Israel planes struck Hamas military targets in the Gaza Strip early Saturday morning in response to rocket fire from the Palestinian territory hours before.
Residents of the coastal enclave reported multiple explosions, and the IDF said in a statement that it targeted “two terror activity sites and a weapon manufacturing facility in the central Gaza Strip, and a weapon storage facility in the southern Gaza Strip.” The Israeli military confirmed direct hits.
There were no immediate reports of casualties in the airstrikes.
Saturday’s pre-dawn Israeli Air Force hits on the Gaza Strip came amid an escalation of hostilities along Israel’s southern border with the Palestinian enclave as IDF troops scour the West Bank for three missing Israeli teenagers. Israel has accused Hamas of carrying out the June 12 abduction of the teens.
Earlier on Friday evening, Israel’s Iron Dome system intercepted two rockets launched at southern Israel from the Gaza Strip following the targeted assassination by Israel of two Gaza operatives the Israel Defense Forces said were responsible for recent rocket fire and attacks on civilians.
A total of six rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip Friday, with the remaining four landing in open territory. No damage or injuries were reported in the attacks.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Friday that Hamas was responsible for every attack emanating from the Gaza Strip and warned the terror group not to test Israel’s patience or determination. His warning came after a spate of rocket attacks on Israel’s southern cities and several incidents on the border with Gaza over the past week.
“We will not allow rocket fire on Israel or attempted attacks on our civilians or troops. We will hunt down those who carry out or plan [these attacks], like we did today,” said Ya’alon.
The defense chief’s statement came after Israeli jets struck a car in the Gaza Strip earlier Friday, killing two Palestinian terrorists in the Shati refugee camp.
Palestinian medical sources said the raids struck near the home of Ismail Haniyeh, the former Hamas prime minister who stepped down June 2 when Hamas and the Palestinian Authority set up a unity government.
The Israel Air Force confirmed a direct hit on the car carrying Osama Hassumi, 29, and Mohammad Fatzih, 24, from the Popular Resistance Committees, a coalition of armed groups in Gaza.
The IDF said the two terror operatives were involved in a cell responsible for repeated rocket fire on Israel’s southern cities over the past several weeks and were planning terror attacks on Israeli civilians.
“Militants, like Hassumi and Fatzih, attacking Israel from Gaza, are not safe, do not have immunity, and will not be free to plan, plot and operate. We will continue to strike the instigators and agitators with patience, determination and precision. Gaza rocket terrorism does not pay,” said IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner.
“The remains of two martyrs killed in an Israeli raid on a car were taken to the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza,” a spokesman for Gaza’s health services, Ashraf al-Qudra, told AFP.
The incident came a day after Israel named two Hamas men as prime suspects in the kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank.
The two alleged abductors, Amer Abu Aysha and Marwan Kawasme, have been missing from their homes in Hebron’s Hares neighborhood ever since the kidnapping took place and are still at large. Israeli security forces have been engaged in a massive operation to find the abducted youths.
Earlier Friday, an explosive device was activated against IDF troops operating along the security fence in the southern Gaza Strip. No injuries were reported in the incident.
Israeli forces responded with tank fire at suspected lookout posts near Khan Younis on the Palestinian side of the Gaza border, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit reported.
Palestinian media reported six injured by the IDF retaliatory fire, including one in critical condition. A pregnant woman and an 11-year-old boy were said to be among the wounded, and two mosques were damaged, according to Ma’an.
Lazar Berman, Stuart Winer and AFP contributed to this report.