LIVE BLOG: Israel says destroyed Hamas HQ in Gaza after rocket hits Beersheba
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) continued to pound targets in Gaza on Thursday after Palestinian militants in the enclave fired more than 180 rockets at communities in the south of the country, in a relentless barrage that left one woman seriously injured.
For the first time since the 2014 Gaza war, a rocket was fired from the enclave and exploded in an open area near the southern Israeli city of Beersheba on Thursday.
In response, the IDF destroyed a five-story building in West Gaza city that it claimed was used by Hamas internal security forces.
The building served as the office of active unit members. A significant part of the unit's members are also Hamas military operatives pic.twitter.com/PCMmFXzkzK— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) August 9, 2018
"Earlier today, IDF fighter jets targeted a five-floor building located in the Rimal neighborhood of the northern Gaza Strip. The building was used by the Hamas terror organization's interior security forces for military purposes," the IDF said in a statement.
Palestinian reports claim the building housed a cultural center and offices of the Egyptian diaspora community in Gaza.
Israeli jets bombed two Hamas attack tunnels along the central Gaza coast, as well as a tunnel opening in the northern Strip and a military facility east of the southern city of Rafah on Thursday morning, the air force said.
In total, the IDF has struck some 150 "military targets" in the Strip in response to the firing of approximately 180 rockets into Israeli territory by Palestinian militants in Gaza.
Three Palestinians, including a pregnant woman and her toddler daughter, were killed and 11 others were injured in Israel's retaliatory strikes in Gaza, the enclave's Hamas-run health ministry said in a statement.
Thirty of rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, which is activated only against those projected to hit populated areas. The majority of the projectiles fell in open areas.
Eleven Israelis were injured as several rockets fell in the southern Israeli city of Sderot and the Eshkol Regional Council, including a 30-year-old foreign worker from Thailand who was "gravely wounded" suffering serious injuries to her chest and limbs after a rocket hit her home.
Raw footage: children in the city of Sderot, Israel, running as a rocket from Gaza explodes near them pic.twitter.com/opqy7XDCp8— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) August 8, 2018
The IDF was mobilizing additional troops and aerial defense batteries in the region on Thursday in anticipation of a prolonged escalation that carried with it the threat of a full-blown war.
Residents in the border region were instructed by the military to remain within 15-seconds of bomb shelters and to limit the size of public gatherings as rocket attacks continued into Thursday morning.
"We don't see the end of the escalation. We are closing in on operation in Gaza," the senior IDF official told Israeli media outlets, speaking on condition of anonymity.
But a senior Palestinian officials told the Al-Jazeera and Reuters news networks that militants were declaring the current round of fighting "over" and that "continued calm now depends on Israel."
The conflagration came as Egypt and UN-led efforts had been underway to reach a long-term ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas to bring to an end months of violence along the border and ease tensions in the impoverished Palestinian enclave.