Israeli jets strike Gaza in retaliation for shelling

Army says it targeted ‘significant terror infrastructure’ in coastal enclave, hours after mortar shells land in open areas in Israel

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Illustrative image of a cloud of smoke rising over Gaza in the wake of an Israeli air strike. (Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)
Illustrative image of a cloud of smoke rising over Gaza in the wake of an Israeli air strike. (Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)

Israeli jets overnight Wednesday-Thursday carried out airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, in retaliation for mortar fire earlier in the day.

Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip had fired three mortar shells into southern Israel on Wednesday, but caused no injuries or damage, the army and police said.

In a late-night statement, the army said the overnight raids targeted “significant terror infrastructure,” without elaborating.

“The IDF will continue to use all the measures at its disposal, above and below ground, to thwart attacks against Israelis,” the military said. “We are prepared and ready for a variety of scenarios and will act against any attempts to violate Israeli sovereignty.”

There were no immediate reports of injuries from the Israeli airstrikes.

The launches from Gaza on Wednesday took place over a period of four hours. Police said two shells landed in open fields in the Eshkol region, and it was not immediately clear where the third landed.

Warning sirens were not triggered by the first two launches, apparently because the shells were heading toward unpopulated areas.

A police officer inspects a rocket that was fired at the Eshkol region of southern Israel by terrorists in the Gaza Strip on January 1, 2018. (Israel Police)

This was the fifth projectile from Gaza to hit Israeli territory in under a week. There have also been a number of unsuccessful attempts, in which rockets were launched at Israel but failed to clear the border, landing instead inside Gaza.

On Monday night, terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired a rocket at Israel that also hit an open field in the Eshkol region, causing neither injury nor damage.

On Friday, terrorists in Gaza fired three mortar shells at southern Israel, apparently in an attempt to interrupt a ceremony for a fallen IDF soldier whose remains are being held by Hamas in the coastal enclave. Two of the mortars were shot down by the Iron Dome missile defense system, while the third struck an Israeli community on the border, causing light damage to a building.

On Wednesday, the military completed an investigation of the Friday attack, determining it to have been the work of the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Saturday said the mortar shells in that attack were supplied to Gaza terror groups by Iran.

The air force had retaliated against the Friday barrage as well, carrying out two series of strikes over the weekend.

Israelis take cover during a rocket attack siren warning at Kibbutz Kfar Aza, near the Israel and Gaza border, Israel, December 29, 2017. Israelis had gathered there to mark the birthday of Oron Shaul, who was killed during the last war in Gaza; Hamas holds his remains. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

The recent attacks came two weeks after a period of near-daily attacks earlier in December. The past month has seen the largest incidence of rocket fire from the Strip since the 2014 Israel-Hamas war.

According to Israeli assessments, the rockets are not being launched by Hamas, but by other terrorist organizations in Gaza.

The army believes that Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, has been struggling to rein in other terrorist groups in the enclave and prevent them from carrying out attacks on Israeli targets.

On Tuesday, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot responded to the calls from Israeli politicians and public figures for more aggressive retaliations, dismissing them as “irresponsible.”


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