Hamas threatens retaliation following Israeli airstrikes
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Hamas threatens retaliation following Israeli airstrikes

Terror group warns of 'dangerous escalation' after IAF jets hit Gaza targets, including cement factory, in response to rocket fire

Palestinian members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, at a rally to commemorate the 27th anniversary of the Islamist movement’s creation, at the Nuseirat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, on December 12, 2014. (AFP/Said Khatib)
Palestinian members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, at a rally to commemorate the 27th anniversary of the Islamist movement’s creation, at the Nuseirat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, on December 12, 2014. (AFP/Said Khatib)

Hamas threatened to hit back at Israel on Saturday after Israeli Air Force jets struck several targets belonging to the terror group in the southern Gaza Strip overnight for the first time since this summer’s war.

The air raid came in response to a rocket fired on Friday that landed in open terrain in the Eshkol region.

Hamas Prime Minister in the Gaza Strip Ismail Haniyeh said that the Israeli airstrikes constitute “a grave violation of the ceasefire agreement.”

“We will protect and guard the resistance’s victory in the last conflict,” he said. “We call on Egypt as the guarantor of the agreement to act and stop the violations by the enemy.”

Another senior Hamas member said Saturday that “the resistance [as Hamas calls itself] has the right to respond to Israeli aggression at the time and place of its choosing.”

Ismail al-Ashqar warned that Israeli action “against Palestinian fishermen and agriculture workers [was] a dangerous escalation.”

The Israeli navy and army regularly fire warning shots at Gaza fishing boats that stray beyond the six nautical miles off the coast allowed by Israel and at farm workers who come too close to the security fence, respectively.

Overnight Friday-Saturday, the air force reportedly struck a Hamas training ground near Khan Yunis.

An Israeli security official said Saturday that the target the air force struck was a cement factory for building terror tunnels, which was destroyed in the attack.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

Gaza residents reported low-flying Israeli aircraft over the Palestinian enclave and multiple airstrikes. Unconfirmed reports indicated Israeli warships may also have shelled the Gaza Strip.

A spokesman for Gaza‘s Hamas-run Health Ministry said there were no casualties in the attack, the first air strike by Israel on the Palestinian enclave since the summer truce that ended the 50-day war between the sides.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said in a statement that Israeli planes “struck Hamas terror infrastructure site in the southern Gaza Strip” in response to Friday’s rocket attack, and that a direct was confirmed.

“The IDF will not permit any attempt to undermine the security and jeopardize the well-being of the civilians of Israel,” Spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said. “The Hamas terrorist organization is responsible and accountable for today’s attack against Israel.”

Friday night’s airstrike came following a rocket attack on southern Israel on Friday afternoon. Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket at an Israeli community in the Eshkol region near the Gaza Strip, causing neither casualties nor damage.

It was the third time that Gaza terrorists have fired rockets at Israel since the conclusion of Operation Protective Edge, last summer’s war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

IDF soldiers swept the area Friday and found the remains of the rocket.

A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip on Friday, December 19, 2014, lands in an open area in the Eshkol region. (Photo credit: Israel Police)
A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip on Friday, December 19, 2014, lands in an open area in the Eshkol region. (Photo credit: Israel Police)

AFP contributed to this report.

 

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