(JTA) — A rocket fired from Gaza slammed into an apartment building in Ashdod.
The residents of the top floor apartment of the eight-story building had run to a fortified room when a long-range, Grad-type missile destroyed the dwelling Thursday morning. Curiosity seekers gathered outside the building as Home Front Command officers attempted to disperse them. Large gatherings are not permitted in areas at-risk for getting hit by rockets. The crowd remained even as a warning of another incoming missile was announced.
At least 45 rockets were fired at Israel by early Thursday evening, including two that hit Beersheba and five which stuck Ashkelon. Several people had to be treated for shock in each area.
Hamas on Thursday sent text messages to Israeli cell phones, Ynet reported. The messages read "rockets on all cities, shelters will not protect you, Kassam rocket. Hamas."
The Israel Defense Forces attacked at least 20 Hamas targets in Gaza overnight and on Thursday morning including the buildings housing Hamas’ Ministry of Justice and Legislative Assembly, five smuggling tunnels near the Egyptian border and a weapon manufacturing and storage facility in central Gaza, under which a tunnel had been dug. The navy shelled targets along the coast. The air force also hit the homes of several Hamas terror operatives, whose homes were also used as storage for rockets, bombs and mortar shells.
An airstrike Thursday afternoon reportedly killed a senior Hamas political leader, Nizar Rayyan, who has called for a renewal of suicide bombing attacks against Israel and who on Wednesday called on Muslims around the world to pray for the Palestinians in Gaza.
"The IDF will continue to target infrastructure utilized by Hamas and the other terror organizations in Gaza, and will not hesitate to strike those involved both directly and indirectly in attacks against the citizens of the State of Israel," according to a statement from the IDF spokesman’s office.
Also on Thursday, the municipality of Jerusalem, in cooperation with the Jewish Agency, hosted 1,400 children from southern Israel for a day of fun away from rocket attacks. The children were scheduled to visit Jerusalem cultural institutions, including The Biblical Zoo, The Tower of David Museum and the Nature Museum.