AN IAF F-15 takes off from the Uvda Air Force Base in southern Israel..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
IDF jets struck five Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on Monday afternoon in retaliation for a rocket that landed in southern Israel overnight, the army confirmed on Monday.
“The strikes occurred in response to high-trajectory rocket attacks on the Western Negev in the morning,” the statement said. “The firing of rockets constitutes a threat to the security of Israeli citizens and harms the sovereignty of the State of Israel.”
According to Palestinian reports, at least eight air strikes hit Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip, including in Beit Lahiya. According to Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for the Health Ministry in Gaza, four men were “moderately wounded east of Rafah during the Israeli bombardment.”
According to Palestinian news agency Ma’an, two strikes targeted the Shuhada Hamas military site in the central Gaza Strip, west of the Nuseirat refugee camp.
Following the strikes, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “We are not ready to accept any drizzle of rockets. We will respond to every [rocket] fired into our territory. That is what we did today and that is what we will also do in the future.”
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman stated that while Israel has no intention of initiating military action in Gaza, “we have no intention of continuing to absorb sporadic fire [from the Gaza Strip]. Hamas must take responsibility and relax.”
Hamas, on their official Twitter account, blamed Israel for the escalation: “We place full responsibility for the continuation of this dangerous escalation in Gaza on the Israeli entity, which is targeting the Palestinian resistance and the people of Gaza. The continued targeting of the resistance’s locations, the purposeful explosion of the situation in Gaza and the imposition of new formulas on the resistance can not be permitted, irregardless of the price.”
Both Hamas and splinter Islamic organizations have launched rockets into Israel. There has been no official claim of responsibility for the projectile’s launch, but Israel holds Hamas responsible for all fire coming from the Gaza Strip.
Red alert sirens were not sounded, since the rocket fell in an open field.
The exchange of fire comes ahead of the State Comptroller Report into the 2014 Gaza war, also known as Operation Protective Edge, a 50-day military operation launched by Israel in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.
In February, the Gaza-based Mezan Center for Human Rights expressed concern that an uptick in violence could be leading up to a military offensive, stating that the “escalation is reminiscent of the incidents that lead up to Israel’s wide-scale military assaults on Gaza.”
There have been several rockets launched from Gaza in February, including two incidents when the Islamic State group fired a barrage of rockets from Sinai toward the southern city of Eilat, three of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system, while a fourth landed in open territory.
Two weeks ago, following another rocket attack, Netanyahu told reporters in London that his directives are to respond with force to every missile attack.
“The two and a half years since Operation Protective Edge have been the two quietest years since the Six Day War,” he said, adding that Israel will be steadfast in responding to every attack and will not permit a “drizzle” of missile attacks that go without a response.
Two weeks ago, rockets launched from Sinai landed in southern Israel a day after Islamic State-linked media claimed that an unmanned Israeli drone had bombed and killed five members of ISIS in Egypt.
According to the Islamic Statelinked Amaq agency, the five “fell as martyrs to the Jewish enemy” in a strike that targeted a car carrying the terrorists in the village of Shibana south of Rafah, near the Egypt-Israel border.
The IDF has not commented on the claim, but Israel is reported to have carried out drone strikes “with Egypt’s knowledge and blessing” against terrorists in the restive peninsula.
The group said the attack was carried out “in order to teach the Jews and the crusaders a proxy war will not avail them of anything” and threatened future “calamitous” attacks.
Israel has not officially retaliated against the Eilat attack.Adam Rasgon and Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.