Palestinian terrorists on Shabbos fired over 300 rockets into Israel, drawing 120 retaliatory airstrikes on targets across the Gaza Strip in a round of intense fighting. One Israeli man was killed when a rocket slammed into his home in Ashkelon early Sunday morning, and four Israelis, including an elderly woman and man, were severely wounded.
The fighting, the most intense between the sides in months, came as terror leaders from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, were in Cairo for talks with Egyptian mediators aimed at preventing a fraying cease-fire from collapsing altogether.
Air raid sirens wailed across southern Israel throughout the day and into the evening as barrages of rockets were repeatedly fired. Retaliatory airstrikes caused large explosions to thunder across Gaza, as plumes of smoke rose into the air. Outgoing Palestinian rockets left long trails of smoke behind them.
In Israel, medical officials said an 80-year-old woman was severely wounded by rocket fire, a 50-year-old man was moderately wounded by shrapnel and a teenage boy was mildly hurt as he ran for cover. Israeli police said a house in the coastal city of Ashkelon was damaged.
The IDF Spokesman’s Office reports that over 120 terrorist targets were struck during Shabbos in retaliation to terrorist rocket fire into Israel. In addition, the spokesman’s office reports a probe was done and the infant killed in Gaza was killed by terrorist fire in Gaza and not the result of IDF shelling.
The Israeli military accused the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad of instigating the latest round of violence by shooting and wounding two Israeli soldiers Friday. It said the shooting was not coordinated with Hamas, but said it holds Hamas, as the territory’s ruling power, responsible for all fire emanating from Gaza.
State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said “the United States strongly condemns the ongoing barrage of rocket attacks by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad from Gaza upon innocent civilians and their communities across Israel.”
“We stand with Israel and fully support its right to self defense against these abhorrent attacks,” she said in a statement.
By nightfall, the army said militants had fired well over 200 rockets into Israel. It said dozens of the rockets were intercepted by its Iron Dome rocket-defense system. But it closed roads near the Gaza border to civilian traffic and closed a popular beach as a security precaution.
The military said it struck some 120 targets in Gaza, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad military compounds, a Hamas rocket-manufacturing site and a “high-end Islamic Jihad tunnel” that it said stretched into Israel for use in attacks.
Late on Saturday, Israel struck a building that it said housed Hamas military intelligence offices in Gaza City. Another airstrike hit a six-story commercial and residential building. Journalists said the building housed the office of Turkey’s news agency Anadolu. There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.
Officials have announced that schools in many/most areas of southern Israel are to remain closed on Sunday due to the renewed warfare. Train service between Sderot and Ashkelon, which was halted before Shabbos, remains suspended due to the security situation because the train is exposed to rocket fire on portions of the route.
Tzefas City Hall announced motzei Shabbos it is working to make arrangements to accommodate southern Israeli residents seeking to relocate during the warfare. Prime Minister/Defense Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been conferring with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-General Aviv Kochavi and announced the Security Cabinet is set to convene on Sunday at 12:30PM in light of the situation.
The IDF Homefront Command has also imposed wartime restrictions, including a 300-person maximum for gatherings. This permits gatherings indoors only. Gathering outdoors is strictly prohibited. One may report to one’s place of work providing there is a safe room or shelter.
Soroka Hospital Update
Soroka Hospital, located in Be’er Sheva, is a level 1 trauma center with a fortified emergency room and trauma unit as well as other units, serving as the main medical facility in southern Israel.
Following is a statement released by the hospital spokesperson Sharon Edri a short time ago:
“In light of the escalation in the south, the Soroka Medical Center was preparing for every possible scenario. The hospital was also prepared in accordance with the instructions of the Homefront Command. Signs to protected areas are located in spaces open to the public. The process of transferring non-protected departments to protected areas including internal, geriatric, and premature infants has begun. The preemie ward was transferred to a protected area in the previous round of rocket fire.”
Among the targets hit by the Israel Air Force (IAF) are a site for the manufacture of rocket weapons by Hamas, which is located in the underground area of the former Yishuv Netzarim. The site is unique in its manufacturing capabilities and constitutes a central capability in the organization’s ability to manufacture rocket weapons in Gaza.
In addition, the IAF attacked the headquarters of the Hamas Bureij Brigade, including weapons production sites. In addition, a military compound was attacked at Tel Alawah, which serves as the organization’s naval force for training and a number of military compounds in Jabalya, Ja’aya and another area in Tel al-Wawa.
It is pointed out that there are some dates of significance that will be weighed in the decision-making process of the Security Cabinet when it convenes, including the start of Ramadan this week, Memorial Day (this Tuesday night and Wednesday), Independence Day (this Wednesday night and Thursday), and Eurovision, the chilul Shabbos international song spectacle being hosted by Israel from May 14-18.