Residents of southern Israel awoke Sunday morning to another salvo of rocket attacks that continued as children were making their way to school, the latest escalation in what has been called “a war of attrition.”
At his Sunday cabinet meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent the Palestinians a warning: “The world needs to understand that Israel will not sit idly by in the face of attempts to attack us. We are prepared to intensify the response."
In an interview to Israel Army Radio, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak also vowed to respond forcefully [Blaze translation of Galei Zahal/Army Radio interview]:
This is truly not Western Europe or North America. It’s a neighborhood where there’s absolutely no charity for the weak. With open eyes, [we] need to give blows when necessary. Sometimes you take blows, because that’s the situation in boxing rings. We won’t cause our neighbors to disappear from here and they’re not going to turn into Dutch or Belgians next week.
Earlier, he said: “We will not let such border incidents go unanswered.”
As of this writing, the Israeli Defense Forces said almost 80 rockets had been launched from Gaza into Israel since Saturday, injuring four Israelis. Barak said Israel has killed four terrorists in the past day and 15 in recent weeks in response to their attacks on civilian targets. Update: At 6:02pm Israel time (11:02am Eastern), the IDF reported the count of rockets launched into Israel had gone up to 85 since Saturday evening.
Sderot Mayor David Buskila, whose town has been targeted relentlessly by Hamas and other terrorist groups, expressed his frustration to Army Radio:
It’s not we who are dictating the agenda it’s our enemy who sits not far from us. They decide when we learn when we won’t learn, when we sleep and when we won’t sleep.
There and in nearby Israeli towns surrounding the border with Gaza, residents are being told to stay within 15 seconds of shelters, and schools that had been open were told to close for the day.
Overnight between Saturday and Sunday, the IDF reported it had targeted “a weapon manufacturing facility, two weapon storage facilities and two rocket launching sites in the northern Gaza Strip.” Earlier, the Israeli Air Force hit a rocket launching squad as it was preparing to fire its rockets into Israel.
The independent Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported four Palestinians were killed in those strikes and 30 wounded. Contrary to Defense Minister Barak's assessment, Palestinians said those killed were civilians. Ma'an quoted a Hamas spokesman vowing a violent response:
"The occupation's targeting of civilians was a grave escalation that must not pass in silence," said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum.
"Resistance must be reinforced in order to block the aggression."
The weekend escalation began when Palestinian militants launched an anti-tank missile at an IDF patrol Saturday evening near the Karni crossing between Gaza and Israel. Four soldiers were wounded in that attack, two of them seriously.
Ynet reported that the Iron Dome defense system intercepted only three incoming rockets and one incoming shell.
The Times of Israel reported Hamas' military wing is participating in the rocket firing as are other groups:
…Islamic Jihad’s military wing, the al-Quds Brigades, claimed responsibility for the majority of the rockets fired at southern Israel, while the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigade of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and various other factions, claimed responsibility for the remainder of the attacks.
Hamas said it had ordered its facilities evacuated in anticipation of air strikes.
The Times of Israel also quoted television reports which said that unlike in the past, recent cross-border attacks have “included highly accurate Katyusha rockets, capable of doing far more damage than previous rocket fire.”
This story has been updated to include the latest rocket count reported by the IDF Spokesman at 11:02am Eastern on Sunday.