Rocket sirens blared in the south throughout the early morning hours Wednesday, as barrages totaling some 45 rockets and mortar shells were fired toward Israeli towns, prompting rounds of Israeli airstrikes on Hamas military sites in the Gaza Strip.
At least six rockets fired from the coastal enclave landed inside Israeli communities adjacent to the border, including one that struck just outside a kindergarten, Israeli officials said. Most of the others landed in open fields in southern Israel.
The Israel Defense Forces said fighter jets struck approximately at total of 25 targets in various military bases belonging to the Hamas terror group from the north to the south of the Gaza Strip in response to both the projectile attacks and the numerous incendiary kites and balloons flown by Palestinians into Israel throughout the day on Tuesday.
The Israeli military accused Hamas, the Islamist terror group which rules Gaza, of “targeting Israeli civilians throughout the night with a severe rocket attack and dragging the Gaza Strip and its civilians down a deteriorating path.”
Hamas, meanwhile, blamed Israel for the escalation of violence, saying it had “changed the rules of engagement” by adopting the policy of targeting Hamas positions in response to kite- and balloon-borne arson attacks.
Of the nearly 50 projectiles fired at Israel, seven were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system and at least three failed to clear the border and landed inside the Gaza Strip, the army said.
There were no immediate reports of injuries on either side of the border, but the Eshkol council reported damage to a number of buildings and cars.
Throughout Tuesday, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip flew numerous incendiary kites and balloons into southern Israel, sparking approximately 20 brush fires, according to Israeli officials.
In response, Israeli aircraft struck three Hamas targets in the south of the coastal enclave around midnight on Tuesday.
The first rocket attacks came less than an hour later, when Palestinians fired five projectiles at Israel, the army said.
Sirens blared in Israeli communities surrounding the Gaza Strip over the course of the next few hours, as Palestinians launched wave after wave of rockets and the Israeli military responded with airstrikes in the coastal enclave.
The last rocket attack of the exchange took place at approximately 5:30 a.m., according to the army.
The overnight incidents followed a round of IDF strikes and Palestinian rocket fire earlier this week.
Early Monday morning, Palestinians fired three rockets at southern Israel, after Israeli aircraft hit a number of targets in the coastal enclave in response to numerous arson attacks perpetrated by Palestinians the day before, the military said. The army said two of the rockets fell inside Israel, while the third appeared to fall short of the border.
Later that day, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned that Israel would not allow Palestinian terror groups to continue to launch incendiary devices into Israeli territory, the likes of which have caused hundreds of brush fires and burned thousands of acres of land in recent months.
“If anyone thinks it will be possible to continue with the daily kites and fires, they are wrong,” he said during a tour of Israel Aerospace Industries, the country’s primary aerospace manufacturer.
The IDF’s airstrikes on Hamas facilities appeared to be a new tactic by the military to deter Palestinians from flying airborne arson devices into Israel, after its previous attempts to do so by firing warning shots at kite-flyers failed to yield results.
The IDF said its strikes were “carried out in response to the launching of incendiary and explosive kites and balloons at Israeli territory,” which it called a “terrorist activity that endangers the lives of southern residents and has damaged large amounts of land.”
The army warned that it had the “intelligence knowledge and operational capability” necessary to conduct further strikes in Gaza if the balloon and kite attacks did not stop.
The rockets launched by Palestinians this week broke a tacit ceasefire that has largely held since a daylong flareup in late May.
Over the course of May 29 and 30, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and smaller terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip launched approximately 200 rockets and mortar shells at southern Israel. The IDF retaliated by bombing over 65 targets in the Gaza Strip belonging to the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas.