Jerusalem, Mar. 11 – Palestinian terror groups in Gaza fired more rockets at Israeli towns and cities Sunday, forcing one million Israelis into bomb shelters and closing schools for a quarter million students.
Since Friday, Palestinians fired more than 160 rockets and mortars from Gaza at Israeli communities, wounding at least eight Israeli civilians. Five different Palestinian terror groups claimed responsibilityfor the attacks. In statements to the media on Saturday, the Popular Resistance Committee (PRC), Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Al-Aqsa brigades, Abdul Qader Al-Hussaini Brigades and Islamic Jihad all boasted that they had fired at Israel.
The Gaza Strip is controlled by the Iran-backed Hamas terror organization, which rejects the peace process and allows other terror groups to operate openly.
“We hold Hamas responsible for the recent incidents since the terror organization currently has jurisdiction in the area," said Israeli army spokesman Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai. “The Hamas movement, although it is not the one performing the launchings, is not doing anything to prevent it either - We hold them responsible and will continue to defend and attack as necessary.”
Terror groups had launched at least 59 rocket and mortar attacks so far in 2012, including two early Friday that prompted an Israel Air Force attack Friday afternoon, killing PRC leader Zuhir al-Qaisi. The Israeli military said it also had intelligence reports that al-Qaisi’s group was preparing to stage another attack similar to a PRC assault last August that left eight Israelis and five Egyptians dead.
Over the weekend the Israel Air Force targeted rocket launching teams, killing at least 15 terrorists. Palestinian sources confirmed that all 16 deaths on their side were militants, with reports Sunday saying two Palestinian civilians were among the 18 dead.
The Israeli-made Iron Dome air defense system successfully shot down at least 41 of the rockets that were heading towards heavily populated centers, including the cities of Ashdod, Ashkelon and Beer Sheva.
Despite the escalation of violence, Israeli security officials decided to leave the border crossings in the Gaza strip open for commercial and aid shipments.
So far this year, the number of rockets fired from Gaza at Israeli civilians has reached 261, according to a count by The Israel Project.