The military handed down a number of safety instructions to residents of southern Israel on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, as over 150 rockets and mortar shells were fired at the Gaza periphery by terrorist groups in the Strip, and the air force retaliated by bombing numerous Hamas targets in the coastal enclave.
Despite initially saying summer camps in the regions surrounding the Strip could be held inside “protected areas,” the army revised the instruction as dawn broke amid ongoing salvos, saying all such activities were canceled.
Studies at higher education schools were also canceled.
Residents of the area were required to remain within close distance to a bomb shelter. The size of gatherings was also limited, with only 300 people allowed together and only in a closed area, the army said.
In addition, farmers were forbidden from working in their fields.
Local government offices and private businesses were allowed to operate in a limited capacity, the Israel Defense Forces said.
The military also announced that trains would not be running between the border town of Sderot and the coastal city of Ashkelon, and that Zikim Beach was to be closed.
A woman was seriously injured early Thursday morning when a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip hit a home in the Eshkol regional council near the Palestinian enclave.
Rocket barrages by the Hamas terror group continued throughout the night. The military said over 150 rockets and mortar shells were launched at Israeli communities since Wednesday evening.
Most of the rockets hit open areas. The Iron Dome defense system — which targets only missiles projected to strike communities — destroyed 25 of the rockets.
However, several hit homes and factories in Israeli communities, causing damage. One barrage that slammed into the city of Sderot Wednesday evening injured three Israelis. At least eight others were treated for panic attacks, including two pregnant women who went into labor.
In response to the attacks, the Israeli army said it struck over 100 Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip overnight.
The military said its raids targeted training compounds as well as weapons manufacturing facilities and storage warehouses. The air force also targeted one car that the army said was being used by terrorists to launch rockets at southern Israel from the Strip. One Hamas operative was reportedly killed in the airstrike. Unconfirmed reports claimed he was the relative of a senior Hamas commander.
Hamas said a 23-year-old pregnant woman and her infant daughter were killed in another strike. The woman’s husband was reported moderately injured. There was no immediate comment from Israel.
Following the attacks from Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman met overnight with senior officers from the IDF and other security services at the military’s headquarters in Tel Aviv, to discuss the situation and decide on a course of action.
Sirens sounded in Israeli communities throughout the night, and thousands of families slept in bomb shelters and protected spaces.
Overnight six rockets exploded in Sderot, including two that hit homes and one that hit a factory. Another hit a house in the Hof Asheklon regional council. In all cases the rockets caused damage but no casualties. In addition, a rocket hit a factory in the Sha’ar Hanegev region, breaking through the roof and damaging equipment inside, a spokesperson for the region said. The factory was empty of people at the time of the rocket attack.
Hamas claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attacks, saying it was avenging the deaths of two operatives killed in an Israeli strike the day before — a strike that came in response to what the IDF initially identified as a shooting attack on its forces, but which was apparently an internal Hamas exercise.
“In response to Israel aggression, the Palestinian resistance has launched a large number of rockets in recent hours at the enemy,” a statement by the group said. “There was a promise [to respond] and now it has been fulfilled.”