Israel suffered its first casualties of the current round of fighting with Palestinian terror groups in Gaza when two women were killed Tuesday in rocket fire on the southern city of Ashkelon.
The Magen David Adom rescue service said one of the victim was an 80-year-old resident of the city whose home was struck by a rocket. The other victim, also an elderly woman, was killed when a rocket hit her apartment building.
Ashkelon and nearby Ashdod sustained over 10 direct hits from rockets after Gaza militants fired 137 projectiles in five minutes in what Hamas said was its "largest ever barrage." The massive wave of rocket fire was an apparent attempt to overwhelm Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system that has been largely successful in intercepting aerial attacks from Gaza.
Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon said it was treating some 70 people after the barrage, including one person in critical condition.
In Ashdod, Assuta Medical Center said it was treating 13 people, all with minor wounds.
This the first time Ashdod was targeted by rockets since the start of the current round of fighting between Israel and the terror groups in Gaza.
The massive bombardment came shortly after the Islamic Jihad confirmed two of its military wing's senior officials were killed in an IDF strike on an apartment in a multi-story residential building in Gaza City.
Palestinians reported the apartment belonged to Mohammed Salim Abu Al Atta, the brother of a Islamic Jihad commander killed by Israel in 2019. He appears to have been seriously wounded in the strike.
The terror group said it would avenge the strike against its senior commanders. "Our response will be grave and the enemy should expect it at any moment," the terror group said in a statement.
In an unusual move, Hamas also announced Tuesday morning that several people were killed and some were missing after an IDF attack on a building used by its members.
Shortly after the bombardment, Hamas issued another statement, calling it "the largest ever" rocket salvo and claiming they fired 137 rockets in five minutes.
Two of the direct hits occurred in Ashdod and six in Ashkelon, including a school.
Four people, including a young girl, were lightly hurt in Ashdod after suffering shrapnel wounds. Magen David Adom teams also provided treatment to a man in his 40s, who was lightly injured while running for the bomb shelter.
More than 300 rockets have been fired from the Strip since Monday evening, when Hamas launched a barrage at the Jerusalem area in response to what it called Israeli "crimes" in the capital. The IDF has responded with airstrikes on dozens of targets in Gaza, in what it has dubbed "Operation Guardian of the Walls."
Ashkelon became the preferred target for Gaza militants in this round of fighting and earlier in the day, at least six people were wounded when two residential buildings were hit in the city in the early hours of Tuesday.
The southern city, which is just 6km from Gaza, was targeted by dozens of rockets in a period of some 30 minutes.
Among the wounded were four members of the same family, whose eight-story apartment building sustained a direct hit.
The father of the family was seriously wounded, his wife suffered moderate wounds and their two children were both lightly hurt. Two other residents of the building also sustained minor injuries.
All six were being treated in hospital.