Red alert sirens sounded nearly non-stop overnight on Wednesday and early Thursday, as approximately 200 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel from Gaza, wounding 19 Israelis. The initial barrage of eight rockets landed inside the city of Sderot, hitting a house and wounding a man and a 13-year-old boy. According to Barzilai Medical Center, six people were treated for physical wounds and nine were treated for shock.
Rockets continued to be fired into Israel Thursday morning as a fresh wave hit southern Israel just after 10:00 AM, reaching deeper into Israel than previous missiles. Red Alert sirens were heard as far away as Ashkelon, more than 26 miles from the Gaza border.
The barrage began shortly after two Hamas military personnel were killed when an IDF tank responded to gunfire targeting Israeli civilian vehicles working on the security fence.
Most of the projectiles landed in open fields. The Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted at least 25 launches. The IDF is reportedly deploying additional Iron Dome Systems in southern Israel.
Israel responded by attacking more than 140 Hamas military targets. Gaza’s Health Ministry reported Thursday that IDF attacks killed three Palestinians.
These hostilities come after an announcement that progress had been made in Egyptian-brokered ceasefire negotiations between Hamas and Israel.
“We can say that actions led by the United Nations and Egypt are in advanced stages and we hope it could yield some good from them,” Khalil Al-Hayya, deputy Hamas chief in Gaza, told Al Jazeera television on Wednesday. “What is required is for calm to be restored along the border between us and the Zionist enemy.”
Israel has endured in excess of 100 days of violence on its border with Gaza as a result of the Hamas-led March of Return riots. Countless aerial incendiary devices, balloons, kites and drones, have been launched from Gaza, setting fire to thousands of acres of land in Israel.
This recent exchange closely resembles the events of July 7, 2014, when Hamas fired 80 rockets into Israel. The IDF responded by launching Operation Protective Edge the next day. Debka, an Israeli military intelligence website, reported that the IDF high-command met on Wednesday night to consider “a full-scale military incursion against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.”
“This would necessitate a ground incursion,” Debka reported. “It was decided to keep the operation as short as possible, the main goal being to push Hamas back from the Israel border and deliver a blow painful enough for the terrorists to beg for a ceasefire. IDF chiefs hope that this will cure Hamas leaders of the belief that they can dictate the rules of the game, as it has done so far. The generals are taking into account that the rocket barrage will spread across other parts of Israel in the course of the operation.”
The United Nations condemned the Hamas rocket fire.
“I am deeply alarmed by the recent escalation of violence between Gaza and Israel, and particularly by today’s multiple rockets fired towards communities in southern Israel,” UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov said in a statement. “Our collective efforts have prevented the situation from exploding until now. If the current escalation however is not contained immediately, the situation can rapidly deteriorate with devastating consequences for all people.”