More than 65 rockets were fired into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, wounding five people, two of them seriously, and causing extensive property damage, Israel Hayom reported.
Two Thai foreign workers in their 20s were seriously hurt when a rocket exploded directly into a chicken coop in the Eshkol region, and a third foreign worker sustained light shrapnel wounds at the scene. A Border Policeman also sustained light injuries in a separate salvo nearby. Several people were treated for shock. All the victims in the area were evacuated to Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba.
In the Ashkelon region, another woman was lightly wounded while running to a bomb shelter.
The Iron Dome missile defense system was able to successfully intercept seven rockets fired over populated areas south of Ashkelon.
The rockets scored direct hits on seven homes, with one home sustaining extensive damage. One occupant of the home was treated for shock, but no other injuries were reported.
Schools surrounding the Gaza Strip border were closed on Wednesday, as was Sapir College in Sderot. Crossings between Gaza and Israel were shut down following the exchanges of fire. By Wednesday afternoon, Israel Radio reported that Hamas was evacuating many of its compounds in the Gaza Strip in anticipation of escalating Israeli strikes.
Following consultations on Wednesday, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz decided to scale back participation in the current joint Israel-U.S. aerial defense drill. “In light of the escalation in the south, and a concern that the situation could further deteriorate as a result of IDF actions, it is important that the military is ready for any scenario in Gaza,” said one defense official.