Three rockets aimed at the Israeli city of Ashkelon and the town of Netivot were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel late Wednesday evening, prompting Israel’s Air Force to respond by striking three Gaza terror sites.
Rocket warning sirens sent residents hurrying for cover in Israeli towns and communities near the Gaza border.
The rockets landed in open areas of the Sdot Negev region and did not cause any injuries or damage.
The Israeli military confirmed the strikes saying that in response to rocket fire it “struck three terror infrastructures in the Gaza Strip,” and added that “hits were confirmed.”
A radical Salafist group called the Omar Brigade, which is sympathetic towards ISIS said that it fired the rockets.
A statement by the group said, “We are continuing with our jihad against the Jews, the enemies of God.”
However, it made clear that yesterday’s rockets were fired in response to Hamas’s killing of an ISIS supporter in Gaza on Tuesday. Hamas has recently cracked down on ISIS elements in Gaza, blaming them for a series of recent explosions.
Israel holds Hamas responsible for actions in Gaza and soon after the rocket attack launched air strikes targeting three terror installations including a Hamas training site in central Gaza. No injuries were reported.
IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said, “We will act against the aggression … and will act to protect Israelis in the line of indiscriminate Gaza rocket fire.”
Last week, a Grad rocket from Gaza landed near Ashdod, in the first instance of mid-range rocket fire since last summer’s Operation Protective Edge. An Egyptian-brokered ceasefire brought an end to the 50-day conflict and has largely held firm, but Israel has consistently made clear it will not tolerate rocket fire.
Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon said, “We will not agree to go back to a reality of trickles of fire and next time, if there is a next time, we will respond with even greater strength.”
“Even if the shooters last night were jihadist groups rebelling against Hamas by firing at us, we view Hamas as being responsible for everything that occurs in the territory of Gaza,” he said.
According to Gilead Sher and Liran Ofe, analysts from the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv, Hamas currently faces difficult challenges.
“First, it must advance the faltering, slow reconstruction of the Gaza Strip and raise the local standard of living. Second, it must improve its status vis-à-vis the leadership of the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority and narrow the divisive split between them. Third, it endeavours to maintain its military infrastructure, for use in a next round of conflict with Israel.,” they say.
“At the same time, Hamas must contend with Salafi jihad groups in an escalating struggle.”