Some 20 rockets and mortar shells were fired from Gaza into southern Israel today, killing one man and wounding four others. The rocket barrage followed an IDF strike on the Gaza Strip which resulted in the deaths of five Islamic Jihad militants.
Rockets were fired from Gaza into Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gan Yavne, and around Be’er Sheva. One man was seriously wounded in Ashkelon and eventually died of his wounds. Another man was moderately wounded in the Ashdod rocket strike and three others were lightly hurt. Moreover, 17 trauma victims were reported.
As a result of the escalation, classes were canceled in Ashdod, Ashkelon and other towns in the 40-kilometer range from Gaza. Ben Gurion University in Be’er Sheva also called off classes, which were due to begin on Sunday.
The Israel Defense Forces responded to the rocket fire by carrying out another air strike on Gaza militants, and according to Palestinian sources, two more militants were killed as a result.
The IDF Spokesperson issued a statement Saturday confirming an Israel Air Force strike on Gaza militants who were firing rockets into Israel.
On Saturday afternoon, four rockets exploded in Ashdod, one directly hitting a residential building and lightly wounding a man. Another rocket hit a school, but caused no casualties.
An hour afterward a rocket hit an Ashkelon home, seriously wounding a man who was transferred to Barzilai hospital where he later died of his wounds.
One rocket exploded in Gan Yavne, lightly wounding a 40-year-old man who sustained shrapnel wounds to his legs. Several trauma victims were also reported.
A short time later, a Qassam rocket fell in Hof Ashkelon Regional Council, and three mortar shells landed in an open area in the Eshkol Regional Council, causing no casualties or damage.
After several hours, two more rockets exploded in an open area west of Be’er Sheva, and no casualties were reported.
Yigal Cooper, a resident of the Ashdod building that was hit, said that the city was in panic.
“We knew there would be more explosions so we went into our protected spaces. The whole building shook and we panicked. We waited for several minutes before coming out, and then I saw that my car had burned down.”
Following the explosions, head of the Gan Yavneh local council, Dror Aharon, said, “We heard an explosion one minute after the siren sounded. Damage has been caused to a number of vehicles and houses.”
The council head said the wounded man is Chaim, who heads the parent committee at one of the community’s schools. According to Aharon, Chaim ran outside to see if anything had happened to his son, and was wounded in his leg. He then ran home, and a Magen David Adom ambulance took him to a hospital.
“We have been demanding protected areas for some time now. This kind of reality could repeat itself tomorrow. We will evaluate the situation with the Home Front Command later on in the evening with regards to whether school will be held tomorrow,” said Aharon.
An alarm sounded throughout Ashdod prior to the explosions, just hours after Israel Defense Forces soldiers killed a commander of the Islamic Jihad and four of its munitions experts.
According to IDF sources, the strike was targeted at the cell responsible for launching a Grad rocket that exploded in Ashdod earlier this week.
Palestinian sources say the strike occurred near the Al-Sultan neighborhood, near the former Israeli settlement of Atzmona. Sources also said the strike killed commander Ahmed al-Sheikh Khalil and four senior comrades who oversaw the manufacture of bombs and rockets for the faction.
In the wake of the strike, the organization said a response would come “deep into Israeli territory.”