Israel’s government met in emergency session on Thursday morning, hours after Palestinian terrorists operating out of the Gaza Strip fired scores of missiles and mortar shells at Jewish towns in southern Israel.
Different reports counted as many as 65 projectiles fired at Israel Wednesday evening and overnight. On Thursday morning, an additional four missiles were fired into southern Israel, two of which landed dangerously close to populated areas in the coastal city of Ashkelon.
A furious Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded: “There are no free shots, and terrorist elements in the Gaza Strip should start internalizing the fact that they are dealing with a very determined government and a very strong army.”
In fact, Israel had already hit back hard overnight, with aerial strikes on at least 29 Hamas and Islamic Jihad installations in Gaza. Islamic Jihad claimed credit for the initial barrage, the largest rocket attack on Israel since last 2012, when Israel was forced to launch “Operation Pillar of Cloud” in response to escalating aggression from Gaza.
Believing the exchange to be over by early Thursday morning, local municipalities in southern Israel opened schools as usual, only to urgently evacuate the students as air raid sirens sounded once again shortly after classes had begun.
In a Hebrew-language video posted to the Internet, Islamic Jihad threatened to increase its attacks if Israel dared to retaliate too severely. The terror group also invited Israeli Jews “to leave our country [sic] and to find your own country.”
The US condemned the Palestinian attacks as “reprehensible,” and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “deplored the severe escalation of violence.”
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, meanwhile, was conspicuously silent. He only began to speak up after Israel responded to the rocket attacks, Netanyahu noted, and even then he blamed the wrong side. Abbas told Reuters that he was calling for a cessation of “Israeli military escalation in the Gaza Strip.”