Three people were injured when rockets fired from Gaza struck the southern Israeli town of Sderot on Wednesday evening, as tensions between Israel and the Palestinian enclave spiraled dramatically a day after Hamas vowed revenge for the deaths of two of its gunmen.
According to the Israeli military, eight rockets were fired at southern Israel from Gaza at approximately 7:40 p.m. Two of them were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, and at least two landed in the town of Sderot.
Police said officers were sent to four sites where rockets or fragments of Iron Dome missiles struck Sderot.
Dramatic video taken during the attack showed a rocket appearing to strike near where a group of children were huddled against a wall, apparently unable to reach a shelter in time.
A 34-year-old man was lightly-to-moderately wounded by shards of broken glass while inside an apartment building in the town, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service.
Another man in his 20s was also lightly wounded by glass shrapnel to the limbs in a different area of Sderot. And a woman sustained an injury to her leg as she ran to a bomb shelter.
All three were taken to Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center for treatment, along with two pregnant women who went into premature labor as a result of the stress from the attack, MDA said.
Eight people were taken to the hospital after they suffered panic attacks. Three others who suffered panic attacks were treated on the scene.
Videos and photographs from Sderot showed heavy damage to a home and several cars hit by rockets, as well as shrapnel riddling an apartment building.
Police bomb disposal units were called to the scenes and closed off the areas, a police spokesperson said.
It was not immediately clear if the two men were injured by the impact of a Gazan rocket or by the remains of an Iron Dome interceptor missile.
While the Gaza border region is occasionally targeted by rocket fire, direct hits have become somewhat rare, with most projectiles intercepted by the Iron Dome system.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which came as tensions in the border region ramped up despite intensive ceasefire efforts mediated by Egypt and the UN. Such an agreement is meant to end not only rocket launches and shootings from Gaza but also the regular incendiary kite and balloon attacks from the Palestinian enclave that have burned large swaths of land in southern Israel and caused millions of shekels of damage.
Throughout Wednesday, at least 11 fires were sparked in southern Israel by airborne arson devices launched from the Gaza Strip. Israeli firefighters extinguished all of them, according to a spokesperson for Fire and Rescue Services.
Earlier in the day, the military closed a highway near Gaza and warned that it was anticipating a revenge attack by the Hamas terrorist group after two of members of the terror group were killed in an IDF strike on Tuesday. Hours later, shots were fired from the Gaza Strip at a number of civilian construction vehicles just outside the Palestinian enclave, causing damage but no injuries.
In response, an Israeli tank shelled a Hamas observation post in the northern Gaza Strip, the army said.
There were no immediate reports of Palestinian injuries.
The military said the decision to close Route 25 and several smaller service roads near the border was made in light of recent threats by Hamas and after IDF soldiers saw that the terror group had begun abandoning several of its positions in the Strip — a move Hamas generally takes as a precaution against airstrikes before carrying out attacks against Israel.
The engineering vehicles that were fired upon were being used to build an underground barrier around the Gaza Strip, which is meant to counter Hamas’s network of border-crossing attack tunnels.
“Terrorists shot at civilian vehicles that were being used in the effort to construct the barrier around the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip. One vehicle was hit,” the IDF said.
On Tuesday, an IDF tank shelled a Hamas observation post along the Gaza border, killing two of the terror group’s fighters, after soldiers nearby mistakenly believed shots had been fired at them.
The army later confirmed that the gunshots were not fired at the soldiers, but were part of a Hamas training exercise inside the Strip.
Hamas vowed to avenge its fallen members, saying it will not allow Israel to “impose a policy of bombing sites and targeting fighters without paying the price.”
On Wednesday morning, rocket sirens sounded in Israeli communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip, sending thousands of residents running to bomb shelters in what the military later said was a false alarm. The alarm systems were triggered shortly before 10 a.m. in the city of Sderot and communities in the Sha’ar Hanegev region of southern Israel.
The Israel Defense Forces did not specify what caused the false alarm. In the past, such events have been triggered by large-caliber gunfire near the border, which the military’s sensitive detection systems misidentify as rocket fire.
Adam Rasgon and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.