Israeli planes struck Hamas naval targets off the coast of the Gaza Strip early Thursday, the latest tit-for-tat cross-border fighting that has set the restive region on edge.
The Israel Defense Forces said fighter jets and aircraft hit several “sea-based bases” in the north belonging to the Hamas terror group.
Palestinian media reported several Israeli strikes around 12:30 a.m. in the northern Strip near Beit Lahia, including on a seaside site known as al-Waha, or Oasis.
There was no immediate word on casualties from the strikes, which came after Palestinian terrorists in Gaza fired a rocket from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel Wednesday night, striking an open field. No injuries or damage were caused by the attack.
The army said the strikes were in response to the rocket attack, as well as “continuing terror activities from the Strip.”
An army statement added, “The IDF will continue to oppose attempts to harm Israeli civilians and considers the Hamas terrorist organization responsible for what happens in and out of the Gaza Strip. ”
The latest rocket attack was the fifth rocket fired at Israel from the enclave in the past week. One rocket was fired at southern Israel on Friday night, followed by three on Saturday night Saturday. Three of these were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system. One rocket struck outside a home in the southern town of Sderot, causing light damage, but no physical injuries.
The Israeli military retaliated to the Friday night attack, bombing two Hamas positions in the coastal enclave. There was no military response to the Saturday night rocket attack.
Wednesday’s rocket fire came a day before Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Emadi was scheduled to visit Gaza to oversee the disbursement of another $25 million in $100 bills to needy families, and to discuss infrastructure projects funded by the Gulf emirate in the Strip.
Israel has allowed Qatar to deliver regular infusions of millions of dollars in cash to the Strip to help stabilize the territory and prevent a humanitarian collapse and further violence.
Earlier this week, Hamas issued a direct threat to step up the violence along the Gaza-Israel border if Israel hinders the entry of the Qatari cash into the Strip or fails to increase the supply of electricity.
The threat, published in the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar on Tuesday morning, followed outbursts of violence and tension along the border over recent weekends, and repeated warnings by Hamas and other Gazan terror groups that the blockaded Palestinian enclave was on the verge of an “explosion.”
“The factions have given the interlocutors a direct threat [to pass along to Israel]: If the enemy does not implement the understandings, allowing entry of the Qatari funds and increasing the quantity of electricity by this weekend, they will move to escalate on the ground,” an unnamed Hamas source told the newspaper.
Hamas has sought to distance itself from a series of cross-border attacks over the past month, painting the perpetrators as young lone-wolf Palestinian attackers exasperated by the humanitarian situation in the enclave. On Monday, Hamas leaders expressed concerns that popular anger could snowball into another war with Israel.
Recent weeks have also seen several serious infiltration attempts into Israel.
In a span of 10 days, six armed Palestinian terrorists — many of them current and former Hamas members — got through the security fence surrounding the Gaza Strip before being killed by Israeli troops. In one case on August 1, the gunman opened fire at IDF soldiers, injuring three of them, before he was shot dead.
Two weeks ago, a group of four heavily armed terrorists, carrying assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and rations, attempted to infiltrate Israeli territory before they were spotted and shot dead by troops on the border.