Palestinian militants continued to fire rockets on Israel for a second straight day in the largest bombardment since the hostilities of November 2012.
Schools were closed early due to at least two rockets fired on Thursday at the southern Israeli towns of Ashdod and Ashkelon, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Israel Police said.
New video posted online purported to show rockets being fired from a densely-populated part of Gaza, an operational tactic placing civilians in jeopardy a tactic IDF has complained about in the past.
“Clip shows how Islamic Jihad terrorists fired over 60 rockets at Israeli civilians, whilst using Gazan civilians as human shields,” wrote Israel National News in a headline addressing the video clip.
“It illustrates what Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have often referred to as a ‘double war-crime’: the firing of rockets against Israeli civilians, whilst using the Palestinian Arab civilian population in Gaza as cover, and in the hope that any Israeli response will draw condemnation for striking a civilian area,” the news site added.
While TheBlaze cannot independently verify the video, the notion that rockets were fired from a densely-populated area appeared to be supported by this AP photo taken Wednesday:
Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s military wing, the al-Quds Brigades, took responsibility for Wednesday’s attacks, a spokesman for the group told the independent Palestinian news agency Ma’an.
Netanyahu pledged a strong response to continued strikes on civilians in southern Israel.
“Our policy in the south is clear — we thwart and strike anybody who tries to strike us, and we respond with great force against every attack,” he said on Thursday. “I want to make it clear that anyone who tries to disrupt our Purim celebrations – we will strike them hard.”
The Jewish holiday of Purim is celebrated on Sunday.
“Israeli military sources said after the late-night retaliatory strikes that Israel would now wait to see how Hamas and Islamic Jihad responded. If there were no further rocket attacks on Israel, the flare-up would be over. But if there was more rocket fire, Israel would again respond,” the Times of Israel reported.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman told Channel 2 News on Wednesday night that only an Israeli military invasion of Gaza could prevent future rocket attacks.
“There is no way to avert a full occupation of the Gaza Strip; only then can we ensure that these images do not recur,” he said. “We cannot ignore such an attack, a barrage of 50 rockets and mortar shells.”
Netanyahu did not echo his foreign minister’s suggestion. However, it apparently was noted by the Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of Islamic Jihad, which posted a video in Hebrew warning Israelis of death if they invade Gaza.
“Al-Quds Brigades is ready for your invasion and if you come there will be no other option than for you to die or become prisoners,” a militant said in Hebrew on camera.
“You won’t ever have security in our country. Don’t sacrifice your life for your leaders. We are inviting you to get out of our country and search for a new country,” he added according to a Jerusalem Post translation.
“You haven’t yet seen the extent of our capabilities,” he said, threatening longer-range rocket attacks on Israel.
The U.S. called the rocket attacks “reprehensible.” On Wednesday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement, “The United States condemns in the strongest terms today’s rocket attacks into Israel by terrorists from the Gaza Strip. It is reprehensible that dozens of rockets have been fired today alone. There is no justification for such attacks. We call for these terrorist attacks to cease immediately. Israel, like any nation, has a right to defend itself.”