Gaza terrorists attacked the western Negev with five mortar shells and two Kassam rockets around noon Tuesday, lowering the intensity of attacks but breaking the ceasefire.
The attacks are seen as an attempt to maintain “calm,” which previously has been defined as a situation in which missiles are not fired on urban areas while primitive Kassam rockets and mortar shells are fired at the farming area of the western Negev.
They also provide an immediate test for Israel hours after IDF Chief of Benny Gantz said that the military would maintain quiet if terrorists silence their weapons but will “fight fire with fire” if not.
Tuesday’s mortar shells exploded in open areas and caused no damage but set off an angry response by Eshkol Regional Council leader Chaim Jelin, who criticized the Israeli government for not dealing with the attacks in the same way it responds to missile strikes on cities.
Several mortar shells previously have scored direct hits on buildings and have caused injuries and deaths.
Israel's retaliation to the recent missile attacks should have been harsher, said Public Security Minister Yitzchak Aharonovitch of the Yisrael Beiteinu party. “We have to teach them a lesson,” he added.
Education Minister Gideon Saar stated that the situation of ongoing attacks is unacceptable and added that Hamas has again broken a promised ceasefire.
The western Negev has sustained thousands of mortar shell attacks for more than a decade, especially since 2005, when the IDF withdrew from Gaza under the Disengagement program that expelled all Jews from Gaza, and area residents were not surprised at the continuation of attacks near their homes.