The coming 24 hours will show whether Hamas in Gaza has understood Israel’s message that rocket fire on the South must end, a senior security source said Thursday, as Palestinian projectile fire continued to pound the South, triggering air-raid sirens into the evening and damaging homes.
More than 20 rockets and mortar shells exploded in southern Israel by press time, and one soldier was lightly wounded by shrapnel in the Eshkol region.
“We’ll see what the bottom line is... whether Hamas understands our message... within 24 hours, and then we’ll weigh our steps,” the security source said.
Hamas is not behind all of the recent rocket attacks, but compared to the recent past, the IDF is seeing a growing Hamas role in the attacks, the source added.
Gazan rockets damaged homes in Sderot in the morning, including a building used as a daycare center. The infants and their caretaker were in a fortified room at the time of the attack and escaped injury.
On Thursday afternoon, a rocket was fired at Ofakim, falling in an open area near the town.
Soon afterward, an Israel Air Force aircraft bombed an uninhabited area in south Gaza, in what the IDF described as a “deterrent” measure to prevent additional rocket fire. Yet Sderot came under fire again in the evening, when Gazan terrorists fired three rockets at it. One struck in a built-up area, and two in open areas outside the town.
Projectiles continued to hit the Eshkol region and neighboring areas in the evening. One rocket damaged a home in the Sdot Negev region when it struck the family’s yard. The people living in the home escaped injury as they had sought cover in a rocket-proof safe room when a Color Red warning siren sounded.
“Our main mission is to transmit the message that quiet will be met with quiet,” the security source said, speaking earlier.
Meanwhile, the IDF deployed limited additional forces to the Gaza border region as part of a series of defensive measures, as well as to increase military preparedness in case Hamas does not respond to Israel’s call for quiet.
“We are taking steps [so that we are ready] in case Hamas chooses one solution, or another,” the source said. To that end, the army is building up what the source described as “defensive efforts” against rocket attacks and cross-border terrorist infiltrations.
The deployment of ID F units toward Gaza is “only linked to this,” he said. “Our job is to prepare for all eventualities that might arise,” the source added, and stressed that “there is no callup of reserves” or a large-scale military buildup under way.
Hamas on Thursday warned Israel against launching an offensive in Gaza, saying that previous conflicts with it would be “a picnic” compared to what would follow should the IDF begin a large operation in the Strip.
“I promise you that one stupid move by your leaders will be enough to make us turn all of your communities, even those you might not expect, into targets and burning coals,” a spokesman for Izzadin Kassam, Hamas’s military wing, said at a press conference in Gaza.
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report