Rockets intercepted in South, IDF strikes Hamas posts

Gantz vows: ‘We will deal a very harsh blow if need be’

IDF Artillery Corps fires 155 mm M-109 howitzer gun during Operation Protective Edge, Gaza, 2014 (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
IDF Artillery Corps fires 155 mm M-109 howitzer gun during Operation Protective Edge, Gaza, 2014
IDF tanks struck Hamas observation posts early Saturday morning in retaliation for a rocket that was fired towards southern Israel from the Gaza Strip the previous night, as Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned groups in the coastal enclave against continued rocket fire and incendiary balloon attacks.
“IDF tanks struck military posts of the terrorist organization Hamas in the southern Gaza Strip,” the Israeli military said in a statement.
Though IDF troops were seen shooting down some of the balloons launched from the Hamas-run enclave, others ignited some 35 fires throughout the day on Saturday.
On Friday, thousands of Israelis scrambled for shelter as a rocket was fired from Gaza. It was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.
As a result of the major uptick in violence, Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz attended a situational briefing led by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi and commander of the Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Hertzi Halevi on Friday.
After attending the evaluation, Gantz warned Hamas that the IDF would strongly retaliate.
“I’ve just finished an evaluation with the IDF chief of staff following the continued attacks on southern Israel,” Gantz said. “The IDF is prepared and will keep protecting residents of the South and attacking those who attack us. We will deal a very heavy blow if need be.”
As part of examining possible courses of action, Kochavi “heard an intelligence briefing and approved an exercise for examining the division’s alertness and preparedness for possible scenarios,” according to Ynet.
On Thursday night several were targeted during three rounds of airstrikes as 12 rockets were fired towards southern Israel. Of the 12 projectiles fired from the Strip, nine were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system and others landed in open fields or within Gaza.
Emergency services said three people were treated for shock after an unexploded rocket fell on a house in Sderot and two others were injured while running for safety following the sirens. A house in Sderot was also severely damaged by Iron Dome rocket interceptor fragments which landed on it, destroying windows and blasting a large house in the walls.
In response to the rocket fire, Israeli military said that Israeli Air Force jets and helicopters struck sites belonging to Hamas in three waves, including underground facilities, a rocket-building site, and a cement facility used to provide materials to build tunnels used by the group.
According to Palestinian media, at least one person was injured in the strikes targeting the sites east of Khan Yunis.
President Reuven Rivlin commented on Friday morning on the rocket fire saying that “Israelis living in the area around Gaza had another tough night, including serious damage to property. This morning, too, we are with them and full of appreciation for their resilience.
“We will not stand by while Hamas is out of control. The IDF will respond with force and determination, sortie after sortie, and will continue even if it requires patience and time,” Rivlin continued. The president concluded his statement saying, “Fires, rockets and explosive balloons will not become routine. We put our faith in the IDF and its capabilities and are sure that it will not relent until quiet returns.”
On Thursday the IDF is said to have deployed additional Iron Dome batteries out of concern that Palestinian groups in Gaza would increase their rocket fire towards southern Israel and the next day Israel ordered farmers to suspend all agricultural work in fields bordering the Strip.
The IDF has been striking targets in the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave on a nightly basis for close to two weeks in response to the continued launching of incendiary balloons which have ignited hundreds of fires in southern Israel and rocket fire.
Some 22 fires broke out on Friday and police removed a balloon with an incendiary device from the roof of a house in the city of Beersheba. On Thursday alone, 42 fires broke out in southern Israel. Though fire and emergency rescue services say that most of the fires were small and did not pose a danger to human life, they have destroyed hundreds of dunams of brush.