Two rockets fired from the Gaza Strip struck southern Israel Wednesday morning, hours after Israeli planes bombed targets in the Hamas-controlled territory for the first time since November’s ceasefire took effect.
No damage or injuries were reported in either incident.
One of the rockets exploded in an open area in the Eshkol border region, after which Israel Police sappers were sent to defuse what remained of the explosive charge. The police had not yet tracked down the second projectile.
Red alert warning sirens sounded across Sderot and the surrounding area in advance of the attacks.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon tweeted earlier Wednesday morning that Israel considers Hamas responsible for any rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, and that “we will under no circumstances allow a situation of sporadic fire at our citizens and troops.”
Ya’alon, a former IDF chief of staff who took the reins of the Defense Ministry last month, added that Israel also refuses to tolerate cross-border fire on the northern frontier with Syria, and that it would respond in kind to any such incidents in the Golan Heights.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz also said Wednesday that Israel “would not allow the reality which existed before Operation Pillar of Defense to return.”
“The south is strong and stable, everything is under control,” he said.
Israeli planes carried out bombing sorties over the Gaza Strip late Tuesday night, responding to rocket attacks out of the Palestinian enclave earlier in the day.
The bombings were the first Israeli attack on Gaza since an informal ceasefire between Jerusalem and Hamas went into effect last November, following Operation Pillar of Defense, an eight-day campaign to stem Gazan rocket fire which also saw hundreds of missiles launched into Israeli territory.
Hamas charged in a tweet from its official account that Israel broke the ceasefire by carrying out Tuesday night’s airstrikes, which followed rocket fire from Gaza earlier Tuesday.
Ihab Ghussein, the Hamas government spokesman, accused Israel of using the airstrikes to “divert the attention” from unrest in Israeli prisons. “They think that through escalation on Gaza front they can hide the truth,” he said, and urged Egypt, the guarantor of the cease-fire, to intervene.
Palestinian prisoners have been rioting and hunger striking since a 64-year-old prisoner died of throat cancer on Tuesday. The Palestinians have blamed Israel for the man’s death, saying he was not given proper medical care. The prisoner, Maysara Abuhamdia, had been serving a life sentence for his role in a foiled attempt to bomb a busy cafe in Jerusalem in 2002.
Israel’s chief military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, said the army was on alert for “riots” in the West Bank ahead of an autopsy on Wednesday. He accused the Palestinian Authority, which governs in the West Bank, of exploiting his death to “resume popular protests.”
Prisons Authority spokeswoman Sivan Weizman said Abuhamdia was treated by Israeli specialists and died in a hospital in Beersheba. She said the prison service asked the parole board to release Abu Hamdiyeh last week after his cancer was diagnosed as terminal, but the appeal was still being processed at the time of his death.