Renewed escalation: Hours after the IDF killed a terrorist cell
which was behind the Grad rocket attack on south Israel earlier this week, three rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip at southern communities on Saturday. A couple of hours later there was a second rocket barrage. The MDA declared a mass-casualty event.
A man in his 50s was hit by shrapnel sustaining light wounds. He was hit while out searching for his son and was taken to the Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot. One of the rockets landed in a school courtyard in Ashdod causing no injuries. Another landed in an open area near Be'er Tuvia. Later, two mortar shells were fired at the Eshkol Regional Council. No injuries were reported. Another rocket fired towards the Negev exploded in an open field near Bnei Shimon Regional Council.
Grad rocket lands near Ashdod
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Al-Quds Brigades, Islamic Jihad's military wing claimed responsibility for the attack. The group stressed this was just the first response to the IDF strike.
|Alarm, blasts in Ashdod (Video: Ashdod.net)|
An alarm sounded in various communities from Ashdod to Gedera as residents reported hearing explosions.
Blood on the floor of Gan Yavne rocket victim (Photo: Avi Rokach)
A couple of hours later, an additional barrage from Gaza was noted. One rocket hit an 5-story residential building in Ashdod. One person was lightly injured and several suffered anxiety attacks. Damage was caused to the building and several vehicles caught fire. Shortly thereafter a rocket hit a house in Ashkelon. There were no injuries.
|Islamic Jihad clip showing multi-barrel rocket launch|
The rocket exploded some two meters from the building itself with shrapnel hitting the structure. Vehicles parked outside the building suffered the greatest damage. MDA forces and firefighters are working at the scene. Sappers removed the rocket parts.
Fire in Ashdod (Photo: Shai Ben-Yishai)
A total of three rockets were fired prompting alarms in Ofakim and Netivot.
Meanwhile, two mortar shells landed in an open area in the Eshkol Regional Council and a rocket exploded in Hof Ashkelon Regional Council. No injuries or damage were reported.
Milan, who resides in Ashdod was at work when the alarm sounded. "My wife called hysterical and told me there was an alarm, she is with a small child at home. I'm scared and can't leave for work when my wife is with the little girl. This needs to be resolved once and for all."
Rocket landing site in Ashdod (Photo: Avi Rokach)
Minutes before the rocket launch, the Home Front Command instructed residents of the Gaza vicinity areas to remain near fortified areas following in the wake of the IAF attack in Gaza.
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz held a status evaluation with various IDF senior officials and is slated to convene the General Staff's operations forum to discuss implications and a possible reaction. The IDF stressed that the attack on the Islamic Jihad cell was carried out in order to prevent further rocket fire at Israel and not as a direct response to the attack the cell mounted on the Ashdod area earlier this week.
Shrapnel hit school in Ashdod (Photo: Zeev Trachtman)
The Home Front Command reissued emergency guidelines and canceled gatherings and conferences of over 500 people in Beersheba, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gan Yavne and Yavne.
Ashdod Mayor Yehiel Lasri said Saturday that the municipality is discussing whether to open schools on Sunday together with security officials. "We won't allow studies where there is no fortification," he said.
Cars sustain damage in Gan Yavne (Photo: Avi Rokach)
Palestinian sources reported Saturday that at least five terrorists were killed and 11 others were wounded after the Air Force struck an Islamic Jihad cell in the Gaza Strip Saturday.
Military officials said the killed terrorists were members of a cell that fired a Grad rocket at Israel earlier this week. The IDF and Shin Bet joined forces in the strike, which saw an Air Force aircraft firing at the terror cells, the army's spokesman said.
One of the terrorists killed is Ahmed Sheikh Khalil, a senior commander in the al-Quds Brigades. Nicknamed 'Abu Hader,' Khalil was a member of the Islamic Jihad's engineering and production unit. In a text message to reporters, the group said it would take revenge for the attack.
"The strike was the biggest against the Jihad movement since a lull was declared between Israel and Gaza factions," a spokesman on behalf of the group said. "Israel wants to provoke the resistance and this will not go unanswered. Israel will pay a dear price for its crimes."
Tova Dadon, Yoav Zitun, Ilana Curiel, Daniel Rosenbaum and Mor Avragami contributed to this report