IDF hits Gaza targets in response to rocket barrage

IDF responds to 30 mortar shells bombing Hamas terror targets in Gaza; escalation follows air strike on 2 terrorists in Rafah.

Smoke rises after an IAF airstrike in Gaza 311 (R) (photo credit: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)
Smoke rises after an IAF airstrike in Gaza 311 (R)
(photo credit: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)
The IDF struck targets in Gaza from the air and land on Monday in response to a barrage of more than 30 rockets and mortar shells fired by Hamas and Islamic Jihad at farming districts in the South.
An army source said one target hit included a Hamas position hidden inside a mosque in southern Gaza. A tank directed fire at the location.
The army source added that Hamas often uses “religious sites as cover for its terrorist activities against Israelis.”
The Eshkol Regional Council was bombarded with some 30 Palestinian rockets and mortars on Monday morning. Local residents reported awakening to the sounds of explosions and rushing for cover in safe rooms designed to protect them from the projectiles.
Ronit Minaker, spokeswoman for the Eshkol Regional Council, said that residents received SMS messages and heard alarms beginning at around 6 a.m.Monday morning. They listened to dozens of strikes on the area over the course of around an hour-and-a-half.
The strikes began at the same hour of the morning when local children usually wake up, and on Monday they were required to spend the first few hours of their last day of the holidays waiting in bomb shelters, Minaker said. She added that residents received instructions to stay within 15 seconds of a protected area.
The council will hold a meeting on the situation later on in the day, Minaker said, adding that the strikes hit land belonging to three different communities, causing damage to a house, a road and some livestock.
The residents had become accustomed to a long period of quiet in the area, Minaker said, and the communities were hosting tourists and other visitors when the strikes began.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad said they targeted the rural district as a response to an Israeli air strike on Sunday night, which struck and seriously injured two members of an al- Qaida-inspired terror cell as they rode on a motorcycle.
The two men, Talat Jarbi, 23, and Abdullah Makawai, 24, were in the final stages of preparing a large and complex terrorist attack on Israelis, and were plotting on launching it from the Sinai Peninsula, the IDF said.
Makawai is a member of the Ashura Council of Holy Fighters on the Edge of Jerusalem, an al-Qaida inspired organization based in Gaza. Talat was involved in previous rocket fire on Israelis, planting bombs and building weaponry, the IDF said. He was also a senior planner of the June 18 cross-border terror attack from Sinai, which killed an Israeli civilian, and took part in the attack, the IDF added.
Both were severely wounded in the air strike on Sunday night. Palestinian medical sources said eight others were hurt in the attack, including four children.
The air strike was the product of a joint effort by the Shin Bet and the Israel Air Force. It is unrelated to the intrusion of a hostile drone into Israeli airspace on Saturday