Dozens of rockets exploded in southern Israel on Saturday, as violence flared up on the Israel-Gaza border.
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Some 31 rockets hit the Eshkol, Sha'ar Hanegev and Hof Ashkelon regional councils, as well as the areas around Ashkelon and Ashdod. Of these, more than 20 landed in the Eshkol Regional Council alone. One of the rockets in Sha'ar Hanegev exploded in the yard of a house. No casualties were reported.
The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted one rocket in the Ashdod area.
Later on Saturday night, the IDF struck a rocket-launching squad in north Gaza in response, the IDF spokesperson said in a statement. The IDF reported a direct hit on the target. One Palestinian militant was reportedly killed in the strike.
Saturday's rocket barrage followed an earlier anti-tank missile attack on an IDF jeep near the border with Gaza, which wounded four soldiers. The IDF responded to the jeep attack with shelling on the Gaza Strip in which at least four Palestinians were killed and over 36 wounded.
It was announced that the Kerem Shalom crossing will be closed Sunday in wake of the escalation. Schools in the Gan Yavne area will also be closed Sunday.
Haim Yalin, head of the Eshkol Regional Council said on Saturday evening: "The residents of Eshkol are experiencing stress brought on by the security situation, which hasn't let up for some time now."
Hamas's military wing and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine's Abu Ali Mustapha Brigades both claimed responsibility for the earlier jeep attack. Hamas said the attack was in retaliation for the death on Thursday of a Palestinian child by IDF fire.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak responded to the attack, saying: "The IDF responded harshly to the incident and further action will be considered in the coming days. We will not tolerate any escalation along the border.”
A high-ranking officer in the IDF commented on the attack, saying it was "a very serious incident – the second in a matter of days – that targets IDF soldiers in our territory." Military top brass will hold consultations Saturday night to determine further action.
Saturday's incident came two days after an IDF soldier was wounded when a high-power explosive device exploded near an IDF force that was doing routine maintenance work on the border fence.