Is­rael hits Ha­mas posts af­ter rocket fire from Gaza

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Is­rael’s mil­i­tary struck sev­eral Ha­mas po­si­tions in the Gaza Strip yes­ter­day af­ter a rocket launched from the Pales­tinian en­clave hit a nearby Is­raeli city, with no ca­su­al­ties re­ported on ei­ther side.

The rocket hit Sderot, part of which lies less than a kilo­me­ter (less than a mile) north­east of the Gaza Strip, run by Is­lamist move­ment Ha­mas, the Is­raeli mil­i­tary said. The area was closed off and bomb dis­posal teams were work­ing at the site, po­lice spokesman Micky Rosen­feld said.

A small Salafist group-fol­low­ers of an ul­tra-con­ser­va­tive brand of Sunni Is­lam who op­pose Ha­mas-claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tack. “Thanks to God, the so-called Sderot set­tle­ment was tar­geted by a home­made rocket,” the Ah­fad al-Sa­haba group said in a state­ment.

The same group has claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for other re­cent at­tacks but Is­rael holds Ha­mas re­spon­si­ble for all such rocket fire. Shortly af­ter­wards, Ha­mas se­cu­rity sources said Is­raeli tank fire struck a post run by its mil­i­tary wing, the Ezze­dine AlQas­sam Brigades, east of Beit Ha­noun near the bor­der with Is­rael.

Three air strikes also tar­geted other bases in the Khan Yu­nis area in the south of the en­clave, the sources said, while two oth­ers hit Ha­mas posts near Gaza City, an AFP jour­nal­ist re­ported. Is­rael’s mil­i­tary did not pro­vide de­tails on its strikes, say­ing only that it “tar­geted a num­ber of Ha­mas posts”.

“To­day’s at­tack, the sec­ond since the be­gin­ning of Au­gust in the city of Sderot, is the di­rect re­sult of Ha­mas’s ter­ror agenda in the Gaza Strip that en­cour­ages de­lib­er­ate at­tacks against Is­raeli civil­ians,” mil­i­tary spokesman Peter Lerner said in a state­ment. As Is­raeli air­craft con­tin­ued to carry out sur­veil­lance in the af­ter­noon, Ha­mas de­nounced the strikes, call­ing them an “es­ca­la­tion” and say­ing it would not be able to “re­main with its arms folded if it con­tin­ues”.

Is­lamic Ji­had, which has a strong pres­ence in Gaza, said “the re­sis­tance is not look­ing for an es­ca­la­tion but it is ready for any op­tion to re­spond.”

Stronger re­sponse

The Is­raeli army and Pales­tinian mil­i­tants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008 and there are fre­quent flare-ups along the bor­der. Is­rael of­ten re­sponds to rocket fire from Gaza with air and tank strikes, but re­cent re­sponses have been stronger than in the past.

That has led some an­a­lysts to ques­tion whether the change is the re­sult of a new pol­icy by hard­line De­fense Min­is­ter Avig­dor Lieber­man, who took of­fice in May. In Au­gust, Is­rael car­ried out dozens of re­tal­ia­tory strikes af­ter a rocket hit Sderot, a far larger re­sponse than usual.

Is­raeli me­dia re­ported that at­tack was the first time down­town Sderot had been struck by a rocket from Gaza since the last war in 2014. The 2014 con­flict was the most dev­as­tat­ing of the three, killing 2,251 Pales­tini­ans and leav­ing 100,000 home­less.

Seventy-three Is­raelis, most of them sol­diers, died in the con­flict. A del­e­ga­tion from the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court is vis­it­ing Is­rael and the Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries this week, its chief pros­e­cu­tor said Wed­nes­day, against the back­drop of a probe into the last Gaza war. Gaza has been un­der an Is­raeli block­ade for nearly a decade, with Is­rael seek­ing to pre­vent the en­try of ma­te­rial it be­lieves could be used for mil­i­tary pur­poses.

UN of­fi­cials have called for the block­ade to be lifted, say­ing con­di­tions are de­te­ri­o­rat­ing in the im­pov­er­ished en­clave of 1.9 mil­lion peo­ple. —AFP

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