Israel strikes Hamas in Gaza after rocket attack, as region heats up

Army says it carried out significant airstrikes after three missiles shot at southern Israel amid rising tensions following release of peace plan

An explosion caused by Israeli airstrikes is seen on Gaza City, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. (AP/Adel Hana)
An explosion caused by Israeli airstrikes is seen on Gaza City, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. (AP/Adel Hana)

Israeli aircraft carried out airstrikes in the Gaza Strip early Friday, hours after three rockets were fired from the Palestinian enclave at Israel.

Palestinians reported large explosions near Khan Younis and Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that warplanes and other aircraft carried out attacks on a “wide array of targets belonging to the Hamas terror group. … constituting a real blow to Hamas’s abilities to build up [its forces].”

The army said among the targets hit was an underground facility used to manufacture weapons. The army in the past has been criticized for carrying out mostly impotent retaliatory strikes seemingly designed to display force while minimizing casualties to keep violence from snowballing.

No injuries were reported as a result of the strikes. Widespread power outages were reported in Rafah.

The military said the strikes, the second round in two hours, were in response to rocket fire Thursday night, as well as balloons with explosives attached being sent over the border and sniper fire on an IDF watchpost on Thursday.

Tensions between Israel and Gaza have been steadily rising over the past two weeks after several months of relative calm. Fears have mounted in recent days of an escalation of violence in Gaza and the West Bank following the release of a US peace plan that is seen as heavily favoring Israel.

Palestinian demonstrators burn tires during a protest against a US peace plan proposal in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on January 30, 2020. (Said KHATIB / AFP)

Two of the rockets fired at Israel late Thursday were knocked down by the Iron Dome anti-missile system. The third landed in an open area. There was no claim of responsibility but the army said it holds Hamas, the de facto ruler in the Strip, responsible for any violence emanating from the enclave.

A three-week-old girl was hospitalized with moderate head injuries after being hurt during a rush to a bomb shelter in Sderot. The girl’s mother, 30, was also hospitalized with light injuries, according to emergency services.

Video published by Israeli media purported to show the rocket fire over the city.

Israel carried out airstrikes in southern Gaza on Thursday afternoon in response to the cross-border sniper fire and after a bundle of balloons connected to an explosive device were found in the area of the Ashkelon Coastal Regional Council.

On Wednesday night a mortar was fired from Gaza at Israel, prompting retaliatory airstrikes.

On Wednesday evening, the military announced it was deploying additional troops to the Gaza border and West Bank amid concerns that Palestinians may respond violently to the peace plan, which was released on Tuesday.

Palestinian leaders have rejected the plan out of hand.

read more: