A rocket fired from Gaza struck a residential home in southern Israel early Wednesday and the Israeli military began attacking militant sites in Gaza in response after days of rising tensions.
The Magen David Adom medical service said a woman and her three children, whose home in Beersheba was struck, were being treated for shock after they fled to their shelter upon being awoken by warning sirens shortly before 4 a.m. Her swift response likely saved their lives, as the home was destroyed and debris was scattered throughout the street, damaging parked cars and adjacent structures.
Next-door neighbor Segev Naveh said he did not hear the warning sirens and was awoken by the massive blast.
"It was very scary," he said. "If it was falling on my house I would be dead for sure."
The medical service said two other Beersheba residents were injured during the panic to seek cover.
The military said another rocket from Gaza landed in the sea, just off the coast of one of the larger cities in central Israel. No injuries were reported.
Following the attacks, schools in Beersheba were closed and Israel's military chief was cutting short his visit to the United States to come back and manage the crisis.
As a first response, Israeli military jets pounded Hamas targets across the Gaza Strip. The Gaza Health Ministry said a 25-year-old militant was killed inside one of the posts targeted. Three other people were wounded.
Since March, 155 Palestinians have been killed during the protests. One Israeli soldier was killed by sniper fire in July.
Hamas seeks a cease-fire with Israel to secure an easing of the blockade but accuses its West Bank rivals, Fatah, of thwarting the effort. Repeated attempts to reconcile Hamas and the West Bank-based administration of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have failed, adding to the desperation fueling the demonstrations.
In Israel, the fiery threats against Hamas have been coupled with concern over being dragged into an unnecessary escalation that may have more to do with Palestinian infighting.