Jerusalem, March 10 – Terrorists in Gaza fired over 100 rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians Saturday injuring eight civilians, but Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted many of the most dangerous missiles aimed at major population centers, the Israel Defense Forces said.
More than half a million Israelis in the south of the country were forced to take refuge in bomb shelters. The major cities targeted were Ashkelon, Ashdod, Netivot, Yavne and Beersheba but the terrorists also targeted many rural communities close to Gaza. The terrorists fired military-grade Grad missiles as well as Qassam rockets, 107-mm rockets and mortar shells.
The Israel Air Force responded by hitting targets in Gaza overnight Friday and Saturday morning. Fourteen Palestinians - 10 of them members of Islamic Jihad - were killed in the strikes and another 20 were injured, according to Palestinian news agency Ma'an.
The IDF said: “The Iron Dome active missile defense system has intercepted 27 rockets - which were fired at the cities of Beersheba, Ashdod and Ashkelon, together home to over 520,000 people. Twenty five (interception) attempts out of 27 have been successful thus far.”
Of the eight people injured, the most serious was a 40-year-old man hit by rocket shrapnel. Tens of thousands of Israeli students will miss classes Sunday as civil defense officials ordered the closing of schools and universities within rocket range. Several professional soccer matches were suspended mid-game as players and fans were sent running for cover by air-raid sirens.
The violence erupted on Friday when terrorists in Gaza fired two rockets at Israel and intelligence reports warned of a planned terror attack. The Israel Air Force responded and killed two senior terrorist leaders in a targeted strike. The IDF Spokesman said in a statement that the Air Force targeted Zuhir al-Qaisi, the secretary-general of the Popular Resistance Committees, and his collaborator, Mahmoud Hanani.
Al-Qaisi, the IDF Spokesman said, was organizing a large, coordinated terror attack to be carried out on Israel's border with Gaza. Hanani was a resident of Nablus and one of the prisoners freed as part of the deal to release Gilad Shalit, and was expelled to the Gaza Strip.
An Israel Defense Forces statement said Kaisi was among the leaders who planned, funded, and directed the combined terror attack that took place on Route 12 in August 2011, in which eight people died and 40 were injured. He was in charge of transferring funds from Hezbollah to terror organizations in the Gaza Strip.
The statement added that the IDF was not seeking an escalation but would respond to any attempts to execute terrorist attacks with strength and determination.
So far this year, the number of rockets fired from Gaza at Israeli civilians has reached 152, according to a count by The Israel Project.