IDF strikes Hamas in Gaza in response to 3 rockets fired into Israel
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IDF strikes Hamas in Gaza in response to 3 rockets fired into Israel

Two lightly injured in rush for shelter in southern Israel as alarms blare in town of Netivot, other areas; region is seeing uptick in attacks, balloon borne explosives

Illustrative: Rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, November 13, 2019. (AP/ Hatem Moussa)
Illustrative: An Iron Dome battery in southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip on November 13, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israeli aircraft carried out airstrikes in Gaza in the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday morning in response to three rockets that were fired into Israel from the Strip, the army said.

Israel Defense Forces aircraft attacked several targets near Khan Younis in southern Gaza, according to Palestinian media reports.

“A short time ago IDF warplanes attacked terror targets belonging to Hamas in the southern Gaza Strip. A site for manufacturing weapons for Hamas’s military wing was attacked. The attack was a blow to Hamas’s ability to further arm itself,” the IDF said in a statement.

“The attack was carried out in response to high altitude fire and balloon explosives from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory today,” the statement said.

At least three rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel shortly after midnight, setting off rocket sirens in southern Israeli communities.

“An alarm was activated in the city of Netivot and in the area around Gaza,” the IDF said in a statement. “Following the alarm, three launches were identified from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory.”

Two people were lightly injured while rushing for bomb shelters, Army Radio reported. There were no reports of the Iron Dome missile defense system being activated.

A total of 13 rockets have been fired into Israel in the past week, the IDF said.

The area has seen a marked increase in violence in recent days days, with near daily rocket fire and launches of suspected balloon borne bombs, drawing retaliatory airstrikes and punitive measures.

On Monday, at least nine balloons suspected of carrying explosives and incendiary devices from the Gaza Strip were found in Israeli communities near the restive frontier.

Airborne devices were reportedly seen in the areas of Netivot, the Merhavim Regional Council, Sderot, Kiryat Gat, Kfar Aza and the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council, halting traffic, trains and drawing police sappers. One device exploded near a house without causing injuries.

Tensions between Israel and Gaza have been steadily rising over the past two weeks, after several months of relative calm. Fears have mounted in recent days of an escalation of violence in Gaza and the West Bank following the release of the US peace plan that is seen as heavily favoring Israel.

On Sunday, the Defense Ministry announced it was freezing cement imports and cutting commercial entry permits from Gaza in response to the recent near daily attacks from the Strip.

A bunch of balloons attached to an incendiary device is prepared to be flown into Israel, near the Israel-Gaza border east of Al-Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, January 22, 2020. (Ail Ahmed/Flash90)

Hamas said Israel’s “aggression” would not deter the terror organization from carrying out further attacks.

Late last month a senior Hamas official said the recent string of balloons was a signal to Israel to accelerate unofficial “understandings” meant to ease the blockade on the territory ruled by the terror group.

Hamas is a terror group committed to Israel’s destruction, and it has ruled Gaza since taking over the territory from the Palestinian Authority in a bloody coup in 2007. It has since fired tens of thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians and fought three wars with Israel.

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