Palestinian terrorists operating out of the Gaza Strip fired as many as 50 rockets and mortar shells into southern Israel on Monday, as Israelis were marking the final day of the biblical festival of Sukkot - the Feast of Tabernacles.
Most of the rockets landed in open areas and did not cause any injuries or damage, but some did strike residential buildings and a petting zoo, killing and wounding several of the animals.
Israeli army sources said the Palestinians were able to fire so many rockets in such a short period of time thanks to the recent acquisition of sophisticated launchers capable of firing multiple rockets at once.
The barrage came a day after Israeli forces targeted two wanted terrorists traveling by motorcycle in the Gaza Strip. Israeli officials identified the two men, members of an Al Qaeda-inspired group, as being involved in recent deadly attacks emanating from the Egyptian Sinai.
One of the terrorists was killed and the other seriously wounded in the Israeli strike. Palestinian officials said several bystanders were also injured.
Gaza's Hamas rulers claimed credit for at least some of the indiscriminate rocket fire, the first time the group has done so in months. Hamas typically leaves smaller allied terror groups to take responsibility for the violence in and around Gaza.
Israel responded to the barrage by targeting Hamas positions in Gaza. Officials noted that several mosques were being used by Hamas to house its fighters and equipment.
With the situation expected to escalate further, Israelis living in the northern Negev region have been advised to remain within sight of a bomb shelter at all times.