Israel will lash back at Hamas, defense officials vowed Saturday night, after
the terrorist group launched its largest attack since Operation Cast Lead two
years ago with the firing of more than 50 mortar shells into the south of the
country on Saturday.
RELATED:50 mortar shells fired into Israel, 2 injured
Two people sustained light wounds from
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said he viewed seriously the
“criminal attacks by Hamas on Israeli citizens. Israel will take all necessary
measures to defend its citizens,” he added.
If the current round of
violence continues to escalate, the IDF will consider resuming targeted killings
against Hamas commanders and senior operatives in the Gaza Strip.
so-called “return to direct terror activity” began Friday with the firing of a
guided anti-tank missile at an IDF jeep on patrol along the Gaza
This is the second time in a month that a guided anti-tank
missile has been fired from the Gaza Strip. The IDF believes that Hamas and
possibly other organizations have a significant arsenal including Kornet, Fagot
and Sagger-guided anti-tank missiles.
Hamas fired 54 mortar shells into
communities in the western Negev within a period of about 15 minutes early in
the morning, causing extensive damage to several homes on a kibbutz, a police
One shell landed on the rooftop of a kindergarten, but
there was no one inside because it was Shabbat.
Hamas’s military wing,
the Kassam Martyrs Brigades, claimed responsibility for the mortar fire. In all
of 2010, 215 mortars were fired into Israel.
The IDF immediately
responded to the mortar barrage with tank and helicopter attacks against 10
different Hamas targets.
One Hamas security official was killed and five
other Palestinians were reportedly injured in the strikes, Palestinian sources
Defense officials said that additional attacks were being
considered. Following Operation Cast Lead, Hamas had refrained from direct
involvement in rocket and mortar fire against Israel – at times even cracking
down on other terrorist organizations to prevent their fire into
The decision to resume mortar fire on Saturday was believed to
have been made by Ahmed Jabari, commander of the Hamas military wing – and was
possibly against the position of the Hamas political echelon in Gaza, headed by
Hamas’s decision to launch the attack was understood by
the IDF as a response to the Wednesday afternoon attack against a Hamas position in which two Hamas
operatives were killed.
In the past year, Israel has also rarely bombed
manned Hamas positions.
Following the Saturday attacks, Foreign Minister
Avigdor Lieberman instructed Israel’s mission to the United Nations to lodge a
formal complaint against the mortar attacks.
The attack occurred at a
time when the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are engaged in unity talks,
The timing is a testament to the fact, he said, that
international support for unilateral Palestinian statehood would allow for the
creation of a “terrorist state whose first and main objective would be the
destruction of Israel.”
The Palestinians “occasionally change their
tactics, but not their skin,” Lieberman added.
One building in the Eshkol
Regional Council sustained extensive damage – although a majority of the
projectiles landed in open areas, local officials reported.
council is inhabited predominantly by farmers, and has been the target of
Palestinian shelling for several years.
Eyal Brandeis, a kibbutz
secretary in the Eshkol Regional Council, and the head of a local emergency
response team, said that the injured were a married couple who were on their way
to a bomb shelter when one of the mortars struck.
“It happened just as
they entered the room,” Brandeis said. “The couple was responding to
instructions we sent out in a cell phone text message calling on all residents
to seek shelter. They ran to the room, and shrapnel went through the
window just before they could close it.”
The man suffered shrapnel
injuries to his back, while the woman was injured in her hand, Brandeis
“We are used to sporadic rocket and mortar fire, but this was not
the daily show we are used to,” Brandeis said, referring to the high number of
mortars fired at his community on Saturday. “Luckily, we escaped with few
injuries. We’ll have to get through this.”
Ronit Minaker, a spokeswoman
for the Eshkol Regional Council, said residents had been ordered to stay indoors
for the duration of the morning.
“People were compliant with the safety
instructions,” she said. “We’re not used to this kind of massive fire.
But we have experienced it before, and we know how to respond. Our residents
expect the government to do everything it can to end this.
expect the government to construct safe rooms in the many communities that still
Local authorities said on Saturday that they were in the
midst of a legal campaign aimed at forcing the government to deploy the Iron
Dome anti-rocket defense system along the Gaza border. The Iron Dome, however,
is not meant to protect against short-range mortar fire.
petitioning the Supreme Court to order the state to deploy the system to protect
communities situated at least four kilometers away from the border, and
The Supreme Court has ordered the state to reply to the petition
within 30 days.
On Saturday night, IDF troops shot dead two Palestinians
believed to be trying to cross the Gaza border into Israel, military sources
In an interview with Channel 2 TV broadcast on Saturday night,
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that he was “more determined
than ever to reach a [peace] solution with Israel.”
With regard to
reconciliation efforts with Hamas, he said, “Hamas has committed terrible
crimes, but they are still part of the Palestinian people.”