A 56-year old man was lightly injured early Wednesday morning when a Grad rocket fired from Gaza exploded in Beersheba.
Four hours later, another Grad rocket hit open spaces near the southern city. Security forces are still looking for the rocket. Several mortar shells also exploded in Eshkol Regional Council, but no injuries or damage were reported.
Meanwhile, Palestinian sources said military choppers fired missiles at a terror cell near Gaza City.
The Beersheba man was hit by glass shards from a pane that shattered from the explosion. Three people also sustained shock, and infrastructure was damaged.
The Islamic Jihad movement claimed responsibility for the Grad rocket that fell at 5:30 am. A statement issued by the organization said, "This is an initial reaction to the Zionist crimes against our people in Gaza."
The old buildings in the neighborhood in which the rocket fell are not equipped with bomb shelters. Residents had to leave their homes in order to seek shelter, and were infuriated to discover that many of the bomb shelters were locked.
"People waited outside with small children," Narkis Sasson, who resides in the neighborhood, told Ynet. "We have been abandoned to our fate."
"This time it hit a road but next time it will hit someone. There is no public security," added Barry Shalit. "An entire neighborhood has been abandoned."
Location where the rocket hit (Photo: Herzel Yosef)
Beersheba Mayor Rubik Danilovich was present at the municipality's operations room as police sappers removed the rocket from where it had hit.
"I told the prime minister three weeks ago that we cannot accept the trickle of fire, not only in Beersheba. We do not want war but we believe the government should restore calm to the south, even at the expense of another operation. Roughly calculating, a rocket is fired every few weeks," he said.
The municipality also announced that school would be canceled in the city on Wednesday. However, Ben Gurion University has decided classes will go on according to schedule.
The first rocket explosion caught worshippers at a local synagogue off guard, during morning prayers. They hid in the kitchen, Rabbi Yisrael Hadad said, as the synagogue does not have a bomb shelter. "The miracle was that shattered glass landed right where the cantor was supposed to be standing," he recounted.
Norbert Nahum, the man who was lightly injured Wednesday morning, told Ynet he had been thoroughly shaken up. "I still feel pain in my chest, and the shard that hit me will stay there," he said, recalling the injury he sustained while standing near his window.
"I was shaking and crying. After I was injured, the blast threw me all the way to the dining room. I saw the fire as the rocket fell." But Nahum insists, "Despite everything, even if the violence escalates, we will stay here."
Daniella Nahum, Norbert's wife, is a childhood friend of Vice Premier Silvan Shalom. She had a message for her schoolmate: "It's time the government woke up and stopped showing restraint… All of Beersheba has become a dangerous area and the only solution we are asking for is a bomb shelter," she said.
Shalom, for his part, said the situation recalled the run-up to Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009. "We may have to consider a return to that operation," Shalom told Israel Radio. "I say this despite the fact that I know such a thing would, of course, bring the region to a far more combustible situation."
Shalom said Hamas might have opened a new front with Israel "to stop any possibility of dialogue among the Palestinians or to come to the intra-Palestinian negotiation in a far stronger position".
AP contributed to this report