Uptick in violence comes amid high tensions, as Israel captures 4 of 6 Palestinian fugitives and Gaza ceasefire deal breaks down
The Israel Defense Forces overnight Saturday-Sunday carried out another round of retaliatory airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, following two rocket attacks on southern Israel in less than 24 hours.
The military said the raids targeted a Hamas underground rocket production workshop, weapons storage site, training facility, and tunnel. The IDF said it holds Hamas responsible for all rockets emanating from the enclave.
Earlier Saturday night, Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired a rocket at southern Israel, raising the specter of renewed conflict. The rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. The attack triggered sirens in the town of Sderot and surrounding communities in southern Israel.
A 29-year-old man sustained a light head wound after he fell while running to a bomb shelter. He was taken to Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center for treatment, medics said.
Shortly after 11 p.m. on Friday, Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired a single rocket towards Israel that was intercepted by the Iron Dome system, the army said. The rocket triggered warning sirens in the Eshkol region and local residents reported hearing several explosions. There were no reports of injuries or damage.
In response to the rocket fire on Friday night, the IDF carried out strikes on terror targets in the Gaza Strip in the early hours of Saturday morning, the military said.
The IDF said that it struck a Hamas position used to carry out machine gun fire, and a storage site located near a school and mosques. There were no further details given on what the IDF believed was stored at the facility.
The IDF also said that it hit a compound used to produce the concrete used to build the terror group’s underground tunnel network, which is said to be located near cultural sites. There were no immediate reports of injuries.Advertisement
In the statement, the IDF reiterated that it holds Hamas responsible for all terror activities in the enclave.
Meanwhile in the West Bank on Saturday evening, several hundred Palestinians clashed with Israel Defense Forces troops in a number of areas. IDF troops responded with riot control means.
The Palestinian Red Crescent reported that it treated eight people suffering from injuries from rubber bullets and another 15 cases of tear gas inhalation during clashes at Hawara checkpoint, south of Nablus.
The Saturday night rocket fire came soon after Israel captured two more Islamic Jihad security prisoners who escaped from a high-security prison on Monday, after arresting two others the day before.
This also comes a day after Qatar’s envoy to Gaza said that efforts to send aid from his country to the Gaza Strip, including to employees of the Hamas government, had failed after the Palestinian Authority backed out of the deal.
Qatar pledged $500 million for Gaza following the May 10-21 conflict that saw heavy bombardments in the Strip and intense rocket fire into Israel.Advertisement
The collapse of the deal was expected to further inflame tensions between Israel and Hamas, which has frequently stepped up provocations in a bid to pressure Israel to allow in money.
The rocket was likely fired by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, coming just after Israel announced it had caught two Islamic Jihad fugitives who broke out of the Gilboa prison on Monday along with four other security prisoners.
Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Emadi said that the deal was off because a mechanism agreed earlier in the week where Palestinian Authority banks would transfer the money to Hamas employees was no longer an option.
He said that the banks had refused to take part, fearing they could be targeted by sanctions for transferring money to a terror group.
The issue of the civil servants had been a sticking point in setting up a mechanism to transfer the money. On Monday, al-Emadi said that the issue had been resolved “following an agreement by the different parties.”
The report came as Channel 12 news quotes sources close to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as saying that Israel sees a new round of violence with Hamas as a foregone conclusion — possibly within weeks — and was completing drawing up military plans.
The report said that Israel wanted to deal with Hamas on its own terms and at a time of its choosing, and not be drawn into a conflict that would suit the terror group.
Qatari support is considered a crucial lifeline for impoverished Palestinians living in Gaza, which has been under Israeli blockade since 2007, the year the Hamas terror group took power.
Israel, which still allows many goods into the Strip, views the blockade as a necessary measure to keep terror groups from being able to freely arm themselves and present a much greater threat.Advertisement
Before the latest Gaza conflict between Israel and Hamas-led fighters in May, the flow of funds from Qatar was considered vital to maintaining relative calm between the Jewish state and the Islamists.
But Israel has said that it was opposed to a resumption of the funding under the terms that existed before May’s hostilities, claiming that money was being used by armed groups rather than strictly for humanitarian needs.
Emanuel Fabian, Times of Israel staff and Agencies contributed to this report.