The mayor of the southern town of Sderot on Sunday morning called for an Israeli ground operation in the Gaza Strip to “eradicate” the Hamas terror group, following heightened tensions on the border that included several rockets fired by terror groups at his city.
Palestinian terrorists in Gaza fired three rockets at southern Israel Saturday night for the second night in a row, two of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, the military said.
Fragments from one of the rockets struck the yard of a home in Sderot, causing damage. While there were no physical injuries caused by the shrapnel in the town, one woman received medical treatment after she suffered an acute anxiety attack because of the impact, medics said.
Later in the night, Israeli forces shot dead a group of armed Palestinians trying to cross into Israel along Gaza’s security fence.
The cities of Beersheba, Ashdod, Ofakim, Gan Yavne and Yavne subsequently opened their municipal bomb shelters ahead of expected reprisal rocket attacks. The Magen David Adom ambulance service also said it was going on high alert.
In several media interviews the following morning, Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi urged the government to embark on a full-blown military operation that includes ground forces entering the Palestinian enclave.
“We need to go on a wide-scale operation right now to eradicate Hamas, without waiting for other timings,” Davidi told Army Radio. “Only force can stop them.”
“We have gone through an unpleasant weekend with red alerts two days in a row,” he told Channel 13. “Sderot residents are on the one hand trying to keep to their normal routines, but on the other hand there is no choice in the current situation but to go on a ground operation in the Gaza Strip.”
“The most important thing is to prepare the military and at the right time deal Hamas the biggest blow,” Davidi told Radio Galey Israel. “The culture of this organization is one of bringing death to the region.”
However, Foreign Minister Israel Katz appeared to dismiss that possibility, while threatening a more limited response.
“What happened yesterday in Sderot will not be left without a response,” Katz, a member of the high-level security cabinet, told Army Radio. “We are maintaining a policy of not initiating a wide-scale operation but keeping the deterrence.”
Violence between Israel and Gaza has ramped up considerably in the last three weeks.
Two people sustained minor injuries Saturday evening while running to bomb shelters, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service. Elsewhere, three people were treated for acute anxiety attacks brought on by the rockets. One of them, a 76-year-old woman, required hospitalization, medics said.
Shrapnel also landed inside a community in the Sha’ar Hanegev region of southern Israel, northeast of Gaza, causing no injuries, local officials said.
On Friday night, terrorists in the Strip fired at least one rocket at Sderot, which was intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system, the IDF said. There were no reports of injury or damage. In response, the Israeli military struck two underground sites belonging to Hamas.
The rocket fire came after several thousand Palestinians joined protests on the Gaza Strip border, with several hundred rioting and throwing stones and explosive devices at Israeli troops. Soldiers responded with tear gas and occasional live fire. The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said 16 Palestinians had been injured.
For the past year, Palestinians have staged regular marches on the Gaza border known collectively as the Great March of Return.
The Hamas terror group, which has ruled Gaza since taking over the Strip in a bloody coup in 2007, has since fought three wars with Israel and fired thousands of rockets at its cities. It is avowed to Israel’s destruction.
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.