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Gaza terror groups: Tel Aviv will burn if targeted killings are renewed

Israel reportedly warned via intermediaries it would be ‘act of war’ to try to kill terror chieftains, after Gantz, PM hint at return to policy; balloon-borne devices spark 7 fires

Israelis take cover as an alarm siren sounds, warning of incoming rockets in Tel Aviv, on the fifth day of Operation Protective Edge, Saturday, July 12, 2014 (photo credit: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Israelis take cover as an alarm siren sounds, warning of incoming rockets in Tel Aviv, on the fifth day of Operation Protective Edge, Saturday, July 12, 2014 (photo credit: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Gaza terror groups have warned Israel against returning to a policy of targeted killings, saying there would be a large and coordinated response including thousands of missiles fired at Tel Aviv, a Lebanese newspaper reported on Saturday.

Sources told the pro-Hezbollah Al-Akhbar newspaper that the “Joint Operations Room” of Gaza factions notified Israel, via intermediaries, that “it would respond in a large and strong way” in the event that Israel carried out an assassination.

The report said it would be seen as a declaration of war “in which the resistance would burn Tel Aviv with thousands of missiles as well as things the occupation does not expect.”

The targeted killing of a Palestinian leader in Gaza is a rare event but both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz have hinted at a possible return to the policy, with the latter warning on Thursday that the IDF was able to hit human targets as well as buildings and terror infrastructure.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks to local leaders from southern Israel, August 19, 2020 (Oded Karni/GPO)

Gantz on Friday additionally warned the terror groups in Gaza that the IDF will deliver a “very harsh blow” if violence continues.

“The IDF is ready, it defends and will continue to defend the residents of the south and will attack anyone who attacks us and deliver a very harsh blow,” Gantz said after a meeting with senior IDF officers.

IDF chief of staff Aviv Kohavi met with the heads of the Southern Command and “heard a situational assessment and authorized the command’s plans for various scenarios,” the IDF said. Gantz joined the briefing via video conference.

Saturday morning saw a renewal of fires in the south caused by incendiary balloons launched from Gaza toward Israel with seven blazes reported, including one in a greenhouse in Moshav Netiv Ha’Asara.

Channel 12 posted a video of IDF troops attempting to shoot down balloons with their rifles from a defensive position on a berm near the Strip’s border. The network said the clip was filmed by Palestinians inside Gaza on Friday.

Over the past few weeks, terrorists in the enclave have again begun launching balloon-borne incendiary and explosive devices into southern Israel, sparking dozens of fires that caused environmental and property damage in the region. Those attacks have drawn daily retaliatory Israeli strikes against Hamas installations.

An Israeli man works to extinguish a fire on the Israeli side of the border between Israel and Gaza, August 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired a rocket at Israel on Friday evening that was intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system, the army said. There were no reports of injuries or damage.

The Israel Defense Forces said sirens went off in the town of Sderot and in Kibbutz Ivim. The IDF said one launch was identified and intercepted.

The IDF said as morning broke on Saturday that it had attacked Hamas positions in response to the rocket fire.

On Friday night, police removed a balloon with an incendiary device from the roof of a house in the city of Beersheba. While arson balloons have ignited scores of fires in parts of Israel adjacent to Gaza in recent weeks, Beersheba is located over 20 miles (32 kilometers) from the Strip.

Friday’s sirens came as Israel and the Hamas terror group traded threats after 12 rockets were fired toward Israel overnight Thursday-Friday. Israeli warplanes carried out three rounds of reprisal strikes following the barrage.

Smoke rises in the distance after war planes belonging to the Israeli army carried out airstrikes over Khan Yunis, in the Southern Gaza Strip early morning on August 21, 2020. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

The rockets marked a major escalation, even as tensions have ramped up over the past several weeks with sporadic rocket fire and hundreds of balloons carrying incendiary devices being launched toward Israel, drawing near-daily Israeli reprisal fire.

A home in the southern Israeli town of Sderot sustained considerable damage in one of the attacks.

Pictures of the home showed a kitchen blown apart, windows smashed and large holes in walls and the roof. Reports indicated that the damage was likely caused by shrapnel from an interception.

Shlomo Malka in his Sderot home damaged after a rocket was launched from the Gaza Strip, August 21, 2020. (Jack Guez/AFP)

The owner of the home said he believed he and his wife miraculously escaped after warning sirens failed to wake them.

The IDF boosted the number of Iron Dome batteries in the south of the country in response to the uptick in violence.

It also ordered the cessation of agricultural work near the border fence with the enclave until further notice.

The apparent uptick in fighting late Thursday and early Friday comes amid truce efforts being brokered by Egypt.

A ceasefire in place for years, which has already been renewed several times, is bolstered by millions of dollars in financial aid from Qatar to Gaza. But complaints from Hamas that Israel has failed to live up to its side of the bargain have been accompanied by sporadic flare-ups on the border.

AFP contributed to this report.

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