The Gaza-based Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups claimed responsibility for the rocket barrage at Israel early Wednesday, warning they will not allow Israeli strikes in the Palestinian enclave to go unanswered.
The Israeli military said 45 rockets and mortars were launched at southern Israeli towns. The salvo came after Israeli jets struck Hamas positions in response to the flying of incendiary kites and balloons from Gaza into Israel, sparking some 20 brush fires Tuesday.
In a joint statement, the military wings of Hamas and allied Islamic Jihad said late Wednesday that they had “targeted seven Israeli military positions near Gaza… in response to continued Israeli aggression against resistance sites in Gaza.”
“We are committed to the formula of an attack for an attack. We will not allow the enemy to dictate a new formula,” the terror groups said, blaming Israel for the flare-up.
At least six rockets fired from Gaza early Wednesday landed inside Israeli communities adjacent to the border, including one that struck just outside a kindergarten, Israeli officials said. Most of the others landed in open fields in southern Israel.
The Israel Defense Forces said fighter jets struck some 25 targets in various military bases belonging to the Hamas terror group from the north to the south of the Gaza Strip in response to both the projectile attacks and the numerous incendiary kites and balloons flown by Palestinians into Israel throughout the day on Tuesday.
The Israeli military accused Hamas, the Islamist terror group which rules Gaza, of “targeting Israeli civilians throughout the night with a severe rocket attack and dragging the Gaza Strip and its civilians down a deteriorating path.”
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.
Despite Hamas’s vow not to tolerate Israeli strikes over the ongoing balloon arson attacks emanating from Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Wednesday Israel’s response will “intensify as needed.”
“The intensity will increase as necessary,” he said at a ceremony for new IDF officers. “We are prepared for every scenario, and its best that our enemies understand this, and now.”
“The steel fist of the IDF will powerfully strike anyone who attempts to harm us,” he added.
AFP contributed to this report.