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November 12, 2012 3:31 pm

As Gaza Rocket Fire Escalates, Israel Ready to ‘Intensify’ Response

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Netivot home hit by Gaza rocket explosion on Monday morning, Nov. 12, which left 10 residents in shock and heavy damage. Photo: Daniel Hagbi, Sderot Media Center.

Southern Israel has been paralyzed as Gaza terrorists escalated rocket fire since Saturday, leading to new concerns that Israel may be forced to enter Gaza to end the threat.

A dozen rockets were fired at Israel’s southern towns on Monday morning as violence entered its third day in one of the most intense barrages launched from the Gaza Strip in months, Israel Hayom reported. The rocket firing tapered off toward early afternoon as reports of an Egyptian-mediated cease-fire started taking effect.

The Israeli military says more than 110 rockets have landed in Israel since Saturday. A Grad rocket scored a direct hit in the yard of a Netivot home on Monday morning. There were no injuries from the rocket but some 20 people were treated for shock. Only half of the southern town’s schoolchildren attended school as one rocket fell near a school earlier. A resident of the home that was hit told Army Radio that it “was a miracle” that nobody was killed.

Residents ran for cover all day as rockets hit Netivot, Sderot and other communities near the Gaza Strip. Israeli forces did not retaliate immediately on Monday morning, but overnight Sunday the Israel Air Force struck three static targets in the Gaza Strip, including a weapons factory. The Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted two rockets over Ashkelon on Monday morning.

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By Sunday, Israel’s response of six airstrikes killed six Gazans and wounded more than 40. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made it clear that Israel will not tolerate the latest escalation and hinted at a stronger Israeli response.

“The world must understand that Israel will not sit idly in the face of attempts to attack us,” said Netanyahu. “We are prepared to intensify the response.”

Defense Minister Ehud Barak went beyond Netanyahu’s statement, suggesting that Israel may have to invade Gaza again.

“If we have to re-renter Gaza to strike at Hamas we will not hesitate to do so,” Barak said.

The latest escalation marks a dangerous turn of events. While Israel ultimately holds Hamas responsible for all rocket fire from Gaza, the terrorist group has largely refrained from taking part in the activity until this weekend. Instead, Hamas has focused on consolidating power in Gaza. But Hamas has been under pressure from smaller extremist groups—some affiliated with al-Qaeda—in Gaza, to maintain armed resistance against Israel.

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