TEL AVIV - Hamas fired rockets towards Dimona, a city close to where Israel's nuclear reactor is located. The rockets however have caused no damage or injuries.
A rocket was intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile defense system, while another two landed in open fields, Israel's Channel 2 reported.
Hamas' military wing Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack, saying they launched three M-75 missiles targeting the reactor , about 13 kilometers southeast of the city of Dimona, which is in the southern Negev desert.
It's the first time that rockets have hit near Dimona, since October and November 2012.
It is unlikely the Israeli military will confirm the attack as it does not confirm or deny the nuclear plant's existence. The area surrounding the plant is highly secured and sensitive to any interference. In 1973 Libyan Airline Flight 114 became lost due to equipment failure and strayed over the Dimona area. Israel, after claiming it tried to divert the aircraft, shot it down, killing 108 people. Libya denied there was any warning.
Nearly three years ago Israel's Home Front Command and the Israel Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) held a drill, simulating a rocket striking its nuclear reactor.
Israel Radio at the time reported hundreds of soldiers, police, rescue workers and other personnel took part in the exercise.
The drill codenamed Operation Fernando has been classified as top secret.
Meantime the Israeli army has stepped up its attack on the Gaza Strip, targeting more than 600 sites in an aerial bombing campaign which escalated on Tuesday. As of Thursday morning at least 81 Palestinians have been killed and more than 550 injured, according to Palestinian medical sources and Health Ministry officials. A list released by the Health Ministry showed about a third of the fatalities have been women and children, including an 18-month-old baby and an 80-year-old woman.
8 Palestinians died when two homes near the southern city of Khan Younis were bombed by Israeli warplanes in the early hours of Thursday morning, the Palestinian health ministry said.
Seven Palestinians, including 2 children under five, and their mother were killed and 25 wounded in an Israeli Air Force attack on a house in the Gaza Strip.
Hafez Hamed, a commander in the armed wing of the Quds Brigades, was killed in an Israeli air strike in Beit Hanoun on Tuesday night, along with five members of his family.
The United Nations Security Council met in emergency session late Thursday. Ambassador Riyad Mansour, permanent observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, told the council Israel was terrorizing his people, killing dozens of civilians and injuring hundred and that claims Israel was defending itself were "audacious,
"Israel deliberately carries out reprisals and collective punishment against the Palestinian people in declared retaliation and revenge for the killing of the three Israeli settlers, which the Palestinian leadership has clearly condemned," he said.
Israel asked the Security Council to condemn Hamas and its firing of rockets across the border. Ron Prosor, Israeli ambassador to the UN played a recording of a siren to the council, saying people had fifteen seconds to run for cover.
"Asking Israel to show restraint while our cities are under constant attack is like asking the fire brigade to battle an inferno with nothing more than buckets of water," he said.
Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida earlier in the week said Israel had violated the Egyptian-brokered truce that ended hostilities in 2012.
Israel is deliberately targeting civilians according to the head of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza, Raji Sourani. "There is no safe haven in this place and Palestinian civilians are once again in the eye of the storm and are paying heavily. Israelis are trying to pressure militant groups through targeting civilians," he told the BBC.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, says he is targeting Hamas which he blames for the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers. His concern follows the recent unity deal Hamas did with the Palestinian Authority.
Hamas, which denies any involvement in the kidnapping and murder of the Israeli teenagers, has been blamed from the outset by the Israeli prime minister. As soon as news filtered through of their disappearance he said he was holding Hamas responsible.
Gaza, which houses around 850,000 children among its 1.5 million population, has been under a blockade for seven years, limiting food, medical supplies and building equipment, and largely defenceless but for its sporadic, and largely useless rocket fire, and children throwing stones. On Wednesday, according to Israeli military sources, 72 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel. Fourteen were intercepted by the Iron Dome interception system, none of the others caused any casualties or damage.
Calling its current campaign "Operation Protective Edge," Israeli army spokesman Brig.-Gen. Moti Almoz confirmed the deployment of Artillery Corps troops along the Gaza border, and the calling up of 40,000 reservists from the Central and Southern Commands.
"In the past weeks, residents of southern Israel were forced into an unbearable reality, a situation they haven't encountered in these scales since November 2012. In light of these circumstances, the IDF commenced operation 'Protective Edge'. We are determined to lay a significant blow on Hamas' terror capabilities and infrastructure, eliminate any threat on Israeli sovereignty emanating from the Gaza Strip and restore stability to the southern region. Terrorists perpetrating the aggression against Israel have a personal price to pay and will bear the consequences of their actions," Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli army spokesman said Tuesday.
Seven Palestinians were wounded in an Israeli army attack in Khan Younis. Two Palestinians were killed and several wounded in an Israel Air Force attack in Gaza City, reported Ynet.
The families of the murdered Israeli and Palestinian teenagers have condemned any form of revenge and vengeance.
Prime Minister Netanyahu responded angrily to the Israeli teenagers murder. On Tuesday he met with military officials and gave directions to carry out a "systematic, continuous, deep and strong operation in Gaza," saying the time had come to "take off the gloves."
"Hamas chose this escalation, and will pay a heavy price," he said, According to The Jerusalem Post he told the security establishment to "be prepared to go all the way," including moving ground troops into Gaza. To that end, Netanyahu and Ya'alon approved the call-up of 40,000 reservists, the 'Post reported.
Netanyahu said he was not targeting Palestinian civilians, however the crammed-in population will hardly be protected from the onslaught. The Palestinians do not have the bomb shelters, warning sirens and Iron Dome missile interceptors that Israel has. Its 1.5 million population, of which more than half are children, are completely exposed to the warplanes, artillery fire, tanks , and troops that will ultimately storm their narrow strip of land.
Israel however is getting support for what is shaping up to be its biggest offensive in the Gaza Strip in two years. "We strongly condemn the continuing rocket fire into Israel and the deliberate targeting of civilians by terrorist organizations in Gaza," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a Tuesday press briefing. "No country can accept rocket fire aimed at civilians, and we certainly support Israel's right to defend itself against these attacks."
Canada also issued a statement Tuesday saying Israel had the right to defend itself. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird condemned the rocket attacks by Hamas. These "prove that Hamas continues to target innocent civilians," he said, describing the rocket fire as "belligerent acts of terrorism."
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas took a different line, calling the Israeli offensive "collective genocide."
"This war is not against Hamas or another political party but it is against the Palestinian people," he said Wednesday. "What do you call this crime? What is this crime known under international law? To kill entire families, is this collective punishment? No, this is called collective genocide."