Israel will not overlook the firing of even a single rocket, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday night, explaining the IAF attack earlier in the day on a cement plant in Gaza that followed Friday’s fire from Gaza into Israel.
Speaking at a Hanukka candle- lighting ceremony at the Western Wall, Netanyahu said, “Israel’s safety comes first. I won’t allow even one rocket, and that is why the IAF responded to the rocket and destroyed a cement factory that was making cement to repair tunnels that were hit during Operation Protective Edge. Hamas will be held responsible for every escalation.
We will protect Israel’s safety.”
On Friday, a Gazan rocket triggered warning sirens in the Eshkol region, before exploding in an agricultural field. It failed to cause injuries, but damaged the field, before being collected by an Israel Police bomb squad.
It was the third time Palestinians had fired a rocket into Israel since the truce between Israel and Hamas went into effect on August 26, ending a 50-day conflict.
Israel will not tolerate a new “trickle” of rockets from Gaza, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said on Saturday evening.
“Last night’s IAF air strike in Gaza, which was in response to Friday’s rocket attack, was on a factory making cement that would be used to build tunnels. It is a clear message to Hamas that we won’t put up with a ‘trickle’ of rockets on our citizens. We hold Hamas responsible for what happens in the Strip, and we know how to respond to the attacks if they don’t know how to stop them,” Ya’alon said.
Hamas described Israel’s retaliatory air strike as a “dangerous escalation,” adding that “Israel is playing with the calm obtained after the summer fighting. Hamas is examining its response to the aggression.”
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said the air strike was a “grave breach of the Egyptian- brokered” cease-fire.
Haniyeh called on Egypt to “move quickly to force Israel to abide by the cease-fire agreement.”
The IAF’s retaliatory strike against the Gaza Strip roused local Palestinians, who for the first time since the end of Operation Protective Edge woke up with a feeling of dread that another round of fighting was imminent.
Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi called on the government to respond “immediately and aggressively to the renewal of fire.”
He said that Israel must not agree to any rocket attacks, whether they are sporadic or continuous.
This weekend’s developments raised questions in the minds of Gazan residents regarding the viability of the cease-fire.
Hani al-Basus, a Palestinian political commentator, told the Ma’an news agency that “the Israeli attack came solely as a response [to the attack] and there is no way that it will lead to a deterioration.”
“Israel wanted to send a message to the Palestinian factions, particularly to Hamas, that any operation on its borders would cost it dearly,” he said. “Israel cannot enter a renewed conflict, because it is about to hold an election. The current political and security situation cannot countenance an escalation in fighting from anyone, both on the Israeli side and on the part of the Palestinian factions.”
Another observer, Akram Atallah, believes that the Israeli escalation is part and parcel of Israel’s election campaign.
“Israel doesn’t want the Palestinian factions to interrupt the election campaign,” he said.
Atallah said he is concerned that “the situation could worsen even further as we head toward elections.”
“Israel is also concerned about the deteriorating [economic and humanitarian] situation in Gaza, which could lead to a renewal of fighting,” he said.
Salah Bardaweel, a senior Hamas official, accused Israel of “tampering with the cease-fire.”
He called on the international community to assume its responsibilities to stop the Israeli “violations.”
Bardaweel claimed that the air strike, which did not result in any casualties, were part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s electoral campaign.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri warned Israel against any “stupid” moves that could lead to a serious deterioration. He, too, called on the international community to intervene to stop the Israeli attacks.
Hamas’s official statement “warned the Israeli occupation from repeating its stupidity in Gaza.”
According to the communique, which was issued on Saturday morning, “the occupation’s attack represents a dangerous escalation in light of the lull in fighting between the resistance and the Israeli occupation.”
The Islamist group called on the international community “to take responsibility for the Israeli aggression toward the Palestinians.”
Meanwhile, a senior Hamas official based in Lebanon explained why the organization was resuming its alliance with Iran.
“The visit of a Hamas delegation to Iran after a period of chilly relations came after most of the Arab countries didn’t respond favorably to its call to stand alongside the Palestinian people,” said Ali Barakeh.
Barakeh said that the delegation’s trip to Iran “clinched Iranian support for the Palestinian resistance.”
The delegation he referred to visited Tehran earlier this month. During the visit, both sides reached understandings according to which Iran would continue to arm and finance the Palestinian factions in Gaza.
Barakeh told a Turkish news agency that “a new page was opened in the relations between Iran and Hamas.”
Last week, the spokesman for the Hamas military wing, Abu Obeida, thanked Iran in his speech marking the 27th anniversary of the organization’s founding.