Hamas claims responsibility for escalating rocket fire from Gaza

IAF strikes military targets in the Strip in retaliation for over 50 missiles fired at southern Israel since Tuesday; nine injured near Kibbutz Yad Mordechai; schools closed in Sderot and Sdot Negev

Israeli police officers examine the site of a rocket landing that injured nine Border Police officers near kibbutz Yad Mordechai in southern Israel. (photo credit: Tsafrir Abayov/AP)
Israeli police officers examine the site of a rocket landing that injured nine Border Police officers near kibbutz Yad Mordechai in southern Israel. (photo credit: Tsafrir Abayov/AP)

Rockets fired by Gaza terrorists continued to land in southern Israel early Wednesday, as Hamas claimed responsibility for the latest dramatic escalation from the Strip.

One rocket landed next to a police vehicle in the vicinity of Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, in the Hof Ashkelon region, setting a fire and injuring nine Border Policemen. One man suffered serious injuries in the explosion, and several others were lightly injured by shrapnel.

As a result of the ongoing attacks, two schools were shut down, in Sderot and Sdot Negev.

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Another rocket was fired at approximately 2 AM Wednesday and landed in an open area in the Eshkol Regional Council. There were no injuries or damage reported.

Israel Radio reported that the Air Force struck six terror targets in the Strip overnight. Palestinian sources said Israeli strikes targeted two military installations, on the north coast of Gaza and in the Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City, and that one person was injured in the Zeitoun strike.

Hamas claimed responsibility early Wednesday for the more than 50 Kassam rockets, Grad missiles and mortar shells that were fired by Gaza-based terrorists into southern Israel since Tuesday. With the exception of the Hof Ashkelon hit, the rockets landed in open areas and there were no other injuries or damage reported.

Three Grad missiles were fired at the town of Netivot at about 8:30 PM Tuesday. All three landed in open areas near the town.

Several rockets were fired into the Eshkol, Hof Ashkelon, Sdot Negev and Shaar Hanegev regions in the morning and afternoon into the night.

Israeli planes struck the central Gaza Strip following the second volley of rockets, killing two terrorists who were part of a rocket-launching squad, the Israel Defense Forces said on its website. Military sources promised to respond to the ongoing rocket fire, Channel 2 news reported.

The IDF “reserves the right to strike terror organizations in Gaza,” officials told Channel 2 on Tuesday evening.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak gathered top generals of the IDF in order to discuss possible responses the army could take in light of recent escalation along the border with Gaza.

Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino predicted on Tuesday that the current round of fighting would go on for several days.

“We are preparing for the possibility that [the attacks] may reach the larger and more distant cities,” he said.

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz visited the Israeli-Egyptian border on Tuesday afternoon, at the site of Monday’s terror attack in which an Israeli citizen was killed by terrorists who infiltrated the south of Israel from Sinai. Two terrorists were killed, and an Islamic group named the Mujahideen Shura Council of Jerusalem claimed responsibility.

Said Fashapshe, 36 and a father of four, a resident of Haifa who had been employed by the Defense Ministry for years and worked on the Israel-Egypt border fence for the past 18 months, was killed in the attack. Terrorists had fired on a convoy of construction workers.

Soldiers stationed along the border handled the situation well, Gantz told reporters who asked about the security situation along the newly built fence. “The bigger problems are the terror bases being built in Sinai,” he said.

The rocket strikes were the latest salvo in a period which has seen multiple cross-border incidents involving Gazan terrorists and the IDF.

Responsibility for the Tuesday morning rocket fire was claimed by Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, which said it was aiming at an IDF base at Zikim, close to Ashkelon. It said the attacks were in response to the death of one of its members, who was killed in an Israeli strike on Monday — itself a response to previous rocket fire from Gaza.

Earlier, in the small hours of Tuesday morning, IAF planes struck a terrorist cell planting explosives near the border fence in the central Gaza Strip. A Palestinian health official said two Gaza men were killed as a result.

That airstrike came hours after Israeli planes attacked a terrorist cell in the northern part of the Strip as its members were preparing to fire rockets at the western Negev on Monday evening.

Palestinian sources said the strike was carried out in Beit Hanoun and that two Palestinians were killed as well as several wounded.

One of the casualties in the Monday evening strike was the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades member, Ynet reported.

An earlier IDF sortie Monday also targeted terror targets in Beit Hanoun, the IDF said, killing two members of Islamic Jihad.



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