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Israelis Cope With Largest Missile Barrage Since Fall

Israelis Cope With Largest Missile Barrage Since Fall

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Israel Defense Force Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz speaks with soldiers. (Photo: IDF Spokesperson)
Israel Defense Force Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz speaks with soldiers. (Photo: IDF Spokesperson)

Israelis living in the southern part of the country spent the Jewish Sabbath holed up in bomb shelters under nearly continuous rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, the largest such barrage since last fall. By Sunday, schools throughout the region had closed, with the army’s Home Front Command continuing the order through at least Monday as air force sorties target Palestinian terrorists and rocket crews.

In all, one million people were warned to remain in or near shelters due to the security situation. By 5:00 p.m. Sunday, hundreds of missiles had been fired at targets around southern Israel, including the coastal cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon, and the small town of Netivot.

Rabbi Menachem Kutner, director of the Chabad Terror Victims Project, said that last week, he asked all Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries in the country to visit as many victims of terror attacks and their family members as possible during the holiday of Purim, which took place Wednesday night and Thursday. The decision proved to be prescient.

“Because of the talk lately of an increase in attacks, I asked our representatives to make a special effort over the holiday to reach terror victims,” explained Kutner, whose organization distributed 3,000 food packages for Purim.

Kutner opened a special crisis center in the central Israeli village of Kfar Chabad to deal with the psychological and financial trauma caused by the latest violence. Thanks to the U.S.-installed Iron Dome anti-missile system, though, things could have been much worse.

“So far we have seen many miracles,” stated Kutner. “There have been very few injured, thank G‑d. But one cannot rely on miracles alone, as you know, and we are preparing for the possibility that we will need to send volunteers to visit those who are injured and to be with their families.

“If the situation continues much longer, we will also send volunteers out to the public shelters to entertain the children,” he added. “They will play music, perform magic shows, and in general provide an alternative to the interminable waiting that children in southern Israel have been forced to endure.”

Throughout Israel and elsewhere in the world, members of Jewish communities prayed, recited Psalms, and increased their charity and good deeds in the merit of those in the rockets’ paths.

Israeli Police work the scene of a rocket explosion in southern Israel. (Photo: IDF Spokesperson)
Israeli Police work the scene of a rocket explosion in southern Israel. (Photo: IDF Spokesperson)

In Beersheva, one missile struck an empty school. A second missile exploded in a residential neighborhood, causing damage to 15 homes, a car and a central water pipe. No one was physically injured, although five people were treated for shock.

The Iron Dome system reportedly intercepted 90 percent of the attacks on urban centers throughout the weekend bombardment.

Speaking at Sunday morning’s Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu explained that the barrage had come in retaliation for the elimination of a top terrorist planning another massive attack.

“There is no doubt that the [Israel Defense Force’s] activity prevented this attack. The IDF hit them hard, and I wish to praise the army and security forces for their work,” he said.

Nevertheless, Netanyahu warned Israelis to be prepared for further attacks.

“We are taking all the necessary steps to ensure safety and security, but we also plan to take offensive action when necessary,” he explained.

The barrage began Friday with 35 long-range rockets raining down on Beersheva, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gan Yavne, and elsewhere.

At the latest count, at least 21 Israelis have been physically wounded, including a foreign worker who was critically injured.



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