Palestinian terrorists operating out of the Gaza Strip fired over 60 missiles and mortar shells at towns in Israel's southern Negev region on Wednesday causing widespread damage.
Miraculously, there were no physical injuries sustained during the attacks, even though several family homes and other buildings were destroyed. One rocket landed just outside a community center where kindergarten children were participating in Hanukkah activities.
Gaza's Hamas rulers promptly blamed Israel for the attacks.
"The increasing stupidity of Israel is forcing us to intensify the rocket fire, and put thousands more Zionists in the line of fire in order to protect the Palestinian people," a Hamas spokesman told reporters.
Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal also told reporters that it was Israel that had brought about and end to a six-month ceasefire by failing to keep Gaza's border crossings open to unhindered traffic.
Israel did repeatedly close the Gaza crossings, but only in response to more than 200 Palestinian rockets fired at southern Israel during the course of the ceasefire.
Mashaal also lashed out at Egypt for failing to lift an international blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza by opening southern Gaza's border with the Egyptian Sinai.
Egypt in turn showed its displeasure with Hamas and the situation in Gaza by reportedly making an unprecedented show of support for Israeli military action against the terror group.
During a private meeting in Cairo late last week, London-based pan-Arab newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi reported that Egyptian Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman told visiting Israeli defense envoy Amos Gilad that Egypt would not object to a limited Israeli ground incursion into Gaza with the aim of destabilizing Hamas rule.
Israel's cabinet met on Wednesday in an emergency session to discuss the escalating rocket fire. Defense Minister Ehud Barak again came under heavy fire for not ordering an immediate large-scale military response.
In other Gaza violence, three terrorists were killed by Israeli soldiers early in the day while trying to plant an explosive device along the Gaza security fence. A number of automatic rifles and other weapons were taken off the terrorists' bodies.
Two more Hamas terrorists were killed in Gaza on Wednesday when a bomb they were preparing prematurely detonated.