A Grad rocket fired from the Gaza region early Wednesday morning (11:30 p.m. EDT) landed in a parking lot in a residential neighborhood in Be'er Sheva.
The Islamic Jihad's al-Quds Brigades terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attack, calling it "an initial response to the Zionist crimes against our people in Gaza."
All public schools, grades K-12, are closed today in the city. However, Ben Gurion University of the Negev reportedly sent SMS text messages to its students stating that its classes would be held as usual.
One person was moderately wounded, allegedly because he did not wait to confirm the missile had landed before emerging from a shelter and returning to his home. As a result, he was reportedly hit by the ball bearings -- shrapnel -- packed into the rocket as the Grad exploded nearby. "He let his impatience and curiosity get the better of him and he got hit," commented a resident who requested anonymity. Three others suffered traumatic shock.
A building was damaged in the attack as well.
The Red Alert alarm was sounded throughout the city prior to the fall of the rocket. Security forces called on local residents to enter shelters. "The sirens went off in [nearby] Omer at about 5:30 a.m. and we heard two explosions about a minute later," wrote one person on a local Internet listserve.
Eyewitnesses reported that some of the city's shelters were locked, sparking fury among those who were seeking protection. Writers on the local "anglobeersheba" listserve appeared to confirm the report, noting, "The mayor has said that he has no plans to open the shelters because it is more dangerous running around on the road looking for shelter than staying put in your own home."
Another family was warned by their pets. "Kittens gave us warning about three minutes ahead," a resident said. "Guess we'll acknowledge them next time."
A veteran on the list warned others not to post specific information about the landing site of the missile. "Even if you know where it hit, please don't post it!" he reminded. "There is a reason they don't reveal this info on the news. Listen to the news."
Seven mortar shells fired by terrorists from Gaza exploded in an open field in the Eshkol Regional Council district at mid-morning Wednesday as well. No one was hurt, and no damage was report.
Late Tuesday night, residents of the port city of Ashdod scrambled for cover as the Color Red rocket alert siren blared a warning in the rising-and-falling pattern late Tuesday night. Within seconds, the massive explosion typical of a Grad Katyusha missile followed the alarm, heard also by residents in Kiryat Malachi and Gan Yavne.
Security forces immediately began searching for the location of the missile, fired by Gaza terrorists just a few minutes before midnight. They discovered the landing site about five kilometers south of the center of the city, home to some 200,000 Israelis.
Almost immediately following the attack, an Israel Air Force aircraft targeted a terrorist in northern Gaza, in the same location from which the missile had been fired at Ashdod. A hit was confirmed, the IDF said in a statement.
The IDF's Southern Command had already warned residents of southern Israel living near Gaza earlier in the evening to stay on high alert, and remain close to their bomb shelters. The warning followed a day in which Gaza terrorists fired numerous rocket and mortar shells at Jewish towns in the western Negev.
Gaza terrorists continued the attacks into the evening, firing a Kassam rocket at the coastal city of Ashkelon at about 9:00 p.m. The rocket, which landed south of the city, caused no injuries or damage.
A mortar shell exploded in an open space near a kibbutz in the Ashkelon Coastal Region at around 6:00 p.m. Within the same hour, a Kassam rocket slammed into an open field near Ashkelon as well. No one was injured and no damage was reported in either attack.
At least four short-range Kassam rockets exploded in the Sha'ar HaNegev region during the afternoon hours, with several landing close to one of the towns. No one was hurt and no damage was reported.
Israel Air Force fighter pilots killed three Islamic Jihad al-Quds Brigades terrorists in a vehicle earlier in the evening as they were on their way to launch a rocket attack on Israel.
According to the IDF, the targeted terror cell was the same one that had launched a Grad Katyusha missile attack on Be'er Sheva less than a month ago.
A spokesman for the terrorists, Abu Ahmed, told reporters the group's response to the IDF's retaliation “will be different, and will come soon.”
Earlier in the day, four PA Arabs were killed by IDF artillery fire that came in retaliation for the incessant rocket and mortar fire on southern Israel. Four people were killed and five others were injured according to local sources. Two youths, ages 11 and 16, were reportedly among the dead, according to eyewitnesses.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu expressed his regret for the incident, saying “innocent civilians in the Gaza Strip were unintentionally hit.” He emphasized, however, that the shelling was carried out in response to Hamas fire at Israeli civilians.
“It is regrettable that Hamas continues to intentionally rain down dozens of rockets on Israeli civilians even as it uses civilians as human shields,” Netanyahu said in a statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office. “While the State of Israel has no intention of bringing about a deterioration of the situation, the IDF will continue to take determined action to defend Israeli citizens.”