(photo credit: REUTERS/Amir Cohen)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu monitored the developments in Gaza throughout the day on Wednesday following a round of rockets and IAF airstrikes overnight. "If the quiet is violated, we will respond strongly," he said before his meeting with Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide. "The security of Israel's citizens is my chief concern and we will know how to defend the security of our people."
Two rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel landed in
open areas near Sderot on Wednesday morning, raising fears that violence
could escalate in the area after months of relative quiet.
No injuries or damage were reported in the attacks.
rockets struck just as parents were dropping off children at schools
and kindergartens. The attacks triggered sirens and sent families
fleeing for cover.
The rocket attacks came after the IAF launched airstrikes on Gaza on Tuesday just prior to midnight,
the first such operation since a truce ended an eight-day cross-border war
in November. The airstrike followed the
firing of a Palestinian projectile from Gaza which exploded in
southern Israel’s Eshkol region on Tuesday. The explosion occurred in an
open area, and did not cause any injuries. Earlier on Tuesday, a Palestinian mortar fired at Israel failed to cross the border, and fell inside the Gaza Strip.
Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett also met with Eide on Wednesday. Though the main purpose of the meeting was to discuss foreign relations and military cooperation between the two countries, Bennett used the opportunity to breach the subject of the changing dynamics in the south of Israel and the Gaza Strip.
"The thousands of rockets launched from the Gaza Strip toward Israel have destroyed any remnant of the Israeli public's faith in the exchange of land for peace," Bennett told Eide.
The UN's envoy Robert Serry issued a statement saying he was "worried about the volatile situation on the ground" manifest by "renewed firing of rockets from Gaza" and "continued tensions over unresolved prisoner issues."
He said the "renewed violations of the ceasefire risk undermining the ‘understanding’ reached between Israel and Gaza on 21 November, and unraveling the gradual but tangible improvements achieved since then in the easing of the closure and the security situation in Gaza and southern Israel."
The United Nations "condemns the indiscriminate firing of rockets into civilian areas," he said, "and calls on Israel to act with restraint. The United Nations will continue to support Egyptian efforts to restore the calm and fully implement the ceasefire understanding as the only viable way to address the unsustainable situation in Gaza."
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry said Paris "harshly condemns" the rocket fire on the "civilian population in south Israel," and called for the honoring of the ceasefire agreed upon in November.
al-Qaida-linked group, Magles Shoura al-Mujahadeen, claimed
responsibility for Tuesday's rocket salvo, saying it was responding to
the death earlier in the day
of a Palestinian prisoner in an Israel jail. There was no immediate claim for Wednesday's rocket fire.
officials accused Israel of failing to provide timely medical treatment
for the prisoner, Maissara Abu Hamdiyeh, 63, who died of cancer in an
Israeli hospital. Israel denied the allegation.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, addressing the developments,
said Wednesday, "The IDF struck in Gaza last night, as we see Hamas as being
responsible for everything that is fired from the Strip at Israel. We
won't allow any routine involving a drizzle of rockets at our civilians
and forces. In the Golan Heights, our policy too is that we have no
intention of ignoring fire from Syria at Israeli territory, whether
intentional or not, and we'll respond to every attack."Ben Hartman and Reuters contributed to this report.