Intense rocket barrages disrupt southern Israel; 7 Gazans killed in IAF strikes

Cities and communities in southern Israel faced an intense barrage of rockets overnight Friday-Saturday, with several heavy waves of projectile fire targeting Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beersheba, Sderot and the surrounding areas.

The bombardment came as the Israeli military continued to strike numerous targets in the Gaza Strip since midnight, taking out rocket-launching sites, terror cells and a Hamas intelligence center, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

One of the rockets fired from Gaza in the middle of the night made a direct hit on an apartment building in Ashdod, while another landed in the Ashdod port, hitting a fuel reservoir and causing a massive explosion that sent huge flames into the night sky. No injuries were immediately reported in either incident.

Some of the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system while others landed in open areas.

Earlier in the night, at least seven Palestinians were reported killed, including children, when an airstrike hit a three-story building in the al-Shati refugee camp in the Palestinian enclave.

Hamas, the terror group that rules the Palestinian enclave, reported the number is likely to rise as efforts to recover casualties from under the rubble of the house on the edge of al-Shati refugee camp were still ongoing. There was no immediate update from the Hamas-run Health Ministry.

There was also no immediate response from the IDF, which said earlier that it was continuing to target rocket-launching sites.

Late Friday night, the IDF released a video showing an airstrike on the office of Hamas internal security chief Tawdiq Abu Naim. The army said the building was used to run Hamas military operations.

Palestinian terrorists in Gaza have fired over 2,000 rockets toward Israel since the outbreak of fighting on Monday, according to the Israel Defense Forces. Ten Israelis, including a young child, have been killed in the rocket fire, and hundreds have been injured.

In Gaza, the toll from the fighting climbed to over 100 on Friday, including dozens of children, with 950 wounded, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. The Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups have confirmed 20 deaths in their ranks, though Israel says that number is much higher.

A diplomatic source familiar with efforts to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas said Friday that the sides could come to an agreement within days, amid intensive efforts to halt nearly a week of deadly conflict. The source, who spoke to The Times of Israel on condition of anonymity, said mediators had expressed cautious optimism for a halt within days.

The assessment among negotiators was based on experience brokering ceasefires to end previous rounds of violence between the sides and a “clear reading of the room,” the diplomat said.

Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal told a Turkish news agency Friday that the Gaza terror group is ready for a ceasefire but has not received a response from Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday that Israel had no plans to relent in its attacks against Hamas in Gaza, as the military kept up its bombardment of terrorists in the Palestinian enclave and rockets rained down on Israeli cities.

“I said we would strike Hamas and other terror groups with significant blows, and we are doing so,” Netanyahu said. “Hamas leaders think they can escape from our grasp. They cannot escape. We can reach them everywhere — all of [Hamas’s] people and we will continue to do so.”


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