By ANNA AHRONHEIM
The IDF struck several targets in Gaza Saturday night after a rocket was shot at Israel several hours before, triggering sirens in surrounding Israel communities.
The IDF fighter jets struck in several locations, including terrorist targets in a military compound in the northern Gaza Strip and two vessels belonging to Hamas, the IDF spokesperson confirmed.
„The IDF views with great severity any attempt to harm Israeli civilians and will continue to act vigorously against these terrorist acts,“ the IDF added, blaming Hamas for „everything that happens in and out of the Gaza Strip.“
The strikes came in response to a tumultuous weekend.
A projectile landed in open territory into the Eshkol Regional Council on Saturday night shortly after a red alert incoming rocket siren was activated.
The rocket fire came hours after Israeli aircraft attacked several Hamas military targets in the Gaza Strip on Friday night, hours after a projectile was fired toward southern Israel, the IDF said.
The IDF Spokesperson’s Office said that IDF fighter planes and aircraft attacked a number of terrorist targets in the military compound of the Hamas terrorist organization in the southern Gaza Strip, as well as underground infrastructures in the northern Gaza Strip.
The army said jets struck a Hamas military compound in southern Gaza and underground infrastructure in the north. According to reports, the targets included a naval facility near Sudaniya, a naval facility in Khan Yunis, and two other sites in Zeytoun and Tuffah in Gaza City.
There were no reports of casualties.
The strike was “carried out in response to the launching of a rocket into Israel earlier this evening, as well as the terrorist attacks from the Gaza Strip, including [the launching of] balloons and attempts to damage security infrastructures in recent days,” the military said in a statement.
“The IDF views with great severity any attempt to harm Israeli civilians and will continue to act vigorously against these terrorist acts,” the statement continued adding that Hamas “bears responsibility for everything that is happening in and out of the Gaza Strip.”
The rocket launch and retaliatory strike came after a day of intense clashes between IDF forces and some roughly 8,000 Palestinian protesters, marking the 50th week of the „March of Return“ protests.
The protests began on March 30, 2018, and have seen hundreds of thousands of Gazans violently demonstrating along the security fence with Israel, demanding an end to the 12-year-long grinding blockade of the coastal enclave.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health said that one Palestinian, 23-year-old Tamer Khaled Mustafa Arfat was killed and 48 others were injured by IDF fire, including two women and 15 youths. Another four paramedics and two journalists were also injured.
During the protests, two Palestinians infiltrated into Israel from the northern Gaza Strip leading the military to close several local roads and deploy troops to communities who were put on alert. The two men were later arrested by troops and were found to be armed with a knife and grenade, the military said.
On Friday, three clusters of explosive balloons carrying large objects were discovered in open fields within the council’s area. One cluster carried a scarecrow while another carried a toy drone.
In the month leading up to the anniversary, there has been a marked increase of Hamas-led violence along the border, during the day and at night, with explosive balloons and improvised explosive devices hurled at troops or placed on the fence.
During violent riots on Wednesday night, an incoming rocket siren was activated in communities in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council bordering the Gaza Strip, after rioters attempted to throw explosive devices at troops stationed along the border.
There were no injuries or damage.
Around an hour later, additional incoming rocket sirens were activated after a mortar was fired toward communities in the Eshkol Regional Council.
In response, Israeli warplanes carried out intensive airstrikes in the southern Gaza Strip, which according to Palestinian media destroyed a Hamas naval commando base and damaged several nearby homes. There were no injuries reported.