Terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip fired some 55 rockets and mortar shells at southern Israel early Monday morning. The shells landed in communities in the Eshkol Regional Council. There were no reports of injuries, although two buildings were lightly damaged and several goats were killed due to an explosion in an animal corner.
Hamas' military wing Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades and the Ansar al-Quds group have claimed responsibility for Monday morning's attack on the south. They claimed the attack was a response to the IAF's airstrike on Gaza on Sunday.
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"This blessed operation came in response to continuous and repeated enemy crimes against our defenceless people," a joint statement said.
In response to Monday's mortar attack on southern Israel, the IDF carried out three aerial strikes and one ground assault on Hamas terror hubs and rocket launching pads.
The first rockets were launched shortly after 6:00 am. Palestinians in the Gaza Strip fired at least three mortar shells which then exploded in Israel. One of the shells exploded near a residential building in the Eshkol Region, slightly damaging it.
The two other shells exploded in open areas.
Mortar shell in Eshkol (Photo: Hetzel Yosef)
Around 9:00 am, additional shelling was reported. Authorities have asked residents of the Eshkol region to remain in close proximity to shelters.
Yehuda Kedem, a resident of one the communities in Eshkol said that "at 5:50 am we heard a large explosion. Apparently the mortar exploded nearby to the kibbutz synagogue. About 6-7 mortar shells hit our area."
One mortar landed in an animal corner in one of the communities in Eshkol. Ilan, who is in charge of the livestock in the kibbutz where the mortar hit said that this was the first mortar to ever hit the community.
"I never imagined that our kibbutz would be hit. This is the first time a mortar has exploded inside the kibbutz. Some of the goats are severely injured and some are dead. Usually the animal corner is packed with children but we don't work on the holiday. We avoided a great tragedy," he said.
Mortar shell damage in Eshkol (Photo: Herzel Yosef)
Hamas and the Islamic Jihad claimed that the attack on southern Israel came as a response to the "Zionist crimes."
Abu Ovadia, the spokesman for the military wing of Hamas said that "the resistance will not allow (Israel) to continue perpetrating this aggression under the guise of groundless excuses."
He warned that further Israeli aggression in Gaza will be met with a strong response led by the Palestinian resistance groups.
The mortar attack on southern Israel came less than 24 hours after an IAF airstrike in southern Gaza, which left ten injured, two of them severely.
IDF officials said the attack, carried out in cooperation with the Shin Bet security service, targeted two global jihadists who were planning to carry out a major terror attack over the Simchat Torah holiday against Israeli soldiers and civilians.
The IDF's Spokesperson's Unit identified the men as Tla'ath Halil Muhammad Jerbi (23), a global jihad operative from Rafah; and Abdullah Mohamed Hassan Maqawi (24), a member of the The Mujahideen Shura Council (MSC) in the Environs of Jerusalem, a global jihad group that is based in Gaza.
The army said Jerbi has been involved in extensive terrorist activity against Israel for years, and over the past few days was involved in the preparation of a terror attack in Sinai.
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