A rocket fired from Gaza on Friday struck close to an apartment building in the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon while two mortar shells exploded in western Negev, but no casualties were reported, local media reported.
A Grad-Type Katyusha rocket was fired by militants of the Popular Resistance Committee (PRC) armed group from the Gaza Strip. The Russian rocket hit the populated city just after 8:30 a.m. local time. The blast caused damage to an apartment building and to some parked cars.
There were no fatalities in the incident and two people were treated for shock. Residents said that the color red rocket alert sounded before the explosion occurred.
Hours later, at 12:30 p.m. local time, two mortar shells hit the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council in west Negev.
Armed members of Salah al-Dein Brigades, the armed wing of the PRC, were the responsible party for the rocket attack in Ashkelon. The group said that this action was a continuation of the Jihad (Holy War) and a sign of resistance.
"Grad missile lands in Ashkelon"
A Grad missile launched from the Gaza Strip landed in a central, residential area in the southern city of Ashkelon Friday morning.
Magen David Adom crews treated two people for shock.
The missile shattered numerous windows of the surrounding, multi-story buildings and vehicles in the area.
Ashkelon Mayor Benny Vaknin who arrived at the scene, said that the missile landed in the heart of a residential neighborhood and that Ashkelon citizens are unfortunately accustomed to such situations.
Vaknin emphasized that many educational institutions, schools and day-care centers in Ashkelon remain unprotected from rocket attacks and called on the Defense Ministry to continue efforts to reinforce vulnerable areas.
"I do not see how it will be possible for us to begin the school year with schools and day-cares left unprotected when a heavy cloud of lethal rocket and missile fire hovers above us," Vaknin said.
Police urged residents to remain indoors for fear of additional rockets or missiles.
In a closed meeting Friday morning, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced that Israel views the Grad missile attack in Ashkelon with harsh severity.
And, as expected (and appropriate), Israel responds:
"Israel retaliates with air strikes in Gaza"
Late Friday aircraft shot at least four missiles at buildings used by Hamas security forces in Gaza City, wounding eight, medics said.
Warplanes also hit smuggling tunnels on the border with Egypt, without causing casualties, witnesses said.
The earlier rocket attack, seen by some observers as an attempt to undermine the possible resumption of direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, marked a significant escalation in the attritional campaign Islamist groups based in Gaza have waged on Israeli civilians living nearby.
But yesterday's attack is likely to draw a more significant response. The Grad is more sophisticated and has a much heavier payload than the crudely-fashioned Qassam rockets, made in Gaza, that are the stock-in-trade for most of the territory's armed groups. As such, it could easily have caused casualties.
There is no way of knowing where this will lead. It could end here, or things could escalate quickly. Ultimately, Iran is pushing the buttons and they will determine how far things will progress. It has been predicted that as more and more attention is given to their nuclear development and subsequent sanctions, most recently by the EU, then they may create diversions with the use of their proxy groups in Gaza and Lebanon. We'll be watching things in the Middle East closely.