The Israeli military carried out strikes in the Gaza Strip early Saturday morning, hours after several rockets were launched at Israel from the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave.
The Israel Defense Forces said it targeted a Hamas underground facility used for the production of rocket materials in the central Gaza Strip, after two rockets were launched at the southern city of Ashkelon at around 1 a.m. Palestinians reported that several strikes occurred near Gaza City shortly before 5 a.m. Videos and photos showed large fireballs rising following the strikes.
“The site targeted was one of the largest and most important sites in the Strip for the production of base materials for rockets by terror groups,” the Israel Defense Forces said, asserting that the attack would significantly set back rocket-making.
The IDF regularly holds Hamas responsible for any attacks emanating from Gaza.
Concurrently, two more rockets were fired toward Israel and warning sirens were activated in the Lakhish Regional Council to the northeast of the Strip. Both rockets hit open areas, according to the IDF.
Also during the strikes, Palestinians fired heavy machine-gun fire at Israeli aircraft over the coastal enclave.
In response to the additional rocket fire and machine-gun fire, the military struck another Hamas site, which it said was used as a weapon production facility.
— Aleph א (@no_itsmyturn) July 16, 2022
In the earlier rocket attack, one of the rockets was intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system, while the other landed in an open area, causing no damage.
There was no immediate claim by any of the Gaza-based terror groups for Saturday’s rocket fire.
The Magen David Adom ambulance service said there were no reports of physical injuries following the rocket attacks, but two people were treated for anxiety in Ashkelon.
Footage posted to social media purported to show the moment one of the rockets was intercepted by the Iron Dome.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) July 15, 2022
The rocket fire came hours after US President Joe Biden departed the country, and shortly after the American leader, now in Saudi Arabia, announced an agreement that includes steps by Riyadh toward normalizing ties with Israel.
The deal will see the transfer of a pair of Red Sea islands from Egypt to Saudi Arabia, and Riyadh allowing Israeli airlines to fly over its territory on their way to the Far East. It is also expected to include the Saudis allowing direct flights from Israel for Muslim pilgrims.
In 2020, the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group launched a salvo of rockets at the south as Israel was signing peace deals with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
Biden departed from Israel earlier Friday, after a two-day trip that included meetings with Israeli leaders and a visit to East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
More footage of the apparent interception over Ashkelon. pic.twitter.com/b4DQWiMOfC
— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) July 15, 2022
In the past, Israel has responded with airstrikes against Hamas sites regardless of the group launching the attack. More rarely, it has directed its response at Islamic Jihad, if the terror group claimed responsibility.
The last time rockets were fired from the coastal enclave toward Israel was on June 18. That attack was thought to have been fired by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in response to the deaths of three Palestinians killed in a gunfight with Israeli troops a day earlier.