IDF hits back after Gazan missiles strike South

The IDF struck dozens of targets belonging to Islamic Jihad and Hamas across the length of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, after several mortar and rocket barrages were fired at Israeli communities.

In a major escalation, Islamic Jihad launched more than 70 projectiles at towns near the Gaza border; two exploded in towns in the Eshkol region, including one that hit the yard of a kindergarten shortly before the children were due to arrive.

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Three soldiers and several civilians were wounded by the Gazan salvos and evacuated to a hospital. One soldier was moderately wounded in his legs, while the other two sustained light injuries, the army said.

Earlier in the day, a man was lightly wounded in the head by mortar-shell fragments. Another man in Sderot suffered bruises while running for shelter, and another two suffered from shock. One Israeli was lightly wounded by the morning mortar barrage and was taken to Soroka- University Medical Center in Beersheba in light condition with a shrapnel wound to his hand.

At least 25 mortars from the barrages launched in the morning were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile-defense system, the IDF said. Several others struck open areas.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad took joint responsibility for the attacks.

The UN Security Council is scheduled to hold a meeting in New York tomorrow on the Gaza rocket attacks.

One of the rockets hit infrastructure supplying electricity to the Strip. Three power lines that supply the southern Gaza Strip were put out of commission.

The Israel Electricity Corporation said it would take several days to repair the equipment for a regular supply of electricity.

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz instructed the IEC not to put its employees in danger and to repair the damage only after the terrorists stop attacking.

“This is a serious, dangerous and planned terrorist attack against civilians and children,” IDF Spokesman Brig.- Gen. Ronen Manelis said. “Palestinian Islamic Jihad organization is a terrorist organization that is based on Iranian ideology and funding, and today it used Iranian- made weapons.”

Among the 35 targets struck by the IDF was a Hamas tunnel that stretched from Rafah one kilometer into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and then 900 meters into Israel near the Kerem Shalom crossing.

According to Manelis, it was the 10th tunnel destroyed by Israel since October. It was not ready for use, but the terrorists planned to use it both for attacks and to smuggle weapons, he said.

Other targets hit included seven military compounds, weapons storage sites, naval targets and terrorist headquarters.

“The IDF views the attack this morning harshly and holds Hamas responsible for everything happening in and out of Gaza,” Manelis said. “The IDF will not allow harm to the security of the citizens of Israel or to its sovereignty and will continue to act resolutely against terrorism of any kind.”

“The situation in which a terrorist organization fires into Israeli communities is unacceptable,” he said. “Since noon, we have been operating throughout the Gaza Strip in a series of attacks that has not been done since Operation Protective Edge” in 2014.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman convened a meeting with Chief of Staff Lt.- Gen. Gadi Eisenkot and senior security officials at the IDF’s Kirya headquarters in Tel Aviv.

Liberman tweeted that Israel has “massively and powerfully attacked terrorist infrastructure across Gaza, including an additional [attack] tunnel. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are already paying a heavy price, and it’s only the beginning.

“We have no intention of continuing with business as usual or of containing this event.”

An Islamic Jihad spokesman praised the rocket fire, calling it a “blessed response… our people’s blood is not cheap.”

A Hamas spokesman also praised the mortar barrages: “Israel will fail in its attempt to change the rules of the conflict and establish a new equation on the ground. The resistance in Gaza reserves the right to respond and to remain silent in accordance with the interests of our people, and this is not due to weakness.”