From the Gaza Strip, at least sixty rockets rained down across southern Israel in a single afternoon, sending thousands of Israelis clambering into bomb shelters. Israel retaliated with airstrikes on 29 sites across Gaza after hitting two locations with artillery fire. A 57-year-old Israeli woman who fell while running for cover was the only injury reported on either side of the border.
Palestinians and Israelis alike are bracing for a further escalation in the violence that has become common in the region. The attacks are threatening to subvert the nearly 16-month-old cease-fire agreement brokered by international negotiators for the region. The cease-fire ended eight days of cross-border violence in 2012. The American-led Middle East peace talks that started last summer may also be derailed by the escalation in violence.
Islamic Jihad, one of the militant Palestinian groups stationed in Gaza, claimed responsibility for the barrage of rockets. They said that the rockets were a response to an Israeli airstrike the previous day that killed three members of the group. In a text message, a spokesman for the armed wing of Islamic Jihad said that the rockets “establish a new phase: any aggression will be met with fierce response.” The Israeli military said the three Islamic Jihad members had fired a mortar at its soldiers patrolling just inside the border fence.
In response to the escalation in violence, Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, said he saw “no alternative other than a complete takeover of the Gaza Strip.” He also stated that he would oppose any operation that was more limited than a complete takeover. President Shimon Peres said, “The people of Gaza have to choose — it’s either peace or violence.”
A statement issued by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared, “We will not be deterred. We will continue to intercept and hurt those who want to hurt us.” Mr. Netanyahu added in a comment on Twitter, “If there won’t be quiet in the South, there will be noise in Gaza, and this is an understatement.”