After rocket attack, IAF strikes targets in Gaza

One Palestinian reported injured in apparent retaliation for Kassam strike; Netanyahu says Hamas to blame for escalation

An Iron Dome missile defense battery near the southern Israeli town of Beersheba, Thursday, December 26, 2013 (photo credit: Flash90)
An Iron Dome missile defense battery near the southern Israeli town of Beersheba, Thursday, December 26, 2013 (photo credit: Flash90)

The IAF launched airstrikes on several targets in the Gaza Strip Thursday night, hours after a rocket was fired from the Strip fire at the western Negev. At least one Palestinian was injured in the strikes, according to initial reports from Gaza.

“IAF aircraft targeted terror infrastructure in the Gaza Strip,” according to a statement from the army. “A weapon manufacturing facility was targeted in the Central Gaza Strip, and a weapons storage facility was targeted in the Northern Gaza Strip. Direct hits were confirmed.”

Palestinian sources said one target was located in Gaza’s Sheikh Radwan neighborhood. Israeli aircraft also attacked a training facility used by one of the Palestinian organizations in the Strip, Hamas’s television station reported.

The strikes were apparently in retaliation for a rocket fired from the Strip earlier Thursday. The rocket fell in an open field in the Eshkol regional council, causing neither casualties or damage.

“Terrorists, under the Hamas rule, have turned Gaza into a heinous sanctuary for rocket terrorism employed against innocent Israeli civilians,” IDF spokesman Peter Lerner said. “The manufacturing of rockets in Gaza has no other purpose except to target Israel and its sovereignty putting thousands of lives at risk. We will not tolerate daily aggression from the Hamas ruled territory and are morally obligated to act against those threatening our communities, our towns and our cities.”

Thursday’s rocket attack was the second in 24 hours. Late Wednesday night, a rocket was fired from Gaza and slammed into an open area near Ashkelon. There were no injuries and no damage in that attack either, officials said.

The area has seen heightened tension in recent days between Israel and the Palestinians, with a string of attacks against Israeli civilians, police officers and soldiers, and Israeli retaliatory strikes in Gaza.

Israel considers Hamas responsible for the recent attacks emanating from Gaza and will make the terror group face the consequences, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday.

Speaking at an IAF flight course graduation ceremony, Netanyahu praised the retaliatory actions of the air force, which, he said, showed that Israel “will not hesitate to strike those who threaten to damage our existence.” The prime minister promised to “act strongly,” including using preemptive methods, against “any attack” against Israel.

“Israel holds Hamas responsible” for the attacks, he added, promising to “cripple” those who fire on Israel and “those who sponsor them.”

On Thursday, it was revealed that security forces had earlier this month arrested a Gaza man, in Israel on a permit to seek medical help, on suspicion that he planned to carry out a terror attack upon his return to the Strip.

The IDF deployed two Iron Dome rocket-interception batteries to the area near the southern cities of Beersheba, Sderot and Ashdod over Wednesday and Thursday.

On Tuesday, a Defense Ministry civilian worker was killed by sniper fire from the Gaza Strip, prompting retaliatory attacks by the Israeli Air Force that killed a Palestinian toddler and her father.

In a string of attacks and attempted attacks Monday, a rocket fired from Gaza landed next to a children’s bus stop in the Ashkelon area, a bus bombing was narrowly averted in Bat Yam, and a police officer was stabbed and seriously wounded in the West Bank.

In the wake of the violence, the IDF closed the Kerem Shalom border crossing with the Gaza Strip to all commercial traffic. In spite of the heightened readiness on the border with Gaza and the deployment of Iron Dome, sources in the IDF said they were expecting a deescalation by Hamas.

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