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Fifteen Rockets Fired at South; IAF Retaliates

Hamas fires rockets as far as Be'ersheva Saturday, prompting an emergency meeting on the situation. Is an operation on the horizon?
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 7/5/2014, 8:38 PM / Last Update: 7/5/2014, 9:01 PM

Finance Minister Yair Lapid visits a home damaged by rocket fire in Sderot
Finance Minister Yair Lapid visits a home damaged by rocket fire in Sderot
Flash 90

Fifteen rockets and mortar rounds were fired at Israel on Saturday from Gaza, according to IDF sources, lightly wounding one soldier and sending tens of thousands of Israeli civilians into bomb shelters.

Most of the rockets fell in the Eshkol region; however, two reached as far as Be'ersheva. Of those two, one was shot down by the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system, and the other landed in an empty field. 

Following the rocket fire, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with several top officials to evaluate the situation and consider a response, including Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, Minister of Public Security Yitzhak Aharonovitz, Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino, and Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen.

The IAF responded to the rocket fire with retaliatory airstrikes, the IDF stated.

Hamas sources later told AFP that the IAF had hit targets in Rafah and Khan Younis. 

Little to no progress has been made in rumored talks between Israel and Hamas since Friday, according to the news agency, which were allegedly mediated by Egypt to broker a ceasefire. 

Hamas has been ignoring the IDF's ultimatum, which on Thursday called to stop the rocket fire within 48 hours or face war.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed the massive rocket escalation on Thursday, saying Israel is preparing for two possibilities: “one – that the fire will stop and then our operations will also stop; and the second, that the fire will continue and then our forces will act forcefully.”

On Friday morning, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz added that an assault on Gaza is "inevitable" - and indicated that Israel would prefer to strike first. 

"Gaza is, indeed, growing an army with artillery," Steinitz stated on IDF Radio's "Good Morning Israel" show. "We should try to choose the timing [of an operation] and not have our enemies choose the timing." 

More to follow.