Amid ongoing cross-border fire, Gantz pledges no quiet in Gaza until south quiet
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Amid ongoing cross-border fire, Gantz pledges no quiet in Gaza until south quiet

Defense Minister says Hamas ‘undermining the interests of the residents of Gaza,’ vows to ‘respond forcefully to any violation of sovereignty’

View of damage to a house in the southern Israeli town of Sderot that was caused by fragments of an Iron Dome interceptor missile, which was fired to shoot down incoming rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, on August 16, 2020. (Flash90)
View of damage to a house in the southern Israeli town of Sderot that was caused by fragments of an Iron Dome interceptor missile, which was fired to shoot down incoming rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, on August 16, 2020. (Flash90)

Following weekend exchanges of fire between the Israel Defense Forces and Hamas, Defense Minister Benny Gantz pledged that Israel would not cease striking targets in the Gaza Strip, warning that until there is peace in the south, “there will be no quiet in Gaza.”

In a statement released Sunday morning, following consultations with IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, Gantz warned that “every explosive balloon or rocket landing in Israel and violating its sovereignty holds one return address: Hamas.”

“By launching rockets and explosive balloons, the heads of Hamas are undermining the interests of the residents of Gaza and impairing their ability to live in dignity and security.

The IDF will respond forcefully to any violation of sovereignty until complete quiet is restored in the south. If Sderot isn’t quiet, Gaza won’t be either,” he said.

View of damage to a house in the southern Israeli town of Sderot that was caused by fragments of an Iron Dome interceptor missile, which was fired to shoot down incoming rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, on August 16, 2020. (Flash90)

Hamas, meanwhile, blamed Israel for the violence along the Gaza border, accusing the IDF of committing war crimes, after the launching of explosive balloons from the Gaza Strip escalated into airstrikes and rocket attacks.

“Israel’s attack on protesters and the wounding of several of them with live ammunition is a crime,” the terrorist group said in a statement carried on the Palestinian website Dunya al-Watan early Sunday morning. “Israel bears full responsibility for this escalation.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz. (Tomer Neuberg/ Flash90)

Israeli jets carried out a second wave of airstrikes in the Gaza Strip within hours early Sunday morning, after rockets were fired from the Palestinian enclave at southern Israel.

The raids targeted Hamas sites in the southern Gaza Strip, hitting a rocket storage facility belonging to the terror group, the army said.

The renewed airstrikes came hours after two rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, according to the army. Fragments of an Iron Dome interceptor missile slammed into a yard of a home in the southern city of Sderot.

The rockets triggered sirens in Sderot around 1 a.m., sending thousands rushing for shelter. A 58-year-old man was lightly hurt by broken glass caused by the interceptor missile shrapnel, and several people were treated for shock or for minor injuries sustained while running to shelters, medics said.

Israel’s earlier round of airstrikes in the Gaza Strip late Saturday came in retaliation for launches of balloon-borne incendiary devices from the Palestinian enclave and the renewal of nighttime clashes along the border fence.

Gazans protest at the border with Israel, August 15, 2020 (Channel 12 screenshot)

Incendiary balloons from Gaza ignited 19 brushfires across southern Israel, Haaretz reported.

A Hamas-linked news site said some 800 Palestinians clashed with Israeli troops on the border as part of “night confusion units,” which had previously held violent demonstrations along the security fence, but had not been active in recent months.

Some of the Palestinians threw explosive devices at Israeli soldiers, Hebrew media said.

The Hamas-run health ministry said two people were injured by live bullets, apparently during the border clashes, and were taken to al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City for treatment.

The renewal of the late night border clashes came amid growing tensions between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist terror group that controls Gaza.

Hamas warned Israel on Saturday that a red line was crossed in a “dangerous escalation,” after two children were reportedly lightly injured in airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, in response to a recent spate of attacks that sent balloon-borne arson and explosive devices into Israel.

While the IDF stated that its forces had targeted a number of facilities belonging to the terrorist group, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that the military had also hit “innocent civilians,” and that the strikes constituted a “red line and a dangerous escalation that Israel will bear the consequences for.”

The Hamas health ministry reported that a 3-year-old girl was lightly injured in an airstrike around al-Bureij. Local media reports said she was hit with shrapnel in her face.

The Hamas-linked al-Resalah outlet additionally reported a woman and an 11-year-old boy were lightly injured in the same region and taken to the hospital for treatment.

Barhoum said the terror groups in Gaza “will not allow the situation to remain as it is,” before adding that they will act to “curb aggression and safeguard the interests of the people.”

Saturday marked the fifth consecutive evening during which Israel launched strikes in Gaza, after at least 19 fires were sparked in the south during the day by airborne incendiary objects flown from the Strip.

In response to the rocket fire and general rise in violence around Gaza, Israel has also decided to fully close off the enclave’s fishing zone until further notice, reports said Sunday morning. The decision was effective immediately.

“The IDF views with severity any terror activity against Israel and will continue to operate as needed against attempts to harm the citizens of the State of Israel or its sovereignty. The terror group Hamas is responsible for all [attacks] perpetrated from and in Gaza, and it will bear the consequences of terror attacks against Israelis,” the military said.

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