Today’s barrage of mortar shells, the largest since Operation Protective Edge in 2014, have been followed by additional volleys, reportedly 70 fired so far.
Three southern Israeli civilians were lightly injured from shrapnel Tuesday morning. Authorities told residents to remain within 15 seconds of bomb shelters as Islamist terrorists based in Hamas-controlled Gaza continued to shoot dozens of rockets and mortar shells at Jewish communities in the south throughout the day.
Bomb sirens went off throughout the afternoon in a number of areas in the south, including Ashkelon, Ofakim, Sderot and the Eshkol region as Israel’s air force pounded the Islamic Jihad and Hamas in Gaza.
Channel 2 reported that rockets fired from the Gaza Strip penetrated 25 kilometers inside Israeli territory for the first time since the 2014 war with Hamas.
The report says some projectiles reached Ofakim, a city 20 kilometers west of Beersheba.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman called a “special situational assessment” at Tel Aviv headquarters with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and other senior figures from Israel’s security services, his office said.
In a tweet, Liberman confirmed the IDF struck a tunnel as well as “terror targets” in a “massive and strong” retaliatory attack in Gaza earlier in the day.
The IDF said the projectiles fired at Israel early in the afternoon were made in Iran.
“The Palestinian Islamic Jihad is a terrorist organization rooted in Iranian ideology,” the IDF spokesperson said in a statement. “Today, they used Iranian-made weapons.”
Incoming rocket alert sirens were heard in the southern Israeli communities of Kibbutz Holit, Nir Yitzhak and Sufa.
Iron Dome reportedly shot down dozens of rockets and mortar shells.
Emotional toll on residents
Adele Raemer, a resident of Kibbutz Nirim, which is located near the border with Gaza Strip, said that she and her neighbors are being told to stay near a bomb shelter.
“Childrens’ afternoon activities have been cancelled,” Raemer said, “I was supposed to drive 20 km south for a rehearsal, but have cancelled that.
“Earlier today the IDF destroyed an attack tunnel in the southern region, near Egypt. I’m just happy to stay close to home for now, because I sense that things are going to get worse before they get better.”
United Hatzalah, a rapid response first-aid organization, said that its Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit volunteers have treated 10 people so far in various communities in the Gaza periphery who have suffered emotional shock due to the barrage of rockets being shot from the Gaza Strip and the resulting Iron Dome interceptions.