3 soldiers wounded in wake of incessant barrage of Gaza mortars
Successive Code Red alerts sound in Sha'ar HaNegev, Hof Ashkelon Regional Councils as well as in Ofakim for the first time; 3 soldiers lightly to moderately wounded by shrapnel, Sderot resident contused on way to shelter; PM Netanyahu to hold consultations with defense establishment officials.
At least 10 code Red alerts were sounded near the Gaza Strip on Tuesday afternoon while the IDF began battering Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas targets in the coastal enclave in retaliation for a salvo of 28 mortar shells that were fired into Israel earlier.
An IDF soldier was moderately wounded by shrapnel while two other soldiers were lightly wounded. A Sderot resident fell down and suffered contusions while running to a shelter, as three additional civilians suffered panic attacks.
An errant Gaza rocket hit an Israel Electric Company facility transferring electricity into Gaza. The rocket damaged equipment, causing three power lines supplying electricity to the strip to malfunction.
The electric company said that an initial evaluation showed it would take several days to fix the equipment and resume regular supply. Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, however, instructed the company to not put any of its employees at risk and to only fix the damage after calm prevails.
A sudden power outage was subsequently reported in southern Gaza.
A chorus of Code Red alerts wailed throughout the Sha'ar HaNegev Regional Council as rockets peppered southern Israel, setting off Code Red alarms in Ofakim for the first time.
A second wave was then sounded in Ashkelon’s industrial region and Sderot, only to be followed by a third wave of three rapid siren blasts. Just before 4pm, five more sirens blared in the south which were followed by two more several minutes later.
After a break of some time, fire from Gaza recommenced shortly after 6pm, with a mortar exploding in open land inside one of the communities in the Eshkol Regional Council. No one was harmed.
The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted several of the rockets or mortars that whistled through Sderot’s skies as residents of Israeli towns near Gaza were instructed to return to bomb shelters for a second time in one day.
In total, the Iron Dome system intercepted 25 projectiles between the first barrage and Tuesday afternoon.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will hold urgent consultations Tuesday evening in the wake of the day's events with the participation of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, Shin Bet Director Nadav Argaman and other defense establishment officials.
The IDF spokesperson’s Unit confirmed that the army had attacked 30 terror targets since the morning, including a terror tunnel near the Kerem Shalom border crossing which penetrated 900 meters into Israeli territory.
"We've pinpointed 30 mortars with certainty and assume the rest were machinegun bullets," an IDF official said. Apart from the dozens of mortars, the IDF added that several 107 millimeter Iranian rockets were fired as well, with the IDF calling it the "most serious incident since Operation Protective Edge. The Islamic Jihad is endangering civilians in our communities."
The IDF spokesman said the army retaliated to the morning's mortar fire by attacking more than 30 terror targets around the strip, belonging to both Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, including weapons storehouses, outposts and a different Hamas tunnel in the southern strip.
"Hamas has been allowing groups to carry out attacks in the fence's vicinity since Nakba Day (May 15), the statement said. Hamas has felt a sense of failure at reaching the fence and therefore over the past two weeks there has been a change in the number of terror groups reaching the fence under Hamas's direction," the official said.
The IDF began hitting targets in Gaza on Tuesday morning as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to respond with “great power” to the strip's aggression.
Israeli jets began dropping bombs at what security officials in Gaza called Islamic Jihad militant training site. Smoke was seen rising near the town of Deir al-Balah in the coastal strip and the Israeli military said the explosions there were related to its activity. No injuries were reported.
“Israel views gravely the attacks against it and against its communities by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad from the Gaza Strip,” the prime minister said at the Ma'alot-Tarshiha Galilee Conference. The IDF will respond with great power to these attacks. Israel will exact a heavy price and I see Hamas as bearing responsibility.”
Associated Press contributed to this report.