Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Tuesday to respond “with great force” to a barrage of more than 25 mortar shells fired in the morning at communities in southern Israel, one of which landed just outside a kindergarten less than an hour before children were due to arrive.
“Israel views with great severity the attacks on it and on its communities by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad from the Gaza Strip,” Netanyahu said during a conference in the northern Galilee region, ahead of urgent security consultations set to take place later in the day.
“The IDF will retaliate with great force to these attacks,” the prime minister added.
“Israel will make anyone trying to harm it pay a heavy price, and we view Hamas as responsible for preventing such attacks against us.”
As a matter of policy, the Israeli army considers Hamas, which rules Gaza, to be responsible for any attack emanating from the beleaguered coastal enclave.
Netanyahu also posted a graphic on his Twitter page saying that “57 missiles” were fired on Tuesday morning, a significantly higher number than the one cited by the IDF and local authorities.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman called a “special situational assessment” at army’s Tel Aviv headquarters with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and other senior figures from Israel’s security services, his office said.
The attacks, which triggered three rounds of sirens in the Sha’ar Hanegev and Eshkol regions, were apparently mounted by the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group in revenge for the IDF killing three of its members in a cross-border exchange earlier in the week.
It appeared to be the largest attack from the Gaza Strip, in terms of the number of projectiles fired, since the 2014 war, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge.
Most of the shells were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.
“No country would or should accept such threats to its civilian population. Neither do we,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
“The shooting of rockets this morning from Gaza, one of them landing in the yard of an empty kindergarten (!), demonstrates the grave danger Hamas represents to Israeli civilians.”
Lawmakers from across the political spectrum called for harsh action against the group, which is also supported by Iran and committed to erasing the Jewish state.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) said, “The firing of mortars at a kindergarten is the most serious red line.”
The Times of Israel