KIRYAT MALACHI, ISRAEL— As Israel carried out air strikes in the Gaza Strip Thursday, one of the Palestinian rockets fired from Gaza caused fatalities in an apartment block in the southern Israeli town of Kiryat Malachi.
The rocket hit in the early morning, destroying three apartments in this town 30 kilometers northeast of Gaza. Three people were killed and seven others were wounded, including a small girl.
Neighbor Abraham Hershkof heard the explosion and rushed to the scene. Among the dead was a close friend.
"It's a very hard feeling. It's not good. You feel like… you are losing your friend. A father of three kids, a young man, has died. The whole family is destroyed," said Hershkof.
These were the first Israeli deaths since Israel launched what it calls "Operation Pillar of Defense." The government says some 800 rockets from Gaza have hit Israel this year alone and this has to stop.
The Hamas movement, which controls Gaza, has vowed revenge for the killing of its military chief at the start of the Israeli operation.
Israel has declared a high alert throughout the country and told people to stay home. Schools within 40 kilometers of Gaza have been closed and many businesses are shuttered.
The scene is much the same inside Gaza, where there are Palestinian deaths and injuries from Israeli bombing.
Israel's Interior Minister Eli Yishai said the operation would continue until security is no longer threatened by Gaza militants.
"The residents here want us to continue with the operation, to deepen [strengthen] it and broaden it; to hurt them [the attackers] as much as possible," said Yishai.
No one knows how long this conflict will last. But few expect it to end soon. As a result, Israelis and Palestinians are bracing for more scenes like this in coming days.