Hamas tells Israel it does not seek escalation

Gaza rulers say they were not behind morning’s rocket attacks; defense minister orders goods crossing closed

Illustrative. An Israeli tank parks in position overlooking the Gaza Strip on December 25, 2013. (AP/Tsafrir Abayov)
Illustrative. An Israeli tank parks in position overlooking the Gaza Strip on December 25, 2013. (AP/Tsafrir Abayov)

Hamas on Monday sent calming messages to Israel, stressing that it was not interested in a violent escalation in the Gaza Strip and that it was not behind a barrage of rockets fired into Israel in the morning, Channel 10 reported.

Israeli military officials told said they believed another terror group was behind the attack, seeking to cause a clash between Israel and Hamas. The officials said Israel was also not interested in escalating the situation.

Monday’s attack was seen in Israel as an effort to impede upon the second holiday of Passover which took place on Monday.

“Today, the Israel Defense Forces attacked in the Gaza Strip those who sought to harm the citizens of Israel and disturb the calm of the holiday,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote on his official Twitter account. “We shall continue to act forcefully against our enemies.”

In response to the attacks Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon decided to close the Kerem Shalom goods crossing between Israel and Gaza. The crossing will remain closed on Tuesday.

Ten rockets fired from the Palestinian enclave exploded in southern Israel in the morning, prompting Israeli retaliatory strikes on the Hamas-controlled territory

Most of the rockets fell in open areas, causing no harm. One rocket exploded in Sderot, damaging a road and several shops.

Later on Monday, the Israeli Air Force carried out airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, hitting targets in Khan Younis, Nasirat and Deir al-Balah. According to the IDF, Israeli aircraft struck two “terror activity sites” in the southern Gaza Strip and a third in the central Gaza Strip in response to the rocket fire. The IDF said direct hits were confirmed.

The Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported that one government security agent was hurt in an IAF strike in the central Gaza Strip.

Earlier in the morning, a Gaza-based terrorist group launched a rocket-propelled grenade at an IDF patrol near the security fence east of the city of Deir al-Balah. According to the Palestinian Safa news agency, the rocket missed its target, and the Israeli soldiers returned fire.

Ilan Ben Zion contributed to this report.

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