli military struck several Islamic Jihad targets in the Gaza Strip earlier Tuesday after salvos of 28 mortars were fired at southern Israeli communities early that morning, including one which landed in the yard of a kindergarten. Tuesday afternoon, a fourth rocket alert siren sounded in a number of Israeli communities on the border with the Gaza Strip.
According to Palestinian news agency Wafa, Israeli jets launched five airstrikes at locations in the central and southern Gaza Strip, causing serious damage but no causalities.
One Israeli was lightly injured in the mortar barrage which began at 6:59 a.m. and triggered 24 consecutive Code Red alerts throughout the Eshkol and Shaare HaNegev Regional Council bordering the Hamas-run enclave. He was taken to Saroka hospital in Beersheba in light condition with shrapnel wounds to his hand.
While the majority of the mortars were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome Missile Defense System, three fell in open territory and another two exploded inside communities in the Eshkol Regional Council, including one which fell in the yard of a kindergarten shortly before students were set to arrive for another school day.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman convened a special meeting with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot and senior security officials at the IDF’s headquarters in response to the escalation.
United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov slammed the mortar fire, expressing his concern over the violence on Twitter.
“It is UNACCEPTABLE to indiscriminately fire at civilian communities! I am deeply concerned by today’s rockets fired by Palestinian militants towards Southern Israel, one of which hit close to a kindergarten. Such actions undermine efforts to improve the situation in Gaza,” he wrote.
Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine Director for Human Rights Watch also condemned the mortar barrage, writing on Twitter that “Rockets and mortars indiscriminately fired towards Israeli population centers is a war crime. There is never a justification for attacks on civilians.”
A spokesperson from Palestinian Islamic Jihad praised the rocket fire, calling it a “blessed response” and stating that “our people’s blood is not cheap.” The militant group neither claimed nor rejected responsibility for the attack.
A spokesperson belonging to Hamas also praised the mortar barrage, saying that “Israel will fail in an attempt to change the rules of the conflict and establish a new equation on the ground. The resistance in Gaza reserves the right to respond and to remain silent in accordance with the interests of our people, and this is not due to weakness.”
Israel holds Hamas responsible for all that occurs in the coastal enclave as a matter of policy.
The salvo comes hours after several homes and cars were hit by heavy machine gunfire in the southern Israeli city of Sderot. The gunfire, which was likely aimed at Israeli aircraft over the Strip and caused minor damage but no injuries, activated incoming rocket alert sirens.
Reported by: The Jerusalem Post