Israel Air Force jets targeted a terror cell near the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya on Sunday. The operation followed a morning of incessant rocket fire by Gaza's terror groups at Israel's southern communities, on the heels of a hellish weekend suffered by the area's residents.
This was the first IDF strike in 24 hours. Military sources said that the defense establishment was waiting for the cabinet to decide on its desired course of action, stressing that the lack of response so far, indicates "anything but weakness," and will lead to better results in the long run.
South under fire:
- Municipalities 'battle' over Iron Dome
- Israel fears further escalation in south
- Minister: Hamas will pay heavy price
- Man killed, baby hurt as rockets pound south
According to Palestinian reports, two people were injured in the strike. Shortly before the attack, the Popular Resistance Committees' military wing – the Salah a-Din Brigades – claimed it launched two rockets at Israel.
While Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council bore the brunt of Saturday's barrage, Beersheba seemed to be the terrorists' "favorite" Sunday, suffering rocket fire virtually every hour: One of the rockets hit a high school gym, causing severe damage to the building, which luckily was empty at the time.
The Iron Dome defense system deployed near the city was able to intercept one Grad rocket fired in its direction; while others are believed to have landed in the city's outskirts.
The Color Red alert sounded across the greater Beersheba area shortly before Iron Dome was engaged, as well as ahead of every launch.
Noon saw a Qassam rocket fired from Gaza explode in an open area in southern Ashkelon. The Iron Dome battery deployed near the city intercepted three Grad rockets fired in its direction earlier Sunday morning.
Around 6:30 am three Qassam rockets exploded in open areas in the Hof Ashkelon Regional council. Seven mortar shells landed in open areas in the Eshkol Regional Council just moments prior. No injuries or damage were reported in either incident.
Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilnai has instructed the Home Front Command to immediately send 50 portable shelters to Ofakim due to a shortage in shelters in the southern city, which came under attack over the weekend, as well.
The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee called an emergency meeting following the escalation in southern Israel.
Committee Chairman and former IDF chief Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) said Sunday that "Israel must decide – will we continue with this intolerable reality of a war of attrition, or will we strive for an unequivocal decision with regards to Hamas, including targeting its leaders and infrastructure, with aim of toppling its reign in Gaza."
Committee members met in Ashdod and plan to tour additional southern cities later on Sunday. Another session will be held in Ashkelon, later on in the day.
Saturday's rocket fire on southern Israel was one of the worst to follow Operation Cast Lead, leaving one man dead and dozens injured.
The defense establishment is gearing for a possible escalation in the southern sector, as well as for the possibility that the IDF would have to mount a more powerful response against Hamas and the other terror organizations in Gaza.
The GOC Southern Command has updated its various contingency plans over the past few months, in case of such escalation, but military sources told Ynet that at this time, the chances of a ground operation are slim.
The IDF strives to decide on the time, manner and extent of any such operation, and will not be dragged into one by Gaza's terror groups, Ynet was told.
Defense establishment officials expressed concern that rocket attacks from Gaza will intensify throughout the week; ordering the National Emergency Management Authority storage facilities be opened in the morning.
IDF spokesman Brig.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai said Israel's current response to the surge in violence, was not its final word. Israel "will not hesitate" to widen its military operation if necessary, he told Israel Radio. "We will see how things develop on the ground," he added, without elaborating.
Shmulik Hadad, Ilana Curiel, Hanan Greenberg and AP contributed to this report
- Receive Ynetnews updates
directly to your desktop
- Follow Ynetnews on Facebook