Over two dozen mortar shells were fired in three waves from Gaza at Israeli civilians on Tuesday morning, the largest attack on Jewish communities since the 2014 Operation Protective Edge.
The first and largest attack occurred at 7 a.m., with 25 rockets launched as parents in the Sha’ar Hanegev and Eshkol regions just outside Gaza were preparing to send their children to school. Iron Dome missile defense systems succeeded in intercepting the majority of the mortars, but one rocket struck a tree just outside a kindergarten. After consultation with security officials, the school opened on schedule.
The second attack occurred at 8 a.m. in the Eshkol region. Two rockets landed in an open field. One more siren wailed at 9:30 a.m. Red Alert sirens were activated and residents scrambled to bomb shelters. No injuries or serious damage was reported.
Tuesday’s mortar attack came less than 12 hours after Gazans opened fire with a machine gun on the town of Sderot. The attack damaged several buildings in the border community, as well as a car. No injuries were reported. The attack triggered the Red Alert warning system.
On May 16, another machine gun attack struck homes in the town. No injuries were reported, but the siren was not activated.
Reports indicate that Tuesday’s attacks were conducted by Iran-backed Islamic Jihad terrorists in response to Israel’s killing of 3 operatives this week. Islamic Jihad praised today’s attacks as “deterrence” against Israeli military “terrorists,” but did not immediately claim responsibility.
Following the shellings, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman called key security and defense officials for a “special situational assessment” at IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said following the attacks, “Israel views the attacks on it and on its communities by Hamas and Islamic Jihad from the Gaza Strip with great severity,” adding, “The IDF will retaliate with great force to these attacks. Israel will make anyone trying to harm it pay a heavy price, and we view Hamas as responsible for preventing such attacks against us.”
Palestinian media reported that terror groups are fleeing their positions in anticipation of a harsh Israeli reprisal.