Updated at 4 p.m. ET

JERUSALEM—Residents of Tel Aviv and the rest of central Israel took shelter tonight amid the sounds of wailing air-raid sirens followed by a terrifying series of explosions, as terror groups in Gaza launched more than 100 missiles at Israel’s coastal cities. One woman was killed by a rocket strike in Rishon Letzion, south of Tel Aviv. Scores have been injured around the nation.

At least three people were injured in Holon, south of Tel Aviv, including a 5-year-old girl, after a rocket struck the city. According to the Magen David Adom ambulance service, its medics are treating a 50-year-old man, a 30-year-old woman and a 5-year-old girl, and are taking them to the hospital for further care.

The Home Front Commander announced late in the day that schools will be closed throughout the country on Wednesday due to the escalating attacks. The education system is preparing for several days of remote learning.

Earlier in the day, two women were killed and a third person seriously injured on Tuesday afternoon during a massive rocket barrage rockets fired at the coastal city of Ashkelon in southern Israel by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza. More than 80 Israelis have been injured by hundreds of rockets fired over the past 24 hours.

The Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, announced that it had fired an unusually large barrage of 137 rockets at Ashdod and Ashkelon in a span of only five minutes. Firing a massive simultaneous barrage of rockets is a tactic used to strain the capacity and overcome Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system’s ability to intercept every projectile. The IDF had called on residents of those cities to remain inside municipal bomb shelters and reinforced security rooms for most of the day.

“All day rockets were striking all around us; fortunately, nobody was killed on our street, but the sirens have been blaring all day,” Aryeh Pruss of Ashkelon told Chabad.org. “Last night, we put our five kids to sleep in the safe room, and I slept in the hallway. There is palpable fear in the air. There hasn’t been this much stress here in a long time. We stayed indoors all day, and when I went to prayers towards evening, everyone remained huddled inside between Mincha and Maariv, instead of socializing outside as we usually do.”

“The scariest thing was that the Iron Dome missile-defense system was down for about two hours, leaving the city completely vulnerable to rocket fire,” he explained. “A local Chabad family lost a loved one during hostilities in 2012 (Operation Pillar of Defense), so as a community we really came together to support one another. Many have taken a course in handling and dealing with trauma related to the security situation. Chabad families in communities further north have also opened their doors to host families seeking to escape the bombardment.”

Helping Deal With Trauma

Rabbi Mordechai Laufer, director of Chabad of Rova Yud Alef, a Ashkelon neighborhood that was the target of several rocket strikes, lives very close to one site where a missile fell. “I immediately took my son and went over to check in on the residents of the house adjacent to the attack,” Laufer told Channel Kan 11 news. “We found them to be in a state of shock,” following a direct hit on a home which quickly caused a neighboring residence to be engulfed in flames, said Laufer.

Throughout the day, Chabad emissaries in Ashkelon fanned out throughout the city, visiting bomb shelters and residents in their homes.

“The local residents are resilient,” Laufer said. “We believe in G‑d and that Israel is still the safest place. We will continue to go about our lives while adhering to security directives and putting our trust in G‑d.”

Calls for Increase in Good Deeds

Chabad.org has issued a call for people to increase in good deeds, mirroring the response of the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—at other times when Israel and her citizens were under attack. In the tense days leading up to the 1967 Six-Day War, the Rebbe addressed thousands of children at the Lag BaOmer parade held in Brooklyn, N.Y., his words of encouragement broadcast to the entire Jewish people.

“Your brothers and sister in the Holy Land, the Land of Israel, are currently in a situation where G‑d is protecting them and sending them His blessings, success and salvation in an added measure so that they may emerge—and they will emerge—from their current situation successfully,” the Rebbe assured. “Every time you study … and [perform] another Mitzvah … it brings G‑d’s increased blessing for salvation and success.”

He also quoted the blessing and promise contained in this past week’s Torah portion of Bechukotai: “You will dwell securely in the Land.”

Israeli security forces enter a building in Ashkelon that was hit by rocket fire from Gaza. (Photo: Flash/90)
Israeli security forces enter a building in Ashkelon that was hit by rocket fire from Gaza. (Photo: Flash/90)

Israel Strikes Back

Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups have fired hundreds of rockets at Israeli towns and cities, mostly in southern Israel but also at Jerusalem, since Monday evening,in what has been the largest flare-up of tensions in the region since 2016. Ashkelon has been the focus of the bulk of the attacks and many structures in the city, including an empty school building, have sustained direct hits by rockets.

In response, the IDF has conducted dozens of airstrikes aimed at Gaza’s terrorist infrastructure including Hamas and Islamic jihad headquarters, weapons storage sites and observation posts used to strike at Israelis. Two senior operatives of the Islamic Jihad movement were killed in a targeted strike. The Israeli military has called on Palestinian civilians to maintain distance from sites used to launch attacks at Israel and sites related to Gaza’s terror infrastructure.

The IDF has announced that it expects the hostilities to last a number of days and that it will continue to target terrorist infrastructure in Gaza. Several reserve units have been mobilized.

On Monday night, hundreds of Arab residents of Lod and Ramla, central Israel, rioted in the streets, burning cars, destroying property and attempted to set fire to Jewish owned shops and a local synagogue with Molotov cocktails.

Reuven Ben Hamo, a Chabad resident of Nof Hagalil (Nazareth Ilit), was driving home from Tiberias Monday night when he suddenly found himself in the midst of an angry demonstration in the Arab village of Kfar Kana. His car was surrounded by angry youth and he was beaten and attacked with stones and pepper spray in his face. In the midst of the lynching a local resident identified as Jamal intervened and extracted Reuven from the wild mob, pulling him to safety.