Palestinians Escalate Rocket Attacks on Israel

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Palestinians in the Gaza Strip bombarded southern Israel with more than 75 rockets and mortar shells in a 24-hour period. At least eight of them were longer-range missiles.

The Iron Dome anti-missile battery intercepted one missile fired at the coastal city of Ashdod, just north of Ashkelon. Another exploded north of the city, without any injuries or property damage.

Three Israelis injured by shrapnel were evacuated to medical centers in Beersheva and Ashkelon, and three others were treated for shock.

A factory in Sderot sustained a direct hit for the fourth time. Rockets damaged two vehicles, including a neighborhood patrol car in Sha'ar Hanegev, injuring two men. A third citizen was injured by shrapnel near a school, YNet reported. An electric power pole was also hit.

The latest escalation came after terrorists fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli army jeep patrolling near the Karni border crossing early Saturday evening, injuring four soldiers, two seriously and two moderately.

The more seriously injured were airlifted to Soroka Medical Center in Beersheva, where both underwent emergency surgery. One remains in critical condition. The other soldiers were transported by ambulance to Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon.

Two Islamist terror groups claimed responsibility for the attack: the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine's Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades and the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the "armed" wing of Hamas.

Following the attack, Israel Air Force pilots targeted two rocket launch pads, two munitions storage facilities and a weapons manufacturing plant in Gaza, confirming direct hits.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum blamed Israel for the escalation, saying it was tied to upcoming Israeli elections in January.

"Our resistance to the occupation and the Zionist soldiers killing our people is legitimate as defense of our families," Barhoum told reporters. "We will not allow Palestinian blood to be the price for electoral and political achievements in Israel."

Six Palestinians were killed in the airstrikes, two members of Islamic Jihad, and seven injured, the Palestinian Authority's official news agency, Ma'an, reported.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Israel "won't sit idly by."

"The IDF is operating and will operate in Gaza," Netanyahu told ministers at Sunday morning's cabinet meeting. "The terror organizations are taking tough blows from the IDF, and Israel won't sit idly by," he said. "We are ready to step up our response."

Netanyahu also mentioned incidents along the Syrian border, where fighting between the government and rebel forces has spilled over into Israel recently. "We are ready for any development on the Syrian border as well," he said.

On Sunday, for the first time since 1973, IDF troops fired warning shots into Syria after a mortar shell hit the Golan Heights.

"IDF Forces fired warning shots and relayed a message to the Syrian forces via the United Nations that warns against additional firing," the IDF Spokesman's Office said in a statement. "Additional firing will prompt a quick response."

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