JERUSALEM, Israel – By Tuesday evening, Islamic terrorists in the Gaza Strip had fired more than 50 rockets and mortar shells on southern Israel. Hamas and Islamic Jihad reportedly claimed joint responsibility for the attacks.
Three Israeli soldiers were injured by shrapnel and civilian injuries in the town of Sderot, a town hit hard in the past by rocket fire, included falls while trying to reach bomb shelters, shock and bullet wounds by from machine guns fired from Gaza.
Israel responded to the attacks, which began early Tuesday morning, by targeting the terror infrastructure in Gaza. By late afternoon, the IDF confirmed 35 airstrikes against Hamas and Islamic Jihad facilities. The IDF also destroyed an attack tunnel near the Kerem Shalom Crossing.
After the initial barrage, air raid sirens sounded again as rocket fire resumed. Residents were instructed to stay in close proximity to shelters.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman began consultations with security personnel, while politicians spanning the political spectrum condemned the attacks.
"Israel views the attacks on it and on its communities by Hamas and Islamic Jihad from the Gaza Strip with great severity," Netanyahu said at a conference in the Galilee. "The IDF will retaliate with great force to these attacks. Israel will make anyone trying to harm it pay a heavy price, and we view Hamas as responsible for preventing such attacks against us."
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman scheduled meetings with IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot and other senior security officials.
Air raid sirens began blaring around 7:00 am, sending families scurrying to their bomb shelters, as the Iron Dome anti-missile batteries intercepted and destroyed most of the incoming projectiles.
One of the shells exploded in a kindergarten yard an hour before children were slated to arrive.
About an hour later, a second launch set off warning sirens, followed by a third attack an hour after that, but none of the shells caused property damage or personal injury.
Two residents of Gaza-perimeter communities shared their experiences.
Avda Klein, a resident of Kibbutz Kfar Aza, apologized for her appearance, saying she'd hardly slept.
"Also, apologizing for the look. Between the artillery and the planes and gunfire last night all night long to the color red alerts this morning, I maybe had two hours of sleep."
Kibbutz Nirim resident Adele Raemer described the morning as "really scary."
"My daughter had the baby in the carriage and had to try and figure out a way to get her baby and the three-year-old into the safe room at the same time, while she hears the red alerts going off, while she hears the explosions in the background. It's been a really scary morning."
A short time later, Israeli officials told residents they could leave the shelters and resume their daily activity.
The evening before, machine gun fire from Gaza damaged several homes and a vehicle in the town of Sderot, but no one was injured. It was the second time within a month that terrorists in the Gaza Strip opened fire on southern Israel.
The early morning shelling Tuesday comes on the heels of the "Great March of Return," which some analysts say fell short of Hamas' stated goal to destroy the security fence and infiltrate Israel.
Meanwhile, Israel Police facilitated the visit of more than a quarter million Arab Muslims to Jerusalem's Old City during the second weekend of the Islamic month of Ramadan.
On Friday, an estimated 165,000 people participated in Friday's Muslim prayers on the Temple Mount and thousands more visited over the weekend.
Police later detained six people from Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem after they attempted to incite the thousands of worshippers on the Temple Mount. Police confiscated Hamas flags and other materials. The suspects, who range in age from 26 to 41, will appear in court.
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