IDF strikes Hamas targets in Gaza in response to rockets
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IDF strikes Hamas targets in Gaza in response to rockets

Army says three of terror group’s military sites hit in airstrikes in retaliation for volley of rockets fired at southern Israel

Illustrative: Smoke billows from a Palestinian Islamic Jihad position near Gaza City after Israeli aircraft bombed it on November 30, 2017, in retaliation for a mortar attack that targeted Israeli troops northeast of the Gaza Strip earlier in the day. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
Illustrative: Smoke billows from a Palestinian Islamic Jihad position near Gaza City after Israeli aircraft bombed it on November 30, 2017, in retaliation for a mortar attack that targeted Israeli troops northeast of the Gaza Strip earlier in the day. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Israel carried out a series of airstrikes against Hamas targets in Gaza overnight Wednesday-Thursday, the army said, in retaliation for a volley of rockets fired at Israel from the Palestinian enclave.

In a statement, the IDF spokesperson said Israeli planes targeted three military facilities belonging to the Hamas terrorist organization in different parts of the Gaza Strip.

“The military facilities were used as training and weapons storage compounds,” the statement said. “This was in response to the projectiles fired at Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip earlier this evening.”

A Palestinian security source said there were more than 10 strikes on the targets, which included a Hamas naval site and a military base near the Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza.

The source said there had been significant damage to the sites, as well as more minor damage to nearby houses, causing minor injuries.

There was no initial confirmation of injuries from the Hamas-run ministry of health in Gaza.

Earlier on Wednesday night, four rockets were fired from Gaza at southern Israel. Two of them were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, a third struck an open field and the fourth fell short of the border and hit a school in the Gaza Strip, according to Israeli officials.

The rocket that fell short destroyed an empty classroom in Beit Hanoun’s Ghazi al-Shawa public school, according to the IDF.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage caused by the Gaza rockets themselves, but two Israelis were treated for anxiety attacks and a man in his 30s lightly injured his leg while running to a rocket shelter, the Magen David Adom rescue service said.

The rocket launches on Wednesday night triggered sirens that sent Israelis running for cover in the town of Sderot, as well as in the Eshkol, Sha’ar Hanegev, Sdot Hanegev and Hof Ashkelon regions, the army said.

A video filmed in Sderot showed the explosions in the air as an Iron Dome interceptor missile collided with an incoming rocket.

In response to the increased fire, Israel said it would close its crossings with the Gaza Strip in a rare punitive measure.

The army said the Kerem Shalom Crossing, from which goods enter and leave the Strip, as well as the pedestrian Erez Crossing would be shuttered beginning on Thursday, in light of “security events and in accordance with security assessments.”

For over a decade, Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade on Gaza, which they say is necessary to keep arms and other materials that can be used for military purposes out of the hands of Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups.

Israel allows goods to be brought into and out of Gaza on a daily basis, under heavy supervision, through the Kerem Shalom Crossing. Egypt, meanwhile, operates the Rafah Crossing into Sinai, but only opens it occasionally.

While the Gaza crossings are typically closed for Jewish and national holidays, it is uncommon for Israel to shut them for punitive reasons.

The army did not say when the crossings would reopen.

The last week has seen the largest number of rockets fired at Israel from the Strip since the 2014 Gaza war. According to Israeli assessments, these rockets are not being launched by Hamas, but by other terrorist groups in the Strip.

Israel holds Hamas responsible for all rocket fire and other attacks emanating from the Strip, which the terror group still overwhelmingly controls despite handing over some power back to the Palestinian Authority.

Before Wednesday night’s rocket fire, the Hadashot television news outlet reported that the Israeli military was planning to take “dramatically” more aggressive action in response to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, in light of the increase in the number of launches.

The Israel-Gaza tensions have apparently been fed by Washington’s recognition last week of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Protesting US President Donald Trump’s declaration that Jerusalem is the Israeli capital, terror group Hamas, which runs Gaza and seeks Israel’s destruction, called for a new intifada and vowed to liberate Jerusalem.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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