JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel responded to a rocket fired from Gaza early Wednesday that destroyed a Beersheba home by bombing at least 20 military targets in the coastal strip.
The rocket reduced the home in the southern Israeli city to rubble. A young mother and her three sons were in the home and had just entered their secure room when the rocket hit. They were uninjured and treated for shock.
Several rockets were fired from Gaza at civilian areas of southern Israel beginning at about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday.
A second rocket reportedly landed just off the coast near Tel Aviv but did not cause any damage. The army does not give specifics of where such rockets land in order to not help terrorist better the aim of their rockets.
The Iron Dome missile defense system did not activate during the rocket attacks. The military is investigating why it was not triggered.
Israel retaliated that morning and hit a terror tunnel that stretched from Gaza into Israeli territory, among other targets. The Palestinian Maan News Agency reported that one person was killed and dozens were injured.
A day earlier, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman threatened to escalate actions against Hamas, the terrorist group that runs the Gaza Strip.
“We have exhausted all other options in Gaza. … We need to strike a serious blow at Hamas. That’s the only way to bring back quiet,” he said during a visit to army headquarters near the Gaza border.
A previously scheduled Security Cabinet meeting set for Wednesday was canceled in the wake of the rocket attacks and retaliatory strikes. The Israeli military’s chief of staff, Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, canceled scheduled meetings in the United States to return to Israel. In addition, Liberman ordered the closure of the Kerem Shalom and Erez crossings between Israel and Gaza.
Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad condemned the rocket fire on Beersheba, saying it was an effort to derail Egyptian efforts to broker a long-term cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, and other armed groups in Gaza.
The Israel Defense Forces said it holds Hamas responsible for the rocket fire, no matter which group actually fired the rockets.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday following a security assessment with the military and security establishment senior leadership that Israel will take “very strong action” if attacks from Gaza do not stop.
The IDF said in a statement that among the targets were a factory for manufacturing components and concrete slabs for tunnel construction, and aerial weapons production facilities in Rafah and Tel Elah, and a factory for the manufacture of weapons and rockets. It also destroyed a cross-border terror tunnel dug between Gaza and Israel, the second in two weeks.
In addition, an Israeli military jet attacked a terrorist squad in the northern Gaza Strip during an attempt to fire rockets into Israeli territory.