As heavy rocket fire on southern communities persisted today, the IDF continued to gear towards a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.
A residential building in the central Israeli city of Rishon Lezion was directly hit by a rocket that was fired by Hamas, lightly injuring two people. Three others suffered panic attacks.
The projectile hit the building’s top floor, causing severe damage. Most of the residents sought shelter upon hearing the air raid siren that sounded around 6 pm. The attack marks the first time that Hamas manages to hit a populated area in central Israel, after previous rockets that were fired towards the region were intercepted or exploded in open areas.
Kfir Rosen, 26, a resident of the building, sustained very light injuries in the Fajr-5 rocket blast.
“My brother and I were on the porch when the siren went off,” he said. “We wanted to see the rocket being intercepted so we didn’t go into the shelter. The siren ended so I thought everything was fine, until we heard a very loud blast. Rocks fell on us from the top floor.”
Rosen was expected to be discharged from the hospital on Tuesday night, but his family had no apartment to go back to.
“We can’t go home,” he said, “As far as we know they’re evacuating the building. We’ll sleep at our relatives’ home tonight.”
Miriam Nahman, 70, was lightly hurt by shrapnel when she failed to reach the shelter in time.
“I’ve been in tougher situations, I’m realistic,” she said. “My kids are stressed. Better I than them.”
Liora and Ami Pinhas, a couple who live on the top floor, said the fact that they survived the attack was “a miracle.”
“God saved us,” Liora said. “We heard the siren, went into the shelter and then we head a loud blast… when we came out we could hardly open the door, and then we saw that our house was gone. Nothing was left.
“It’s an indescribable miracle that we’re alive,” she added.
The IAF, meanwhile, reported that six Palestinians were killed in a strike on Gaza.
Earlier Tuesday, one Israeli was seriously wounded when a rocket hit a house in Ashkelon, and seven were lightly injured by a rocket barrage that was fired on the southern city of Ashdod around 4 pm. Three of the victims in Ashdod were hurt when a projectile hit a store in a commercial center, while the others were injured when a rocket exploded in an open area in the city. Another salvo was fired on the Eshkol Regional Council, hitting open areas and failing to cause injuries or damage.
The owner of the store that was hit in Ashdod said that his customers and employees ran for cover when they heard the air raid siren.
“My entire store was destroyed and my car was totaled,” he said.
The IDF airdropped leaflets on the Gaza Strip’s northern neighborhoods in the afternoon, warning residents to evacuate the region, an IDF official told Ynet. The Al-Arabiya news network reported that residents of the Strip’s southern and eastern neighborhoods received similar instructions.
Earlier still, IAF aircraft struck a Hamas operative trying to fire an antitank missile towards Israel from Gaza’s Dhaniya Airport. A direct hit was identified. According to the IDF, it was the third time in two hours that terrorists attempted fire antitank missiles on Israeli civilians and troops. The IAF has also bombed a Hamas operative while he was trying to launch a rocket.
Earlier Tuesday, a rocket was fired from Gaza toward Jerusalem for the second time since Operation Pillar of Defense began. The projectile hit an open area in Gush Etzion. Minutes before the siren sounded in the capital, six people were injured in two rocket attacks on the Eshkol Regional Council.
The siren went off in Jerusalem just as Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was on the phone with his Japanese counterpart, Koichiro Gemba. Lieberman was forced to cut the conversation short and seek shelter.
Returning the call after the rocked had hit, Lieberman asked Gemba to try and imagine a situation in which he was sitting in the foreign ministry in Tokyo and had to leave a meeting or disrupt a phone call due to a rocket attack. He said that the operation in Gaza was imperative.
The foreign minister later met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who was at the Ben Gurion Airport at the time of the siren.
Lieberman thanked the secretary-general for his efforts to bring about peace to the region. However, the foreign minister said that the public outcry against an Israeli ground offensive in the Strip are empowering Hamas and prolonging the hostilities.
Read more: YNET NEWS