Residents of Israel’s Gaza-vicinity communities awoke to the sound of rockets landing near their homes on Saturday morning. At least 11 Qassam rockets and 16 mortars were fired by Palestinian groups towards the western Negev throughout the day.
The first four rockets were fired at around 8:50 am, while many local residents were attending synagogue. Deputy security officer for the Eshkol Council, Nicky Levi, told Ynet that the Color Red rocket alert system sounded throughout several communities in the morning hours.
Two of the rockets landed in open areas in the Eshkol Regional Council, one landed in the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council and the fourth landed just north of Gaza.
A short while after the rockets landed the IDF struck in Beit Lahiya, killing one. Palestinian sources named the man killed as Ali Hijazi, and said he belonged to the Eiman Judeh squads, which are part of the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades - the military wing of Fatah.
Palestinians reported the IDF struck again in the same area in northern Gaza not long after the first attack. Members of the Eiman squads were behind the Qassam attacks on Saturday morning.
Sources told Ynet that Hijazi is the brother-in-law of Abu Khalen Hijazi – the commander of the squads, and further added that he was supposed to be married on Sunday.
Ophir Leibstein, a resident of one of the kibbutzim belonging to the Shaar Hanegev Council, told Ynet: “I heard an explosion, but luckily it wasn’t too close to us. There’s too much tension in the air now that the lull has ended, but not much more. Beforehand there wasn’t really a lull either.”
Several hours later Gaza groups fired another five Qassam rocket and two mortar shells. One rocket landed in an open area in the town of Sderot, one near the Shaar Hanegev industrial zone, two in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council, and one rocket and the two mortars landed in open areas in the Eshkol Regional Council.
A community located in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council was hit by a rocket as well as a number of mortars. A building, which was empty at the time of the attack, was slightly damaged, as were a few homes nearby. Residents were instructed to remain in secure rooms.
Another rocket, launched at around 3:30 pm, landed in an open area in the Eshkol Regional Council. A short while later a number of mortars fired from northern Gaza landed in a kibbutz located in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council. There were no reports of injuries.
Hamas' armed wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Later in the evening 12 mortars fired from northern Gaza landed near the security fence separating Israel from the Strip, within the limits of the Eshkol Regional Council. There were no reports of injuries.
There were no reports of injury or damage. Since the expiration of the lull between Israel and the armed groups in Hamas-ruled Gaza, 15 rockets have been fired.
Ali Waked and Efrat Weiss contributed to this report