The IDF scrambled its fighter jets early on Wednesday morning and hit twenty targets across Gaza following an overnight rocket attack.
Sirens blared across southern Israel just before 3.40 a.m. as two rockets, including a long-range missile, were fired at Israel.
One of the rockets directly hit and destroyed a home in the southern city of Beersheba. No injuries were reported as the family – a mother and three children – had made it to the bomb shelter just before the rocket struck the home.
The second, believed to be a long-range rocket, fell into the sea in the central region. This is the first time that a long-range rocket has been shot at Israel since the 2014 Gaza War, Operation Protective Edge.
Following the rocket attacks, the Israel Air Force struck at least five “terror targets” across the Gaza Strip including Khan Younis and Rafah.
Palestinian media reported that at least three people were injured in the air strikes. Neither Hamas or Islamic Jihad have claimed responsibility for the rocket attacks.
The rocket attacks come amidst Egyptian mediated efforts to achieve a long-term ceasefire after months of unrest on the Gaza border including sporadic rocket fire, continuous kite terror and incendiary balloon launches, as well as riots since late March.
The IDF has warned that it will hold Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad accountable for Wednesday’s rocket attacks, despite both Gaza factions denying they had been involved.
They vehemently denied responsibility saying in a joint statement that “it welcomed the efforts of the Egyptians to achieve the demands of our people and oppose all attempts to sabotage these efforts including launching rockets into Israel.”
It added that “quiet would be met with quiet.”
In a statement, the IDF said “the rocket types fired tonight belong only to two organizations in the Gaza Strip – Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”
“Hamas is responsible for all that is carried out in the Gaza Strip and it will bear the consequences. There is a direct connection between the atmosphere of violence and terror that Hamas creates with terrorist operations during the day and the attacks during the night,” it said. “We are prepared for a variety of scenarios and are determined to continue to carry out its mission to protect Israeli citizens.”
The IDF also attacked a Hamas terror tunnel in southern Gaza as well as several production sites of aerial weapons and rockets.
Palestinian media affiliated with Islamic Jihad also said that the Egyptian Intelligence Delegation in Gaza has been holding talks with leaders of the Gaza factions on Wednesday morning to ensure quiet and prevent further rocket fire.
Overnight on Wednesday, a rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip and directly hit a home in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba. Following the attack, Israel Police officers who arrived first at the scene said that they had to rescue a mother and her three children from the collapsing house. Police sappers evacuated the rocket parts from the scene. A second rocket, believed to be long-range, landed in the sea in Central Israel.
In response, Eshkol Regional Council head Gadi Yarkoni told Ynet on Wednesday morning: “We expect the cabinet and the army not to change their agenda and to adopt a policy of firm response to the ongoing terror attacks on the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip.
“For over half a year, explosive devices are thrown into our territory and burning by means of balloons, tires burn and suffocate the residents, and every now and then there is a random shooting, and we demand that the cabinet act decisively in any way that will put an end to this reality,” he said.
A security cabinet meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, the heads of the NSC and Shin Bet, and the Deputy Chief of Staff, was held later on Wednesday to discuss the Gaza escalation.
Netanyahu warned Hamas Wednesday that it will pay a heavy price following the rocket attack overnight that destroyed a house in Beer Sheva. “I have now concluded an assessment of the situation with the heads of the IDF and security forces, “
Netanyahu said. “Israel sees with great severity the attacks on the fence, on the Gaza perimeter, on Beersheba – everywhere. I said this week at the start of the Cabinet meeting that if these attacks do not stop we will stop them. I want to tell you today, Israel will act with great force,” Netanyahu said during a security assessment at Gaza Division headquarters.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman; Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi; Meir Ben Shabbat, the head of the National Security Council; Nadav Argaman, the head of Israeli Security Agency and senior members of the security establishment also attended the assessment.
The Security Cabinet is scheduled to meet later Wednesday once Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot has returned from the United States to decide on further steps.
Following the attacks, the IDF launched a series of strikes on targets in Gaza, including on a Hamas attack tunnel.
During his visit to the Gaza Division HQ, Netanyahu met with video surveillance operators who identified the launching squad that was thwarted by the IDF this morning and praised them for their work.
Netanyahu later met with local council heads from the Gaza Belt Region.
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