Fire will be met by fire and quiet by quiet, a top IDF officer said Saturday night after a day of continued violence in the South in which 23 rockets were fired into Israel and a cease-fire was reportedly going into effect.

Nearly 150 have been fired into the country since the beginning of hostilities on Monday. The Iron Dome intercepted five Grad rockets over Ashkelon on Saturday.

A number of rockets on the same day targeted Sderot, injuring a factory worker.

One projectile also smashed into an empty school, causing extensive damage.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke by phone on Saturday with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen Benny Gantz and directed them to “continue to act strongly to protect the security of the residents of the South.”

Except for comments he made to the Likud faction meeting last Monday following the killing of Sa’ed Fachachte, who was working on the security fence along the border with Egypt, Netanyahu has made no public statement over the last week regarding the recent escalation.

Netanyahu, one government official said, has been careful to be “very measured” in his public comments about the situation. The official denied, however, that the volatile situation in Egypt or the scheduled visit on Monday by Russian President Vladimir Putin has had any impact on Israel’s reaction to the barrage of rocket fire on the South. He said the IDF’s reaction to this round of violence was not significantly different than it was to a similar escalation some two months ago.

Netanyahu has said repeatedly in the past that the one of the many benefits of the Iron Dome system was that it gave Israel more flexibility in determining how and when to respond, preventing Jerusalem from being dragged into a widescale conflict in Gaza at a time not of its own choosing. The logic is that, were it not for the Iron Dome and were dozens of rockets and missiles falling on major population centers and causing casualties, Israel would have had no choice but to launch a massive military action against Gaza.

The Israel Air Force retaliated with a number of air strikes late Friday night after terrorist groups in Gaza – although not Hamas – fired rockets into Israel despite reports that an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire had gone into effect in the morning. IDF sources said that most of the rocket fire over the weekend was carried out by the Popular Resistance Committees and other small terror factions.

In response to the rocket attacks on Friday, early Saturday morning the IAF bombed three Hamas bases in the Gaza Strip, wounding around 20 people. In response, Hamas fired rockets and mortar shells mostly into Sderot. The factory worker was injured in one of the attacks while seeking cover.

He sustained moderate shrapnel wounds to his neck and stomach and was rushed to the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon.

A factory manager said that the site had been hit twice before, but that on this occasion, expensive equipment worth millions sustained a direct hit. Two other civilians were treated for shock in the attack.

Israel cannot remain silent in the face of the recent escalation of violence in the South, Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i said Saturday morning during a visit to Sderot and the Sha’ar Hanegev region. The minister also paid a visit to the IDF’s Gaza Division for an operational review of recent events.

“We hold Hamas fully responsible for everything that happens in the Gaza Strip,” Vilna’i said. “Israel is working, and will continue to work with a heavy hand against those terrorists that want to escalate the situation in the region.”

Also Saturday, the IAF carried out an air strike against Palestinians spotted preparing to launch rockets into Israel. Two Palestinians were killed, raising the death tally to 14.

“We will continue operating to prevent the rocket fire but in general, quiet will be met by quiet and fire by fire,” a senior IDF officer said Saturday night.

The officer said that Israel had received signals from the Egyptians that Hamas was interested in ending the current round of violence. He attributed Hamas’s interest in stopping the fighting to the IDF’s aggressive response Friday night and Saturday to the rocket fire, which included bombings of several of the group’s military bases.

“Hamas was surprised by the bombing of one of its bases since until now the IDF has limited its attacks to smaller outposts,” the officer said. “This made Hamas understand that it is in its interest to obtain quiet.”

The officer said that while Hamas was not behind most of the rocket fire over the weekend, Israel expected it to rein in the other terror factions in Gaza and to stop their rocket attacks.

“If the attacks continue though, the IDF will not hesitate to act against the terrorists launching the rockets,” the officer said.

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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