Israeli warplanes carried out retaliatory strikes against Hamas in the Gaza Strip early Sunday and rocket alerts were activated near communities inside Israel as the terror group said it launched missiles at Israeli aircraft, in the latest tit-for-tat that threatened to send the region spiraling into another round of conflict.
The Israel Defense Forces said in a short statement just after 1 a.m. Sunday that it was attacking Gaza in retaliation for a Saturday evening missile strike, which had broken a month of relative calm. It said a central rocket-making site used by Hamas was among the facilities targeted.
Hamas’s Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades armed wing said a short time later that it had targeted the Israeli planes with anti-aircraft fire and surface-to-air missiles.
A rocket alert was issued for open areas near the small farming communities of Shlomit and Bnei Betzarim, which sit near the Egyptian border and opposite Gaza’s Rafah, the IDF said.
There was no confirmation of any missile strike inside Israel.
The Israeli sorties came hours after a projectile launched out of Gaza landed in an open field near the communities of Nahal Oz and Kfar Aza Saturday evening. There were no reports of injuries or damage.
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The military said fighter jets targeted a weapons workshop and tunnel used by the Hamas terror group, which de facto rules the Strip.
“The workshop is used as a main site for making most of the group’s rockets in the Strip,” the IDF said in a statement.
“The strike overnight continues the progress to impede the force build-up” of Hamas, it added.
The IDF said later that it targeted a Hamas military post in retaliation for the anti-aircraft fire. It also published a video showing the strikes.
There were no reports of injuries inside Gaza, according to Palestinian medical sources.
On social media, Gazans reported hearing several rounds of air strikes near Khan Younis and Rafah in the south of the Strip.
Footage published by Palestinian media outlets showed several large explosions.
غارات اسرائيلية على موقع للمقاومة غرب خانيونس pic.twitter.com/7zWeVRQcp1
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Hamas’s decision to confront Israel could serve to ramp up tensions. The terror group pointedly stayed on the sidelines during the last major flare-up in August, which saw Israel mainly fighting the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group.
Israel says it holds Hamas responsible for all violence emanating from the Strip and generally responds to rocket fire with airstrikes against the group regardless of the who launched the attack.
There was no claim of responsibility for the Saturday night rocket launch, which came after Israeli officials reportedly expressed concerns over the weekend about potential retaliation, including in the form of rocket fire from Gaza, over the deaths of two Palestinian Islamic Jihad members.
Both PIJ and Hamas threatened to hit back over the deaths of the pair, who were killed Thursday during a military raid in the West Bank.
Over the past year, the PIJ has launched rockets at Israel in response to members being killed or arrested in the West Bank.
The last time rockets were fired from the coastal enclave toward Israel was on November 3, apparently in response to the death of a PIJ member during a West Bank raid.
Agencies contributed to this report.