Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system intercepted about 100 of the rockets, according to Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus. The missiles that made it through killed one man in Ashkelon and injured 68 people.
Israeli air counter-strikes have killed seven Palestinians, at least five of them gunmen, terrorist factions in Gaza said.
The exchange was the fiercest since the 2014 Gaza war, the third between Israel and Hamas in a decade as part of the wider Israel-Palestinian conflict.
“Hamas terrorists in Gaza have been firing hundreds of rockets at Israeli civilians, killing a man and causing multiple injuries, severe damage to buildings & property,” Israel’s foreign ministry said in a statement. “Israel is exercising its full right to protect its sovereignty and the lives of its citizens.”
The joint command of the Palestinian armed factions in Gaza said in a statement they would abide by a ceasefire mediated by neighboring Egypt. An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, responded by putting the onus on the Palestinians to stop their strikes, saying Israel’s actions would be determined by their “steps on the ground.”
The terrorist rocket attacks from Gaza killed a Palestinian, a resident of the occupied West Bank, living in an apartment in Israel, where he worked.
The Hamas terrorist group opened the salvo with an attack using a new type of guided missile that struck a bus and severely injured an Israeli soldier.
Asked if Israel was heading toward a ceasefire, Yuval Steinitz, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet, told YNet Internet TV, “I would say that a more accurate definition is that the Israeli military landed a harsh and unprecedented blow on Hamas and the terrorist groups in Gaza, and we will see if that will suffice or whether further blows will be required.”
Hamas said it was retaliating for a botched Israeli commando raid in Gaza that killed one of its commanders and six other gunmen on Nov. 11. An Israeli colonel was also killed in that incident.
Sirens rang out in southern Israeli towns on Nov. 13, and people dashed for shelter as Palestinian rockets crashed into several homes overnight.
Israel responded with dozens of air strikes, hitting buildings overnight that included a Hamas intelligence compound and the studios of Hamas’s Al-Aqsa Television, whose employees had received advance warnings from the military to evacuate.
In aerial attacks on Nov. 13, Israel’s military said it took out a rocket-launching squad and fired at several Palestinians breaching the border fence around Gaza, which Israel keeps under blockade.
In Gaza City, people gathered in front of a large mound of debris that was once a multi-floor structure. It was flanked by five-story buildings still standing after the air strike, their shattered stone facades adding to the tall pile of rubble.
Violence has simmered since the Hamas terrorist group began organizing weekly border provocations on March 30. Israeli troops have killed more than 220 Palestinians, the vast majority of them terrorists.
In fighting over the past two days, Israeli missiles flattened seven buildings, mostly in Gaza City, including the TV station. Witnesses said warning missiles, which carry small warheads, were fired first.
In the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon, a video shot by a resident showed a bleeding woman, lying in the debris of an apartment and covered by dust, weakly raising her arm, next to the body of the Palestinian man killed in the attack. She was taken to the hospital in critical condition.
The Hamas terrorist group took control of Gaza in 2007, two years after Israel withdrew settlers and soldiers from the small coastal territory.
“We stand with Israel as it defends itself against these attacks,” Jason Greenblatt, the special representative for international negotiations and assistant to President Donald Trump, wrote on Twitter. “The world has grown tired of Hamas’ violence and the violence of other bad actors in Gaza. This violence prevents any real help for the people of Gaza.”
The French ministry of foreign affairs condemned the Hamas attacks, and called on both parties “to avoid a new cycle of violence.”
A rocket hit two meters from the house of Israel Bruner in Kissufim, Israel, a mile from the Gaza strip.
“It is very scary,” Bruner said. “When things get unpleasant here, as I call it, we sleep in the shelter.”
One of the Hamas rockets struck a bakery in Sderot. Footage taken from the scene and posted by Israel’s foreign ministry shows extensive damage.
“Hamas is committing a double war crime by targeting Israeli civilian communities from within Gaza’s population centers,” said Yiftah Curiel, director of the department for digital diplomacy at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Reuters contributed to this report.