Violence has flared on the Israeli border with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, leaving at least four Palestinians dead and several people in Israel and Gaza wounded.
Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted several rockets fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza. But dozens of other rockets and mortar shells crashed into Israel hitting a number of houses.
Map of Gaza with border crossings
Eli Nitzan’s house took a direct hit at a farming community in southern Israel.
“There was a loud explosion like I have never heard before and I have heard a lot of explosions,” Nitzan told Israel Radio. “Fortunately the shrapnel flew over our heads, otherwise I would be dead.”
Israel is blaming Iran and the Islamic militant group Hamas that rules Gaza for the attacks.
“Iran is supporting terror attacks now against us in Gaza," said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "We will fight and we will hit them very, very hard, very hard. The way to fight terror is to fight terror, and that we shall do with great force.”
Hamas says Israel started the violence with air strikes targeting Palestinian fighters.
Hamas spokesman Taher al Nunu said Netanyahu is trying to show the Israeli public that he is tough on the Palestinians ahead of elections in January. But al Nunu said the Palestinians are fighting back and will not be pawns in the Israeli election campaign.
Israel launched a three-week air and ground assault on Gaza nearly four years ago to stop Palestinian rocket fire.
Asked if Israel would need another ground operation, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, “We will do whatever is necessary to stop this wave” of violence.