Hamas, Islamic Jihad disavow rocket attack on Beersheba

Terror groups say they reject ‘irresponsible attempts’ to sabotage Egypt’s efforts to secure a truce in the Strip

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Gaza terror groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad on Wednesday condemned the firing of a rocket on the southern city of Beersheba earlier in the day, disavowing the attack and claiming it was meant to sabotage efforts to attain a truce in the territory. 

The rocket, which was fired from the Gaza Strip, according to the Israel Defense Forces, landed outside a home in Beersheba, causing significant damage but no injuries. A second rocket landed off the coast in the Tel Aviv area. 

“The resistance wings in the joint command center salute Egyptian efforts to achieve our people’s demands and reject all irresponsible attempts that seek to distort and destroy the Egyptian efforts, including the firing of rockets last night,” the Gaza joint command center said in a joint statement published on the official website of the Izz ad-Din Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s armed wing. 

The joint command center includes the armed wings of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other factions.

No group has taken responsibility for Wednesday’s rocket fire, which came a day after Ahmed Abdelkhaliq, a senior Egyptian intelligence official, arrived in the Strip.

Egyptian General Intelligence Services chief Abbas Kamel is expected to also arrive in the coastal enclave on Thursday, where he is slated to meet with Hamas leaders.

Members of the Hamas terror group’s military wing attend the funeral of six of its fighters at a cemetery in the Deir al-Balah refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on May 6, 2018. (Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Egypt has played a key role in attempting to broker a multi-year ceasefire between Israel and armed groups in Gaza.

Arabic media reports have said that if achieved, a ceasefire would include at least a partial lifting of Israel’s restrictions on the movement of goods and people into and out of Gaza.

Israel holds that its restrictions on movement serve security purposes including preventing the entry of weapons into the Strip.

In retaliation for the attack on Beersheba, Israeli fighter jets bombed a number of targets in Gaza, according to the IDF.

“In response to the rockets fired from Gaza at Israel overnight, IDF fighter jets have started attacking terror targets in Gaza,” the army said in a statement early in the morning.

A few hours after the air force began its strikes in Gaza, an Israeli aircraft fired at a group of Palestinians attempting to launch a rocket at Israel from the northern Gaza Strip, the IDF said, triggering sirens in nearby Israeli communities.

Smoke billows following an Israeli air strike in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah on October 17, 2018. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

Twenty-five-year-old Naji al-Zaneen was killed in the strike, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza. 

“An IDF aircraft attacked a group of terrorists in the northern Gaza Strip during an attempt to conduct a rocket launch at Israeli territory,” the army said in a statement.

“During the event, the ‘Code Red’ siren was activated in the Hof Ashkelon Region,” it added, using the codename for the rocket alert system.

Palestinian media reported the retaliatory strikes were taking place throughout the Gaza Strip — in southern Gaza in Rafah and Khan Younis, around the central Gaza City and in the north of the enclave near Beit Lahiya.

Three people were also moderately wounded in the strikes near Rafah, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

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