The Israeli Air Force struck 20 Hamas terror targets across the Gaza Strip early Wednesday morning after long range rockets struck a home in the southern city of Beersheba while another fell in the sea next to a central Israeli city.
IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis held Hamas responsible for the attack.
Hamas "creates an atmosphere of terror in the demonstrations near the border fence, where grenades have been thrown in recent weeks," Manelis said.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad had earlier denied responsibility for the rocket fire. "We reject any irresponsible attempt to destroy the Egyptian efforts," to reach a ceasefire agreement with Israel, the joint statement said, "including the rocket fire last night."
However, Manelis dismissed the groups' claim. "Only Hamas and Islamic Jihad have these type of rockets," he said.
Manelis also provided more details on the IDF response."We struck 20 targets, including a terror tunnel," Manelis said. "We will continue to maintain a high level of readiness of all our forces."
Rocket sirens were heard in Gaza border communities on Wednesday morning at 8:32 a.m. In response, the Israeli Air Force hit several terror targets across the Gaza Strip. According to Palestinian reports, at least ten Gazans were injured and one was killed in the strikes which occurred across the coastal enclave.
Magen David Adom rescue services stated that emergency personnel treated and evacuated nine civilians, including a 50 year-old woman and a 40 year-old man in mild condition after they fell while running to shelter as well as a 20 year-old woman who suffered from shock.
"We were told about a woman who was in a nearby house who was hit in the head while running to a protected area. We ran there and saw a 50-year-old woman in full consciousness with a slight head injury. We gave her first aid and evacuated her to the hospital for further tests," Magen David Adom Spokesperson's Unit said.
The residents of the home that was hit, a 39 year-old woman and her three children aged nine, ten and twelve along with two neighbors were also treated for shock. They were released from hospital later Wednesday morning.
Police forces who were first to reach the scene said smoke was still visible over the home and described it as "a scene of total destruction."
According to the military, a second rocket was launched from the Hamas-run coastal enclave. Unconfirmed reports stated that the rocket landed in the sea near the central Israeli city of Bat Yam south of Tel Aviv and did not cause any damage.
The military is investigating why the Iron Dome missile defense system was not activated. Manelis responded in his statement that "in any case, Iron Dome is not deployed in every place."
Following the rocket fire Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman ordered the closure of the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings and the reduction of fishing space in the Gaza Strip to only 3 nautical miles.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot cancelled his meetings in the United States to return to Israel from New York due to the rocket attacks, Israeli media reported.
Due to the tensions the Home Front Command announced that farming in the fields in the south was to be allowed on a case-by-case basis and all educational activities must take place in secure locations. Schools were also closed in the Gaza border region and surrounding communities.
The rocket fire comes a day after Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman held a situation assessment at the Gaza Division with deputy IDF chief Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, the head of the Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Herzi Halevi, Gaza Division commander Brig.-Gen. Yehuda Fuchs, as well as brigade and battalion heads and combat soldiers in the division.
"We have exhausted all of the options and all of the possibilities. Now is the time to make decisions," Liberman said of the ongoing violent "March of Return" riots along the Gaza security fence.
"The defense establishment has done everything to reach the situation before March 29, before the violence on the border broke out — we did this our way, by using force, by using persuasion, by cooperating with those who wanted to help.There were all sorts of attempts to reach an arrangement led by Egypt and the UN and UN envoy. We tried all of the other ways, but unfortunately I don't see any results"
The last rocket to hit Beersheba occurred in early August when a long-range rocket which flew some 40km from the Gaza Strip landed in an open area outside the city. While the August rocket caused no damage or injuries it marked a significant increase in the level of violence from the coastal enclave which until then directed their fire towards communities along the Gaza border.
Following the attack the IAF leveled a multi-story building in Gaza City wounding at least 18 Palestinians. According to the IDF the five-story building in the Al-Shati Camp in western Gaza City served as an office building for the interior security unit responsible for all security operations carried out inside Gaza, and is considered to be an executive branch of Hamas' political leadership.