The Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups issued warnings to Israel on Wednesday after a night of tit-for-tat attacks, saying that Palestinians have “the right” to fire rockets and mortar shells at Israel in retaliation for IDF strikes against targets in Gaza.
Shortly after midnight, Israel struck three Hamas targets in the south of the coastal enclave, in response to numerous incendiary kites and balloons flown into southern Israel by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip throughout Tuesday that sparked approximately 20 brush fires, according to Israeli officials.
After that, throughout the early morning hours rockets and mortar shells were fired in retaliation toward Israeli towns, prompting more rounds of Israeli airstrikes on Hamas military sites in the Gaza Strip.
Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas, praised the attacks, calling them “a legitimate right” and asserting that bombings would be “met with bombings,” but did not take direct responsibility for them.
He tweeted that Hamas will “determine the rules of engagement,” and added that his group “will not allow the enemy to single out our people or impose any new equation, and it must bear the consequences.”
A spokesperson for Islamic Jihad told the Arabic PalToday news website that “the resistance” would retaliate against any IDF strikes on Gaza.
“The time in which the IDF operated unimpeded in Gaza is over,” he said. “Gaza is not an F-16 firing range and the resistance has the right and duty to respond as it sees fit.”
At least six rockets fired from the coastal enclave overnight exploded inside Israel, damaging property, including a mortar shell that fell outside a kindergarten. Photos showed houses and cars peppered with shrapnel. Most of the other projectiles landed in open fields in southern Israel.
Israeli police said its bomb disposal unit dealt with one rocket that landed in a populated area.
The IDF said that seven projectiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system and at least three fell prematurely, landing inside Gaza.
There were no immediate reports of injuries on either side of the border.
“The Hamas terror organization targeted Israeli civilians throughout the night with a severe rocket attack and is dragging the Gaza Strip and its civilians down a continually deteriorating path,” the military said.
Hamas, meanwhile, blamed Israel for the escalation of violence, saying it had “changed the rules of engagement” by adopting the policy of targeting Hamas positions in response to kite- and balloon-borne arson attacks.
The overnight exchanges were the second round of violence this week.
Early Monday morning, Palestinians fired three rockets at southern Israel, after Israeli aircraft hit a number of targets in the coastal enclave in response to numerous arson attacks perpetrated by Palestinians the day before.
The IDF’s airstrikes on Hamas facilities appeared to be a new tactic by the military to deter Palestinians from flying airborne arson devices into Israel, after its previous attempts to do so by firing warning shots at kite-flyers failed to yield results.
The IDF said its strikes were “carried out in response to the launching of incendiary and explosive kites and balloons at Israeli territory,” which it called a “terrorist activity that endangers the lives of southern residents and has damaged large amounts of land.”
The army warned that it had the “intelligence knowledge and operational capability” necessary to conduct further strikes in Gaza if the balloon and kite attacks did not stop.
The rockets launched by Palestinians this week broke a tacit ceasefire that has largely held since a daylong flareup in late May.
Over the course of May 29 and 30, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and smaller terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip launched approximately 200 rockets and mortar shells at southern Israel. The IDF retaliated by bombing over 65 targets in the Gaza Strip belonging to the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas.