Amid rocket barrage, southern Israelis told to stay near shelters

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — At least 15 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel over the course of an hour.

Hours after Hamas’ military wing threatened Israel, Thursday’s barrage struck buildings and caused fires, and a soldier was injured from shrapnel. Residents of Israeli communities near the Gaza border were instructed to remain within 15 seconds of a bomb shelter.

As Israeli troops moved toward the Gaza border, a spokesman for the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades told reporters in the coastal strip, “The threat of an Israeli military action against the Gaza Strip does not scare us. It only hastens the hour of our revenge against Israel, and an opportunity to teach it a lesson.

He added, “I promise you that one stupid move by your leaders will be enough to make us turn all of your communities, even those you might not expect, into targets and burning coals,”  he said.

Some high school students in Sderot on Thursday sat for their matriculation exams as the rockets fell on the city.

More than 30 rockets have hit Israel in the 24 hours since Wednesday evening, according to the Israeli military.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the residents of southern Israel for their fortitude in the wake of the onslaught of rockets.

“The strength you are demonstrating allows us to act determinedly and responsibly towards one goal – your security, all our security,” Netanyahu said Thursday evening at an Independence Day celebration at the home of the U.S. ambassador to Israel.

Netanyahu spoke of two possibilities in southern Israel, including the end to rocket fire from Gaza.

“The second possibility is that the firing at our communities in the South will continue and then the reinforcement forces that are located in the field will act forcefully,” he said.