Warning sirens blare across communities near Gaza including Ashkelon, as well as in Ashdod and the greater Tel Aviv area.
By Charles Bybelezer, JNS
Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip unleashed several barrages of rockets at Israel on Wednesday afternoon, breaking a tense day-long calm following the IDF’s targeted killing of three top Palestinian Islamic Jihad members on Tuesday.
Warning sirens sounded across communities near the Gaza border, as well as in Ashkelon, Ashdod and the greater Tel Aviv area.
Terrorists fired some 300 projectiles in several salvos, according to the military.
The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted more than 60 rockets headed for populated areas throughout southern and central Israel.
Almost all the other projectiles either fell short in Gaza or hit unpopulated areas, including in the Mediterranean Sea.
A home in the southern city of Sderot sustained a direct hit. No one was inside but there was damage to the property.
A kindergarten was hit in Kibbutz Nirim. No injuries were reported.
Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center said doctors were treating two Israelis who were injured while running to bomb shelters. Several others were treated for severe anxiety.
Flights set to arrive at Ben-Gurion Airport were briefly delayed during a salvo of rockets fired at the central region, according to Ynet. The aircraft circled out of range for several minutes before touching down safely.
In response, Israel Air Force jets struck PIJ rocket infrastructure across the Strip. The military said that upwards of 40 Palestinian terror assets were hit.
The IDF Home Front Command instructed civilians within 40 km. (25 miles) of Gaza to stay near protected areas. Residents of areas adjacent to the Palestinian enclave were ordered to remain in bomb shelters until further notice.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday afternoon told the heads of southern local and regional councils that the IDF’s Operation Shield and Arrow could be a protracted effort.
“We are ready for the possibility of an expanded campaign and harsh strikes against Gaza,” Netanyahu said.
Meanwhile, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi visited the military’s Gaza Division and held a situational assessment meeting.
As part of the tour, he met with troops in the field and was presented with various attack and defense scenarios.
Sources in Hamas told Lebanon’s pro-Hezbollah Al-Akhbar newspaper earlier on Wednesday that “the response will be unified through the joining military of the resistance factions, and it will teach the occupation [Israel] a great lesson, and the responses will not be limited to a specific faction or a specific front, but rather all fronts are nominated to participate in the response.”
However, a senior Israeli official told Walla that Hamas has not joined PIJ in launching rockets at the Jewish state.
“Hamas has no interest in getting involved. They are not active and they won’t be, although they are issuing statements,” added the source.
Thousands of Israelis living near the Gaza border have been evacuated since Tuesday’s targeted killings, with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant having approved the move in anticipation of rocket fire.
Evacuees are being bused to hotels, hostels and guest houses throughout Israel, where they will be able to stay for three days, with the possibility of an extension depending on the security situation.
Many other Gaza-area residents have temporarily relocated to other parts of the country on their own initiative.
Netanyahu on Tuesday night said that he had authorized the targeted killings after scores of rockets were fired at Israel last week. The IDF identified the targets as Khalil Bahitini, PIJ’s commander in northern Gaza; Jahed Ahnam, a senior member of the terror group’s “military” council; and Tarek Azaldin, who directed its activities in Judea and Samaria.
“Israel’s policy is clear: Those who seek to harm Israel will be harmed. Those who kill our citizens will pay a heavy price. And those who fire on our cities and civilians will be held responsible for their actions,” Netanyahu said.