Over 100 rockets, mortar shells hit South in past 24 hours, Israeli officials weigh „dramatic response.”
PHOTO: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN
Israel will not hesitate to launch a major IDF operation against Gaza-based terrorist factions if necessary, Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned on Sunday – after some 100 rockets hit southern Israel in 24 hours.
Rockets wounded three people in Sderot during a barrage fired to coincide with the morning commute to work. One man was moderately wounded in his car by shrapnel and flying glass.
“Something from the heavens told me not to take my son with me to school today,” Moshik Levy, a physical education teacher, told Army Radio on Sunday after he was treated for his injuries.
“Shattered glass from my car windshield exploded into my face,” Levy said. “I started bleeding. I didn’t understand what was happening. Thankfully I was alone.”
A couple heading to work was lightly wounded by shrapnel. A fourth person sustained injuries while racing for cover at a bomb shelter as the rocket warning siren sounded.
Five people required treatment for shock, Magen David Adom paramedics said.
Later in the day, a Palestinian rocket scored a direct hit on a Sderot factory.
Sderot is too close to the Gaza Strip for the Iron Dome anti-rocket shield to work effectively over it.
In the evening, two homes, one in Sderot and another in the Eshkol region, also sustained direct rocket strikes, causing damages, but no injuries.
At press time, the rockets and the mortar shells were still coming.
Barak blamed Hamas for the attacks.
“If we are forced to go back into Gaza in order to deal Hamas a [serious] blow and restore security for all of Israel’s citizens, then we will not hesitate to do so,” he warned.
“It is Hamas that will pay the price; a price that will be painful,” he said.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu also warned, “We are prepared to intensify our response,” speaking at Sunday’s cabinet meeting.
“The world needs to understand that Israel will not sit idly by in the face of attempts to attack us,” the prime minister said.
“The IDF is operating, and will operate, aggressively against the terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip,” he said.
The prime minister held consultations with military and security heads, including Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz. They weighed possible responses, including some dramatic options, an official told The Jerusalem Post.
The Prime Minister’s Office would not comment on reports that Egypt was trying to broker a cease-fire.
To garner international support for any necessary Israeli defensive moves, Netanyahu plans to hold a meeting on Monday with foreign ambassadors, an official said.
He plans to tell them that what is happening is intolerable and that no country can live this way, the official said.
US Ambassador Dan Shapiro wrote on his Facebook page, “Our thoughts are with the residents of southern Israel, who continue to be bombarded with missile attacks from terrorist organizations in Gaza.
“The United States supports Israel’s right to defend itself and its citizens from these attacks.”
President Shimon Peres on Sunday night called on the international community to stop the flow of money and resources to the Hamas terrorist organization, Israel Radio reported.
Peres reiterated that Israel would respond to fire with fire, but said that if Hamas was willing to observe a cease-fire then so would Israel.
Peres said that Israel unilaterally vacated Gaza, down to the last soldier, in 2005, and therefore there was no logic behind Hamas’s attacks.
On Sunday afternoon, Gazan terrorists fired two long-range rockets at Beersheba, triggering air raid sirens, and sending residents fleeing for cover.
The Iron Dome system intercepted one of the rockets.
“The primary fight is along the [Gaza security] fence, where we’re trying to ensure that Israel can operate as normal,” Barak told Army Radio.
Labor chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich called for Barak to declare a state of emergency in the South, in light of the rocket fire.
She also called on the government to pass a bill she proposed ensuring residents of the South are paid damages for days they cannot go to work because of rockets.
Overnight Sunday, two Islamic Jihad members were killed in a series of air force strikes in Gaza.
The IDF struck seven targets, including a weapons production site, two weapons storage sites, and two open areas used to fire rockets in the north of the Strip.
Additionally, two terrorist targets were struck in southern Gaza.
On Saturday, Palestinians fired 25 rockets at southern Israel, triggering air raid sirens in Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gan Yavne and smaller communities. At least eight longrange rockets were included in the barrage, one of which hit north of Ashdod. The Iron Dome anti-rocket system intercepted at least one rocket headed for the city.
The violence was renewed when Islamic Jihad terrorists fired an anti-tank missile at an IDF Jeep carrying out a routine patrol on the Israeli side of the border on Saturday, striking the vehicle directly and wounding four soldiers.
One soldier was in serious condition with a head injury.
Lahav Harkov and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.