Israel strikes Gaza after rocket fire breaks two-month lull

A military observation balloon fell in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip on Friday.

Footage of IDF attacks in Gaza after a rocket was fired at Israel, on June 18, 2022. (CREDIT: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

The increase of Gazan entry permits into Israel has been suspended following the firing of a rocket into Israel, shattering a two-month lull.

The decision by Defense Minister Benny Gantz was made following a security evaluation Saturday evening.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories announced earlier this week that an additional 2,000 entry permits into Israel were going to be granted to Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip for purposes of work and commerce.

“The suspension is in response to the firing of a rocket toward the State of Israel,” COGAT said in a statement, adding that “the Hamas terror organization carries responsibility for all activities directed against Israel in and from the Gaza Strip, and it will bear the consequences.”

Incoming rocket sirens were activated at 3.10 AM in the city of Ashkelon and neighboring communities. The rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system fires to intercept a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, southern Israel May 19, 2021. (credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system fires to intercept a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, southern Israel May 19, 2021. (credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)

The strikes, by aircraft and tanks, took place several hours after the rocket fire during the daylight hours and targeted a weapons manufacturing facility along with three outposts in the Strip, including one that overlooked Kibbutz Netiv Ha’asara on Gaza’s northern border, the military said in a statement.

Machine-gun fire was directed toward the kibbutz from Gaza later on Saturday, with at least one bullet entering a home and causing material damage.

Hamas members then returned to the observation post next to Netiv Ha’asara that had been damaged by the IDF and started to repair it. The strike had damaged the observation cabin but it did not destroy the structure holding it up.

The last time that rockets were fired from the Hamas-ruled enclave was on April 18 when one was fired toward the southern Israeli communities of Kissufim and Ein Hashlosha, which are located just across from the Palestinian city of Khan Yunis. Before that, the last rockets fired was on January 1 when two landed in the sea off the coast of Tel Aviv.

The rocket fire comes as tensions remain high in the West Bank as the IDF continues to crack down on potential terrorists as part of its Operation Break the Wave. It took place after three Palestinians were killed in armed clashes with IDF forces in Jenin early Friday morning, after which the Jenin branch of Palestinian Islamic Jihad's al-Quds Brigades warned that Israel would "pay a heavy price" for the incident.

Hamas also threatened to retaliate for the deaths, stating on its website that the “cowardly assassinations” will “not go unpunished.”

Violence began earlier on Friday

An Israeli observation balloon fell over Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip on Friday afternoon, under disputed claims. Palestinian reports claimed that the balloon had been shot down by machine-gun fire while the IDF claimed that it had disconnected from its anchor before it fell.

Shortly afterward, Palestinian media reported that at least two missiles were fired by Israel toward a target in an open area near the Erez Crossing in Gaza in an attempt to keep locals from approaching and taking the balloon.

However, Palestinians reported that Hamas was able to seize the balloon, which is equipped with sensors and cameras. The Israeli military said that there was no concern about a significant intelligence leak.

A red alert was activated in an open area near the Erez Crossing due to warning shots fired by the military, according to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.

Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.