An Israeli Air Force F-15 fighter jet flies during an aerial demonstration.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN - REUTERS)
The air force struck terrorist infrastructure in the southern Gaza Strip early Thursday morning following three mortar shells that were fired at Israel the previous day.
Gaza border brief with Seth J. Frantzman
The air strikes targeted a “central terror infrastructure,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said, and while Israel holds Hamas responsible for everything that occurs in the Strip, the statement did not mention the group.
The army also did not elaborate on the exact nature of the target struck except to say that “the IDF will continue to use all the measures at its disposal, above and below ground, to thwart attacks against Israelis,” adding that it is “prepared and ready for a variety of scenarios.”
Daniel Matry, a resident of Kibbutz Kerem Shalom in the Eshkol region, told Walla News that the intensity of air strikes was different on Thursday.
“It was clear that this was something different. The response to the rocket fire was not only directed to abandoned warehouses, as in the past; tonight was something else,” he said.
More than 20 projectiles have been fired at southern Israel since US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital three weeks ago.
Several have been intercepted, including one over Ashkelon some 20 kilometers from Gaza, and a number have slammed into Israeli territory.
Retaliation by the IDF, usually in the form of artillery fire and/or air strikes, often targets Hamas outposts which tend to be evacuated by the terrorist group before the strikes.
Over the course of several hours on Wednesday, three mortar shells were fired at the Eshkol region. The first two rockets did not activate the Color Red incoming-rocket siren since they were heading toward open areas, but sirens sounded at around 5 p.m. when a third mortar shell struck near a border community.
Gadi Yarkoni, head of the Eshkol Regional Council, said in a statement that residents were prepared for rocket fire following the discovery of an Islamic Jihad tunnel, the construction of the IDF’s underground barrier and Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
While Hamas is not believed to be behind the launching of the projectiles, the group continues to invest significant amounts of manpower and money into their tunnel system, with the head of the Southern Command Maj.- Gen. Eyal Zamir describing it as a “metro system” of three different kinds of tunnels.
According to him the tunnels – some of which run under residential buildings – include smuggling tunnels to Egypt, tunnels inside the Strip used for command centers and weapons storage, and offensive tunnels used for cross-border attacks in Israel.
Israel’s military has been investing extensive effort in locating cross-border tunnels from Gaza and has been building a ground-breaking underground barrier across the entire border with the Hamas-run enclave. In November Zamir stated that while the barrier is being built entirely in Israeli territory, “this wall can potentially lead to a dangerous escalation.”
In addition to the underground barrier, the IDF also has a new system to detect and destroy tunnels – a collaboration between advanced technology and various engineering, intelligence and ground forces units.
Since late October, Israel has discovered two cross-border attack tunnels, one belonging to Hamas and one belonging to Islamic Jihad, inside Israeli territory, and it is likely that the strikes on Thursday targeted one such tunnel belonging to one of the groups inside the Gaza Strip.