Israelis seek shelter during Shabbat rocket barrage in the South

Israelis in southern communities spent their Shabbat under siege as Hamas militants fired more than 170 mortar shells and rockets at Israel from early morning throughout the day.

Four Israelis were wounded when a rocket hit their home.

Throughout Shabbat, sirens sounded throughout communities in the South as more than 100 rockets landed in open fields, 30 were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system and the rest fell in communities near the border. When the sirens go off, residents in the Gaza periphery have only 15 seconds to reach a shelter before impact.

Public places including beaches and pools were closed on Saturday, but facilities including summer camps were open as usual on Sunday and farmers allowed to return to their fields to work.

The rocket attacks, which started at 1:30 a.m. and lasted until evening, followed a day of protesting at the border fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel on Friday. The protests by Palestinians at the fence have been a weekly occurrence since March.

In response to the rockets on Saturday, the Israeli military attacked dozen of targets in Gaza including two tunnels, weapons stores and a combat training facility. It was Israel’s largest bombing campaign in Gaza since the 2014 war, the military said. Two Palestinians killed during retaliatory air strikes by the Israeli military, however, most likely died in an “accidental blast” as they were making weapons, according to Palestinian police.

Hamas said the barrage of rockets and mortar shells was fired by the “resistance” to “stop Israeli escalation.”

Egypt and other international organizations rushed to broker a ceasefire. One of Israel’s main demands was the cessation of the kites and balloons, thousands of which have been flown over the border in the last few months, attached to incendiary devices that have caused damaging fires and destroyed tens of thousands of acres.

Nevertheless more fires were ignited by kites sent over the border on Sunday morning.

The attacks would likely continue, despite the ceasefire, in some form or another. United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) media advisor Adnan Abu Hasna told Ynet News that the people of Gaza have nothing left to lose.

“There is no tomorrow in Gaza, it’s a big prison, there are no dreams, there is no stability,” he said. “Two million people, 50 percent unemployment, the private sector doesn’t work.”

The four Israelis injured on Saturday are all from one family and were home when a rocket landed near their home in Sderot.

“All of the glass in the living room fell on us. The aquarium, the TVs — everything exploded. The entire house was smoke and we were all covered in blood,” said Aharon Buchris, the father of the family. “I was hit by shards in the face and legs. My wife and daughters were also hurt. I felt stress, shock, and I heard shouting.”

A neighbor, Azzat Magirov, heard the rocket hit and ran next door to help.

“There was no Code Red siren. All of a sudden I heard a boom. I was on the couch and flew off it,” she said. “All of a sudden I see smoke and hear shouting. My entire house was covered in (broken) glass, but I went straight there (to the neighbors). The Qassam rocket fell under the living room window. I saw smoke, I saw that everyone was bleeding.”

“I’m okay, but in my heart I’m not. They’re like my own children,” she said.

Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi has long implored the Israeli government to take harsher measures against Hamas for traumatizing his city with a steady trickle — if not outright barrage — of rockets.

“Our feelings about the ceasefire are very difficult,” Davidi said. “It is Hamas who decides whether to open fire or to cease fire and not the State of Israel.”