Israeli jets strike Hamas post in Gaza in response to shelling
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Israeli jets strike Hamas post in Gaza in response to shelling

IDF accuses Iran of pushing Israel and terror groups to war, 'playing with the lives of Gaza residents,' by supplying mortar shells to Gaza terror groups

Illustrative: Palestinians run for cover as sand and smoke rise following an Israeli airstrike on a Hamas post in the northern Gaza Strip on February 6, 2017. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)
Illustrative: Palestinians run for cover as sand and smoke rise following an Israeli airstrike on a Hamas post in the northern Gaza Strip on February 6, 2017. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

Israeli jets on Saturday night carried out a second round of airstrikes in southern Gaza in retaliation for three mortar shells fired at Israel on Friday.

The Israeli Air Force struck a Hamas post in the coastal enclave, according to a statement from the IDF just before midnight.

Following the retaliatory raid, the army accused Iran of attempting to spark a war between Israel and Gaza terror groups and putting the lives of Palestinians in danger.

“The serious fire on Friday proved again that Iran, through rogue and extremist terrorist groups, is working to deteriorate the regional situation, is playing with the lives of Gaza residents, and may lead the Strip to an escalation [of hostilities] after years of quiet,” the IDF said.

Earlier on Saturday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said the three mortar shells were supplied by Iran to terrorist groups in Gaza. He described the fire on Friday as a “grave act.”

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

Speaking to Hadashot News’ “Meet the Press,” Liberman said the Islamic Republic has supplied such weaponry to a number of terror groups in the Gaza Strip in the past, and therefore it was “too early” to identify the exact source of the shelling.

Friday’s shelling had targeted the Sha’ar Hanegev and Sdot Hanegev regions of southern Israel on Friday afternoon. Two of the mortar shells were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, while the third struck near a building in a community in the area, causing damage.

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

According to initial Israeli assessments, the barrage was not launched by the Hamas terror group, which controls the Gaza Strip, but by other terrorist organizations in the enclave. Israel holds Hamas responsible for all fire emanating from the Gaza Strip.

Zehava Shaul, whose son Oron’s remains are being held by the Hamas terrorist group in Gaza, is led away from a ceremony in his honor after rockets are launched at Israel from the coastal enclave on December 29, 2017. (Screen capture)

The launches appeared to deliberately coincide with a ceremony marking what would have been the 24th birthday of Oron Shaul, an IDF soldier who was killed in 2014, and whose remains are held by Hamas.

On Friday, the Israel Defense Forces had retaliated by attacking two Hamas positions with tank shelling and strikes from aircraft.

The IDF on Friday had originally attributed the fire to rockets, rather than mortar shells.

The mortar attack was the first such incident since December 18.

This month saw two weeks of near-daily rocket launches, the largest incidence of missile-fire from the Strip since the 2014 Israel-Hamas war. These daily attacks had recently seemed to have come to an end.

Protesting US President Donald Trump’s December 6 declaration that Jerusalem is the Israeli capital, Hamas, which seeks Israel’s destruction, has called for a new intifada and vowed to liberate Jerusalem.

A Palestinian wave his national flag while passing by a billboard bearing a portrait of slain Israeli soldier Oron Shaul, at the main road in Gaza City, Friday, Dec. 29, 2017. The Arabic reads “As long as our heroes do not see freedom and light … This prisoner will never see freedom”. Oron Shaul was killed during the last war in Gaza and Hamas is holding his remains. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
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