Gaza Terrorists Launch Heavy Barrage Into Israel, Mortar Explodes in Yard of Kibbutz Kindergarten
Palestinian terrorists on Tuesday launched their heaviest barrages against Israel since the 2014 Gaza war and Israeli aircraft struck back in a surge of fighting after weeks of border violence.
More than 50 mortar bombs and rockets were fired from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip in multiple salvos throughout the day.
According to media reports, three Israeli soldiers were lightly wounded by shrapnel.
Israeli planes attacked at least seven facilities belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised a “powerful” response.
“Israel views with utmost gravity the attacks against it and its communities by Hamas and Islamic Jihad from the Gaza Strip,” Netanyahu said. “The IDF will respond with great force to these attacks. Israel will exact a heavy price from anyone who tries to attack it, and we view Hamas as responsible for preventing such attacks against us.”
The Israeli military said several of the projectiles fired from Gaza were shot down by its Iron Dome aerial defense system and others landed in empty lots and farmland. One exploded in the yard of a kindergarten, damaging its walls, about an hour before it was scheduled to open for the day.
There was no claim of responsibility from any of the terrorist groups in Gaza, but the attack came after Iran-backed Islamic Jihad vowed to take revenge after three of its members were killed by Israeli tank shelling.
Violence has soared along the Gaza frontier in recent weeks during which 116 Palestinian rioters were killed during Hamas-orchestrated attempts to breach the border fence.
A Hamas spokesman defended Tuesday’s attacks as a “natural response to Israeli crimes.” In similarly-phrased remarks, an Islamic Jihad spokesman said “the blood of our people is not cheap.”
Gaza residents said at least seven training or security facilities belonging to Islamic Jihad and Hamas were hit in the Israeli air strikes, causing buildings to shake and plumes of smoke to rise into the sky above Gaza.
The Israeli military said it was “carrying out activities in the Gaza Strip,” without elaborating.
Nickolay Mladenov, the UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said he was deeply concerned by “the indiscriminate firing of rockets by Palestinian militants from Gaza towards communities in southern Israel.”
Calling for restraint by all parties, he said at least one of the mortar bombs “hit in the immediate vicinity of a kindergarten and could have killed or injured children.”
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon called on UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the Security Council to condemn Hamas for Tuesday’s violence.
“Since the early morning, dozens of rockets and mortar shells were fired from the Gaza Strip at Israeli populations centers as a continuation of Hamas and Islamic Jihad’s terror activities,” Danon said. “These sustained attacks have continued unabated throughout the day.”
“For weeks,” Danon continued, “we have warned that the violent riots along the security fence with Gaza, that included IEDs and the firing of weapons at our security forces, were not spontaneous protests, but rather part of a coordinated violent attack against the State of Israel. The shells and rockets fired at our citizens leave no doubt to the true intentions of those who incited, encourage, and even paid for those ongoing riots.”
“In the interest of restoring calm and protecting civilians on both sides of the fence, I request that you strongly condemn Hamas and hold the terrorist organization accountable for these latest attacks,” he concluded.