In three separate attacks, Hamas mortars launched about 30 mortar shells at targets in southern Israel. It was the largest attack against Israel from Gaza since 2014.

Most of the mortar shells were intercepted by the Israeli “Iron Dome” air defense system, the rounds that did impact caused only slight damage and one civilian was lightly wounded by shrapnel from the round. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to respond with “great force” this latest attack from Gaza.

The head of the Eshkol region told Channel 10 news that the army told him the attack was carried out by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, as revenge for the Israel Defense Forces killing three of its members in a cross-border exchange earlier in the week.

The Iran-backed Islamic Jihad did not immediately take responsibility for the mortar attacks, but its spokesperson praised them, saying “the blood of our people is not so cheap that the terrorists (Israel) can do what they want without deterrence.”

There were no immediate reports of a significant Israeli military retaliation to the attacks. Massive reprisal raids were expected, following the repeated, highly irregular mortar shellings on Tuesday morning.

Following the Gaza mortar attacks, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman called for a “special situational assessment” from IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and other senior figures from Israel’s security services. They were due to meet in the army’s Tel Aviv headquarters, known as the Kirya, Liberman’s office said.

Palestinian media reported that Hamas and other terrorist groups were abandoning their positions in the Gaza Strip ahead of an expected forceful response by the IDF.

The initial, primary bombardment came at 7 a.m., when approximately 25 mortar shells were toward the Sha’ar Hanegev and Eshkol regions, as parents were beginning to send their children to school, the IDF said.

The Israelis were then attacked along the border as Hamas operatives were placing improvised explosive devices along the fence disguised as bolt cutters. The Israelis responded with tank fire which reportedly killed three members of Hamas.

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Photo courtesy Israeli police