IAF strikes terror targets in Gaza in response to rockets

Palestinians say civilian killed, 13 wounded in IDF response to 7 rockets fired into southern Israel from Gaza; alert level along Gaza border high following earlier IDF killing of 2 suspected terrorists.

IDF jet 311 (photo credit: IDF spokesperson)
IDF jet 311
(photo credit: IDF spokesperson)
The Israel Air Force struck targets connected with terrorist activity in the Gaza Strip early on Friday morning in response to a spate of rockets fired into southern Israel from the coastal territory on Thursday, the IDF Spokesman's Office said in a statement.
IAF aircraft recorded direct hits on a center of terrorist activity in southern Gaza, as well as an additional terror target in northern Gaza.
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The IDF reiterated in the statement that it holds Hamas responsible for all terror activity emanating from Gaza and it will continue to respond forcefully to attacks on Israeli citizens.
Palestinian medical sources said that one civilian was killed and 13 others were wounded, including women and children, in the air strikes.
The earlier Palestinian rocket attacks on the South came in response to a previous Israel Air Force strike which killed two suspected terrorists traveling in a car near Gaza City.
The IDF said the men had been in the midst of plotting an attack against Israel to be launched from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

Anticipating retaliation, the army raised the level of alert along the Gaza border and warned southern residents to remain indoors. It reported one Kassam rocket exploding in the Sdot Hanegev Regional Council, and another hitting Netivot shortly afterward.

Police said the two rockets had been fired at 8:10 p.m. and struck open areas in the western Negev. Bomb squad units were surveying the scene to locate the projectiles.

A third rocket exploded around the same time in the Eshkol Regional Council, also in an open area.

At least one Grad-type rocket was also fired at Beersheba but landed outside the city.

Two additional rockets landed just south of Ashkelon, shortly before midnight.

In total, seven rockets were fired, but no casualties or damage were reported in any of the attacks.

One of the men killed in the IAF bombing, Ismail Batash, a resident of Gaza City, was described as a senior operative in Fatah’s Aksa Martyrs Brigades. Batash was also a member of the “Army of Believers,” an al-Qaida affiliate based in the Gaza Strip.

The IDF said the terrorists were planning to cross from Gaza into Sinai, and then into Israel.

Batash, the army said, had been involved in a 2007 attack in which a suicide bomber crossed from Sinai into Eilat and blew himself up in a bakery, killing three Israelis. He was also involved in plotting several other attacks over the years that had been thwarted.

Following the IAF strike, hundreds of Palestinians crowded around the charred remains of the car, which had been hit in the bright afternoon sunshine on a main urban thoroughfare.

Video footage taken minutes after the strike showed the passenger compartment of the car wrecked and on fire with little damage to the immediate surrounding area.

The IDF believes that additional terrorists are still working to attack from the Sinai with the aim of killing and kidnapping Israelis.

According to defense officials, Hamas operates in Sinai.

Israel has called on the Egyptian government to increase its efforts to restore order in the peninsula and to prevent attacks.

The IDF had been on high alert along the border with Egypt amid concern that terrorists were plotting an attack similar to the one in August, when Palestinian and Egyptian terrorists crossed into the country near Eilat and killed eight Israelis. Due to the heightened alert, the Education Ministry canceled class trips to nature reserves close to Sinai earlier in the week.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum called the IAF attack a crime.

“We hold the government of the Zionist occupation fully responsible for this crime and for the new escalation,” he said.

Barhoum called on Egypt and the United Nations to intervene immediately and put pressure on Israel to “stop attacks,” according to pan- Arab news website Vision News. He also blamed the United States for financially and militarily supporting what he called “the growing crimes of the occupation against the Palestinian people.”

Yaakov Lappin, Reuters and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.