For the first time since the war with Gaza in 2014, Palestinians launched barrages of rockets and mortars from Gaza on Tuesday breaking nearly four years of quiet on Israel’s southern border.
But miraculously, even with more than 130 rockets in 22 hours, no one was physically hurt. One rocket landed on the storage shed of a home early Wednesday and another by a kindergarten before children arrived for school on Tuesday.
Naomi Fletcher told Ynet on Wednesday that a rocket destroyed an outdoor shed one meter from her bedroom. She awoke to debris in her yard and damage to the house, but was safe.
“We don’t normally sleep in the safe room,” she said. “I think we had a great miracle, because it didn’t hit the house itself, but rather an adjacent storage shed.”
IDF Spokesman Lt.-Col. Jonathan Conricus said the rocket launches drew “the largest IDF retaliatory attack” since Operation Protective Edge in 2014. The Israeli army struck back at dozens of targets in Gaza on Tuesday. No one was reported killed or injured those strikes either.
“The IDF will retaliate with great force to these attacks,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Israel will make anyone trying to harm it pay a heavy price, and we view Hamas as responsible for preventing such attacks against us.”
Many of the rockets and projectiles on Israel’s side were shot down by the Iron Dome rocket interceptor system. But nevertheless, one Sderot resident noted that residents, especially children, are traumatized by the sirens and having to run to shelters.
“We should get stop saying ‘no one was hurt and no damage was caused.’ Of course there was damage: The emergency center in Sdeot was like an ER on Tuesday, filled with children suffering from anxiety,” Adina Ozeri told Ynet.
Many families spent all of Tuesday, day and night, in their shelters since they only have 15 seconds from the siren alert to reach a safe house.
“Even if there are only two or three (Code Red) rocket sirens, and even if the Iron Dome intercepted (a rocket), 25,000 people are still getting up and running to safe rooms,” Ozeri continued. “Even if no one is hurt, and even if Hamas stops the rockets, this period is still causing the kids regression.”
Schools were reopened on Wednesday and residents tentatively returned to their normal routines.
The army also destroyed another tunnel that extended from the Gaza Strip into Israel, through Egypt. The tunnel was 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) in total with 900 meters (half a mile) in Israel, according to the IDF.
Many Israeli officials accuse Iran of being behind the sudden round attacks.
“Escalation on the Gazan side was not coincidental. The mind is Iranian, while the hands belong to Hamas,” said Education Minister Naftali Bennett. “Israel is in a focused, consistent campaign against the head of the Iranian octopus, which operates its tentacles in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza to harm Israel. Iran is trying to distract us by manufacturing provocations in Gaza through one of its tentacles.”
International response to the rocket attacks was far more muted than it was to Israel’s response to Palestinian protests on May 14 when 60 Palestinians were killed. However, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the UN Security Council “should be outraged and respond.”
“Mortars fired by Palestinian militants hit civilian infrastructure, including a kindergarten,” she said in a statement on Tuesday. “The Security Council should be outraged and respond to this latest bout of violence directed at innocent Israeli civilians, and the Palestinian leadership needs to be held accountable for what they’re allowing to happen in Gaza.”