Hamas and other terrorist groups struck back in Round Two of Wednesday’s missile war, causing widespread property damage and prompting President Shimon Peres to question Tuesday’s $250 million check from the Qatari emir.
As of 2 p.m. Israeli time Wednesday, southern Israeli residents were pounded with more than 70 mortar shells and rockets since the early morning. At least six people, two workers from Thailand and four Israelis, were seriously wounded, and dozens of others suffered shock.
Property damage was widespread, with at least one home sustaining a direct hit. The explosion occurred several feet from a man and wife who were eating breakfast, but the angle of the rocket caused the shrapnel to fly in the opposite direction, sparing the couple from .
The IDF continues to retaliate, but readily admit they cannot prevent a massive onslaught of rockets, unless the military carries out a large-scale operation and possibly a ground incursion of Gaza.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak issued the usual warnings to Hamas that if it does not cease firing, it will bear the consequences. He did not spell out what measures would be taken, but ground invasions, such as that in the Operation Cast Lead operation four years ago, have been the only to curtail rocket attacks.
Wednesday’s attacks and counter–attacks were the largest surge in violence since June.
The latest escalation began on Tuesday evening, shortly after the end of a high-profile visit to Gaza by the emir of Qatar, who was the first foreign leader to visit Gaza since Hamas ousted Fatah leaders from the area five years ago.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned Gaza terrorists Wednesday that if the rocket and mortar attacks on southern Israel do not , “deeper activity” in the region lies ahead.
The prime minister issued the grim warning during a visit to the missile-battered south on Wednesday, even as Gaza terrorists were continuing to fire missiles at the region. Netanyahu included a tour of the Iron Dome anti-missile system installation near Ashkelon in his itinerary.
“We did not start this recent escalation,” the prime minister pointed out, “but if it continues, we are prepared to go ahead with much wider and deeper military operations,” he said.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Iron Dome system near Ashkelon intercepted another Grad Katyusha missile, the eighth to be destroyed in less than 24 hours.
Gaza terrorists fired a barrage of eight rockets and mortar shells at the Ashkelon Regional Council district between noon and 1:30 p.m., but miraculously no one was physically injured in the attack. Numerous residents, however, were traumatized by the rain of terror, and those who suffer from post-traumatic disorder (PTSD) resulting from previous attacks had triggered by the barrage.
By mid-afternoon Wednesday, Labor Party leader Shelly Yechimovich announced her support for any decisions the prime minister might make in regard to the defense of the south against the terror from Gaza.
“I am behind Prime Minister Netanyahu and understand the complexity of the situation, which requires military action and maintaining restraint,” Yechimovich said. “It is important for me to strengthen the south in their difficult hour. The IDF is doing an excellent and we trust [the army] wholeheartedly,” she added.
Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, sent a strong letter of complaint to the UN Secretary General and to the Council on Wednesday evening, in which he called for the international body to condemn the continuing rocket fire from Gaza.
Prosor’s letter was sent after Gaza-based terrorists fired more than 80 rockets at southern Israel between Wednesday morning and Wednesday afternoon.
"The purpose for the rocket fire is to kill Israeli civilians in order to escalate the situation in the region and bring a confrontation," Prosor wrote.
"The continued silence of the Security Council is a green light for further terrorist by Hamas," he added. “The daily lives of a million Israelis are paralyzed. Parents do not go to work and children do not go to school. The barrage of rockets just keeps growing and causes damage to life and property. This situation must stop."
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned Gaza terrorists earlier on Wednesday that if the rocket and mortar attacks on southern Israel do not stop, “deeper activity” in the region lies ahead.