JERUSALEM (JTA) — Six Israelis, including three soldiers, were injured as mortar shells and rockets continued to rain down on southern Israel from the Gaza Strip.
At least 50 rockets and mortars had struck the area by Tuesday afternoon. The Code Red rocket warning system sounded again after at least six additional barrages had hit.
Israel’s intelligence minister, Israel Katz, said in an interview with Army Radio that tensions with Gaza will get worse over the evening.
Earlier Tuesday afternoon, Israel’s military struck struck more than 35 targets belonging to the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist organizations in Gaza. Among the targets was a terror tunnel that stretched from Egypt to Gaza and under the Kerem Shalom border crossing for humanitarian goods into Israel, as well as weapons storage sites, naval targets and a terrorist headquarters.
Sirens sounded farther away from the Gaza border, including in Ashkelon, indicating that the terrorists were firing longer-range rockets and not just mortars. By Tuesday afternoon, residents of southern Israel were told to stay near bomb shelters.
Three Israelis were injured in Sderot while running for bomb shelters. The soldiers were injured by shrapnel from mortar shells.
Also late Tuesday afternoon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a security briefing on the attacks with officials including Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman; the Israeli army’s chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot; and the head of the Israel Security Agency, Nadav Argaman.
U.S. Middle East peace envoy Jason Greenblatt in a tweet Tuesday called the barrage of mortars “reprehensible.”
“Reprehensible – mortars fired from Gaza at a kindergarten and community in Israel! Hamas has failed – all it can offer is terror,” he wrote. “Palestinians in Gaza need real leaders to work on Gaza’s real problems with its water, its economy and so much more.”
Hamas responded to criticism of the barrage of shells and rockets in a tweet. “The Palestinian resistance’s response to the Israeli aggression this morning comes within the framework of our right to defend our people and respond to the murder and assassination of innocent Palestinian civilians and resistance fighters by the Israeli Occupation,” the tweet said.