After four rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza a day earlier, Prime Minister Yair Lapid said Sunday that Israel will respond “swiftly and forcefully” to any attacks from the Strip.
“This government’s policy has not changed. To any fire, any incendiary balloon — we will respond swiftly and forcefully, and without hesitation,” Lapid said, lauding the Israel Defense Forces for its response to the rocket fire.
“All of us, all the members of the cabinet, send a strong embrace to the children of the Gaza Strip border communities, who slept in bomb shelters on Friday night,” he added.
In the first rocket attack on Friday night, two rockets were launched from the Strip toward the coastal city of Ashkelon. One was intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system, and the second landed in an open area, causing no damage.
In response, the IDF said, it targeted a Hamas underground facility used for the production of rocket materials in the central Gaza Strip.
Concurrently, two more rockets were fired toward Israel and warning sirens were activated in the Lachish Regional Council to the northeast of the Strip. Both those rockets hit open areas, according to the IDF.
In response to the second round of rocket fire, the military struck another Hamas site, which it said was used as a weapon production facility.
The IDF said the first site it struck was “one of the largest and most important sites in the Strip for the production of base materials for rockets by terror groups,” asserting that the attack would significantly set back rocket-making.
Israeli security officials have assessed that the strikes in response to the rocket fire will not lead to an escalation in violence, according to Channel 12.
In the wake of the rocket attacks in the early hours of Saturday, Israel said it was freezing a planned expansion of work permits for Gazan Palestinians by 1,500 (to a total of 15,500).
Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians, widely known by its acronym COGAT, had announced the additional 1,500 permits on Tuesday, as part of a series of gestures ahead of US President Joe Biden’s visit to the region.
“The Hamas terror group bears responsibility for everything that is done in and emanates from the Gaza Strip toward the State of Israel, and it will bear the consequences,” COGAT said in a statement.
There was no claim of responsibility by any of the Gaza-based terror groups for Saturday’s rocket fire.
The rocket fire came hours after Biden departed Israel, and shortly after he announced steps in Saudi Arabia toward an agreement that included moves by Riyadh benefiting Israel. In 2020, the Gaza-ruling Hamas launched a salvo of 13 rockets at the south as Israel was signing peace deals with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
Addressing the visit by the US leader, Lapid said Sunday that there had been “political, security and economic achievements that will strengthen the State of Israel for many years to come.”
Lapid said that the Jerusalem Declaration, which he signed with Biden, will assure the “qualitative advantage of the Israeli security establishment,” and noted that he “made clear to the president and his staff that Israel opposes the nuclear agreement and reserves full, political and operational freedom of action in the face of the Iranian nuclear program.”
Lapid also noted the announcement by Saudi Arabia that it would open its airspace for all civilian overflights, saying it would “save Israeli citizens a lot of money and time” when traveling eastward.
Riyadh made the announcement on opened airspace a day before Biden unveiled the planned withdrawal of an observer force securing a pair of Red Sea Islands, which will allow their transfer from Egypt to Saudi Arabia.
The withdrawal was brokered by the US, and required Israeli authorization because the presence of the observer force along with an assurance for freedom of transport around the islands for the Jewish state were part of Jerusalem’s conditions to relinquish them to Egypt as part of their 1979 peace treaty.
Emanuel Fabian and Jacob Magid contributed to this report.