For southern residents, a tense night on Gaza frontier

Two rockets are launched overnight after the IAF strikes a range of targets in the Strip; UN chief urges restraint

Itamar Sharon is a news editor at The Times of Israel

IDF soldiers in the southern city of Sderot on Wednesday night, March 12, 2014 (Photo credit: Flash90)
IDF soldiers in the southern city of Sderot on Wednesday night, March 12, 2014 (Photo credit: Flash90)

Residents of southern Israel experienced several anxious hours Wednesday night as they waited to see whether the worst was behind them in the latest round of fighting along the Gaza border, or whether a barrage of rocket attacks by Gaza terrorists, and subsequent retaliatory bombing runs by Israeli aircraft, would spiral into further violence.

But the night passed in relative quiet, and by early Thursday morning only two more rockets were launched at Israel, both falling in unpopulated areas and causing no damage.

On Wednesday night the Israeli Air Force launched airstrikes on 29 targets in the Gaza Strip after over 50 rockets and mortar shells were fired into Israel earlier in the day – the worst attack of its kind since 2012.

Israeli military sources said after the late-night retaliatory strikes that Israel would now wait to see how Hamas and Islamic Jihad responded. If there were no further rocket attacks on Israel, the flare-up would be over. But if there was more rocket fire, Israel would again respond.

Palestinians said at least five strategic points were hit in the coastal enclave, primarily in areas around the cities of Khan Younis and Rafah.

As of late Wednesday night, Israeli authorities had not canceled school for children in the south on Thursday. But Israel raised its security alert in the area, and residents were told to stay within 15 seconds of rooms reinforced against rockets.

In a statement quoted by Reuters late Wednesday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called for an end to the “Israeli military escalation in the Gaza Strip.” Abbas apparently made no mention of rocket attacks from Gaza.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the rocket fire and urged “all actors to exercise maximum restraint to prevent further incidents that could bring greater escalation and destabilization in the region.”

The Islamic Jihad terror group took credit for the attacks — the worst since November 2012 — saying they were in retaliation for Israel’s killing of three of its operatives on Tuesday and that they signaled the start of an ongoing campaign.

Marissa Newman contributed to this report.

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