‘Fire will be met with fire,’ Israel says after deadly rocket strike

Austria and Hungary send messages of support for Operation Shield and Arrow, while the US calls for deescalation.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visiting an Iron Dome battery in a central Israeli Air Force base, May 11, 2023 (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/PMO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visiting an Iron Dome battery in a central Israeli Air Force base, May 11, 2023
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/PMO)

Israel will continue targeting senior Islamic Jihad terrorists as long as they continue attacking, a senior diplomatic source said Thursday, following the fatal rocket attack on Rehovot.

“In the last day, despite Egypt’s efforts to bring about a ceasefire, Islamic Jihad shot barrages toward Israel,” the source said. “In response, a fourth senior Islamic Jihad member, Ali Ghali, was assassinated, and the organization was seriously harmed.”

The attacks on Gaza, including targeted assassinations, will continue as long as the terrorists shoot rockets at Israel, the source said, adding, “Fire will be met by fire.”

According to the senior diplomatic figure, “The equation has changed,” and Israel will exact a price for terrorism from Gaza or the West Bank.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant held a situation assessment following the rocket strike on Rehovot that killed one man and wounded 10 people.

 A person holds up a gun during the funeral of two Palestinian Islamic Jihad gunmen who were killed in an Israeli raid, in Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank May 10, 2023. (credit: RANEEN SAWAFTA/REUTERS) A person holds up a gun during the funeral of two Palestinian Islamic Jihad gunmen who were killed in an Israeli raid, in Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank May 10, 2023. (credit: RANEEN SAWAFTA/REUTERS)

Israel and Islamic Jihad were close to a ceasefire on Wednesday, but Jihad made demands beyond stopping the attacks.

Israel will only agree to an unconditional ceasefire with Islamic Jihad, diplomatic sources said, while an Egyptian delegation headed to Israel to continue to push for an end to Operation Shield and Arrow.

Israel will not release the body of terrorist and hunger-striker Khader Adnan as part of an agreement, nor will it commit to stopping targeted assassinations of terrorists, a senior diplomatic source said.

Rather, Israel will continue precision strikes on Islamic Jihad targets, including senior figures in the terrorist group, working slowly to gather intelligence and try not to harm bystanders, another diplomatic source said.

While rejecting other demands, Israel remained open to a ceasefire with Islamic Jihad on Thursday, following an aborted attempt the evening before.

It would not happen until the rockets totally stop, the source said, adding that “not even a drizzle” of rockets will be tolerated. A total ceasefire on Israel’s part would come when there is a total, unconditional ceasefire on the other side, the source said.

No international pressure to end the operation

In addition, Israel was not facing foreign pressure to end the operation, the source said.

Ynet quoted Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich as saying on Thursday morning: “If they stop shooting, we have no interest in continuing. But if they continue, we will crush them and strike them.”

Israel was ready for a ceasefire on Wednesday night, and a senior diplomatic source saying at the time, “We did what we needed to do.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while visiting soldiers and commanders operating the David’s Sling missile-defense system, on Thursday said: “Whoever harms us will pay the price, as will his replacement. We are in the midst of a campaign on both offense and defense.”

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on Thursday said his country’s “efforts in relation to the escalation in the Gaza Strip have not yet yielded the desired fruits and results.”

“The military operations in the Gaza Strip lead to cycles of violence,” he said at a press conference in Berlin. “We condemn the last operation that led to the death of women and children. Israel’s aggressive behavior endangers regional security.”

“I call on peace-loving countries to intervene and end the injustice the Palestinian people are enduring,” Shoukry said.

The US emphasized calls to de-escalate the tensions between Israel and Gaza.

National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi and his American counterpart, Jake Sullivan, spoke on the phone Wednesday night. The White House readout said Sullivan had “reaffirmed the Administration’s ironclad support for Israel’s security, as well as its right to defend its people from indiscriminate rocket attacks.”

At the same time, Sullivan “emphasized the need to de-escalate tensions and prevent further loss of life” and conduct “ceasefire talks.”

US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides on Thursday morning tweeted that he was “concerned about the continuing rocket launches today. We stand by Israel’s right to defend itself. Working towards a quick deescalation.”

Cypriot President Nikos Christodulides visited Israel on Thursday and met with President Isaac Herzog as planned, despite the ongoing fighting.

Christodoulides said in a meeting with Netanyahu that he was “here despite the terrorist attacks, which I totally condemn.”

Hungary released a rare statement that did not include a call to de-escalate. Neither did it express concern for Palestinians.

“Hungary [is] deeply shocked by hundreds of rockets again fired by terrorists from Gaza Strip, deliberately targeting civilians,” Ambassador to Israel Levente Benkő tweeted in the name of the Foreign Ministry in Budapest. “We condemn all forms of terrorism, recognize Israel’s right to self-defense. [Our] full sympathies [are with] the government and people of Israel in the face of this threat.”

Austria also “strongly condemn[ed] the indiscriminate rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel.”“The violence must stop immediately,” its government said in a statement. “Every civilian [life] must be protected under all circumstances.”

Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said: “The current escalation in Israel and Gaza is deeply worrying. The Netherlands condemns all indiscriminate attacks. All sides must exercise restraint and prevent further violence and loss of civilian lives.”

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong condemned “the indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza and respected Israel’s right to defend itself.” She urged “all parties to exercise restraint and protect civilian lives.”

Her statement came a day after she had expressed concern about the “tragic loss of civilian life, including children, from Israeli airstrikes... in Gaza.”

US Senator Marco Rubio said: “As Israel rightfully defends itself, the United States must reaffirm its unwavering support to our strongest and most resilient ally in the Middle East.”

Republican presidential primary candidate and former US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley wrote on Twitter: “Israel is defending itself the same way America would defend ourselves if someone was shooting missiles at us. We will always have the backs of our friends.”