At least 20 rockets were fired at Israel's southern communities since Wednesday evening with calm nowhere in sight.
A rocket fired at Ashkelon Wednesday evening exploded near a house in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council. A 9-month-old baby was hit by glass splinters and sustained light to moderate wounds. He was taken to the Barzilai Medical Center. A vehicle caught fire and damage was also caused to several structures.
South under fire:
The IDF responded in force early Thursday, killing two Palestinians and wounding at least 20 in an airstrike on what the army said was an arms depot in the northern Gaza Strip. Earlier, Palestinian sources said the site hit in the strike was an Islamic Jihad social club.
"We heard the rocket's impact, ran to the fortified shelter and only then noticed that the baby had been wounded by the glass debris," family members of the nine-year-old baby said.
"The family was home but did not hear the alarm. It was very frightening. We hope it will be the last attack in our community," one family member said.
The baby was hurt when he was in his room while the other children were in the fortified shelter. "One cannot be in the fortified shelter all the time. It's not a matter of not being responsible," he said.
Earlier, another rocket exploded inside the local council and a third hit Ashkelon's southern industrial zone. No injuries or damage were reported. The Iron Dome system intercepted a fourth rocket fired at Ashkelon. Additional Grad rockets were fired at Beersheba shortly after midnight. One landed north of the city around 2 am, causing no damage or injuries.
|Iron Dome intercepts Grad in Beersheva (video: Roman Girshberg)|
In addition, a rocket fired at Beersheba was intercepted by the Iron Dome system prompting a loud blast. Two mortar shells landed in an open field at the Eshkol Regional Council. No injuries or damage were reported.
Several minutes later, Palestinians reported that the IDF hit a cell launching rockets east of Shuja'iyya in the Gaza Strip. Several victims were taken to hospital as the IDF mounted its third strike in Gaza in less than 24 hours.
After midnight, Gaza sources said the Air Force struck a Rafah smuggling tunnel, wounding several people seriously. The army later confirmed the report, adding that it also struck an arms production facility in the area.
Meanwhile, Islamic Jihad Deputy Secretary General Ziad a-Nahala said that his organization was not interested in an escalation in Gaza, the London-based daily al-Hayat reported on Thursday.
According to a-Nahala, the group has updated the Egyptians that it was in a defensive rather than offensive position. However, he added that "we won't agree to a cease-fire in which only one side holds its fire nor will we be committed to a calm as we are attacked."
Following the latest bout of rocket fire on the city, Beersheba Mayor Beersheba Mayor Rubik Danilovitch appealed to local residents to "continue showing vigilance, listen to directives and not rely on the Iron Dome system which managed to intercept the rocket this time around. We are in a situation where terror is being carried out against residents of the south, something we cannot agree to and cannot accept as routine."
Meanwhile, political officials told Ynet after discussing the preparation for September's UN vote and the declaration of a Palestinian state, the cabinet estimated that the Palestinian Authority is not interested in violence and riots ahead of the declaration.
The same officials added that the Palestinians are sending messages of calm, claiming they are not interested in an escalation. Nonetheless, the defense establishment believes that in spite of these messages it is impossible to foresee developments and there are concerns of loss of control, riots and violent protests.
Earlier on Wednesday, seven rockets
were fired at south Israel. The first landed at around 7 pm and exploded in an open field near Ashkelon. Minutes later, two rockets fired from Gaza hit an open area near Ofakim, only to be followed by four additional rockets fired at the Eshkol Regional Council. No injuries or damage were reported.
Later, the IDF killed a member in an Islamic Jihad cell which fired rockets at Eshkol as part of an Air Force raid. Injuries were reportedly taken to hospital.
Ilana Curiel, Shmulik Hadad, Elior Levy and Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report