11 Israelis Wounded as More Than 150 Gaza Rockets Launched at Israel; IDF Pounds the Strip

The Israeli military said Thursday morning that it struck more than 140 targets in Gaza in retaliation to a massive barrage of rockets that was fired at Israel overnight. More than 150 rockets were fired at Israel, the military said, with 25 rockets intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. The rest landed in open areas. 

The military started striking in the Strip overnight Wednesday after six rockets were fired from Gaza, landing in the southern Israeli town of Sderot and wounded 11 people. Nine Sderot residents were evacuated to a hospital; a woman was in serious condition, and 13 others were treated for shock trauma. 

Gaza’s Health Ministry reported Thursday that three Palestinians were killed in the attacks, including a pregnant woman, 23, her 16-month-old toddler and a man, who was identified as 30-year-old Ali Alrandur. Alrandur is the son of one of the commanders of Hamas’ armed wing, Iz al-Din al-Qassam. Six other people were wounded in the attack.

– A video of a house in Gaza hit by an Israeli strike.

#شاهد منزل عائلة خماش الذي تعرض لقصف الاحتلال الليلة الماضية، وأدى لاستشهاد المواطنة إيناس خماش وهي حامل (23 عاما)، وطفلتها بيان (عام ونصف) وإصابة زوجها بجراح متوسطة في منطقة الجعفراوي وسط القطاع pic.twitter.com/YGCFAoLPXT

— وكالة شهاب (@ShehabAgency) August 9, 2018

A video of a house in Gaza hit by an Israeli strike.

– IDF strikes in Gaza overnight

Damage is seen in the southern Israeli city of Sderot after a rocket attack from Gaza – דלג

A Palestinian source told Haaretz that against the backdrop of the serious escalation, Egypt is failing to achieve a calm and a cease-fire between the two parties. 

>> Israel, Hamas to agree on cease-fire by end of August, report says | Hamas claims deadly border exchange with Israel was misunderstanding

A fireball exploding during Israeli air strikes in Gaza City, August 8, 2018AFP

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman met with senior military and defense officials at the army’s headquarters in Tel Aviv to discuss the escalation on the southern border Wednesday night.

U.S. special envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt critcized Hamas actions overnight. In a tweet posted to his official handle, Greenblatt wrote: "Hamas regime again is launching rockets at Israeli communities. Another night of terror and families huddling in fear as Israel defends itself."

– Jason Greenblatt criticizes Hamas over continued rocket fire

Hamas regime again is launching rockets at Israeli communities. Another night of terror & families huddling in fear as Israel defends itself. This is the Hamas regime’s choice. Hamas is subjecting people to the terrifying conditions of war again.

— Jason D. Greenblatt (@jdgreenblatt45) August 9, 2018

Jason Greenblatt criticizes Hamas over continued rocket fireJason Greenblatt / Twitter

"This is the Hamas regime’s choice. Hamas is subjecting people to the terrifying conditions of war again," he added. 

The United Nations’ Middle East envoy, Nikolay Mladenov, released a statement late Wednesday night concerning the escalation between Israel and Gaza. "I am deeply alarmed by the recent escalation particularly by today’s multiple rockets fired towards communities in southern Israel."

Aftermath of a rocket attack from Gaza, Sderot, August 8, 2018Eliyahu Hershkovitz

"For months I have been warning that the humanitarian, security and political crisis in Gaza risks a devastating conflict that nobody wants. The UN has engaged with Egypt and all concerned parties in an unprecedented effort to avoid such a development," Mladenov continued.

"Our collective efforts have prevented the situation from exploding until now. If the current escalation however is not contained immediately, the situation can rapidly deteriorate with devastating consequences for all people," he warned.

Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi said that rescue services had been sent to homes "to check as to whether there are more shock victims" as a result of the rocket fire. "I recommend that everyone remain near protected spaces," Davidi said. "We are in constant contact with the army and security forces."

Opposition lawmakers blasted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government for failing to achieve a lasting truce in Egyptian-mediated ceasefire talks with Hamas.

A fire started in the Eskhol Regional Council after a rocket fell there on August 9, 2018.Eshkol Regional Council Security

"Netanyahu and Lieberman! You have failed!" Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay tweeted. "Is this the way to hold a negotiation? Our hearts are with the residents of the Gaza border region and we support the IDF in its mission of restoring security to residents of the area."

The developments came a day after the Israeli military fired at a Hamas facility in northern Gaza in response to fire from the Strip aimed at Israeli security forces. The tank fire killed two members of the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades’ al-Nukhba elite unit and wounded six others, reports in Gaza said. The al-Qassam Brigades is the military wing of Hamas.

According to the IDF, the incident occurred due to a misunderstanding: The military believes that the shots that prompted an Israeli response were not deliberately aimed at IDF soldiers, but were part of a ceremony of the al-Qassam Brigades.

An IDF engineering corps force was operating in the area when the shots fired from Gaza were heard. The IDF thought it was an attempted sniper attack, and it was decided to fire a tank shell at the position in response.

An initial investigation has found, however, that the shooting took place two kilometers away from where the soldiers were operating. At this stage, it remains unclear whether the IDF knew of the ceremony, during which weapons were being fired. The assessment is that if any information had been received earlier about the event, senior IDF officers would not have approved the tank fire. 

Israelis in Sderot after the rocket attack from Gaza, August 8, 2018Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Nevertheless, the security establishment assesses that Hamas is still interested in reaching a cease-fire agreement with Israel, but that the organization faces a dilemma. While Hamas works toward signing a deal, the organization must keep responding to incidents in such a way as to show it has not shifted its policy toward Israel. At the same time, Hamas is trying to strengthen its links with other groups in Gaza – such as Islamic Jihad – to restore control and muster support behind any deal that may be reached.

A Hamas official told the Turkish state news agency Anadolu on Wednesday that the two parties are expected to sign an agreement by the end of August. The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the first stage of the deal would include a two-week trial. The deal would lift restrictions on the entry of goods into the Gaza Strip and at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the coastal enclave.

A firefighter examines a building hit by sharpnel after a rocket attack from Gaza, Sderot, August 8, 2018Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Aftermath of a rocket attack from Gaza, Sderot, August 8, 2018Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman at an emergency discussion on the Gaza-border escalation.Defense Ministry Spokesperson