The IDF struck targets in Gaza on Tuesday night and in the early hours of Wednesday morning after at least 32 rockets and mortars were fired from the Gaza Strip toward southern Israel throughout the day with two rockets even hitting Sderot and wounding at least 12 civilians.
A senior security official said that there would be additional responses from the IDF.
The first round of rockets started just hours after Palestinian Islamic Jihad official Khader Adnan died following a three-month-long hunger strike against his being held in administrative detention. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad both took responsibility for the rocket fire.
Of the first three rockets, fired by Palestinian Islamic Jihad on Tuesday morning, all landed in open areas near the Gaza border. During that round of rockets, the IDF decided that there was no need to activate the Iron Dome missile defense batteries.
The IDF then responded with tank fire on one Hamas military position, a relatively light reaction.
Later Tuesday afternoon, another 22 rockets were fired, this time by a mix of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, causing sirens to go off in Sderot, Nir Am, Sde Avraham, Erez and some other towns.
Four rockets were intercepted and 16 landed in open fields, but two struck urban areas, according to the IDF. One rocket hit a construction site in Sderot, with another hitting the yard of a home in the city, according to Army Radio.
At least 12 civilians were wounded, maby by shrapnel from the rocket, including a foreign laborer from China in his mid-20s.
The Chinese worker was initially in serious condition, while the condition of the others was less serious.
However, the Chinese worker’s condition later improved to being moderately stable.
A 49-year-old woman was also hospitalized after being lightly injured while on her way to a bomb shelter.
MDA also hospitalized a person in their mid-20s who suffered from anxiety. Most were being taken to Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon for treatment.
The rocket barrage came as children were set to be picked up from school and daycare, with the schools having to shelter the children in place until it was safe for their parents to come to get them, according to instructions issued by local councils.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant both issued statements early afternoon signaling the severity with which they view the ongoing series of military exchanges.
Netanyahu said that he was receiving regular updates from his military secretary, Maj.-Gen. Avi Gil and that he would be conducting a meeting with top defense officials later Tuesday.
Gallant met with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi midday and said, "Anyone who tries to harm Israel's citizens will regret it."
"Anyone who tries to harm Israel's citizens will regret it."Yoav Gallant
Following the afternoon volley of rockets from Gaza, IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Amir Baram said at a ceremony for IDF officers, "I promise you that the IDF will respond and act in a determined and substantial manner in order to return quiet to the citizens of the State of Israel."
"The terrorist groups in Gaza will pay for firing rockets at the South," former defense minister and National Unity leader MK Benny Gantz said.
Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid also reaffirmed a unified stance in support of Israel's South in the face of terror.
"The opposition will support the government in any military action that will bring the residents of the South peace and security," he wrote on Twitter.
In response to the rockets, Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi called on the government to stop acting with restraint and eliminate the heads of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
"Twenty-two rockets were fired toward Sderot and surrounding towns with the goal of murdering Israeli civilians, it's impossible to keep acting with restraint," Avivi said.
"I once again call on the prime minister, defense minister and cabinet to eliminate the leaders of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. We operate in areas much farther away, but for somewhere just a kilometer away, we're not doing enough to stop them from firing rockets here and trying to murder Israelis."
Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad leaders have also hidden away in bunkers in preparation for an Israeli response, N12 reported.
Netanyahu held his security meeting in the late afternoon with Gallant, Halevi, National Security Council Chief Tzahi Hanegbi, IDF intelligence Chief Maj.-Gen. Aharon Huliya, the deputy chief of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and other top officials, to consider the situation.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir had asked to be allowed in the meeting but was not given permission, Walla reported.
Another rocket was fired into Israel from Gaza during this meeting, landing in an open field, Army Radio reported. Apart from a notification in the Home Front Command app, none of the other warning systems gave any rocket alerts.
Later in the day, several more rockets were fired into Israel from Gaza, some landing in open fields and at least one intercepted.
The IDF is currently investigating the reasons for the Iron Dome having just a 71% success rate in the recent rocket barrage. A hacker group, Anonymous Sudan, claimed it managed to disable the Israeli rocket warning system.
Multiple mortars were also fired into Israel from the Strip, the IDF Spokesperson's Unit confirmed.
Recent IDF activity in the Gaza area and warnings
This comes after the IDF warned residents of the area to stay in secured areas following attacks from the Strip into Israel and subsequent IDF tank fire. However, the IDF Home Front Command lifted this restriction hours later, while reminding those same residents that if they received a new alert, they should then return to bomb shelters or other secure areas for at least 10 minutes.
Asked about Adnan's death in a press briefing, US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel said that the American "view is we have a deep respect for human rights. We believe all individuals, including prisoners, should be treated humanely."
At the same time, Patel pointed out that "Palestinian Islamic Jihad is a recognized terrorist organization. As we saw from today's rocket attacks, this group continues to be violent."
On Monday evening, the IDF had announced that a scheduled exercise would be held in the area near the Gaza border from Tuesday morning until the afternoon. The exercise was canceled on Tuesday morning after the initial round of rocket fire.
The rocket fire on Tuesday was the first since rockets were fired from Syria toward the Golan Heights in early April. The last rocket fire from the Gaza Strip was on April 7.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and Israel Prison Service head Katy Perry held a situation assessment after Adnan's death earlier Tuesday and decided to increase security in the prisons and to prevent prisoners from leaving their cells in order to prevent disturbances.
Ben-Gvir additionally instructed the prison service to inform the prisoners that if they go on hunger strikes or conducted riots, their living conditions will be worsened.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad warns Israel will 'pay a heavy price'
Earlier Tuesday, Palestinian Islamic Jihad officials had warned that Israel would “pay a heavy price” should Adnan die in custody. On Tuesday morning, the terrorist movement stated that "the criminal enemy will once again realize that its crimes will not go unanswered."
Adnan was arrested in February on charges of membership in a terror organization and incitement.
Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.