Jerusalem, Aug. 21 – Gaza terror groups, some of them inspired by Al-Qaeda, began an onslaught of terror attacks against Israeli civilians Thursday (Aug. 18) - killing 9 Israelis and wounding nearly 70 civilians - by firing at least 100 rockets and shooting at civilian buses and cars. The dead and wounded include women and children.
On Sunday morning, a school in Beersheba was targeted. A direct hit was confirmed but the school was empty due to the summer vacation. Dozens of local residents are being treated for shock as the fourth day of surging violence continues.
On Saturday night, Yossi Shoshan, 38, was killed and five others were critically injured, including a woman in grave condition, from rocket fire launched at Beersheba and Ashkelon. Shoshan, from Ofakim, a small town near the border with Gaza, was on his way to meet his wife, who is nine months pregnant, after hearing air raid sirens and becoming concerned for her safety, The Jerusalem Post reported.
One victim lost a leg, severed in a rocket attack. Two children suffered shrapnel wounds after a direct-hit on their house. Iran-backed Hamas claimed responsibility for the attacks that wounded the children. Sixteen people were injured in total on Saturday.
Iron Dome, Israel’s rocket-intercepting defense system, has successfully intercepted 13 rockets so far this weekend. Israel deployed the protective measure a few months ago amid a rise in rocket fire from Gaza. The system shoots down incoming rockets while they are still in mid-air, minimizing the danger of death or injury.
Thirty of the 100 rockets were fired Friday, the second-day of the terror campaign, causing residents to run for shelter in bomb-shelters. Rockets hit a Jewish religious seminary and civilian buildings in Ashdod. Ten people were hurt in the attack, two of them seriously.
Eight Israelis were killed on Thursday during the first day of attacks, when some 20 Palestinian terrorists detonated themselves with explosives, staged drive-by shootings, used IEDs to attack army convoys, fired rockets and tried to shoot down Israeli aircraft responding to the terror. Four of the Israelis killed - two sisters and their husbands: Flora and Moshe Gez and Shula and Dov Kerlinski - were on their way to vacation in Israel’s southern vacation city, Eilat, when their vehicle came under fire.
The Israeli Air Force did not respond immediately to the latest rocket attacks in an effort to maintain calm while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened the security cabinet on Saturday to finalize a tactical plan to curb the violence.
Iran-backed Hamas, which has controlled Gaza since it ousted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party in a bloody coup in 2007, joined in the firing of rockets and claimed responsibility for some of the launchings. The barrage of rocket fire followed a declaration by Hamas’ military wing – the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades – that said “its armistice with Israel was over,” Israel’s YNet reported.
The terror groups in Gaza involved in the series of attacks since Thursday are the Popular Resistance Committees (PRCs), Islamic Jihad, Fatah’s al-Aqsa Brigades, the al-Qaeda affiliated Abdullah Azzam Brigades and Hamas. The groups represent a wide spread of Islamic and nationalistic groups that target Israeli civilians with indiscriminate violence.
The PRCs, which took responsibility for the first day of shootings and attacks, may have been responding to “internal pressures among Gaza-based Palestinian terrorist groups to strike at Israel,” a Washington Institute for Near East Policy analysis explained.
Israeli sources also indicate that the motive behind Thursday’s attack may have been the kidnapping of an Israeli military official or civilians – a tactic similar to the one used by Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon. In fact, the PRCs helped Hamas with the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier, five years ago. Shalit is still in captivity.