Israel’s military struck more than 70 Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad targets across the Gaza Strip, after several heavy barrages of rockets from the coastal enclave were fired toward southern Israel, the IDF said Monday evening.
The barrage began around 4:30 p.m. after a Cornet anti-tank missile was fired toward a bus full of soldiers at the Black Arrow Memorial Site in the Sha’ar Hanegev region. A 19-year-old soldier was transferred to Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba in critical condition after he was hit standing near the bus. No other soldiers were injured.
More than 460 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip toward southern Israeli communities, as well as the Dead Sea and the West Bank’s Hebron Hills.
The army stated that some 60 rockets had been intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, but others hit inside the cities of Ashkelon, Sderot and the communities of Ofakim and Netivot, causing severe damage but only light injuries.
A house in Ashkelon was hit by a rocket; one person was treated for shock.
“The way we are living isn’t normal,” Shimon Tamsul from Sderot told The Jerusalem Post during a lull on Monday night. “We either have to somehow make peace with Gaza or go to war and reoccupy it. I would leave Sderot if I could, it’s not life here. But where would I go? My family is here.”
His wife Yoly agreed, saying that everyone in the college town suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, including their two-year-old grandchild.
“We all have PTSD,” she said. “A car backfires and we jump... even when we are abroad. I drive to Petah Tikva to visit family and I am afraid that there will be an incoming rocket siren. We don’t live here in the South... We don’t live!”
“There was a Tzeva Adom [red alert siren] and we ran to the safe room,” Tamsul’s five-year-old granddaughter Roni said. “Tonight we are going to sleep in the safe room!”
Daniel Aflalo, another Sderot resident told the Post that residents have been living the same situation for the past 15 years.
“You heard they are talking about a cease-fire? It’s like that all the time. They call for a cease-fire and we give it to them. We allowed Qatar to give them $15 million and look what we got,” he said.
According to the army, the majority of the projectiles fell in open areas, causing no damage or injuries.
In response to the rocket barrage, Israel Air Force jets, helicopters and tanks struck more than 70 Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets across the Gaza Strip, including three attack tunnels, two of them belonging to Islamic Jihad; four Hamas military compounds in Rafah and Deir el-Balah; another four belonging to Islamic Jihad; a Hamas observation post in Jabalya; an Islamic Jihad weapons manufacturing site in Jabalya and Rafah; and launch sites.
“The Hamas terrorist organization bears responsibility for everything in and out of the Gaza Strip, and it will bear the consequences for the terrorist acts against Israeli citizens,” read a statement by the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.
The Gaza Health Ministry said that three Gazans were killed in the strikes and several others wounded. The fatalities were identified as Muhammed al-Tatri, 27; Muhammed Oudeh, 22; and Hamad al-Nahal, 23. Two of them were later claimed by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine as being members of the terror group’s military wing.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot as well as other senior defense establishment officers held security consultations regarding the escalation on the southern border at the IDF’s Kirya Military Headquarters in Tel Aviv.
The rocket barrages came after an elite IDF officer with the rank of Lt.-Col was killed on Sunday night in a deadly IDF raid in the southern Gazan city of Khan Yunis, along with seven Hamas terrorists, including the Khan Yunis battalion commander.
Thousands of Gazans attended the funerals following the raid, chanting for revenge.
Israeli planes bombed the studios of Hamas’s television station in the Gaza Strip on Monday during a surge in cross-border fighting, Palestinian officials and witnesses said.
There was no immediate word of casualties in the air strike on Al-Aqsa Television, which destroyed its premises in Gaza City and damaged nearby buildings. Named after a major mosque in Jerusalem, it said that it would resume broadcasts soon.
Many local residents had fled after Israel phoned in calls to evacuate and launched at least five non-exploding missiles nearby as warnings, witnesses said.
The IDF confirmed that jets had struck the Gaza City television station, accusing it of “broadcasting harsh incitement” against Israel as well as “training and using other methods to carry out attacks against IDF soldiers and civilians.”
The military also accused the channel of sending messages to Hamas operatives in the West Bank, calling for terrorist attacks and training on how to carry them out.
“This was an attack on a central Hamas military asset that was carried out following the extensive IDF attacks and in response to the terrorist attack led by the Hamas terrorist organization against Israeli civilians,” read a statement released by the military, adding that “the IDF is determined to carry out the task of defending the citizens of Israel, and is prepared for any scenario.”Reuters contributed to this report.
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