Israel says it won’t tolerate ‘a dribble of rockets’

Hamas must keep the peace in Gaza or be held responsible, officials warn, after Thursday’s rocket attack on southern Israel

An Israeli military vehicle on standby near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip on March 30, 2015 (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
An Israeli military vehicle on standby near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip on March 30, 2015 (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Israeli security officials warned Thursday night that the nation would not tolerate a “dribble” of rocket attacks against Israel, saying Hamas was responsible for keeping the peace in the Gaza Strip.

Following Thursday evening’s rocket attack from Gaza, the Erez Crossing was closed on Friday and officials said Gazan worshipers would not be allowed into Israel to pray at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque. The visits, instituted several months ago for some Gazans, had been seen as a sign of trust-building after last year’s bloody summer war.

Hamas has reportedly conveyed a message to Israel that the rocket — the first fired into Israel this year — was fired by an “errant” group and that it was searching for the shooters.

Though officials said Hamas was not believed to be behind the rocket fire, a senior security official told Ynet news that “we view Hamas as responsible… and expect it to enforce order in its territory. Hamas is the ruler on the ground and needs to ensure that there is quiet, otherwise it bears responsibility.

“We will not accept a situation of a dribble (of rockets) by some party or other,” the unnamed official added.

Israeli forces struck a site in the northern Gaza Strip late Thursday night, hours after a rocket fired from the Palestinian enclave at southern Israel broke months of a shaky truce between the sides.

The Israel Defense Forces targeted a “terror site” belonging to Hamas near Beit Hanoun. There were no reports of injuries or damage in Gaza.

The army said tanks were used to hit the target. The strike came shortly after a rocket exploded in an open field in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council.

The launch of the rocket set off alarms across a number of communities bordering the Gaza Strip, sending many residents scurrying for shelter. There were reports in the Hebrew media that one or two additional rockets may have been launched and landed inside the Palestinian enclave. Officials did not confirm this.

No one was hurt in the rocket attack, and there were no reports of damage. The Israeli military said it was the first rocket fired at Israel from Gaza this year.

Army sources said they believed the launch to be an isolated incident that would not lead to escalation.

After the strike, the top army brass, including IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, convened to discuss the situation.

Since Israel and Hamas reached a ceasefire in August 2014 — which put a halt to a 50-day war in Gaza — the IDF has reported on numerous instances of weapons tests within the Gaza Strip, some of which triggered false alarms in Israel’s southern communities around the coastal enclave.

There have also been several cases of isolated rocket fire from the Strip apparently directed at Israel.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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