A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed close to Tel Aviv on Thursday, in the first attack on Israel’s biggest city in 20 years, raising the stakes in a military showdown between Israel and the Palestinians that is moving towards all-out war.
Earlier, a Hamas rocket killed three Israelis north of the Gaza Strip, drawing the first blood from Israel as the Palestinian death toll rose to 19.
Defence Minister Ehud Barak, signaling stronger Israeli military action against Palestinian militants, said on Thursday they would be made to pay a price for firing rockets toward Tel Aviv.
“This escalation will exact a price that the other side will have to pay,” Barak said in broadcast remarks after rockets were fired toward Israel’s commercial capital in attacks that caused no damage or casualties.
An Israeli security source said one rocket, which triggered air raid sirens in Tel Aviv, landed in the sea. The military said another rocket fired at central Israel struck an uninhabited area in the Tel Aviv suburb of Rishon Lezion.
On the second day of an assault that Israel said might last many days and culminate in a ground attack, its warplanes bombed targets in and around Gaza city, shaking tall buildings.
Plumes of smoke and dust furled into a sky laced with the vapour trails of outgoing rockets over the crowded city, where four young children killed on Wednesday were buried.
The sudden conflict, launched by Israel with the killing of Hamas’s military chief, pours oil on the fire of a Middle East already ablaze with two years of revolution and an out-of-control civil war in Syria.