A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip exploded next to a bus transporting soldiers in southern Israel on Sunday, amid a massive wave of attacks from the Palestinian territory.
In a video filmed by one of the troops, Israel’s Iron Dome interceptor missiles can be seen flying overhead when a loud blast rocks the vehicle and a rocket slams into the highway a few meters away from the soldiers. No injuries were reported.
In one of the most intense flare-ups of violence in years, throughout the weekend, 500-odd rockets and mortar shells were fired into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip, with multiple direct hits on residential buildings.
Three Israelis were killed Sunday.
Moshe Agadi, a 58-year-old father of four, died early Sunday morning from shrapnel wounds sustained when a rocket exploded outside his home in Ashkelon. Later in the day, two other civilians, who were injured by rocket strikes in southern Israel, died of their injuries at Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center.
Two Israelis were critically injured when a rocket fired from Gaza directly hit the factory where they were working in Ashkelon. Another man at the site was moderately wounded.
In addition, a 60-year-old man was critically wounded as he was driving his car near the Gaza border. The Israel Defense Forces said it was investigating whether the strike was from a rocket or an anti-tank guided missile.
Medics said the driver sustained serious injuries by the strike and was hospitalized at Barzilai, where he was in critical condition. It wasn’t immediately clear which two of the three critically wounded men injured on Sunday were pronounced dead.
In response to the attacks, the IDF said it bombed over 220 military targets in the Strip, causing considerable damage to terror groups’ facilities, but relatively few casualties in the densely populated coastal enclave.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said Israeli strikes had killed nine Palestinians, including a pregnant woman and her 14-month-old niece in their east Gaza City home Saturday. However, military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said Sunday that a detailed review found that a Palestinian rocket had misfired and killed them. He said the Palestinians were “trying to sell a story that isn’t true.”
The sudden outburst in fighting broke a month-long lull. Egyptian mediators had been trying to negotiate a long-term cease-fire between the two sides, who have fought three wars and several other rounds of conflict over the past decade.
The IDF said its strikes on Saturday and Sunday targeted an Islamic Jihad cross-border attack tunnel, the entry points to several other tunnels, a Hamas underground rocket production facility, weapons caches, military bases, observation posts, a cement factory used to produce the linings of tunnels and underground bunkers, and several multi-story buildings used by terror groups in the Strip.
The exchange of fire followed several weeks of relative calm between Israel and Gaza amid an unofficial armistice, which appeared to be breaking down as terrorists in the Strip stepped up their violent activities along the border in the days preceding the outbreak of fighting.
Gaza terror groups said their actions were retaliation for Israel not abiding by the ceasefire agreement by halting the transfer of Qatari money into Gaza — a charge Jerusalem denied, blaming the delay on Qatar and the United Nations.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.