Israel on Wednesday began evacuating parts of the southern town of Sderot, after more than 30 Palestinian rockets slammed into the community over a 12-hour period.
One Israeli woman was seriously wounded in the barrage, and another 30, including several children, suffered from moderate-to-light injuries.
Israeli defense officials said Hamas was behind the rocket fire, and was trying to draw Israel into a ground confrontation in the Gaza Strip in an effort to unify warring Palestinian factions there.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz called the attacks "insufferable," but insisted Israel would not allow itself to dragged into what he labeled an internal Palestinian struggle.
Israeli helicopter gun ships attacked open fields in northern Gaza in response to the rocket fire. Peretz promised a more harsh retaliation if the aggression against Sderot continued.
Meanwhile, voices from across the political spectrum in Israel blasted Peretz and his boss, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, for essentially abandoning the defense of Sderot and southern Israel.