And on the third day, Hamas said let there be rockets, and lo they rained upon southern Israel with a mighty fury throughout the day. On the fourth day, newspaper editors said, let there be coverage of the rockets, and other stuff too, but mostly the rockets, and behold, the front pages of Israel’s paper were filled with headlines and images of the escalation in the south.

The biggest drama came toward the end of the night, when a Grad missile hit a Border Police base in the Ashkelon area, injuring one officer seriously (or moderately depending on which paper you read) and three others lightly. The officer’s condition isn’t the only thing the papers don’t come together on. Estimates of how many rockets hit yesterday vary wildly from 40+ (Yedioth Ahronoth) to 60 (Maariv). Israel Hayom goes with 45+ and Haaretz 50+.

The papers are also sure to note Hamas’s involvement in the rocket attacks, a development that hasn’t been seen in about a year.

In Yedioth Alex Fishman writes that Hamas getting its hands dirty with rocket fire, and crowing about it, represents a serious escalation in Israeli-Gazan tensions, but was an expected response after Israel hit a number of Hamas targets in the Strip over the last few days. “The shooting of Grads from Sinai and the terror attack on the Egyptian border two days ago returned air force jets to attacking Hamas targets in Gaza again. Since the beginning of the week, 11 people have been killed in these attacks. Here, from Hamas’s point of view, Israel crossed the line, since Hamas didn’t take responsibility for the Sinai attacks and Israel didn’t even officially blame them.”

In Israel Hayom, the always optimistic Dan Margalit writes that the escalation in Gaza and Sinai won’t end well, unless Cast Lead II is your idea of a rollicking good time, especially given the fact that the uncontrollable Sinai is now a factor. “Last night, the army and defense establishment convened an interdisciplinary discussion… and the burning question was whether to continue with the one-for-one responses to every terror attack. The method has proven itself since Cast Lead, but does it still? Egypt has Islamisized and al-Qaeda elements have been seen in the area.”

Fired over the fire?

Southern rockets aren’t the only fire making front pages today. The state comptroller’s report on the Carmel blaze is to be released today and papers report that things are not looking good for ministers Eli Yishai and Yuval Steinitz, who will likely be held somewhat culpable for Israel’s poor response to the massive fire. Maariv reports that more family members of victims who died in the fire are coming forward to call for Yishai’s ouster. “We won’t give up, we won’t rest and we won’t be quiet until all of the conclusions and recommendations of the state comptroller, that have been placed before the government, the Knesset and the public, are actualized,” said Zeev Even Chen, who lost his son in the fire and has already read the report.

But in Haaretz, Amir Oren, who has also seen the report, says Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss doesn’t go far enough in assigning blame for the tragedy, in which 44 people died. “The report is disappointing because Lindenstrauss got off the bus before the last stop. He ascribed ‘special’ or ‘general’ responsibility for serious lapses to various ministers, including the prime minister. But when the time came to draw conclusions from his findings, he suddenly fell silent. For perhaps the first time in his seven years on the job, Lindenstrauss found himself bereft of words: He merely sent the ministers to give their accounting to the Knesset and the public.”

Maariv marks International Refugee Day (You do know it’s International Refugee Day, right?) with a report that Israel has granted refugee status to a whopping 166 people in its 64 years of existence. The number is shocking both because the country is currently home to some 60,000 asylum-seekers, who it seems will continue to play hide and seek if these numbers are any indication, and because half the country is made up of refugees from Arab countries that were absorbed without ever getting the refugee status. “The numbers show us that Israel’s asylum system is steadfast in pushing off every request and not approving anybody,” a human rights lawyer tells the paper.

Yedioth has the story of a group of Israelis trapped in an Indian valley for two weeks by mudslides. After contacting authorities, and the Israeli consulate, a rescue mission was organized, but only after 13 days did a helicopter finally come to rescue them. Until then they were forced to live off river water and rice. “We overcame this because we looked after one another, and of course because of the help of Israel,” one of the backpackers told the paper.

No hummus for you!

Haaretz’s op-ed this morning calls on the Knesset to act against two MKs who made anti-gay remarks recently, Anastasia Michaeli and Uri Ariel: “Israel has often boasted in recent years about its liberal attitude toward the gay community. But all these achievements are insufficient as long as public figures keep allowing themselves to heap abuse on gays and lesbians. Obviously, such remarks say more about their speakers’ benighted world than they do about the gay and lesbian world. But no enlightened society can allow such remarks to pass quietly.”

In Maariv, Nadav Haetzni is less than cheery about the prospects for the Middle East following the Arab spring, saying Israelis should not plan on enjoying hummus in Damascus, Cairo or any other Arab capital in the near future. “It’s doubtful if anybody still thinks that any future regime in Syria would be able to promise us to serve up hummus safely in Damascus.”