Homes damaged as Gazan rockets bombard south, hampering ceasefire efforts

Houses and cars in Ashkelon, Sderot, Kibbutz Nir Am hit with shrapnel, one in Netivot damaged by Iron Dome interceptor; Islamic Jihad says no deal until assassinations end

Firefighters work to put out flames after a direct hit by a Gaza rocket on a courtyard in Ashkelon, May 10, 2023. (Israel Fire and Rescue Authority's Southern District)
Firefighters work to put out flames after a direct hit by a Gaza rocket on a courtyard in Ashkelon, May 10, 2023. (Israel Fire and Rescue Authority's Southern District)

Homes, buildings, and cars across southern Israel suffered extensive damage as volleys of rockets fired by Gazan terrorists managed to penetrate Israel’s air defenses late Wednesday, re-energizing a military offensive against the Islamic Jihad terror group and denting ceasefire efforts.

Properties in Sderot, Ashkelon, Netivot, and elsewhere were strafed by shrapnel from missiles or from falling Iron Dome interceptors. No injuries were reported, though a number of people sought treatment for wounds suffered as they tried to reach shelter, or because of severe anxiety from nearby impacts.

Hours after Israeli officials said they were mulling an Egyptian ceasefire proposal, Israeli TV networks reported that talks had been set back by the destruction and Israeli reprisals. An unnamed diplomatic official was quoted telling the networks that any ceasefire would only take effect Thursday morning.

Gazan terrorists began firing large salvos of rockets toward as far as Tel Aviv at around 7:30 p.m., ending a several hour lull, as ceasefire efforts began to firm up. The intensified rocket fire persisted for several hours and included attacks newly on Beersheba, where a playground was damaged.

Footage showed a toppled tree, and shrapnel spread across the area.

As of 9:30 p.m., the IDF said 469 rockets and mortar shells had been fired at Israel on Wednesday, though at least 107 fell short, in Gaza.

Air defense systems intercepted 153 of the rockets, including the first-ever successful use of the medium-range David’s Sling system, and over 100 more landed in open areas.

In Ashkelon, a rocket landed near a home, causing damage to a car and a storage unit, Fire and Rescue Services said. A picture showed the charred, mangled car with rubble all around.

In Kibbutz Nir Am, the roof of a house was damaged as a result of rocket fire, but its residents were safely inside a bomb shelter, the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council said,

A rocket also landed in the yard of a home in Sderot, causing damage, footage showed.

A home in Netivot was also hit by shrapnel from the Iron Dome interceptor. Images showed damage to the lounge room ceiling, and pieces of shrapnel were scattered around the house.

Police officers inspect a damaged house after it was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, in the southern town of Sderot, May 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

In response to the evening bombardments, the IDF said it struck several Islamic Jihad targets in the Gaza Strip, including a weapons factory, a facility used by its naval forces, and a rocket launching site.

Before the barrage, a flurry of media reports indicated that the sides were nearing or had reached a ceasefire arrangement. However, a senior official from the terror group said in a statement that they were delaying the deal until Israel promised to stop the targeted killings of its leadership. It accused Jerusalem of attempting to drive a wedge between it and the Hamas group, which Israel has sought to keep on the sidelines.

The strikes on the homes marked a sharp shift from earlier in the day, when a flurry of rockets failed to cause even cosmetic damage.

A roof in Kibbutz Nir Am after a rocket strike from the Gaza Strip, May 10, 2023. (Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council)

At least 21 people in Gaza have been killed since Israel launched the surprise offensive on Tuesday morning, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza, and another 64 injured. The figure includes both terrorists targeted by Israel and civilians.

The offensive kicked off early Tuesday with the assassination of three Islamic Jihad commanders in their homes.

Israeli officials have insisted that they are keeping the fight limited to Islamic Jihad and not the larger and better-armed Hamas terror group which rules the Strip, hoping to avoid widening the conflict, while warning that it is prepared to do so if fired upon.

The IDF has downplayed Hamas’s role in a joint operations center with Islamic Jihad to manage the battle.

The IDF said that its warplanes and helicopters have hit some 108 targets in the Gaza Strip belonging to Islamic Jihad — mostly rocket launch sites — as of Wednesday afternoon.

Operation Shield and Arrow was launched early Tuesday, as the IDF assassinated Khalil Bahtini, who commands Islamic Jihad in northern Gaza, Jihad Ghanem, a top official in the group’s military council, and Tareq Izz ed-Din, who it said directed Islamic Jihad terror activities in the West Bank from a base in Gaza. Ten others were also killed in the coordinated strikes, including women and children, Gaza authorities said.

In a subsequent strike on Tuesday afternoon, members of an Islamic Jihad cell allegedly en route to carrying out an anti-tank guided missile attack on the Gaza border were struck and killed.

Previous strikes on Islamic Jihad leaders have been answered with barrages of rockets on Israeli civilians and intense battles with Israeli troops, some lasting several days.

Also early Wednesday, two members of a local wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the West Bank were killed in a shootout with IDF forces.

AP contributed to this report

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