Israeli seriously hurt as massive barrage from Gaza pummels south 

Source: Israeli seriously hurt as massive barrage from Gaza pummels south | The Times of Israel

Dozens of rockets, mortar shells, anti-tank missiles fired at Israel, IDF retaliates with airstrikes, a day after deadly flareup in the Strip

Fighting on the Gaza border erupted Monday afternoon, with dozens of projectiles fired from the Strip striking southern Israel, including one that hit an Israeli bus near the border and seriously injured at least one person, officials said.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, over 80 projectiles were fired at southern Israel in less than 40 minutes. Some were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system, while several others struck homes and buildings in Israeli communities near the Gaza border, causing injuries and damage.

In response to the heavy barrage from the Gaza Strip, Israeli fighter jets launched a series of air raids against targets in the coastal enclave, the military said.

The attack from Gaza came less than a day after an IDF special operations officer was killed in an operation gone awry that also killed seven Palestinian gunmen in the Strip. Following Sunday night’s incident, the Gaza-ruling terror group said “the blood of our righteous martyrs will not be wasted.”

The renewed clashes dashed hopes that Israel and Hamas would uphold a recent ceasefire agreement brokered by Egypt and the United Nations and supported by Qatar.

The barrage triggered incoming rocket sirens throughout southern Israel, and sending tens of thousands of residents rushing to bomb shelters for cover, where they were told to remain until further notice. The military said Iron Dome air defense batteries intercepted some of the incoming rockets and mortar shells.

A projectile fired from the Gaza Strip hit a bus that was parked in the Black Arrow memorial site in the Sha’ar Hanegev region of southern Israel, a few hundred meters from the Gaza border.

One man was seriously injured, medics said. The bus caught fire after the projectile hit it. No alarm sounded in Israeli communities before the mortar strike.

It was not immediately clear what type of munition was fired at the bus, with some reports indicating it was a mortar shell, while others said it was an anti-tank missile.

Palestinians stand next to the remains of a car, said to be destroyed following an Israeli air strike, in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on November 12, 2018 (Photo by SAID KHATIB / AFP)

The 19-year-old Israeli man was taken to Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center in serious condition, with injuries throughout his body, medics said.

The fusillade came minutes after Palestinian media reported that Israeli tanks fired artillery shells at a Hamas observation post in northern Gaza. Other reports in the Strip said an Israeli helicopter fired warning shots toward Hamas fighters who approached the border fence in southern Gaza.

Earlier in the day, the Israeli military deployed additional Iron Dome air defense batteries, as well as infantry reinforcements, to southern Israel.

“The Israel Defense Forces reinforced its troops in the Southern Command and is prepared to use large amounts of force if necessary,” the army said in a statement Monday.

Israeli schools in communities near the Gaza border were ordered shut on Monday, and local farmers were forbidden to work in their fields. Residents of southern Israel were initially instructed to remain close to bomb shelters or other protected spaces, but that directive was later rescinded on Monday morning.

After Sunday night’s incident, the Israel special forces squad was forced to retreat to the Israeli side of the fence under the cover of the aerial bombardment, Hamas’s military wing said in a statement. A Hamas spokesperson praised the “brave resistance that repulsed the Israeli aggression.”

Hamas accused Israel of sabotaging the emerging ceasefire agreement that was brokered by Egypt and supported by Qatar.

Palestinians stand next to the remains of a car allegedly used by Israeli special forces during a raid in Gaza, which was was later destroyed in an Israeli airstrike, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on November 12, 2018. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

But IDF Spokesperson Ronen Manelis said the decision to carry out the still-classified raid was not made lightly. “Actions like this are considered seriously,” he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had been in Paris on an official state visit, cut his trip short and returned to Israel on Monday morning in an effort to salvage the ceasefire deal with Hamas. Upon his arrival, the prime minister received a security briefing from senior defense officials.

The flareup punctured a brief calm along the restive border, coming two days after Israel allowed Qatar to send $15 million in cash to Hamas in Gaza — one of the first moves in a reported ceasefire agreement between Israel and the terrorist group.

Weekly Gaza border protests, dubbed the “Great March of Return,” have been taking place since March 30 and have mostly involved the burning of tires and rock-throwing along the security fence, but have also seen shooting attacks, bombings and attempted border breaches as well as the launching of incendiary balloons and kites into Israel. Southern Israel has also seen sporadic, but aggressive rocket bombardments from the Gaza Strip.

Over 160 Gazans have been killed in the clashes, dozens of them members of Hamas. The Hamas Islamist terror group, which seized control of Gaza in 2007, seeks to destroy Israel.

Egypt, alongside United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process Nikolay Mladenov, has recently played a key role in attempts to mediate a ceasefire between Israel and the armed groups in the Strip, as well as to bring about national reconciliation between Hamas and the West Bank-based administration of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.

 

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