Life in southern Israel was put on hold for more than 24 hours as Islamic Jihad launched almost 100 rockets from the Gaza Strip on Sunday and Monday, essentially shuttering schools, agricultural work and businesses.
My wife Elana was in Ashkelon when she had to run for cover while visiting her mother.
Some 55,000 students stayed at home for two days this week while the attacks continued. In fact, a rocket landed in the playground of a kindergarten, destroying some of the equipment. Had school not been cancelled, the results could have been much more tragic.
One rocket landed in the yard of a home as well, but no one was injured there. Overall some 21 Israelis were treated for injuries, most of them sustained while running for shelter.
With just a week to go until Israel’s elections, the intense rocket fire caused life down south to come to a halt and captivated the news cycle for more than 24 hours. Campaigning also ground to a halt for several hours, but politicians took the opportunity to posture in any case.
“I’m talking about a war,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, speculating about hardline plans if fighting continued. “I only go to war as a last resort, but we have prepared something you can’t even imagine.”
Netanyahu’s opponents took the opportunity to criticize his handling of the situation.
“Netanyahu, the country is under fire. Get on helping it,” said former IDF general Benny Gantz, who leads the centrist Blue and White party. “The people of the south deserve better.”
While schools remained closed on Tuesday morning, roads were reopened and train service resumed in the region as life began to return to normal.
The IDF said that 90 percent of the launches were shot down by the Iron Dome Missile Defense system.
Islamic Jihad said the rockets came in response to an Israeli attack against the group’s facilities outside Damascus on Sunday and the killing of a Palestinian operative who planted an explosive device near the border with Israel. Israel retaliated with air strikes targeting Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip.