Israel fires at Gaza ‘terror site’ after rocket strike

Hamas not thought to be behind surprise strike at southern Israel. No immediate reports of injuries or damage in cross-border volley

An Israeli tank fires towards Gaza, near the Israel and Gaza border on the morning of Sunday, July 27, 2014. (Photo credit: AP/Tsafrir Abayov)
An Israeli tank fires towards Gaza, near the Israel and Gaza border on the morning of Sunday, July 27, 2014. (Photo credit: AP/Tsafrir Abayov)

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 the terror group Hamas near Beit Hanoun.

“In response to rocket attack against Israel, the #IDF targeted a terrorist infrastructure in northern #Gaza,” IDF spokesperson Peter Lerner wrote on Twitter.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage in Gaza.

Israeli news site Ynet reported tanks were used to shell the strike, though the Haaretz news outlet said the site was hit by Israeli air force jets.

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 for the first time since Israel and Hamas reached a truce ending a 50-day war in August that saw thousands of rockets shot at Israel.

No one was hurt in the attack, and there were no reports of damage. Authorities were searching for the rocket’s impact site.

The Israeli military said it was the first rocket fired at Israel from Gaza this year.

Military officials said they believed the rocket was not fired by Hamas but by independent operatives, according to media reports. Army sources told Ynet news that they believed the launch to be an isolated incident which would not lead to escalation.

However, Israel holds Hamas, which rules the Strip, to be responsible for any attacks on Israel. The terror group reportedly sent a message to Israeli officials saying they were not responsible and were searching for the culprit.

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

The IDF also said it would not allow Gaza residents to visit the Temple Mount on Friday in the wake of the rocket strike.

The visits, instituted several months ago for some Gazans, had been seen as a sign of trust-building after the bloody summer war.

The surprise rocket strike came in the final hours of Israel’s Independence Day celebrations.

The military said the rocket impacted in an open field.

There were reports in Hebrew media that one or two additional rockets may have been launched and landed inside the Palestinian enclave. Officials did not confirm this.

MK Hayim Yelin (Yesh Atid), former head of the Eshkol Regional Council, said, “For most of the residents of the Gaza periphery, who are the periphery of the state of Israel, the 67th Independence Day is still a day without hope. The government of Israel must act forcefully against terror and at the same time to look for a diplomatic horizon which promises peace and security.”

Since Israel and Hamas reached a ceasefire in August 2014 that 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.

Israel is wary of Gaza terrorist groups rearming after Operation Protective Edge. The IDF says Hamas has been conducting test launches in recent months in order to increase rocket launching capabilities.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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