Israel strikes Hamas targets in retaliation for Gazan rocket fire

Two rockets fired towards southern Israel on Friday night just a day after Hamas warned Jerusalem against annexation.

A rocket is fired towards Israel, in the southern Gaza Strip February 24, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA)
A rocket is fired towards Israel, in the southern Gaza Strip February 24, 2020
The Israeli Air Force struck Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip after two rockets were fired towards southern Israel on Friday night, just days after Hamas warned against Jerusalem’s intentions to annex parts of the West Bank and Jordan Valley.
IAF jets struck a rocket manufacturing workshop and a weapons manufacturing facility belonging to Hamas in the coastal enclave, strikes which “will impede the Hamas terror organization’s future capabilities,” the IDF said in a statement.
Earlier in the evening, the Israeli military confirmed that the two rockets were fired towards Israeli territory and according to Adi Me’eri, the spokesperson of the Shaare HaNegev regional council, one rocket fell in open territory causing no damage or injuries.
The other one is believed to have fallen inside the Gaza Strip.
Incoming rocket sirens sounded in the Sha’ar Hanegev communities of Nir Am, Gavi’im and the area of Sapir College around 9 p.m.
“The IDF views any kind of terror activity aimed at Israel with great severity and will continue operating as necessary against attempts to harm Israeli civilians,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said, adding that Hamas will “bear the consequences” for all attacks against Israel.
On Thursday Hamas warned that Israel’s plans to extend sovereignty over parts of the West Bank would be akin to a declaration of war.
“This wretched decision and plan, we’ll not talk at length, but say it shortly and clearly – the resistance considers the decision as a declaration of war on the Palestinian people,” said the spokesman of the Izz al-Deen al-Qassam Brigade, the armed wing of Hamas. “The resistance is ready to protect its people and its holy places.”
Responding to the threats, Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz warned Hamas that the group’s leaders would be the first to pay for any aggression against Israel.
“I suggest that the leaders of the movement remember that they will be the first to pay for their aggression if it happens,” Gantz said during a ceremony for newly-graduated Israel Air Force pilots.“The IDF is the strongest army in the region, and the price for any attempt to hurt Israeli civilians will be painful and forceful.”
Earlier in the week, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi warned that the plans to annex the West Bank could easily spread to tensions with the Gaza Strip.
Speaking to troops taking part in a military drill in northern Israel, Kochavi said that while they were preparing for fighting on one front, they may soon need to shift their attention towards another – the West Bank.
“You can find yourself in a few weeks in the Judea and Samaria area because of riots and terror,” he said. And while there have been months of relative quiet with the blockaded coastal enclave, “the upcoming events can develop into fighting in Gaza.”
The IDF has been preparing for the various scenarios for several months under the name “Shahar Beharim,” and according to reports Gantz met with Kochavi, Shin Bet Director Nadav Argaman and Mossad Director Yossi Cohen on Thursday to discuss possible repercussions and the preparations made ahead of the move.
Channel 12 News later reported that the defense establishment was deeply divided on the possible ramifications, with Kochavi and senior IDF generals at odds with Cohen on whether there would be an outbreak of violence.
According to the report, which quoted ministers present during the meeting, Kochavi and Military Intelligence Chief Maj.-Gen. Tamir Hayman warned that there would be a rise in terror attacks, including a return of suicide bombings,  targeting Israeli civilians and soldiers by Palestinians in the West Bank.
While Cohen dismissed the warnings of the military chiefs, Argaman was reported to have backed up the concern over a rise in violence but that it would not be as bad as the military warned due to the economic conditions felt by Palestinians.
But several defense officials and analysts have warned that the soaring unemployment in the West Bank is only another reason why a deadly outbreak of violence is expected should Israel follow through on annexation plans.