A barrage of rockets eight hours after an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire between Hamas and Israel has brought a quick end to the quiet, with Israel ramping up preparations for possible ground reprisals to end attacks from Gaza on civilians in Israel’s south.
No one was physically injured in Netivot on Monday morning when a Grad rocket landed in the yard of a house. The building was heavily damaged, and twenty six people were treated for shock.
Reports indicate that Monday morning saw at least 11 more rockets fired toward Hof Ashkelon and the Eshkol regions, with two landing in unpopulated areas and two being taken down by Iron Dome missile defense systems.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was scheduled to meet with foreign diplomats on Monday to brief them on the situation in Gaza and prepare their countries for the possibility of an Israeli military strike in the terror hotbed.
Days and nights in southern Israel have been punctuated by a growing number of sirens and rocket explosions, with over 60 rockets striking Israeli cities and communities this past week. On Monday morning alone, 55 Qassam and mortar shells were fired from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip on the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah. The rocket strikes damaged buildings, properties and a kibbutz petting zoo that is usually filled with children, but was empty because of the early morning hour.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad both claimed responsibility for the rocket strike, following an Israeli Air Force airstrike on Sunday that targeted global jihad terrorists operating in Gaza.
For residents in Netivot, Sderot and the Gaza-border communities, the rocket routine is not a new one.
On Tuesday night, three rockets were fired, with one towards the city of Netivot and the others landing near Sderot, which has been the target of rocket attacks for nearly 12 years. Speaking with Tazpit News Agency on Wednesday, Netivot resident, Elisheva Ratzon described the panic she experienced the previous night.
“I was on the computer, reading on the news that a rocket had struck Sderot earlier, when all of the sudden, the rocket siren for Netivot went off,” said Ratzon. “It was about 10:30 at night and the rocket struck just as I ran into the shelter in my apartment. There was an extremely loud boom. ”
Sitting at her computer in her office where she works as an accountant, Ratzon explains that she still experiences great panic every time a rocket strikes her city. “It’s a difficult experience, but even more so when my grandchildren come for a visit. Then I get even more nervous. This situation is especially tough for families with young children.”
The desert city of Netivot is home to over 27,000 residents and is located approximately 14 kilometers (9 miles) away from Gaza. Although there were no casualties or damages from Tuesday night’s rocket attack, a Netivot home was severely damaged in a direct Grad rocket attack two weeks earlier on September, which was miraculously empty at the time. Another home was also damaged.
Over 500 rockets have been fired at Israel since the start of 2012.
“Life is not easy here,” says Daniel, Ratzon’s nephew, who is a student at a religious boys’ seminary (yeshiva) in Sderot. “If we didn’t have the Iron Dome in place, to shoot down the Grad rockets targeting larger cities, like Ashkelon, Ashdod and Beer Sheva, the situation would be much, much worse.”
“Right now we are living on prayers, miracles and the Iron Dome,” he said.
Following the reports of a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians terror organizations, communities in the South were hoping that life would go back to normal, but at 8:00 Tuesday night the shooting from the Gaza Strip resumed. A Grad rocket exploded in the parking lot within the town of Netivot, causing damage to several vehicles. One person was lightly wounded by shrapnel in his hand and received treatment; 11 suffered from shock.
Commander of the Negev District Police Brigadier General Peretz Omer arrived at the scene of the exploded rocket in the parking lot, and coordinated the follow-up activity, in an attempt to prevent needless panic. At this point it appears that schools, which had been closed since the weekend by order of the Home Front Command, will be open Wednesday.
A resident who had been standing near the parking lot when the rocket blast occurred, told Ma’ariv: “This is another great miracle on the list of Netivot miracles. We heard the alarm, people took cover and the shrapnel hit the car. Some people suffered from shock.”
Since the unofficial ceasfire agreement was reached between Israel and Hamas, brokered by Egypt at 1:00 a.m. night before, there has been a significant drop in the rate of firing from Gaza, compared to the previous three days. However, several rockets had still been fired into Israel on Tuesday.
During the night and this morning, three rockets were fired at the western Negev areas. Earlier Tuesday evening a rocket was fired at the Ashkelon Coast Council district, and a mortar shell exploded in an open area within the Eshkol municipality.
Despite the renewed “dripping” of terrorist rockets fire on southern communities, the heads of local councils and the Home Front Command announced that public schools in the south will resume normal operations, including the town of Netivot, despite the rocket that fell on the city center.
Shortly after the shooting on Netivot, Palestinian sources in Gaza reported that IDF tanks were shelling the area east of Gaza. According to the report, Israel Air Force aircraft were circling Gaza continuously.
