The European Union on Wednesday said that rocket fire toward Israel must stop immediately after a predawn missile attack struck a home in the southern city of Beersheba, causing damage but no injury.
A second rocket fired from Gaza landed off the coast of the greater Tel Aviv area, known in Israel as Gush Dan, which consists of the metropolis itself along with a number of large suburbs.
An EU spokesperson said in a statement that “indiscriminate attacks against civilians are completely unacceptable.”
The European body also called for calm after Israel struck back with some 20 airstrikes in the Strip, saying that de-escalation has to be the priority.
“The cycle of violence and despair has to be broken. Only a political solution can put an end to the violence,” the statement read.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel would “act forcefully” in response to the rocket attack, as a shaky calm appeared to return to the area.
The comments came after the prime minister met with top security officials for emergency consultations over the flareup, which sent already high border tensions skyrocketing.
Egypt and the UN have reportedly scrambled to try to negotiate a calm between the sides since the rocket attack on Beersheba, which came days after Israeli leaders had already threatened a wider offensive over near-daily border riots and launches of incendiary balloons and kites.
In the predawn hours of Wednesday morning, a mid-range rocket from the Gaza Strip bearing a heavy 20-kilogram (44-pound) warhead struck a house in the southern city of Beersheba, causing significant damage to the structure.
The residents were spared injury as they had rushed into their bomb shelter after the incoming rocket siren sounded in the city. The Iron Dome air defense system will be deployed to the area “shortly,” the deputy defense minister said.
“An Iron Dome battery will be set up in the Beersheba area in the coming days, perhaps even tonight,” Eli Ben Dahan told the Knesset.
In response, the Israel Defense Forces carried out strikes on some 20 targets in the Strip connected to the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group and other organizations in the coastal enclave.
Hamas and the second largest terror group in the Strip, the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad, officially denied carrying out the rocket attack, saying it was “irresponsible” and undermined an Egyptian-led negotiation effort.
Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel, wrested control of the Gaza Strip from Abbas’s Palestinian Authority in 2007. Israel holds Hamas responsible for all attacks that come out of the Gaza Strip.
Abbas, who is demanding a resumption of control of the territory, has been working to undermine Hamas’s government in Gaza, and in recent months has levied severe sanctions on the Strip, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis there.
On Tuesday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned that the military was gearing up for a major strike on Gaza to stop ongoing violence.
“I’ve held a series of meetings with the head of the Southern Command, the head of the [Gaza] Division, the brigade commanders, the battalion commanders, also with soldiers. My impression is that they all have reached the understanding that the situation as it is today cannot continue,” he said.
Beersheba Mayor Ruvik Danilovich on Wednesday criticized the government for not bringing calm to the south.
“This is an impossible situation,” he told Hadashot TV news. “In general, what has been going on in the Negev and the south in recent months is an unbearable situation… and we call on the government to put an end to it. It is impossible to live in a situation like this, no one is eager for a fight, but if this is repeated, something must be done.”
Earlier Danilovich canceled all school studies in the city until further notice.
It was only the second rocket fired at Beersheba since the 2014 Gaza war. The previous rocket, which struck a field north of Beersheba on August 9, came as Palestinians fired dozens of projectiles at Israeli communities along the Gaza border.
Rocket attacks on Beersheba — home to more than 200,000 people — are rare and considered a major escalation.
A second rocket fired from Gaza Wednesday morning fell out at sea across from the greater Tel Aviv area. The military would only confirm that it struck “off the coast of a large city.”
Since March 30, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have participated in a series of protests and riots dubbed the “Great March of Return,” which have mostly involved the burning of tires and rock-throwing along the security fence, but have also seen shooting attacks and bombings as well as the sending of incendiary balloons and kites into Israel.
There have also been several flareups that took Israel and Hamas to the brink of war, with Palestinians firing rockets into Israel and the IDF responding with airstrikes.
Some 155 Palestinians have been killed and thousands more have been injured in the clashes with IDF troops, according to AP figures; Hamas has acknowledged that dozens of the dead were its members. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a sniper on the border.