Israeli leaders on Monday vowed a forceful response after Palestinian terrorists launched multiple rocket barrages into Israel, including at Jerusalem.
The rocket fire came amid escalating Israeli-Palestinian violence that has centered on Jerusalem, where on Monday major clashes again erupted between Palestinian rioters and police on the Temple Mount. The Gaza-ruling Hamas terror organization, which claimed the rocket fire toward Jerusalem, had threatened to launch the projectiles if Israeli forces did not withdraw from the Temple Mount.
The rocket fire toward Jerusalem, a major escalation of violence from the enclave that threatened to spark a wider conflict, marked the first time the capital has been targeted since the 2014 Gaza war.
“We’re in a struggle spread across several fronts: Jerusalem, Gaza, and other areas in Israel,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during an official state ceremony for Jerusalem Day. “The terror groups in Gaza crossed a red line on Jerusalem Day evening.”
He added: “Israel will respond with great force. We won’t tolerate harm to our territory, capital, citizens, or soldiers. Whoever attacks us will pay a heavy price.”
The premier further warned that the “current conflict may last for some time” and said Israel had not sought an escalation in violence.
He did not comment directly on the violence at the Temple Mount or his reported decisions to curb activities on Jerusalem Day, which is mostly celebrated by religious nationalist Israeli Jews, over fears that they could lead to direct confrontations with Palestinians in the Old City.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned Hamas, after holding a security assessment with senior officials.
“The Hamas organization in recent weeks has violated Israeli sovereignty, crossed red lines. It will bear the consequences,” Gantz threatened in a video statement.
He said several “offensive operations” of varying scope had been approved “that will severely damage Hamas and the other terror groups. Operations that will ensure the security of the State of Israel and restore total calm for the long-term.”
Gantz also pledged Israel would “do everything” to guarantee freedom of worship and said Hamas bore “sole responsibility” for the tensions.
“These offensive operations are expected to last until we accomplish the goals we set,” he added.
Shortly after Gantz’s statement, the Israel Defense Forces said it bombed a number of Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip in response to the ongoing rocket attacks from the enclave, including targeting eight members of the terror group who were launching projectiles at Israel.
The military said it also struck two rocket launchpads and two observation posts belonging to the terror group.
In addition to the attack on Jerusalem, Palestinian terror groups fired dozens of rockets at Israeli cities and towns near the Gaza border, including Ashkelon and Sderot, as well as smaller communities in the Sha’ar Hanegev region of southern Israel.
According to IDF spokesperson Hidai Zilberman Zilberman, most of the rockets either landed in open fields or were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.
An anti-tank guided missile was also fired at an Israeli civilian’s car that was traveling on a hill south of Sderot, lightly injuring him, the military said. Medics said the man sustained shrapnel wounds to the face and extremities. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad took responsibility for the attack.
There were no other immediate reports of direct Israeli injuries from the barrages. A number of people were treated after they experienced acute anxiety attacks, medics said.
The Israeli Air Force began conducting airstrikes on targets in the Strip around 6:30 p.m. in response to the attacks from the enclave. Zilberman said the military was targeting rocket-launching cells, and had killed at least three Hamas members who had taken part in the attacks.
The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry reported that 20 people were killed in the Israeli strikes, including nine minors. Hamas accused Israel of carrying out an attack that killed three children; Israeli officials said that they had died as a result of a failed rocket launch from the Strip.
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.