A rocket fired by Palestinians in Gaza landed in the Rishon Lezion area at around 5 pm Thursday, marking the first time central Israel has been attacked since the IDF launched Operation Pillar of Defense against terrorists in the Hamas-ruled territory; no injuries reported.
A siren alerting residents of incoming projectiles was activated in the city was activated in the city at around 4:35 after security forces detected the launching of a long-range rocket from Gaza. Shortly thereafter Hamas's armed wing claimed at fired a rocket toward Tel Aviv. Minutes later a siren was also heard in Beit Dagan, and later in the Ashdod area as well.
Dozens of rockets have been fired towards Israel's south since the early morning hours.
"We were at home when the siren sounded, and we ran to the secure room. Then we heard a massive explosion. The family is panicking and we can hear people screaming on the streets," Rishon Lezion resident Lital told Ynet. "Children ran for cover. Cars stopped and the drivers got out and lied on the ground. I'm shaking all over. It was really scary."
Tank transported to Gaza border (Photo: Yoav Zitun)
Hamas' armed wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, claimed responsibility for the attack on Rishon Lezion.
Video courtesy of jn1.tv
IDF spokesman Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai told reporters Thursday afternoon that units belonging to the Paratroopers and Givati brigades are making their way to the border with Gaza, where they will await the political establishment's instructions.
IDF strikes in Gaza, Thursday (Photo: EPA)
"At this point we see most of Hamas' senior figures and terrorists in hiding or out of action," he said.
The Iron Dome missile defense system has intercepted 87 rockets since Operation Pillar of Defense was launched on Wednesday, and at least 138 rockets and mortars landed in Israeli territory. The IDF has attacked 227 terror targets throughout Gaza.
Panic in Risho Lezion (Photo: Shelly Yifrach)
IDF Spokesman Mordechai said Hamas and Islamic Jihad's ability to launch long-range rockets capabilities have been severely damaged, adding that 14 Gazans have been killed so far.
"The strikes in Gaza will continue; it will not end today or tomorrow," he said. "Hamas leaders are fleeing for their lives."
Earlier Thursday, three soldiers were injured when a mortar shell hit in the Eshkol region. Two sustained moderate wounds while the third was lightly hurt. The troops were airlifted to the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba.
In the morning three people – two men and a woman – were killed when a rocket hit an apartment building in the city of Kiryat Malachi.
The victims were identified as Itzik Amsalem (25), Aharon Smadja (50) and Mira Scharf. The rocket hit Amsalem's fourth floor apartment. Samadja was killed while trying to help Amsalem's family and Scharf was killed from the blast.
Scharf, Chabad's emissary in India, was in Israel to take part in a memorial for the victims of the terror attack on the Chabad House in Mumbai four years ago. Her husband and children were injured in the rocket attack.
The victims of the Kiryat Malachi attacks didn't make it to the fortified stairwell in their building, which did not have a viable shelter. Two people were seriously injured in the blast, one boy was moderately hurt and two infants sustained light wounds. Several others suffered panic attacks.
Another building in the city was directly hit, but no injuries were reported. Hamas' military wing accepted responsibility for the attacks.