A radical Islamist Salafist group calling itself the Omar Brigades claimed responsibility for Saturday night’s rocket attack fired at the Ashkelon region from Gaza, Israel Radio reported.
On social media, the twitter account thought to be that of the extremist Salafi brigades said that the rocket was fired in protest of brigade members who are being held in Gaza prisons, as well as those conducting hunger strikes in Israeli prisons.
The rocket triggered air raid sirens in the Ashkelon and Hof Ashkelon regions. Security forces said late Saturday that they had begun searching for the projectile, which apparently exploded in an open area.
According to Israel Radio, only hours before the rockets were fired, a Salafi leader called for continued rocket firings at Israel in order to break the relative calm.
The incident comes two days after the Israel Air Force struck Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for two rockets fired from Gaza into the South, for which the Omar Brigades also claimed responsibility.
The radical group said that it fired at Israel in response to Hamas killing an Islamic State supporter during a recent raid on his home.
Salafist groups in Gaza are intentionally provoking Israel in order to have the Israeli Air Force (IAF) finish off Hamas for them, a senior defense official theorized Sunday.
“The purpose of the latest rocket fire from Gaza is to light a fire between Hamas and Israel,” the defense official stated to Walla! News on condition of anonymity. “They expect Israel to attack Hamas for them.”
“The situation is quite complicated – on the one hand we want Hamas weakened – but, on the other hand, we it to be strong enough to prevent terror attacks [from other groups – ed.] such as rocket fire into Israel,” stressed the official.
The ideas behind Islamic State (ISIS) are gaining popularity in Gaza, he added, under the influence of Sinai Salafist branch Ansar Beyt Al-Maqdis.
Salafist groups are struggling to take over Gaza from Hamas, and Hamas’s own inefficiency at combating the terror of groups even more extremist than itself is allowing the most radical of views to take hold under its nose.
Last month, sources stated to Maariv that ISIS is threatening to declare war on Hamas and take over Gaza from within – likely through the aid of numerous Salafist groups.
At least eight cells are known to operate from inside Gaza and the Palestinian Authority (PA) is allegedly aware of their existence – and using their influence to further the Hamas-Fatah faction war.
Hamas has stated since rocket fire resumed over the past two weeks that ISIS is behind the rocket fire and that at least one group, the Sheikh Amar Hadid Brigades, is attempting to draw Hamas into another war with Israel on its own terms.
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon has said Israel holds Hamas responsible for anything that happens in the Gaza Strip.