Israel says it struck Gaza in response to Friday rocket attack

IDF statement says Iran to blame for escalation, "Playing with the lives of Gaza residents."

A rocket is launched from the northern Gaza Strip towards Israel. (photo credit: REUTERS)
A rocket is launched from the northern Gaza Strip towards Israel.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel's Defense Forces announced Saturday night that it attacked a Hamas outpost in the southern Gaza Strip following rocket fire towards Israel on Friday.  A statement by the IDF's Spokesperson's Office says it “proved once again that Iran, through rogue and extremist terrorist organizations, is acting to bring about a deterioration in the regional situation...”
"Iran is playing with the lives of Gaza residents and is likely to lead an escalation after years of security and calm. Hamas has full responsibility for the situation and its implications,” the statement added.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who was speaking to Channel 2 News on Saturday night, said the mortars that were fired at Israel on Friday came from Iran and had been supplied to various groups in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.
One of the projectiles struck a building in the Sha’ar Hanegev region, causing damage but no injuries. The Iron Dome missile-defense system intercepted the two others. The attack came during a ceremony there for missing soldier St.-Sgt. Oron Shaul.
Gazan terrorists have fired more than two dozen projectiles at southern Israel since US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6. Several have been intercepted, including one over Ashkelon, some 20 km. from the Gaza Strip, and a number have slammed into Israeli territory.
A senior IDF intelligence officer was quoted by Channel 10 as saying the Friday mortar fire that activated the Color Red warning siren around 11:49 a.m. was likely deliberately timed to coincide with the ceremony at Kibbutz Kfar Aza, about 5 km. east of the Strip, marking Shaul’s 24th birthday.
Shaul was killed in 2014 during Operation Protective Edge during the Battle of Shejaia, and his remains have since been held by Hamas.
Shaul’s mother, Zehava, was quoted by Yediot Aharonot as saying prior to the mortar fire: “We’re here to mark his birthday. We’ve decided to come here so we can be as close to Oron as possible. Our message is one of peace, brotherhood and camaraderie. We’re not here to lash out at anyone. We just want Oron returned home.”
The ceremony was attended by politicians including Zionist Union chairman Avi Gabbay, Communications Minister Ayoub Kara and MK Oren Hazan, both from the Likud, and senior IDF officials including Golani Brigade commander Col. Shlomi Binder and former head of the military’s Manpower Directorate Maj.-Gen (res.) Hagai Topolanski.
“The rocket fire in the middle of the ceremony testifies to the lack of Israeli deterrence,” said Gabbay. “They know there’s a ceremony so they shoot. It’s insufferable. I hope our government will respond as necessary.”
Kara wrote on Twitter: “Thank God everyone is fine and thank you to all those asking how we are doing. Shabbat Shalom to the people of Israel and to the security forces, whoever and wherever they are.”
Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been demonstrating, and often rioting, against Trump’s policy change regarding the capital.
On Friday, some 2,000 Palestinians clashed with soldiers at nine locations along the Gaza border fence, throwing stones and other objects at Israeli troops who responded by firing tear gas and firing at the main instigators. Another 2,000 Palestinians demonstrated at 20 locations across the West Bank, burning tires and hurling stones and firebombs at troops who responded with crowd-dispersal measures.
A Palestinian who had been shot by IDF troops during demonstrations on the Gaza border on Friday died from his wounds on Saturday, Palestinian Authority Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said, according to the Palestinian news agency Wafa.
Wafa identified the man as Jamal Muslih, 20, from the El-Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza and said he had been shot in the stomach by live fire.
According to Wafa, six people were reported by the PA Health Ministry as having been shot by live ammunition in the West Bank. Another 45 people were reported to have been wounded by live bullets during the demonstrations in Gaza, including four who were in critical condition.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the Israel Air Force Flight Academy graduation ceremony at the Hatzerim Air Base outside of Beersheba on Wednesday, had warned leaders in the Gaza Strip not to provoke Israel.
“We want the population to live its life quietly and calmly, but it is up to Gaza to decide whether there will be a state of calm in Gaza. We will not allow or tolerate an escalation from Hamas or from any other terrorist element. We will use all means to defend Israel’s sovereignty and security.”
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.