IAF hits 2 terrorists attempting to fire rockets from Gaza

Mortar fire from Gaza causes slight damage in Eshkol Regional Council; earlier IAF strike kills Islamic Jihad member in Rafah.

IDF IAF fighter jet takes off airstrik air strike 311 (R) (photo credit: Ho New / Reuters)
IDF IAF fighter jet takes off airstrik air strike 311 (R)
(photo credit: Ho New / Reuters)
The Israeli Air Force on Wednesday morning targeted and hit two terrorists in separate locations in the northern Gaza Strip who were attempting to fire rockets into southern Israel.
Earlier on Wednesday, two mortar shells fired from Gaza exploded in open areas in the Eshkol Regional Council. No injuries were reported, but light damage was caused.
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The mortar fire comes after the IDF on Wednesday morning confirmed that a member of the terrorist group Islamic Jihad was killed in a car explosion in the Gaza Strip as a result of an IAF strike. An IDF statement said that the terrorist targeted in Rafah was involved in weapons smuggling and militant operations in Egypt's Sinai from where gunmen snuck into Israel killing eight last week. Israel Radio reported that the terrorist killed in the strike was responsible for funding the Eilat attacks.
Palestinian news agency Ma'an said that the man killed was Ismail al-Asmar, a field commander in the Al-Quds Brigade, the Islamic Jihad's military wing. A spokesman for a medical service run by Hamas said two other people were wounded after the car was targeted by IAF aircraft.
"Israel will pay a heavy price for this crime," a statement by the Al-Quds Brigade said.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was expected to convene his security cabinet on Wednesday morning to discuss the situation in the South, as well as unrest in both Libya and Syria.
The South was on high alert Wednesday morning following the renewed violence, with the Home Front Command instructing residents to stay within 15 seconds of a secure bomb shelter.
Hamas condemned the IDF action, saying that they would discuss the Israeli breaking of what they claimed was a ceasefire agreed upon by the two sides, with those who helped negotiate the informal truce.
On Monday, a senior diplomatic official said that Israel did not enter a ceasefire agreement with Hamas, and it would continue to take action to thwart any terrorist action, be it the firing of rockets or attempts to infiltrate Israel coming from the Gaza Strip.
At the same time the official said if there were quiet from the other side, Israel would not initiate a major military action inside Gaza. This decision, he explained, was motivated by a number of factors, including the situation in Egypt, Syria and the Palestinian Authority, as well as the number of Iron Dome batteries Israel could deploy.
Government officials said throughout the day that Israel was concerned that a large scale military action at this time could severely damage ties with Egypt, which is currently in transition; could divert attention from the situation in Syria; and might not be wise until Israel has more Iron Dome batteries deployed in the South – it currently has two – to defend larger swaths of the population from the missiles that would inevitably rain down in the area in the event of a wider military action.
Netanyahu convened a highlevel security and diplomatic consultation that extended to 3 a.m. on Monday, where the decision to act to thwart terrorist acts, but not initiate a major military action, was taken.
According to the senior official, while Israel was ready for a war, it did not want to be dragged into it at a time not of its own choosing. He said that wider considerations needed to be taken into account, including relations with Egypt and the US.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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