IDF renews 'Operation Blue Skies'

Army hits Kassam launch sites in Gaza as Jihad vows to avenge members' deaths.

gaza airstrike 298.88 (photo credit: Associated Press)
gaza airstrike 298.88
(photo credit: Associated Press)
The IDF on Monday morning renewed its "Operation Blue Skies" against Kassam launchers in the Gaza Strip. The artillery fired toward the rocket-launching grounds in northern Gaza on Monday morning, after warning residents of the region the previous night not to enter the area where the settlements of Nissanit, Dugit, and Elei Sinai once were. On Sunday, the army carried out two separate air strikes against Palestinian fugitives in the Gaza Strip. The strikes were in response to Friday's Kassam rocket attack on Kibbutz Karmiya, in which four Israelis were wounded. The Islamic Jihad vowed Sunday to avenge the deaths of two of its senior members, Adnan Bustan, 25, a master bomb maker in charge of the Kassam rocket crews, and his aide, Jihad Sawafiri, 31, who were killed in one of the IAF air strikes. Three other Jihad members were wounded when an IAF helicopter fired missiles at two cars traveling in the Zeitoun neighborhood in Gaza on Sunday night. The head of the armed wing of Islamic Jihad in Gaza said that the organization's members in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were instructed to strike against Israel without any restraint. In the earlier strike, which took place before dawn Sunday, the IAF struck a building in northern Gaza said to have served as the Aksa Martyrs Brigades's headquarters, killing three members of the terrorist organization and wounding eight other Palestinians. The army said the building targeted was used as a meeting place by Aksa Martyrs Brigades operatives for training and a launching site for firing rockets at Israel. Palestinian sources claimed that the building, located in the Tal al-Hawa neighborhood south of Gaza city, was a sports club run by brigade members. The three men killed in the attack were identified as Nassr Marshoud, Yassin Barghouti and Hani al-Kabid. Abu al-Saed, a leader of the Popular Resistance Committee in Gaza, vowed a harsh response to Israel's air strikes. Israel has promised a harsh and continuous response to the Kassam attacks, and warned that no one involved in terror would be immune. The army said its activities would not be restricted to ground fire but would include air strikes and targeted killings of terrorists. Since the disengagement from Gaza, over 300 Kassam rockets have been fired at Israel. In the strikes on Sunday, IAF helicopters also targeted seven access routes in northern Gaza to prevent terrorists from reaching the rocket-launching sites. Flyers warning Gaza residents to refrain from entering the no-go zone in northern Gaza established by the army several weeks ago were also dropped from the air. The series of air strikes and continuous IDF artillery barrages in northern Gaza are just part of the planned military response to the ongoing Kassam rocket attacks on Israel, the army said. The flyers that were dropped over Gaza by IAF helicopters were addressed to Gaza residents. "Terror elements continue to shoot at Israel and harm the Israeli public. [They] are preventing the Palestinian population from enjoying the calm, and instead are forcing upon them a state of war and casualties. It is absolutely forbidden to enter the northern area between al-Atatra-Beit Lahiya-Beit Hanun, from the sea to the Erez checkpoint and areas depicted on the map," the flyer said. "For your safety you have been warned to stay away from the areas. Whoever violates the warning is endangering his life." On Sunday evening, the Islamic Jihad al-Quds Brigade released a statement claiming that one of its West Bank leaders, identified as Abu Khalil, came away unscathed from an attempted IDF ambush in an area between the Balata and Askare refugee camps. The statement claimed that he was "on a mission" when he was ambushed by soldiers who attempted to kill him. According to the Islamic Jihad, it is the second attempt by IDF forces to target Abu Khalil. Meanwhile, on Sunday night in the West Bank, an Israeli motorist was lightly wounded from stones thrown at her car near Madame southwest of Nablus. The woman was taken to a hospital in Israel. In the afternoon, an 18-year-old Palestinian was arrested by soldiers manning the Hawara checkpoint south of Nablus, after he was found to be carrying a knife. The teenager was handed over to the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) for questioning.