Volleys of missiles flew towards and from the Gaza Strip on Tuesday as Kassam rockets landed near strategic installations in the Ashkelon industrial zone and IAF-fired missiles destroyed Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's helicopter landing pad.
At least one Palestinian was killed and seven others injured - including a mother and her six-month-old baby - after artillery shells, according to Palestinians, landed near a house in the northern Gaza suburb of Beit Lahiya. The army confirmed that it had shelled Beit Lahiya at the time of the incident but claimed it had only targeted Kassam launch sites.
Shortly after the shelling in Beit Lahiya, F-16 fighter jets dropped two missiles on Abbas's helicopter pad inside an abandoned police base near the Palestinian leader's presidential compound. The missiles landed at the Ansar 2 compound about 100 meters from Abbas's office. Two police officers were wounded during the missile strike.
"The continuous random bombarding in Gaza is not justified. It wants nothing but to disrupt [the] daily life of [the] Palestinian people," said Abbas - who during the strike was in his West Bank office. He said he contacted "the UN, Russia, the EU and Arab states and told them that these actions complicate daily life and affect our human and social status."
But the army claimed that the strike on Abbas's landing strip was meant to transmit a clear message according to which Israel believed that the Hamas-led PA government and Abbas were responsible for the non-stop Kassam rocket fire at Israel.
"They need to know that we will not hesitate to strike anywhere we want to," an IDF officer said. "And they should know that we are still operating under many self-imposed restraints."
But with one of the Kassam rockets landing just near a chemical tanker in the Ashkelon industrial zone, the army has begun to realize that it was most likely only a matter of time before one of the home-made primitive rockets succeeded in causing a large-scale disaster.
According to the officer, while the army did not plan to launch a ground operation "in the coming days" the possibility existed alongside additional "unused ways" for Israel to escalate its response to the Kassam fire.
"This type of operation requires patience," a Southern Command source explained. "This is a mid-level response and it is already beginning to have an effect on the Palestinian public which is afraid of the repercussions."
The army, the source said, planned to "strike any place used to fire Kassams." Harm caused to innocent civilians, he said, was the responsibility of the terrorists which fire the rockets from within populated areas.