Palestinian terrorist fired some 25 rockets toward southern Israel on Sunday evening, the IDF said, hours after Israel said it killed a Palestinian terrorist who tried to place a bomb along the Israel-Gaza barrier fence.
There was no immediate claim for the rocket fire, but it appeared to be meant to avenge the death of the terrorist. Palestinians were furious over the image of the man’s lifeless body dangling off the front of an Israeli bulldozer that had crossed into Gaza to retrieve it. There was also criticism in Gaza of the territory’s Hamas rulers for not responding.
The Israeli military reported air raid sirens throughout southern Israel, and said at least 20 rockets had been fired. There were no reports of damage or injuries on the Israeli side, but it was the heaviest barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip in several months. Air raid sirens continued into the evening.
Late Sunday night the IDF said that they had begun attacking terror targets in Gaza. Multiple rocket firing squads were confirmed hit. Meanwhile, the IDF Home Front Command ordered schools to close in the communities closest to the Gaza Strip, including the cities of Ashkelon, Sderot and Netivot, in light of the ongoing rocket fire.
Israel and the Islamic Jihad group engaged in a heavy round of fighting last November after the Israeli military killed a top Islamic Jihad commander.
Since then, Israel and Gaza’s more powerful Hamas group have been working through Egyptian mediators to cement an informal cease-fire. But Islamic Jihad has continued to try to carry out attacks.
Islamic Jihad said the man killed along the border was a terrorist. Amateur video on Palestinian social media showed an Israeli bulldozer crossing into Gaza and then lifting up his body.
Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, accused the Israeli military of abusing the dead body, saying that it “bears the consequences of the ugly crime.”
The military said it was removing the body in a way that prevented further danger to those around.
But the images generated widespread anger in Gaza, where it was seen as a provocation and violation of Islamic principles that call for respect for the dead.
It also sparked criticism of Hamas on social media, with people accusing the group of appearing weak and allowing Israel to operate with impunity inside Gaza’s territory. One image on social media showed a picture of Jesus draped with a Palestinian flag hanging off the front of a bulldozer.
Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett rejected the criticism, noting that Hamas has been holding the bodies of two Israeli soldiers since they were killed in the 2014 Gaza war.
“I back the military, which killed the terrorists and collected the body,” he said. “That’s what should be done and that is what was done.”
The incident comes amid a relative lull along the security fence separating Israel from Gaza. Last week, Israel announced it would provide hundreds of additional work permits for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, in a new step aimed at solidifying an informal cease-fire with the Hamas.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem / AP)