Palestinian terrorists operating out of the Gaza Strip on Thursday afternoon launched a barrage of no fewer than 45 missiles, rockets and mortar shells at communities in southern Israel.
In one particularly villainous attack, a Palestinian terrorist fired a shoulder-launched anti-tank missile at an Israeli school bus on the other side of the Gaza security fence. The driver of the bus and a 16-year-old student were both wounded. The young boy remains in critical condition following emergency surgery.
There were no other reports of injuries during the barrage, but widespread damage was caused.
The damage could have been worse. Israel’s newly deployed Iron Dome anti-missile system did manage to intercept at least one medium-range Grad missile fired at the coastal city of Ashkelon. Residents of Ashkelon later recounted the spectacular sight of the interceptor missile destroying the Palestinian missile before it could hit their battered town.
Following the deliberate attacks on Israeli civilians, Hamas and its terrorist allies in Gaza suddenly called for a ceasefire. But Israel was having none of it.
Israeli warplanes attacked terrorist installations throughout Gaza overnight, including three smuggling tunnels running under the Gaza-Sinai border.
Israel was supported in its response by some Western leaders, including UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, who called the targeting of a school bus “despicable” and “cowardly.”
“This attack further highlights Israel’s legitimate security concerns,” said Hague. “As I have made clear, Israel has every right to protect its people.”
Israeli President Shimon Peres, who was meeting with the UN Security Council at the time of the attack, scolded those less sympathetic to Israel’s situation.
The UN wants Israel to be restrained and to meet Arab demands, noted Peres. “But can the United Nations provide a guarantee there won’t be missiles, there won’t be terror, there won’t be intifadas?”
If the UN cannot guarantee Israel’s security, “what, then, are we supposed to do with the UN resolutions?” the Israeli president asked.
Peres reminded the ambassadors present that “none of you would give away the security of your own people.”
Meanwhile, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said it was all Israel’s fault.
Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh condemned Israeli “aggression” in Gaza, and demanded that the international community rein in the Jewish state.