Gaza terrorists fired over two dozen rockets at southern Israel on Sunday evening in reprisal for the IDF’s killing of a Palestinian who was trying to plant a roadside bomb on the border with Israel, aimed at ambushing IDF patrols.
The IDF said that about half of the projectiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, as air raid sirens sounded in the south and thousands of residents rushed to bomb shelters. The remaining rockets apparently landed in open areas, causing no damage.
B’chasdei shamayim, no direct injuries were reported, though two people were brought to Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon—one woman, aged 64, in light condition who fell and hit her head while running to a shelter, and another woman, aged 20, who was suffering from anxiety.
Following the rocket barrage, the mayors of Ashkelon and Gan Yavne ordered the opening of all public shelters throughout their cities. The mayor of Sderot urged citizens to remain close to shelters as well.
In Ashkelon, an empty car was hit by shrapnel. No injuries were reported. Later in the evening, Ashkelon authorities announced that all schools in the city would be cancelled on Monday.
“Considering the security tension in the past few hours and the lack of certainty we find ourselves in, I have decided not to take a risk on the lives of our children and to cancel studies in all educational systems in Ashkelon,” said Mayor of Ashkelon Tomer Glam.
The terrorist killed at the Gaza border was identified as Muhammed Ali al-Na’im, 27, a commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s military wing, the Al-Quds Brigade, in the Khan Younis area.
His body was retrieved by IDF bulldozer with a tank escort as a mob of Palestinian youth threw rocks at it.
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett rebuffed Palestinian and left-wing anger over the way the body was removed, calling it “hypocritical criticism of the left,” and backed up the military’s handling of the incident.
“I am sick and tired of the hypocritical criticism of the left against the ‘inhumanity’ of using by a bulldozer to retrieve the body of a terrorist who tried to murder Israelis. Gentlemen, you are not human. Hamas holds the bodies of Hadar and Oron,” he said, referring to the bodies of two fallen IDF soldiers in the hands of Hamas since Operation Protective Edge in 2014.
“I back the IDF that killed the terrorists and retrieved the body. This is how we should act in the face of terrorists.”
The Islamic Jihad took responsibility for the attack, writing on its website that it fired the rockets in response to Israel taking the corpse.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, head of the Shin Bet Nadav Argaman and other senior security officials held a meeting the Kirya Military Headquarters in Tel Aviv in the evening to review the situation.
The United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, and Egyptian intelligence were reportedly speaking with both sides in order to try and prevent a further escalation, according to Palestinian reports.