Lebanese rockets hit Israel as hostilities rise
JERUSALEM — The Palestinian death toll from Israel's massive air campaign in Gaza topped 100 people today as rockets fired by militants reached deeper into Israel — and for the first time in the fighting, struck from neighboring Lebanon.
Gaza militants already have fired more than 550 rockets against Israel in the offensive. The Israeli military says it has hit more than 1,100 targets, mostly what it identified as rocket-launching sites, bombarding the territory on average every five minutes.
In Gaza, an Israeli airstrike today hit the home of a well-known Islamic Jihad leader. Gaza health officials said strikes overnight killed a total of eight people, raising the death toll to at least 98. A later strike pushed the tally over 100 to go along with some 670 wounded, officials said.
Rocket fire continued in earnest from Gaza toward various locations in southern and central Israel, including toward Israel's international airport.
The commercial center of Tel Aviv and Ben-Gurion airport also heard warning sirens today but these rockets were intercepted and there was no disturbance to Israel's air traffic. Hamas says it intends to fire rockets at the airport and warned foreign airlines to stop flying to Israel.
Israel has shot down at least 110 incoming rockets thus far with its “Iron Dome” defense system.
Gaza rocket fire struck a gas station and set it ablaze today in southern Israel, seriously wounding one person.
The attack on the gas station in Ashdod looked to be the most serious attack in Israel in the four days of fighting that has seen Israel deliver a heavy blow to Gaza’s Hamas leaders.
The explosion in Ashdod sent plumes of smoke high into the air, leaving a trail of charred vehicles in its wake. Israeli health officials said the blast wounded three people, including one who is in serious condition. In northern Israel, rocket fire struck near the Lebanese border and the military responded with artillery fire toward the source in southern Lebanon, military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said.
The Lebanese military said three rockets were fired toward Israel around 6 a.m. local time and the Israelis retaliated by firing about 25 artillery shells on the area.
Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency said that one of those suspected of firing the rockets was wounded and rushed to a hospital. The Lebanese military said troops found two rocket launchers and dismantled them.
Southern Lebanon is a stronghold of the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, which has battled Israel numerous times. However, recent fire from Lebanon has been blamed on radical Palestinian factions in the area and Hezbollah has not been involved in the ongoing offensive.
A Lebanon-based al-Qaida-linked group, the Battalions of Ziad Jarrah, claimed responsibility in the past for similar rocket attacks on Israel.
Frequent air raid sirens sounded across Israel today, including for the first time in the northern city of Haifa.
Israel launched the Gaza offensive to stop incessant rocket fire that erupted after three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed in the West Bank and a Palestinian teenager was abducted and burned to death in an apparent reprisal attack.