The Hamas terror group warned on Friday morning that it would exact a “heavy price” from anyone who threatened the Gaza Strip, after overnight violence saw a volley of rockets launched toward southern Israel and two rounds of airstrikes on the enclave.
“Whoever lays siege to our people will pay a heavy price in their security and stability,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum, according to Channel 12 news.
“We will not hesitate in our national mission and in our commitment to our people.” Barhoum said, adding that Hamas was committed to “protecting the people from all aggression and fighting the occupation if there is an escalation and the siege continues.”
Three fires were sparked in southern Israel on Friday, apparently caused by balloon-borne incendiary devices launched from the Gaza Strip.
Israel Defense Forces conducted a second round of airstrikes on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on Friday morning after terrorists in the enclave fired six rockets at southern Israel overnight, the military said.
The rockets appeared to strike open fields, causing neither injury nor damage. There were no immediate reports of Palestinian casualties.
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The early morning rocket attack, which triggered sirens in communities near the Strip, came after the military’s initial bombing raid against Hamas facilities in Gaza in response to the balloon-borne incendiary and explosive devices launched across the border into Israel throughout Thursday.
According to the IDF, the six rockets were fired shortly after 5 a.m., triggering sirens in the communities of Nahal Oz and Alumim, east of the northern Gaza Strip, sending hundreds of residents rushing to bomb shelters.
In response, the military said its warplanes and other aircraft bombed Hamas sites in the Palestinian enclave, including a weapons manufacturing facility. Palestinian media reported that the target was located near Gaza City.
Throughout the day on Thursday, Palestinian terrorists in the Strip launched dozens of balloons carrying arson devices and small explosives across the border, causing at least 26 fires in southern Israel, according to the fire department.
Shortly before 4:30 a.m., the IDF retaliated to these airborne attacks with strikes on Hamas targets.
The IDF said warplanes, tanks and other aircraft carried out Friday morning’s first round of airstrikes, hitting Hamas underground infrastructure and observation posts.
This latest exchange in the south came amid weeks of mounting tensions between Israel and terrorist organizations in the Strip, notably Hamas, which rules Gaza.
Palestinians in the Strip have in recent weeks sent waves of arson balloons across the border, sparking scores of wildfires in southern Israel, launched rockets across the border, and held violent protests along the security fence.
Israel, in retaliation, has carried out near-nightly airstrikes against Hamas targets, limited imports to the Strip, and restricted its fishing zone.
On Thursday, Hamas reportedly said that efforts to reach a ceasefire with Israel had failed, warning Israel of “messages” to be sent within hours.
A source in the group was quoted by Lebanese Hezbollah-affiliated TV al-Mayadeen as saying Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Emadi had left the territory after two days in which he brought cash to the Strip and tried to broker a ceasefire amid weeks of mutual attacks.
The source said the failure to reach a deal was due to Israel’s insistence on the equation of “calm in return for calm,” rather than “calm in return for an end to the blockade” of the Strip.
Gaza terror groups won’t let Israel “use the pretext of the balloons to bomb posts in the Strip,” the source was quoted as saying.
He added that “the coming hours will see messages to the Israeli occupation from the youth groups in the field.”
He said “the occupation should read these messages before things roll and slide into something broader than that.”
Al-Emadi arrived in Gaza late Tuesday night, bringing $30 million in cash, seeking to ease the Israel-Hamas tensions that have led to the daily and reprisal strikes.
The money is earmarked to assist the territory’s two million people, half of whom live under the poverty line, sources close to the envoy told AFP.
On Monday, the London-based Arabic-language daily Asharq al-Awsat reported that the head of the IDF Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi, visited Qatar this week in a bid to secure a ceasefire agreement with Hamas.
The terror group is under immense international pressure from Qatar, Egypt and UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov to halt its attacks, alongside pressure from the Gazan public, which is getting only three to four hours of electricity per day after becoming used to more than three times that amount. The power shortages are a result of Israel stopping fuel imports in response to the violence, which caused a Gaza power plant to shut down.
The uptick in violence along the border is thought to be linked to demands for increased cash transfers from Qatar to the Strip, where around 60 percent of the population is unemployed.
Hamas is also contending with Gaza’s first outbreak of the coronavirus, which health officials in the Strip worry could overwhelm the territory’s fragile health care system.