Liberman warns Israel will crack down on Gaza incendiary attacks
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Liberman warns Israel will crack down on Gaza incendiary attacks

‘If anyone thinks it will be possible to continue with the daily kites and fires, they are wrong,’ defense minister says after flareup in Gaza

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks during a tour of Israeli Aerospace Industries, June 18, 2018 (Shahar Levy/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks during a tour of Israeli Aerospace Industries, June 18, 2018 (Shahar Levy/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned Hamas on Monday that Israel would not let the Palestinian terror group continue to launch incendiary devices into Israeli territory, following a night of IDF strikes in Gaza in response to airborne arson attacks, the likes of which have caused hundreds of brush fires in recent months.

“If anyone thinks it will be possible to continue with the daily kites and fires, they are wrong,” Liberman said during a tour of Israel Aerospace Industries, the country’s primary aerospace manufacturer.

Israeli aircraft hit a number of targets in the Gaza Strip early Monday morning in response to numerous arson attacks by Palestinians the day before, the military said. Hours later, Palestinians fired three rockets at southern Israel from the coastal enclave.

The army said two of the rockets fell inside Israel, while the third appeared to fall short of the border. There were no reports of injuries on either side of the border.

An explosion is seen in Gaza City after an airstrike by Israel on June 18, 2018. (AFP / MAHMUD HAMS)

The rockets were the first to be fired at Israel in over two weeks, breaking a tacit ceasefire that has largely held since a daylong flareup in late May.

Before the rocket attack, Israeli fighter jets carried out strikes on three military compounds and one weapons manufacturing plant in northern Gaza belonging to the Hamas terror group, which rules the Strip, the Israel Defense Forces said.

The army said it hit a total of nine targets spread out between the three Hamas facilities, in response to flammable and explosive-laden kites and balloons launched from Gaza that have wreaked havoc in Israel over the past several weeks.

“The attack was carried out in response to the launching of incendiary and explosive kites and balloons at Israeli territory. This is terrorist activity that endangers the lives of southern residents and has damaged large amounts of land,” the military said.

The army warned that it had the “intelligence knowledge and operational capability” necessary to conduct further strikes in Gaza if the balloon and kite attacks did not stop.

A masked Palestinian man launches a balloon loaded with flammable materials toward Israel, east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on June 17, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

The airstrikes on Hamas facilities appeared to be a new tactic by the military to deter Palestinians from flying the airborne arson devices into Israel, after its previous attempts to do so by firing warning shots at kite-flyers failed to yield results.

The Palestinian rocket fire appeared to come in response to the airstrikes.

The projectiles shot at Israel triggered sirens in the Hof Ashkelon region and the city of Ashkelon’s industrial area, sending thousands of Israelis into bomb shelters. The alarms were triggered in two waves, first at 4:40 a.m. and then again shortly after 5 a.m.

The Iron Dome missile defense system did not appear to have been activated, indicating the two incoming rockets that cleared the border struck open fields, where there was no risk to life and thus no need to intercept them.

Israel’s airstrikes in the Strip and the subsequent Palestinian rocket fire followed a day of airborne arson attacks by Gazans, who launched dozens of balloons laden with incendiary devices and explosives at southern Israel, sparking at least 20 fires, some of them large.

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