Rocket fired from Gaza intercepted by Iron Dome; IDF responds with strikes

Residents hear blasts; no injuries or damage reported; launch comes after capture of 2 Islamic Jihad fugitives and as Qatari envoy says deal to send cash to Hamas-run Strip is off

Illustrative: Rockets are launched towards Israel from Gaza City, controlled by the Palestinian Hamas terror group, on May 18, 2021. (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)
Illustrative: Rockets are launched towards Israel from Gaza City, controlled by the Palestinian Hamas terror group, on May 18, 2021. (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired a single rocket towards Israel late Friday that was intercepted by the Iron Dome system, the army said.

The rocket triggered warning sirens in the Eshkol region and local residents reported hearing several explosions. There were no reports of injuries or damage.

In response to the rocket fire, the Israel Defense Forces carried out strikes on terror targets in the Gaza Strip in the early hours of Saturday morning, the military said.

The IDF said it struck a Hamas position used to carry out machine gun fire, and a storage site located near a school and mosques. There were no further details given on what the IDF believed was stored at the facility.

The IDF also said it hit a compound used to produce the concrete used to build the terror group’s underground tunnel network, which is said was located near cultural sites. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

In the statement, the IDF reiterated that it holds Hamas responsible for all terror activities in the enclave.

After a rocket was fired toward Israel, a fireball rises following an air strike in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, in the early hours of September 11, 2021. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

The rocket sirens came soon after Israel captured two Islamic Jihad security prisoners who escaped from a high-security prison on Monday, and hours after Qatar’s envoy to Gaza said that efforts to send aid from his country to the Gaza Strip, including to employees of the Hamas government, had failed after the Palestinian Authority backed out of the deal.

Qatar pledged $500 million for Gaza following the May 10-21 conflict that saw heavy bombardments in the Strip and intense rocket fire into Israel.

The collapse of the deal was expected to further inflame tensions between Israel and Hamas, which has frequently stepped up provocations in a bid to pressure Israel to allow in money.

However, it was also possible that the rocket was fired by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, coming just after Israel announced it had caught two Islamic Jihad fugitives who broke out of the Gilboa prison on Monday along with four other security prisoners.

Two of the six inmates who escaped Gilboa prison, Yaquob Qadiri (L) and Mahmoud al-Arida, seen after being recaptured in the northern town of Nazareth on September 10, 2021 (Police)

Israel holds Hamas responsible for all violence emanating from the Strip.

Hamas also hailed the two prisoners’ escape attempt, saying that recapturing them would not “break their will.”

“They achieved honor by their successful escape operation, humiliating the occupying power and shattering its prestige. Arresting them will not wash away the shame of occupation, nor will it break [the two prisoners’] will. They will one day be free outside the jailer’s bars,” said Hamas spokesperson Abd al-Latif al-Qanou.

Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Emadi said the deal was off because a mechanism agreed earlier in the week where Palestinian Authority banks would transfer the money to Hamas employees was no longer an option.

He said the banks had refused to take part fearing they could be targeted by sanctions for transferring money to a terror group.

The issue of the civil servants had been a sticking point in setting up a mechanism to transfer the money. On Monday al-Emadi said the issue had been resolved “following an agreement by the different parties.”

The report came as Channel 12 news quotes sources close to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as saying that Israel sees a new round of violence with Hamas as a foregone conclusion — possibly within weeks — and was completing drawing up military plans.

The report said Israel wanted to deal with Hamas on its own terms and at a time of its choosing, and not be drawn into a conflict that would suit the terror group.

However, the channel’s military analyst downplayed the report, saying Israel was still exploring options to reduce tensions.

Qatari support is considered a crucial lifeline for impoverished Palestinians living in Gaza, which has been under Israeli blockade since 2007, the year the Hamas terror group took power.

Israel, which still allows many goods into the Strip, views the blockade as a necessary measure to keep terror groups from being able to rearm.

Before the latest Gaza conflict between Israel and Hamas-led fighters in May, the flow of funds from Qatar was considered vital to maintaining relative calm between the Jewish state and the Islamists.

But Israel has said that it was opposed to a resumption of the funding under the terms that existed before May’s hostilities, claiming that money was being used by armed groups rather than strictly for humanitarian needs.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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