Three people were injured by rocket fire from Gaza on southern Israel, Wednesday morning. The men were hurt when a rocket landed on the chicken coop they were working in, in the Eshkol region. The three, reportedly foreign workers, were taken to hospital, two of them in critical condition.
Seven houses in the region suffered hits as tension between Israel and Gaza terror organizations increased after a night of terrorist rocket fire and military air strikes. One woman suffered minor injuries after she stumbled in her rush to reach a protected area. Several people were treated for shock.
Dozens of rockets were fired towards southern Israel Wednesday morning, landing in the Eshkol, Shaar Hanegev and Hof Ashkelon regional councils.
The Iron Dome anti-missile system reportedly intercepted seven rockets fired towards the city of Ashkelon.
School was canceled in communities in the three regional councils. Citizens were instructed to remain in bomb shelters.
The military branches of Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committees took responsibility for the rocket fire. Hamas officials said security forces have been ordered to evacuate their bases, fearing Israeli retaliation.
In a statement, Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committees said “these holy missions come in response to the repeated, continuous crimes of the enemy against our people, which killed four and injured 10 in the past 48 hours.”
Israel responded to the morning fire by striking terrorist targets in the Gaza strip, utilizing both air and ground forces. One of the airstrikes struck a mosque in the southern Gaza village of Khouza for the second time in several weeks.
Ehud Barak told Army Radio that “if we have no choice and the fire will continue, then they clearly will be hit harder and nothing is out of the question.”
“If things in the south seem bleak, I promise you that it’s worse in Gaza,” said IDF Spokesman Yoav Mordechai.
Mordechai said that Israel held Hamas responsible for all rocket fire out of Gaza and assessed that the terror group was not interested in a major escalation ahead of the Eid al-Adha holiday that begins Thursday.
“Hamas is under stress. It is both a terror organization and a governing sovereign. It wants to show that it is still active in its resistance to Israel, but would like to contain the violence too,” Moredchai explained. “Any additional fire will be met with a determined response by the IDF. If we see that things calm down, we will respond accordingly,” he added.
Eshkol Regional Council head Haim Yelin called on the government to do everything in its power to bring an end to the fire from Gaza. He urged either a full ground assault or alternatively signing a peace deal with Hamas. He also demanded more fortification to the communities surrounding Gaza.
Israeli fighter planes struck terror cells in the northern Gaza strip three separate times on Tuesday night, the Israel Defense Forces said, killing a total of three Palestinians. The airstrikes came in response to the firing of several rockets and mortars that slammed into open areas in southern Israel on Tuesday.
The army said it carried out a targeted attack against a cell in Beit Lahia planning to launch a rocket. One Palestinian was killed and four were injured, according to Hamas-run television. Later, in a second airstrike, two Palestinians were killed while preparing to fire rockets, the IDF said. Those killed were all reported to be Hamas fighters. A third strike was carried out before dawn on Wednesday. IDF tanks also fired towards rocket launching squads.
Earlier this month, reports from the Strip indicated that terrorists in Gaza were beginning to use rocket launchers that can fire several projectiles at once.
Earlier on Tuesday, Captain Ziv Shilon was seriously wounded, losing an arm when a roadside bomb exploded next to his patrol on the border with Gaza.
On Monday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to protect Israel from missile fire by striking at terrorists and preventing them from rearming, in a response to ongoing rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.