Israel on alert for further rockets after IDF reprisals

IDF views attacks as attempt by Islamic Jihad to challenge Hamas but does not believe has Hamas has lost control of territory.

June 25, 2013 00:28
2 minute read.
Kassam rockets being fired from Gaza Strip [file]

Kassam rockets being fired from the Gaza Strip 311 (R). (photo credit: Nikola Solic / Reuters)

The IDF remained on high alert for additional rocket attacks from Gaza on Monday, hours after Islamic Jihad shattered a relatively lengthy period of calm by firing five rockets into southern Israel.

Two rockets heading towards Ashkelon were intercepted by an Iron Dome air defense battery. Additional rockets, including some fired in the direction of Beersheba, exploded in uninhabited areas and failed to cause injuries or damages. The projectiles set off air raid sirens across regions in southern Israel, startling local residents who had grown accustomed to the quiet.

Responding to the strikes, the Israel Air Force bombed two weapons storage facilities in central Gaza, as well as an underground rocket launching pad and a fourth target in the southern part of the Strip.

The IDF views the attacks out of Gaza as an attempt by Islamic Jihad to challenge Hamas’s sovereignty there, but does not believe Hamas has lost its grip on the territory.

Security officials said a major flare-up is seen as unlikely.

Speaking to Army Radio on Monday, IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai noted that Islamic Jihad is based in Damascus, and is a part of the fanatical Iranianled axis. Israel ultimately places responsibility for attacks out of Gaza on Hamas, Mordechai added.

Former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman responded to the rocket fire by warning on Israel Radio that “Israel will need to seriously consider the possibility of capturing all of the Gaza Strip and conducting a thorough cleaning.”

When asked if his position was supported by the prime minister and defense minister, Liberman said he did not know. Liberman, who currently heads the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said that if Israel were to allow the status quo to persist, Hamas would amass a fleet of aircraft and missiles that would threaten populous coastal towns like Tel Aviv and Netanya.

“There ultimately won’t be a choice,” he said. “Hamas has no intention of reconciling with a Jewish presence in Israel.”

Mordechai responded coolly to Liberman’s comments, saying that such a move would carry enormous implications for Israeli national security, and would carry diplomatic and financial consequences as well.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid condemned Liberman’s statements as dangerous, irresponsible, and unnecessary.

He said Israel had no interest in entering Gaza, but would hold Hamas responsible as long as it controls the Strip.

Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal- On went further, accusing Liberman of incitement. She called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to rein in members of his coalition.

“MK Liberman is provoking war and behaving irresponsibly from a political standpoint, which is typical of his way of doing things,” she said.

Netanyahu told the Likud faction that Israel’s policy of responding to rocket fire had proven itself. Quoting IDF statistics, he said the seven months since Operation Pillar of Defense had been the quietest in more than a decade.

“A fundamental part of the establishment of the State of Israel as a renewed Jewish state was the ability of the Jews to defend themselves by themselves,” Netanyahu said at a dedication ceremony for a school in the West Bank settlement of Barkan.

“This has guided me in every arena against every threat. Yesterday, rockets were fired at our communities – and the response was immediate.

My policy is to strike at those who try to attack us.

“There is no trickle, there is no accumulation, this is how we will operate against both near and distant threats.” •

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