Israeli officials on Sunday warned that they will escalate the battle against Gaza-based terrorists after a series of cross-border attacks on Saturday left seven Israelis wounded.
The violence began on Saturday afternoon, when Palestinian terrorists fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli army patrol vehicle on the Israeli side of the Gaza security fence. The missile scored a direct hit, and four Israeli soldiers were wounded, one seriously.
Israeli tanks immediately responded by bombarding selected terrorist installations in Gaza. Palestinian sources said four people were killed by the return fire.
A short while later, missiles and mortar shells started landing on Israeli towns and villages across the southern Negev region. At least 60 missiles and mortars were fired into southern Israel over the course of Saturday night.
Three Israeli civilians were wounded in the night-long barrage, and widespread damage was reported. Israel responded with air strikes on additional targets in Gaza.
Both Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, and its allies in Islamic Jihad claimed credit for taking part in the attacks. Israeli officials said they would be sorry for doing so.
"The IDF is striking and will continue to strike Gaza," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a press conference. "Terrorist organizations are suffering grave setbacks at the hands of the IDF. The world must understand that Israel will not sit idly."
Netanyahu closed by warning that Israel is "ready to escalate our response."
Just two weeks ago, Israeli military officials cautioned that if the violence emanating from Gaza did not cease, Israel would have no choice but to launch another ground invasion.
Col. Amir Baram, commander of one of Israel's top paratrooper units, told Channel 2 News that the Israeli army will likely have to enter Gaza in the near future.
"I think there won't be a choice. We'll need to enter Gaza soon," said Baram, noting that the only way to truly cripple the terrorists' capabilities is to go house-to-house and destroy their weapons caches.
Israel last entered Gaza in force during the winter of 2008-2009. Despite the massive escalation in terrorist rocket fire that forced Israel to take action, the international community predictably blamed Israel for the conflict and its casualties.
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