ISRAEL FIRES BACK: IDF Bombs 100 Gaza Terror Targets After Rockets Fired at Tel Aviv: Iron Dome Intercepts New Rockets

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Israeli warplanes attacked some 100 Hamas terror targets in the Gaza Strip on Friday in response to a rare rocket attack on the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, as the sides appeared to be hurtling toward a new round of violence.

Rocket fire persisted into the morning, setting the stage for additional possible reprisals.

The rocket attack Thursday night caught the IDF off guard and marked the first time that Tel Aviv, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Gaza, has been targeted since a 2014 war. Though the attack caused no damage or injuries, it was a significant escalation and set the stage for a tough Israeli reprisal.

The blasts were so powerful that smoke could be seen in Gaza City, 25 kilometers (15 miles) away from some of the strikes. The Israeli warplanes could be heard roaring through the skies above Gaza.

The IDF said that its targets had included an office complex in Gaza City used to plan and command Hamas terror activities, an underground complex that served as Hamas’ main rocket-manufacturing site, and a center used for Hamas drone development.

In Gaza, health officials reported four people wounded, including a husband and wife in the southern town of Rafah. There were no further details. The office building struck by Israel had been used by Hamas’ office of prisoner affairs.

The IDF reported at least 6 additional rockets fired at Southern Israeli communities, 4 of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

The sudden outbreak of violence comes at a sensitive time for both sides, and it appeared that Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers had incentives to end the fighting.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in the midst of a tight re-election battle. A tough response would draw international criticism and domestic accusations that he is acting out of political motivations ahead of the April 9 vote. But a restrained response will draw criticism from his fellow hard-line rivals.

Hamas, meanwhile, is coping with its own domestic troubles. Israel and Egypt have maintained a crippling blockade on Gaza since Hamas took over the territory in 2007. The blockade, along with sanctions by the rival Palestinian Authority and Hamas’ own mismanagement, have fueled an economic crisis that has driven unemployment over 50 percent.

Shortly before the rocket attack, Hamas police on Thursday violently broke up a rare protest by demonstrators angry about the dire living conditions in Gaza.

The crackdown triggered heavy criticism on social media, raising the possibility that the rocket fire was a diversionary tactic. The organizers of a weekly protest along the Israeli border said they would cancel the demonstration in the wake of the escalation.

 

Israel and Hamas are bitter enemies and have fought three wars since the Islamic terror group seized power in Gaza in 2007. Smaller flare-ups have occurred sporadically since Israel and Hamas fought their last war, in 2014.

The latest round of fighting came as Egyptian mediators were trying to extend a cease-fire between the bitter enemies. The Egyptians left Gaza late Thursday.

Hamas, which typically claims responsibility for its military actions, denied involvement in the rocket attack on Tel Aviv and even said it had undermined its interests. But Israel’s military said it had concluded the group was behind the attack.

“The IDF holds the Hamas terror organization responsible for all events transpiring in the Gaza Strip and emanating from it,” the military said in a statement.

Despite its denial, Hamas is one of the only groups in Gaza with the means to strike Tel Aviv. A smaller terror group, the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad, also possesses a large arsenal of rockets, though it too denied involvement.

Smaller Salafi groups inspired by ISIS also operate in Gaza, though it is unclear whether they have powerful rockets capable of striking so deep inside Israel.

Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, the chief Israeli military spokesman, said the army had been caught off guard by Thursday night’s rocket barrage and had no advance intelligence.

Israeli Cabinet Minister Naftali Bennett, a hard-line rival of Netanyahu’s, called on the prime minister to convene a gathering of his Security Cabinet and demand the army “present a plan to defeat Hamas.”

Earlier this week, Israel struck Hamas targets in Gaza in response to rocket fire on southern Israel, near the border. Late Thursday, local media said that Egyptian mediators left the territory.

At the time, Netanyahu issued a warning to Hamas, rejecting suggestions that Israel would be reluctant to take tough action in Gaza ahead of national elections next month.

“I suggest to Hamas, don’t count on it,” he told his Cabinet. “We will do anything necessary to restore security and quiet to the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip and to the south in general.”

(AP)




3 COMMENTS

  1. I really doubt is bombing empty warehouses helps anything other than making Israeli idiots feel good because it has NOT STOPPED any rockets from coming over…..

  2. Thank you Jason Greenblatt. What a breath of fresh air. Thank G-d we no longer have those 2 anti Semites, John Kerry & Susan Rice with their constant knee-jerk reaction, both sides both sides both sides, every time Israel is attacked with rockets. Thank you President Trump for hiring Mr. Greenblatt.