A ball of fire is seen during Israeli air strikes in Gaza May 4, 2019.
(photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)
Israel struck Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip early Thursday morning after the launching of a rocket towards Israeli border communities.
The IDF said fighter jets “attacked an underground terrorist infrastructure on a military compound belonging to the Hamas terror group in the southern Gaza Strip. The attack was carried out in response to the rocket fire from the Gaza Strip earlier in the night.
“The IDF will continue to act against any attempt to harm Israeli civilians, and considers the terrorist organization Hamas responsible for everything that is happening in and out of the Gaza Strip,” it added.
According to Palestinian media reports, the strike targeted sites in the neighborhoods of al-Rayyan east of Rafah and al-Zaytoun in Gaza City.
The rocket, which was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, triggered sirens in Kibbutz Nirim in the Eshkol regional council at around 12.15 a.m., shortly after Israel closed the fishing zone off the Strip following continued launching of incendiary and explosive balloons from Gaza into Israel.
At least eight fires raged across southern Israel on Wednesday and two other explosive balloons exploded over greenhouses in the area.
In recent weeks, the IDF has responded to incendiary balloons by reducing the fishing zone off of the Gaza coast instead of by striking those who launch them. Last week, after four incendiary balloons caused fires in Gaza periphery communities and one day after Israel expanded it the fishing zone off Gaza to 15 nautical miles, it reduced the zone back to 10 miles.
Last week, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi met with the heads of the Gaza communities and told them that the relative calm along the border has been proving effective, with a decrease in incendiary aerial balloons launched towards southern Israel and a decrease in violent Great March of Return riots along the fence.
“The reduction in the number of balloons and the decrease in the number of violent incidents on the fence is not coincidental,” Kochavi was quoted by Mako as saying. He added that while the IDF “prefers to give this arrangement a chance... we cannot let the balloon terror continue.”
Thursday morning’s rocket fire was the first such attack in over a month since a ceasefire agreement was reached between Israel and terrorist groups in the Strip following a deadly round of violence saw close to 700 rockets fired killing four Israelis. The IDF’s retaliatory strikes killed 25 Palestinians.
According to reports, the ceasefire agreement includes, among other points, that Hamas stop the violence along the border fence, maintain a 300-meter buffer between protesters and the fence, and end the launching of incendiary and explosive balloons.
In return, Israel would reopen the fishing zone and border crossings, allow the transfer of Qatari money, enable United Nations cash-for-work programs, and open negotiations on healthcare, electricity, and other items.
On Thursday, the Gaza District Coordination and Liaison Administration said it foiled the smuggling of mail packages into the Hamas-run enclave containing military equipment that might have been used for terrorist purposes.
According to a statement, officers at the Erez Crossing confiscated 167 out of 220 mail packages which had been ordered online from AliExpress and Amazon.
Among the products seized were dual-use military items including hovering drones and spare parts, cameras, weapons equipment, military face masks, lasers, airbag mechanisms, communication equipment, electronic components, frequency disruptors and gun sites.
The officers were assisted by a communications officer from the Coordination and Liaison Administration, together with the Crossings Authority of the Ministry of Defense and Israel Post.
Israeli authorities intercept illicit goods heading for Hamas on a regular basis at crossings from Israel into the Strip and importing dual-use goods into the Gaza Strip, such as cameras, requires a special permit.
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