A rocket fired from Gaza has struck a residential home in southern Israel, prompting the Israeli military to attack militant sites in Gaza in response.
Health officials said a Beersheba woman and her three children are being treated for shock after they fled to their shelter upon being woken by warning sirens, just before the rocket struck her house.
Her swift response likely saved their lives, as the home was destroyed and debris was scattered throughout the area.
Two other Beersheba residents were injured during the panic to seek cover, officials added.
The military said another rocket from Gaza landed in the sea, just off the coast of one of the larger cities in central Israel. No injuries were reported.
Following the attacks, schools in Beersheba were closed and Israel’s military chief cut short his visit to the United States to manage the crisis.
As a first response, Israeli military jets pounded Hamas targets across the Gaza Strip.
The Gaza health ministry said a 25-year-old militant was killed inside one of the posts targeted. Three other people were wounded.
The rocket attack on Beersheba was the first in months and the first that hit an Israeli home there since the 2014 summer war between Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers.
Beersheba, which is some 30 miles from Gaza, is the biggest city in southern Israel, with a population of around 200,000.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars over the past decade and fighting has flared up on several occasions recently, though neither side appears to be interested in another full-blown conflict. Egypt has been trying to mediate a long-term cease-fire to stave off another confrontation.
In a rare move, seemingly aimed at easing the tensions, the so-called “joint coordination room of resistance factions” that includes Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and other groups issued a statement distancing themselves from the rocket fire.
“We reject all irresponsible attempts that try to change the direction and sabotage the Egyptian efforts, including the overnight firing of the rocket,” they said. “At the same time, we emphasise we are ready to confront the Israeli aggression.”
The head of Egyptian military intelligence, Abbas Kamel, is scheduled to visit Gaza this week to renew high-level cease-fire talks.
The rocket attack came a day after Israeli defence minister Avigdor Lieberman said the time had come to deliver a “heavy blow” to Hamas after weeks of escalating violence along the border.
Mr Lieberman announced that all crossings into Gaza were being shut in response to the attack and the fishing zone around Gaza was being limited.
- Press Association