Hamas says it used anti-aircraft missiles against Israeli jets over Gaza
Terror group says Israel responsible for ‘escalation’ amid rocket fire from Strip, IDF airstrikes on ‘military targets’ after four soldiers wounded in border bombing
Khaled Abu Toameh is the Palestinian Affairs correspondent for The Times of Israel
Amid escalating violence between Israel and the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Hamas’s military wing, Izz ad Din al Qassam, claimed on Saturday night that it had used anti-aircraft missiles against Israeli jets flying over the coastal territory.
A brief statement issued by the terror group said that its aircraft targeted Israeli jets as they were launching airstrikes on the Gaza Strip.
“This came in the frame of confronting the ongoing Zionist aggression against our people in the Gaza Strip,” the group claimed without elaborating.
The IDF declined to comment on the claim, citing its policy not to respond to “external reports.”
Meanwhile, Ashraf al Kidreh, spokesman for the Palestinian Ministry of Health, said that two Palestinians were moderately injured as a result of Israeli artillery shelling east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.
And a rocket fired from the Strip landed in Israel, hitting a house in the community of Sha’ar Hanegev and causing significant damage but no casualties.
Abd al Latif Kanou, a spokesman for Hamas said it will not allow Israel to “impose any new equation on the ground or export its internal crises and the corruption cases of its leaders by escalating the aggression on our people.”
Kanou’s remarks came shortly after Israeli Air Force jets launched strikes against six Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip.
Sources in the Gaza Strip reported that Hamas members fled their bases and offices in most parts of the Gaza Strip ahead of the Israeli military strikes.
The army also said that a tank fired at a group of Palestinians to “drive them back” after monitoring surveillance cameras spotted them approaching the Gaza security fence “in a suspicious manner.” Palestinian media reported that two of the group were injured and being treated at a hospital in the Strip.
The Israeli military strikes came after four IDF soldiers were wounded when an explosive device was detonated against their patrol in the southern Gaza Strip.
These are the military targets the IDF struck this evening in response to the IED attack that wounded 4 IDF soldiers along the fence in southern #Gaza pic.twitter.com/yP7AfrX6TA
— Jonathan Conricus (@LTCJonathan) February 17, 2018
“The Zionist occupation’s aggression on our people is being carried out with an American cover,” the Hamas spokesman charged. “This is a failed policy that won’t undermine the will of our people.”
Another Hamas spokesperson, Fawzi Barhoum, held Israel responsible for the “repercussions of its escalation against our people and resistance.”
The magnitude of the Israeli military strikes, he said, reflect Israel’s “premeditated intention to escalate the situation and aggravate tensions.”
Barhoum said that Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups would not abandon their duty to defend the Palestinians.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad, whose armed wing was one of several factions that praised the ambush in which the four IDF soldiers were wounded, warned Israel that the Gaza Strip would not be a picnic site for its soldiers.
Daoud Shehab, spokesperson for the terror group, said that the Palestinians were ready to repel any Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip .