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Summer camps, farming activities canceled amid uptick in Gaza rocket fire

An Israeli girl attempts to write on a piece of paper as she leaves a bomb shelter after an air raid siren drill at the Hashalom school in Jerusalem, Wednesday, May 26, 2010. Air raid sirens have sounded across Israel as part of a massive air raid drill.
(AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)

The Israeli army issued a list of security directives to residents of southern Israel on Wednesday evening amid an uptick in violence that saw the air force pound terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip in response to a barrage of over 150 rockets fired from the coastal enclave towards the Jewish state.

Summer camps operating in Israeli border communities were instructed to cancel all such activities. The army revised its instructions that had formerly permitted the youth schemes to be held inside “protected areas,” in light of the ongoing rocket salvos overnight on Wednesday.

Classes at higher education facilities were also suspended.

"I had to sleep on floor in the living room because that is the room that is reinforced as a bomb shelter. Every time the alarms go off you wake up, and then you try to back to sleep but often you can’t,"Dror Cohen, a resident of Sderot, tells i24NEWS.

During the night, thousands of families slept in bomb shelter as the army advised residents of the southern border communities to remain close proximity of a shelter and protected areas, as the security situation in the region heightened.

"It’s summer and we are used to seeing people out in the streets in the evening having a good time, but after the rockets started the streets were completely empty. We have 8-15 seconds to reach shelter when the sirens go off and you never know where a rocket might hit," Cohen added.

MAHMUD HAMS (AFP)

The military also placed a cap on gatherings in the volatile border areas, advising that only 300 people were permitted to assemble in closed spaces. Whilst in addition, farmers were prohibited from continuing their work in the fields that have become increasing targets for arson fire in recent months.

Local government offices and private businesses were permitted to operate but in a limited capacity, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) added.

Israel pounded the Gaza Strip on Wednesday evening and overnight Thursday after Palestinian militants fired more than 150 projectiles in a relentless salvo aimed at communities in the south of the country.

Most of the rockets fell in open areas. Another 25 were destroyed by the Iron Dome missile defense system and several other rockets fell in the southern Israeli city of Sderot, lightly injuring several people according to medics on the scene.

One woman, a 30-year-old foreign worker from Thailand, was "gravely wounded" suffering serious injuries to her chest and limbs after a rocket hit her home in the Eshkol Regional Council. Three other Israelis were injured in Sderot and around eight others were treated for panic attacks, including two pregnant women who went into labor.

Footage released by the IDF showed children screaming and running in Sderot as a rocket appeared to hit close by sparking panic,

The military said its raids struck over 100 targets in Gaza including “a tunnel-part and concrete factory, an offensive maritime terror tunnel shaft along the coast, and several terror sites in military compounds throughout the Gaza Strip, among them rocket manufacturing facilities and a central logistical military complex.”

The Palestinian health ministry said three Palestinians, including a pregnant 23-year-old woman and her toddler daughter were killed and 11 others were injured in Israel’s retaliatory strikes in Gaza.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman convened a security meeting with senior officers from the IDF and other security services at Tel Aviv’s military headquarters to discuss the security situation. On Thursday morning an IDF source said the military was deploying additional Iron Dome batteries and troops were being reinforced along the Gaza border.

The United Nations condemned the Hamas rocket fire. "I am deeply alarmed by the recent escalation of violence between Gaza and Israel, and particularly by today's multiple rockets fired towards communities in southern Israel," UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov said in a statement. He called on all sides to step "back from the brink."

Hamas claimed responsibility for the attacks and said it was responding to deaths of two of its fighters it's military wing who were killed in an Israeli strike on Tuesday. Hamas had warned Israel -- with which it has fought three wars since 2008 -- that it would pay for the attack.

“In response to Israel aggression, the Palestinian resistance has launched a large number of rockets in recent hours at the enemy,” a statement by the group said. “There was a promise [to respond] and now it has been fulfilled.”

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.

Clashes along the Gaza border since the end of March have seen at least 163 Palestinians -- many of whom are said to be Hamas members -- have been killed by Israeli fire. One Israeli soldier has been shot dead by a Palestinian sniper.

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