Earlier Tuesday evening, in a meeting of government ministry director-generals, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referred to reports about the truce by saying, “Our message is clear – peace will bring peace, and all those who violate it or even try to break it, our sights will find them.”
Many Militant Groups Claim Responsibility for Rocket Attackss
Several militants groups have claimed responsibility for firing rockets into southern Israel on Monday, according to the Palestinian Ma’an news agency, while the rocket count is up to 20. It appears that many are eager to be counted among today’s “heroes.”
Islamic Jihad’s military wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, claimed responsibility for firing Grad missiles at Beer Sheva, Ashkelon and Ashdod on Monday morning.
The PRC’s military wing, the Nasser Saladin Brigades, said they had launched projectiles at Netivot, Ashkelon, Sderot and Beeri, while the PFLP’s armed wing, the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, said it had fired two projectiles at Israeli towns.
The al-Ahrar movement claimed that its military wing, the al-Ansar Brigades, fired two homemade projectiles at southern Israel.
A military group called Jaysh al-Umma, army of the nation, said its’ fighters had fired two 107 mm rockets at Israeli towns.
Terrorists in Gaza fired 17 rockets at major Israeli population centers on Monday morning, primarily at Beersheba and Ashdod. Seven of the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, one exploded outside a kindergarten.
Young Kibbutz girls Kibbutz examine the shards on the wall by a qassam rocket.
The Israeli Air Force launched nine anti-terror strikes in Gaza overnight and into Monday morning, targeting Gaza operatives continuing to fire missiles at civilian targets in Israel’s south. The Gaza-based Islamic Jihad has stated it is not considering a ceasefire and will continue to attempt to kill Israelis, as Israel has refused to agree to cease targeting terror leaders, according to Channel 2 news.
Islamic Jihad also reported that the IDF succeeded in neutralizing 3 more terrorists during the night in operations targeting weapons storage facilities and four rocket-launching sites.
Of the 17 rockets fired into Israel, 6 were launched at Ashdod, with 5 being intercepted by the Iron Dome, the 6th falling in an open area. Two Grad missiles landed north of Beersheba and two were fired at Gan Yavneh. One rocket exploded outside a kindergarten in Eshkol, bringing the 4-day total to approximately 170.
Twenty terrorists have been killed in ongoing operations.
122mm Grad missiles have a range of 25 miles (40 kilometers), enabling them to reach major Israeli cities such as Ashdod, Sderot, Ofakim, Gedera, Ashkelon, Rehovot, Kiryat Malachi, Kiryat Gat, Gan Yavne, Netivot and Beersheba, all of which experienced another day of school cancellation by the Home Front Command. Approximately 1 million Israelis – over 13% of the total national population – are estimated to be in the affected vicinities. Israelis in those areas are being asked to stay close to reinforced shelters, and to stay indoors as much as possible.
The IDF posted video on YouTube of citizens in shelters as the Iron Dome missile defense system deployed against a missile launched at Beersheba.
On a tour of southern Israel on Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu promised citizens that “we will continue to hit whoever plans to attack citizens of the State of Israel,” adding that home front defense would also be enhanced. Speaking at a ceremony welcoming Italian Defense Minister Giampaolo di Paola to Israel, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned that “those who attack our civilians will be punished,” and vowed that “the IDF will continue to protect Israeli citizens and will strike all those who rise to attack us.” IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz postponed a trip this week to the US due to the situation.
Targeted missile launches against Israeli civilians began Friday after an IAF air strike killed two Arab terror leaders from the Popular Resistance Committee who were planning an attack on Israel via the border with Egypt – senior terror leader Zuhir Mussah Ahmed Kaisi and accomplice Mahmoud Ahmed Mahmoud Hanani.
According to the IDF, terrorist retaliatory attacks are being launched from Beit Lahiya, Jabaliya, Rafah, Gaza City, and El-Bureij.
However, an IDF spokesperson stated that injury and damage have been sustained since attacks began Friday. On March 11, one rocket hit a school in Beersheba and another hit a parked car when the city’s Iron Dome battery malfunctioned. Fifteen people were treated for shock, with heavy damage sustained to buildings and vehicles in the vicinity. A chicken farm in the Ashkelon Regional Council was also heavily damaged. On March 10, a horse was killed and a home near Ashdod damaged by direct rocket fire. On March 9, four people were wounded, one severely.
Despite ongoing rocket attacks, the Erez Crossing from Israel into Gaza remains open for passengers and employees of international organizations, according to the IDF, with the Kerem Shalom crossing remaining open for the delivery of products into Gaza.