Some 25 Israelis soldiers were hospitalized after a Qassam rocket launched from northern Gaza landed on a military base in the western Negev early Tuesday morning. This is the largest number of casualties to date resulting from a single Qassam attack.
Magen David Adom reported sending 20 ambulances and two support helicopters to the scene. Casualties were treated at the scene and then transferred to Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba, and Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer
In total, almost sixty soldiers arrived at the hospitals, and while some were being treated only for shock, the military and MDA reported that at approximately half were physically wounded. IDF sources told Ynet that there were serious consequences as a result of a direct hit. “Sometimes there are direct hits, and then there are many casualties. That’s what happened this time.”
The army confirmed that the lethal Qassam landed in the Zikkim base, about 1 kilometer north of the Gaza Strip, next to a tent containing several soldiers from a battalion in basic training. The casualties, along with their battalion members, were scheduled to complete basic training mere hours after the attack took place.
Despite the rocket threat on the region, it had been decided that the new recruits would continue sleeping in tents. The tent that sustained the direct hit served as a makeshift meal tent and contained a number of soldiers at the time of impact. Several soldiers in an adjacent sleeping tent were injured from shrapnel and the force of the blast.
The Qassam, which was launched from the area of Bein Hanoun, was claimed by the Salah a-Din Brigades – the military arm of the Public Resistance Committees. Abu Mujahad, the organization’s spokesman, told Ynet that the brigades had launched two rockets into Israel.
IDF forces in the area identified only one rocket when it was launched, which landed in a Gaza vicinity community near the base. The area where the rockets landed has formerly been the target of several rocket attacks and, consequently, fortification projects were being undertaken in the region.
In December 2005, the Zikkim base itself sustained a rocket attack. As a result of intense parental pressure, the military decided to build fortifications on base, including cement walls surrounding the tent compound. While it was decided not to fully fortify each tent, military sources stated they believe the structures prevented a much larger catastrophe from occurring.
Nonetheless, Yosi Namir, a Zaka member who was one of the first to arrive on the scene, described the events as “truly severe… The rocket had landed on a tent. Many of the soldiers on base were sleeping at the time, which increased the panic. We assisted MDA in helping the wounded. Everything is a mess, soldiers shouting, calling for help.”
The incident Tuesday occured after a brief respite from Qassam attacks, which the IDF had attributed to Hamas’ desire to keep a low profile in order to concentrate on arming themselves, strengthening their position internally and expanding ‘terror studies’.