Major escalation overnight, southern Israel under heavy fire: The Iron Dome anti-rocket system intercepted several Grad rockets fired at Beersheba, southern Israel’s largest city, and at the town of Ofakim early Saturday.
Five residents in both cities were lightly hurt while rushing to local bomb shelters after the anti-rocket siren was activated. Four of them were taken to hospital for treatment.
At around 3:45 am, the anti-rocket siren was activated throughout southern Israel, including in the cities of Ashdod, Beersheba, Ashkelon, Kiryat Gat, Kiryat Malachi, Gedera, Ofakim and Gan Yavne. Shortly thereafter, several Grad rockets exploded in open areas north of Ashdod and Nitsanim.
Area residents have been ordered to enter secured rooms and bomb shelters. There were no initial reports of injuries or damages.
A siren was also heard in the Palmahim area near Rishon Lezion, south of Tel Aviv.
Meanwhile, the IDF continued to target terrorists, killing three Hamas members after firing at their vehicle in the city of Rafah. Palestinian sources said two of those killed were senior members of Izz al-Din al-Qassam, Hamas’ military wing.
The three were identified as regiment commander Muhammad Abu Snima, platoon commander Mohammad Awaja, and Shadi Zatame.
The army later confirmed the reports, saying three Hamas commanders were killed in an Air Force strike.
The IDF Spokesman’s Office said the three terrorists were killed in a joint operation by the army and Shin Bet security service
The first rocket aimed at Beersheba overnight was shot down at about 12:30 am. At least two rockets were intercepted around 3:20 am.
Beersheba residents reported that the bomb shelters they headed to were locked, a complaint voiced in the past. Shelters in the city are only opened in times of emergency in line with the IDF’s Home Front Command’s orders.
Ynet received hundreds of Red Mails reporting a loud blast in the city, with other residents reporting an explosion in the sky a few seconds after the siren was activated. The IDF’s Spokesman’s Office confirmed that Iron Dome intercepted the Grad rocket fired at Beersheba at 12:30 am, marking the sixth time the advanced system shot down an incoming missile.
Later, Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the rocket strike, saying it fired at Beersheba in response for the “occupation’s crimes.”
A short while later, three Grad rockets fired from Gaza exploded in open areas near the southern town of Kirayt Gat. No injuries were reported in the strike.
The anti-rocket siren was activated in the city and local residents were ordered to enter secure rooms.
Earlier Saturday, Palestinian sources in Gaza said Air Force aircraft bombed a training camp in the northern Strip belonging to Hamas, as well as tunnels in the southern part of the Strip, near Rafah.
The Palestinians said that the Air Force also hit a car traveling in Gaza City. There were no reports of injuries in the strikes.
Hanan Greenberg, Elior Levy and Tova Dadon contributed to the report