Four barrages of mortars, consisting of at least 30 projectiles in total, were fired from the Gaza Strip at towns in southern Israel on Tuesday morning, making it the largest attack on Israeli border communities since the conclusion of Operation Protective Edge in 2014.
The IDF's Iron Dome anti-missile system successfully intercepted most of the projectiles fired at Israel, said the Israeli army, although mortars were said to have fallen in at least two Israeli communities bordering Gaza and another three fell in open territory. No injuries were reported.
One mortar landed in the grounds of a kindergarten in the Eshkol Regional Council, said a municipality spokesperson. No children were at the kindergarten at the time. Images showed damage caused to the outside walls of the kindergarten by shrapnel from the mortar.
Rocket sirens were first activated in more than 20 Israeli communities on the border with the Gaza Strip shortly after 7 a.m. local time. Local municipalities soon instructed residents to return to their daily routines and school transport, which was temporarily suspended, was permitted to continue. Further sirens were heard at 8 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. local time.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the IDF will respond with force following Tuesday morning's events.
"Israel views the attacks on its cities by Hamas and Islamic Jihad severely, the IDF will react with great force, and Israel will exact a heavy price from anyone who tries to harm it," Netanyahu said at the Galilee Conference.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman convened a special meeting with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot and senior security officials at the IDF's headquarters in response to the escalation.
Funeral of Gaza militant killed by Israeli army while thwarting border breach, May 28, 2018 (Reuters)
A spokesperson from Palestinian Islamic Jihad praised the rocket fire, calling it a "blessed response" and stating that "our people's blood is not cheap." The militant group neither claimed nor rejected responsibility for the attack.
The incident comes amid rising tensions on the Gaza-Israel border. On Monday evening, several homes and cars in the southern Israeli city of Sderot were struck by machine gunfire mere hours after one Palestinian was killed by an IDF tank shell after an exchange of fire with IDF troops in the northern Gaza Strip.
The gunfight ensued after two Gazans armed with knives, wire cutters and incendiary material were caught trying to breach the security fence.
According to a statement released by the IDF’s Spokesperson’s Unit, troops were targeted with gunfire during the arrest, leading to the IDF responding with tank fire against a nearby observation post.
The incident comes after the IDF confirmed Sunday that a drone armed with explosives
launched from the northern part of the Gaza Strip landed in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council last week.Anna Ahronheim contributed to this story.