(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Hamas arrested members of a global jihadist organization in the Gaza Strip for firing a rocket at southern Israel, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said in Beersheba on Sunday.
“It turns out that it’s one of the global jihadist organizations,” Ya’alon said, referring to Friday’s rocket attack on Eshkol.
“It’s totally clear that Hamas is responsible for the fire from the Gaza Strip, and that’s why we took the trouble to pass on messages, through Egypt, to Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and to respond with a strike on a cement factory that we learned produces material for use in tunnels,” Ya’alon said, referring to the IAF strike over the weekend.
The defense minister, speaking at an event held on behalf of the Magshimim program, aimed at providing youths in peripheral areas with specialized tools to make them proficient in the cyberworld, said he did not know or care whether the cement at the factory went for defensive or offensive tunnels.
“It’s clear that we don’t allow reconstruction material into the Strip so they can take cement to the tunnels,” he said.
Defensive tunnels enable Hamas members to move within the Gaza Strip underground, transfer weapons and coordinate hit-and-run attacks on IDF units during clashes. Offensive tunnels are cross-border structures designed to allow Hamas to insert murder squads into southern Israel to carry out terrorist atrocities and attacks on IDF positions.
“We are sure not whether it was our cement that was there or cement left over from the Qataris [who donated funds for Gazan reconstruction projects in 2012]. It doesn’t matter at all,” Ya’alon said. “Hamas is responsible, and we demand that it ensures that not even a single rocket is fired from the Gaza Strip. If a rocket is fired, we will respond accordingly....
I hope that Hamas is interested in quiet and not escalation.”
Unlike periods that followed past clashes with Hamas, this time around, Hamas is “unable to replenish its stockpile of [industrial] weapons, from Iran or Libya. Part of this is due to our actions... and part of this is due to the more determined actions of the Egyptian security forces in Sinai,” Ya’alon added.
He said that lone rocket attacks occurred after operations Cast Lead in 2009 and Pillar of Defense in 2012.
“The fact is that Hamas is deterred. This comes up clearly, since this time, too, Hamas arrested those who fired the rocket... the question is how long will this last, and I hope for as long a period as possible,” he said.
The Israel Air Force struck a Hamas terrorist base in the southern Gaza Strip overnight between Friday and Saturday in response to the Palestinian rocket fire. There were no wounded in the air strike.
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.
Hamas described Israel’s retaliatory air strike as a “dangerous escalation,” saying “Israel is playing with the calm obtained after the summer fighting,” and that Hamas was “examining its response to the aggression.”