Israeli Air Force planes bombed three targets in the Gaza Strip after midnight on Thursday, shortly after rockets fired from the Hamas-controlled territory hit southern Israel.
The IDF confirmed three airstrikes on “terrorist infrastructure” in the Gaza Strip that scored direct hits. Hamas media reports said one airstrike targeted a Hamas military training ground in the central Gaza Strip and another hit targets in the southern city of Khan Yunis. There were no immediate reports of casualties in the attacks.
IDF Spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said in a statement that the Israeli military “will act against the aggression, will act against those that wish to terrorize Israel and will act to protect Israelis in the line of indiscriminate Gaza rocket fire.”
Reports just after midnight attributed another explosion near the Gaza City marina to an Israeli airstrike, but Gaza news outlets then said it wasn’t caused by Israeli action.
The airstrikes came a few hours after three rockets were shot at southern Israel from the Gaza Strip Wednesday night, sending residents hurrying to bomb shelters for the second time in a little over a week. A Salafist group in the Gaza Strip named the Omar Brigades, which is sympathetic to the Islamic State, claimed responsibility for the rocket fire, Ynet reported.
Alarms sounded just before 11 p.m. in the Sdot Negev and Hof Ashkelon regions bordering the northern Gaza Strip, as well as the towns of Netivot and Ashkelon.
Police later said three projectiles struck Israel.
Immediately after the rocket attack, politicians from both sides of the aisle called for a firm IDF response to the rising hostilities from the Gaza Strip.
“Israel needs to respond aggressively, not just with verbal responses and blowing up empty sand dunes,” Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman said.
Opposition chief Isaac Herzog also demanded an Israeli retaliation, saying that “the sources of [rocket] fire and the enemies of Israel must be attacked with all severity and strength.”
The rockets landed in open areas in the Sdot Negev region, according to media reports.
There were no injuries reported, the army said.
A Hamas source told Israel Radio that the rockets may have been fired by a Salafist group allied with the Islamic State in retaliation for one of its members being killed by Hamas on Tuesday. The source said that Hamas was deploying its troops across the Gaza Strip to keep the peace.
Israel generally holds Hamas responsible for any rocket fire, though the sporadic attacks since an August ceasefire have been attributed to smaller groups which oppose Hamas rule.
On May 26, Palestinians shot a Grad rocket into Israel, striking an area outside the town of Gan Yavneh, in an attack that broke several weeks of calm.
Palestinian and Israeli officials said the rocket attack, which caused no injuries or damage, was the result of internal fighting within the Islamic Jihad terror group.
Israeli planes struck Gaza soon after and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon warned Hamas to rein in any attempts by Gaza terror groups to attack Israel, or “pay a heavy price.”
Wednesday night’s attack came a day after rocket sirens sounded across the rest of the country as part of a major civil defense drill. Areas near Gaza, which sustained thousands of rocket strikes during last summer’s conflict with the Strip, were excluded from the drill.
Escalating rocket fire from Gaza at Israel’s southern communities in 2014 was among the triggers of a bloody, two-month war between Israel and the armed factions in the Strip. During the conflict, Palestinians fired over 4,000 rockets at Israeli towns and cities, some of which reached Tel Aviv and as far north as Haifa’s suburbs.
Last week’s attack marked the first time a Grad rocket, which can go farther than the smaller Kassams more commonly shot out of Gaza, had been fired at Israel since the war.
Israel is wary of Gaza terrorist groups rearming after war. The IDF says Hamas has been conducting test launches in recent months in order to increase its capabilities.