As of Motzoei Shabbos, Gaza Arab terrorists had fired over 300 rockets at Israeli targets since Friday night, as the tensions that began Friday escalated over Shabbos, the IDF said. The IDF responded by hitting over 120 Hamas targets, including a Hamas administrative headquarters and a terror tunnel built by Islamic Jihad.
Red Alert warning sirens sounded throughout Friday and on Shabbos, sending thousands to safe rooms as Gaza terrorists barraged southern Israel with rocket fire. Several rockets reached further afield, and warning sirens were sounded in Beit Shemesh, the Lachish region, Kiryat Gat and Ashdod. Most of the rockets either fell in open areas or were destroyed by Iron Dome missiles.
As of Motzoei Shabbos, 41 Israelis were treated at hospitals suffering from injuries caused by the rocket fire, or from shock. One woman was in serious condition after being wounded by shrapnel from a rocket that exploded near her. A second woman suffered moderate injuries when she fell while running to a safe room. One rocket hit a building head-on in Ashkelon. B’chasdei Shamayim, nobody in the building was injured, with everyone making it to a safe room in time. The building sustained substantial damage. Another rocket fell on the roof of a building in Kiryat Gat. Bomb squad experts were able to defuse it before it exploded.
Israel throughout the day hit targets in Gaza in response to the rocket fire. Gaza sources said that eight people were killed in the IDF retaliation, among them an infant. The IDF said that the baby was killed as a result of Hamas activity, possibly a rocket that misfired. The terror tunnel destroyed had been under the observation of Israeli security officials for some time, the IDF said. Also destroyed was a six-story building in central Gaza, said to be the intelligence headquarters of Hamas.
The latest flare-up began Friday afternoon, after Islamic Jihad terrorists fired at a group of IDF soldiers patrolling along the Gaza border, injuring one of them moderately and one lightly. The IDF responded by attacking Islamic Jihad targets, and the terror group responded with rocket fire, with Hamas joining in as well. The moderately injured soldier was said to be improving Motzoei Shabbos, doctors at Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon said.
The Security Cabinet is set to meet Sunday afternoon to consider further action, and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been conducting consultations throughout the day with top security officials. Meanwhile, the IDF has ordered the closure of all Gaza border crossings. Schools in most communities in southern Israel, as far north as Kiryat Gat, will be closed Sunday, it was announced Motzoei Shabbos. Train service between southern Israel and the center of the country was suspended Motzoei Shabbos as well.
Speaking Motzoei Shabbos, President Reuven Rivlin said that he was “praying for the welfare of the injured, and for the success of security personnel. We will continue to stand strong against the terrible terror we face and we will respond with force and without compromise to attacks against our citizens.”
Speaking in an interview Motzoei Shabbos, Blue and White head Benny Gantz said that he would hit Hamas much more aggressively. Speaking to Channel 13, Gantz said, “We have to restore deterrence. We cannot compromise in the current situation. What we are seeing is a Mafia-style attempt to extort us. I would do things differently. Netanyahu should be the one driving policy here. We can try negotiations. We can also try targeted killings of Hamas leaders. I would allow the transfer of money to Gaza for projects.” The IDF should also be used more aggressively, he said. “We don’t have to try and retake Gaza, but if we have to we can,” he added.
Blue and White’s number two, Yair Lapid, also slammed the prime minister, saying that beating Gaza terror required “strength and determination that the fifth Netanyahu government does not have, just as the first, second, third and fourth Netanyahu government did not have.”
In response, Likud MK Michal Shir said that the criticism was out of place. “I would expect that after extended vacations abroad the heads of Blue and White would not play politics at a time like this, and attempt to score political points on the backs of residents of the south who are facing the terror head-on. Prime Minister Netanyahu is working day and night to defend Israel. If you have nothing to contribute in that vein, do not interfere.”