ASHDOD, SOUTHERN ISRAEL – After firing more than 450 rockets at Israel’s south in one day, killing an Israeli father of four, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups on Sunday threatened to extend the range of the projectiles.
“A barrage of about 50 rockets was fired at the area of Ashkelon, and we are considering increasing the fire to more than 40 kilometers (24 miles) in the coming hours if the aggression continues,” a joint statement by the terror groups said, referring to Israeli retaliatory strikes in Gaza that have killed six people, all identified as members of Hamas and PIJ respectively.
A Palestinian woman and her baby were also killed by a botched missile launch by the terror groups.
“The Palestinian resistance has chosen to react in an unprecedented way,” the terror groups said.
Beginning early Saturday, Hamas and PIJ have fired hundreds of projectiles at Israeli population centers in the south, killing Moshe Agadi, 58, and injuring 50 more. Agadi was hit by shrapnel in his chest and stomach while stepping out for a cigarette in between rocket barrages.
“We don’t know how to continue from here. If Moshe was here he would have given us hope. We are helpless,” Moshe’s brother Shai Agadi told Army Radio.
Seventy percent of the projectiles fell in open areas and more than 250 were hit by the Iron Dome missile defense system.
Israel responded by bombing more than 150 terror targets in the Gaza Strip, including a cross-border underground tunnel, a subterranean rocket factory, a six-story building used by Hamas intelligence, as well as the private homes of dozens of terror commanders — some of which were being used as weapons caches, the army said.
The central city of Rishon Lezion opened its bomb shelters Sunday morning in response to the “expanding rocket range,” the city’s mayor Raz Kinstlich said in a statement.
The IDF deployed more troops along the border with Gaza, sending the Seventh Armored Brigade “to act as an offensive force within the Gaza Division,” the military said in a statement.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon called on the world to condemn the rockets “in the strongest possible terms.”anti-Israel
— Emmanuel Nahshon (@EmmanuelNahshon) May 5, 2019
“This is a situation we cannot accept. We will hit back — we will make sure that the Palestinian terror organizations are not able to continue with these attacks, and we ask the international community to condemn it in the strongest possible terms,” Nahshon said.
Italy released a statement in support of Israel, noting the “extremely heavy missile attack” and expressing solidarity.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Matteo Salvini: “Extremely heavy missile attack against Israel, all my solidarity to Prime Minister @netanyahu and all Israeli people. 🇹🇱” https://t.co/wewsYsfn0F
— Italy in Israel (@ItalyinIsrael) May 5, 2019
The European Union also condemned the attacks on Saturday evening.
“The rocket fire from Gaza towards Israel must stop immediately. A de-escalation of this dangerous situation is urgently needed to ensure that civilians’ lives are protected,” a spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said. “Israelis and Palestinians both have the right to live in peace, security and dignity. Only a political solution can put an end to the violence. Efforts by Egypt and the UN to calm the situation have the European Union’s full support.”
French Ambassador to Israel Hélène Le Gal expressed “solidarity with the population in Israel’s South.”
Germany also blasted the “massive rocket fire” on Israel. “There is nothing that could justify attacks on civilians. Israel has the right to defend itself and to protect its citizens,” its foreign ministry wrote on its Twitter account. Berlin added that it was “very concerned about the ongoing military confrontation and urges all sides to exercise restraint and safeguard proportionality.”
Austria said it fully supports “Israel’s right to defend itself.”
“Austria firmly stands behind Israel as the security of the country and its population is a raison d’état for Austria,” Austrian government spokesman Peter Launsky said.
The U.S. also expressed its full support for Israel’s right to defend itself.
“The United States strongly condemns the ongoing barrage of rocket attacks by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad from Gaza upon innocent civilians and their communities across Israel. We call on those responsible for the violence to cease this aggression immediately,” State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.
“We stand with Israel and fully support its right to self defense against these abhorrent attacks,” she added.