Air force hits Hamas camp in Gaza after rocket fire
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Air force hits Hamas camp in Gaza after rocket fire

IAF response comes hours after projectile from the Strip hits open field in south; no injuries reported

Illustrative: Smoke billows from a Palestinian Islamic Jihad position near Gaza City after Israeli aircraft bombed it on November 30, 2017, in retaliation to a mortar attack that targeted Israeli troops northeast of the Gaza Strip earlier in the day. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
Illustrative: Smoke billows from a Palestinian Islamic Jihad position near Gaza City after Israeli aircraft bombed it on November 30, 2017, in retaliation to a mortar attack that targeted Israeli troops northeast of the Gaza Strip earlier in the day. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

The Israeli Air Force hit a Hamas camp in the southern Gaza Strip early Tuesday in response to a rocket fired at Israel hours earlier, the army said.

The army said it targeted a Hamas facility because Israel holds Hamas responsible for all rocket fire and violence emanating from the coastal enclave.

Palestinian security sources said there were multiple strikes, in Khan Younes in the south and Deir al-Balah in central Gaza, causing damage but no casualties.

Late Monday, terrorists in the Gaza Strip launched a rocket at Israel that hit an open field in the Eshkol region, Israeli officials said.

There were no reports of injuries or damage caused by the rocket.

Police said the projectile was found in the fields of one of the communities in the area, southeast of Gaza, though they would not specify which one, lest it help terrorist groups hone their accuracy for future attacks.

Warning sirens were not triggered by the launch, apparently because the rocket was heading toward an unpopulated area.

Police sappers were called to the scene to remove the rocket.

There were earlier reports of a rocket fired from Gaza that landed inside the Strip. It was not immediately clear if it was the same launch or another one.

Illustrative: A trail of smoke from a rocket as it was launched from the Gaza Strip toward the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, August 24, 2014. (Edi Israel/Flash90/File)

There were also reports of rocket launches on Sunday that similarly fell short, an indication that they were done by smaller terrorist groups, as opposed to the larger ones that have access to better munitions.

On Friday, terrorists in Gaza fired three mortar shells at southern Israel, apparently in an attempt to interrupt a ceremony for a fallen IDF soldiers whose remains are being held by Hamas in the coastal enclave.

Two of them were shot down by the Iron Dome missile defense system, while the third struck an Israeli community on the border, causing light damage to a building.

Israelis take cover during a rocket attack siren warning at Kibbutz Kfar Aza, near the Israel and Gaza border, Israel, December 29, 2017. Israelis had gathered there to mark the birthday of Oron Shaul, who was killed during the last war in Gaza; Hamas holds his remains. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

The recent attacks come two weeks after a period of near-daily attacks earlier in December. The past month has seen the largest incidence of rocket fire from the Strip since the 2014 Israel-Hamas war.

Since US President Donald Trump’s recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6, dozens of rockets and mortar shells have been fired at Israel by Gazan terrorist groups.

According to Israeli assessments, the rockets are not being launched by Hamas, but by other terrorist organizations in the Strip. Hamas has apparently been either unwilling or unable to clamp down on those groups.

On December 19, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said he believed that the rocket fire by Gaza-based terrorist groups was over, referring to the attacks as the “price” Israel had to pay for Trump’s declaration

“The ‘drizzle'” — the slang term for sporadic rocket attacks — “is not continuing. We’ve already had one day of total quiet,” Liberman said, following a meeting with the heads of mayors and regional council leaders from the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip.

Protesting Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital led terror group Hamas, which runs Gaza and seeks Israel’s destruction, to call for a new intifada and vow to liberate Jerusalem.

AFP contributed to this report.

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