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Barrage of at least 40 rockets fired from Gaza into southern Israel
By YAAKOV LAPPIN
03/12/2014
Islamic Jihad takes responsibly for attack; no injuries reported; Iron Dome intercepts 3 rockets; Israeli tanks shell 2 terror infrastructure targets in response.
 
Israeli communities near southern and northern Gaza have come under heavy rocket attack on Wednesday evening. The IDF said at least 40 rockets had been fired in the largest attack since 2012's Operation Pillar of Defense.

The IDF said eight rockets hit urban, civilian areas. One rocket landed in Sderot, according to police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld, although there were no immediate reports of casualties.

Israeli media reported that up to 55 rockets had been fired into Israel in the deluge of projectiles.

The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for Wednesday's attack, saying that over 90 rockets had been fired toward Israel, a spokesman for Al-Quds told Palestinian news agency Ma'an.

"You haven't yet seen the extent of our capabilities," added the spokesman, who further threatened to fire extended range missiles.

Southern residents have reported several rocket alerts going off consecutively.

The Iron Dome rocket defense system shot down three of the rockets, according to the IDF Spokesperson's Office.

The IDF fired artillery rounds at two terror infrastructure targets in response.

On Tuesday, the Israel Air Force struck an Islamic Jihad cell in southern Gaza, minutes after identifying it as being behind a mortar attack on an IDF unit on the Gaza-Israel border.

According to military sources, the terrorists fired a mortar shell at soldiers who were conducting routine security measures near the frontier. The IDF released a video on Wednesday of the Islamic Jihad members firing toward army forces the day before.

Islamic Jihad said the Israeli strike killed three of its operatives. The IDF confirmed the aircraft’s hit on the terrorist cell, and said that the aircraft had then returned safely to its base. The army added that it would not tolerate any attack on military forces operating along the border.

Islamic Jihad has been behind a trickle of attacks in recent days that have tested the cease-fire in place between Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza and Israel.

Earlier this month, the IAF struck an Islamic Jihad rocket-launching cell about to fire rockets at southern Israel from northern Gaza, killing a member of the terror organization.

Last week, the Israel Navy intercepted an Iranian arms ship destined for Gaza, which included 40 Syrian made M302 rockets that had a range of between 90 to 160 kilometers, 80 mortar shells, and nearly half a million rounds of ammunition. Islamic Jihad was one of the intended recipients of the arms shipment, according to Israeli assessments.

The IDF will respond to the largest rocket attack on Israel since 2012, an army source warned on Wednesday.

An evaluation meeting was held in the evening by senior IDF commanders, including Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, the head of the air force, Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel, Military Intelligence head Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, and OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Sami Turgeman.

A senior army source said Islamic Jihad launched simultaneous rocket barrages from northern and southern Gaza.

OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Sami Turgeman told local government officials from the south, "We have no intention of ignoring any fire directed at us."

In the coming hours, officials from the Home Front Command and IDF Southern Command were set to meet with local government representatives in the South to discuss safety instructions. For now, residents of the Gaza-border were advised to remain close to safe zones, the military said.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Israel will not go back to its daily routine following the barrage of rockets this evening. 

"We will not allow Islamic Jihad or any other element in the Strip to disrupt life in the South," he said. "It won't be quiet in Gaza either, in a way that will cause Islamic Jihad terrorists to regret the attacks they carried out.

"Hamas is responsible for what occurs in Gaza, and it too will have to take into account the fact that won't tolerate fire at us," he continued. "If it does not know how to enforce the quiet, it too will pay a heavy price."

Yasser Okbi contributed to this report.
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