WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Monday condemned Hamas for launching more than 300 rockets into Israel in under six hours, saying it would support Jerusalem as it fended off the massive bombardment by the terror group that rules the coastal enclave.
“We are aware of reports of ongoing rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza against targets in Israel,” a State Department official told The Times of Israel. “We condemn these attacks, and call for their immediate halt. We stand with Israel as it defends itself against these attacks.”
The Israeli military said more than 300 rockets and mortar shells were fired by Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip at southern Israel, making Monday’s barrage the largest-ever daily attack from the coastal enclave. The military said dozens of incoming projectiles were shot down by the Iron Dome air defense system.
A number of rockets struck homes in cities and towns throughout southern Israel, but most of the projectiles landed in open areas, the army said.
The dramatic flareup came hours after a bus in southern Israel was targeted.
Shortly after 4:30 p.m. on Monday, terrorists fired a Kornet anti-tank guided missile at a bus parked a few hundred meters from the Gaza border, seriously injuring a 19-year-old Israeli soldier, the army said. More troops had reportedly been on the bus, but exited before the missile struck.
The bus and rocket attacks drew a swift Israeli reprisal, with the IDF warning that Hamas would “feel the power” of its response.
The IDF said it hit 70 targets in response to the latest attacks from Gaza, including three underground tunnels that are used to try and infiltrate into Israeli territory.
On Monday night, Israel leveled the headquarters of Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV, after firing warning shots to alert those inside of an impending strike.
US President Donald Trump’s special envoy for Middle East peace also castigated Hamas for its attacks on Monday, saying it was the real cause of Gaza’s devastation.
“Hamas’ activities continue to prove they don’t really care about the Palestinians of Gaza & their only interest is to use them for political purposes. Even Palestinian lives seem not to matter to Hamas,” tweeted Jason Greenblatt. “The world has grown tired of Hamas’ violence and the violence of other bad actors in Gaza. This violence prevents any real help for the people of Gaza.”
The world has grown tired of Hamas’ violence and the violence of other bad actors in Gaza. This violence prevents any real help for the people of Gaza.
— Jason D. Greenblatt (@jdgreenblatt45) November 12, 2018
Greenblatt, who is now preparing the release of the administration’s highly anticipated Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal, said the White House would support Israel in its self-defense.
“Terrorists in Gaza are again attacking Israel with tools of war,” Greenblatt said. “These rocket & mortar attacks on Israeli towns must be condemned by all. Israel is forced once again into military action to defend its citizens. We stand with Israel as it defends itself against these attacks.”
The most recent attacks from Gaza came less than a day after an IDF special operations officer was killed in an operation gone awry that also killed seven Palestinian gunmen in the Strip, including a Hamas commander. After Sunday night’s incident, the Gaza-ruling terror group Hamas said “the blood of our righteous martyrs will not be wasted.”
The renewed clashes dashed hopes that Israel and Hamas would uphold a precarious ceasefire agreement recently brokered by Egypt and the United Nations and supported by Qatar.
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.