The Israeli military struck Hamas military infrastructure on Sunday morning in response to rocket fire launched towards the center of the country.
The strikes, carried out by Israeli Air Force jets, attack helicopters and IDF tanks targeted “underground infrastructure and military posts of the terror group Hamas in the Gaza Strip,” the IDF Spokespersons Unit said in a statement, adding that the military “is conducting an ongoing situational assessment and will act firmly and resolutely against any attempt to carry out terror activity against the citizens of the State of Israel and the violation of its sovereignty."
The two rockets were fired around 2AM, activating incoming rocket sirens in the southern city of Ashdod and in communities in the Shfela region of central Israel including Kibbutz Palmachim some 60km from the Gaza Strip, sending thousands to shelters.
Residents in central Israel reported hearing large explosions and videos circulating on social media from residents of Holon, Bat Yam and Tel Aviv’s Yad Eliyahu neighborhood showed the rocket fire.
There were no reports of damage or injuries.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that the price of further attacks would be harsh.
"This morning, the IDF attacked Hamas infrastructure and targets in the Gaza Strip. We will not accept any attacks against the State of Israel and the citizens of Israel,” he said during the opening of the cabinet meeting.
“I warn the terror organizations in Gaza, even during the Corona crisis - do not test us. I never list our operational plans, but I’m warning them - the price of continued aggression will be heavy, very heavy."
Though no group took responsibility for the rocket fire, Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned that Israel holds Hamas responsible.
"It was night was a restless night in the south of the country, and there is one person responsible for it - Hamas,” Gantz said during a ceremony marking Operation Kadesh. “If Hamas does not stand the test of peace-the results will be dire first of all for its leadership and for the residents of the Gaza Strip.”
“I would like to tell the residents of the south that we are working in several directions, both operational and in other ways, in order to bring about long-term peace,” he continued, adding that “we will continue our response to the violation of our sovereignty, beyond what we have done, in a time, place and manner that will serve our long-term needs, of the citizens of Israel and the State of Israel, in the south of the country.”
The rockets came in the wake of the first anniversary of the targeted killing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Bahaa Abu al-Ata.
The IDF had deployed Iron Dome missile-defense batteries throughout the South over concerns that the group might fire rockets toward Israel.
Following the targeted assassination, the group fired over 400 rockets and mortars towards southern and central Israel in less than 50 hours.
The rocket fire came as a thunderstorm battered the area. The IDF was reported to be looking into the possibility that lightning might have caused them to be fired.
The rockets might have been fired after rainwater caused a short circuit, the Palestinian Al-Quds newspaper reported. Another Hamas source said that the rocket fire could have been due to a malfunction caused by lightning, adding that there was no intention to escalate the violence.
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.
A second rocket was launched from the Hamas-run coastal enclave, landing in the sea near Bat Yam.
While the army held Hamas responsible for the rocket fire, striking targets in the coastal enclave, closing the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings and the reduction of fishing space in the Gaza Strip to only 3 nautical miles, some experts believed that it was lightning that caused the rockets-which were armed, ready and aimed at central Israel and Beersheba- to be fired.
Both Hamas and PIJ denied responsibility for firing the rockets. Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.