The latest escalation began after a Gaza rocket hit Ashdod on Wednesday, October 26. In a joint IDF and the Israel Security Agency, IAF aircraft attacked a cell of terrorists preparing to fire long-range rockets from the southern Gaza Strip. This same terrorist cell was responsible for the rockets fired at southern Israel last Wednesday. A commander of the Islamic Jihad and four of its munitions experts were killed.
On Saturday afternoon, rockets were fired from Gaza into Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gan Yavne, and around Be'er Sheva. One man was seriously wounded in Ashkelon and eventually died of his wounds. Another man was moderately wounded in the Ashdod rocket strike and three others were lightly hurt. Moreover, 17 trauma victims were reported.
As a result of the escalation, classes were canceled in Ashdod, Ashkelon and other towns in the 40-kilometer range from Gaza. Ben Gurion University in Be'er Sheva also called off classes, which were due to begin on Sunday.
Ashdod bore the brunt of the attacks, and was targeted by at least three Grad rockets. One slammed into an empty school, and a second struck in the nearby Gan Yavne Regional Council, moderately wounding a man who was searching for his son.
Burned cars after a rocket fired from Gaza exploded in Ashdod (Photo: Reuters)
A third rocket slammed into a parking lot between two multi-story residential buildings in Ashdod. It set several vehicles on fire and left behind extensive wreckage. The flames were doused by Israel Fire and Rescue crews, who also broke into homes in nearby buildings to rescue residents.
In Ashkelon, Saturday's rocket fire claimed the life of 56-year-old Moshe Amiwhen when shrapnel hit his car. A second rocket fired at Ashkelon scored a direct hit on a home, setting gas canisters on fire.
Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Brigade terror gangs claimed responsibility for Saturday's Grad rocket attacks against southern Israel. Footage released by Islamic Jihad Saturday night showed terrorists firing the rockets at Israel using a portable rocket launcher installed on the back of a pickup truck - a method of attack that had not been used in Gaza previously.
Overnight (30 October), IAF aircraft targeted six terror activity sites in the Gaza Strip. Three rocket-launching sites and one terror tunnel were targeted in the northern Gaza Strip, and in the southern Gaza Strip two terror activity sites were targeted. Both Direct and secondary explosions were reported.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, visiting Bosnia-Herzegovina, reportedly said: “We are not seeking violence with the Palestinians and we do not want to 'heat up' the situation, but we won’t suffer one rocket barrage after another without a response. Therefore I hope that already tonight, the rocket barrages will stop with the intervention of neighboring countries, the international community and the Palestinian Authority."