JERUSALEM (JTA) — Code Red rocket warning sirens sounded throughout southern Israeli communities near the border with Gaza as more than a dozen rockets were launched from the coastal strip at civilian communities.

The rockets were fired between 1:45 a.m. and 4 a.m. on Wednesday morning, sending thousands of civilian residents of southern Israel to bomb shelters and safe rooms. At least three were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

Elementary schools and kindergartens, which are in regular session though the end of the month, opened as usual Wednesday morning.

The rockets came hours after the Israeli military fired on a vehicle belonging to a Hamas operative heavily involved in launching arson kites and balloons from the Gaza Strip into Israel as well as two Hamas observation posts in northern Gaza. The attacks were in response to repeated arson attacks from Gaza, according to the IDF. Several fires were sparked in southern Israeli communities on Tuesday due to the incendiary balloons.

“The Hamas terror organization will bear the consequences for facilitating terror and instability,” the IDF said following the rocket attacks.

The IDF has begun to fire warning shots at Gazan Palestinian groups preparing to launch burning kites and balloons and to retaliate for the arson attacks with air strikes on Hamas targets. Gazan Palestinian groups have retaliated for the air strikes with early morning rocket attacks on several occasions in recent days.

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