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Israel Bombs Gaza 'Terror Infrastructure' Targets in Revenge for Rocket Launch

Israeli authorities say they do not believe it was Hamas that fired the rocket — the third to be launched from Gaza since a ceasefire that started last year — but Hamas is still responsible.
Photo by Jim Hollander/EPA

Israeli warplanes struck four targets in the Gaza Strip during the early hours of Wednesday morning in retaliation for a rocket fired into Israel just hours before.

Code red sirens blared in the southern Israeli cities of Ashdod and Lachish just after 9pm on Tuesday after a mid-range Grad rocket was fired from the Hamas-controlled Palestinian territory, hitting an open space about 12 miles across the border.


The missile is at least the third to be fired from the strip into Israel since a ceasefire came into place after a bloody war in summer 2014. Around 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 73 Israelis, mostly soldiers, were killed during the 50 days of fighting in July and August.

A brief statement issued by the Israeli Defense Forces confirmed that the army had targeted "four terror infrastructures," including two weapons storage sites and a rocket launch site, in response to the attack. Hamas-affiliated media said the group had evacuated its security headquarters ahead of the strikes in anticipation of a response by Israel.

No Palestinian group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack but Israeli security services indicated they believed that a group called Islamic Jihad, not Hamas, fired the rocket.

Related: Hamas Killed and Tortured Palestinians in Gaza Conflict, Report Claims

Israel's Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon warned that Gaza would "pay a heavy price" for any further escalations in violence. Repeating the longstanding Israeli position that Hamas were responsible for rockets launched from their territory regardless of who was behind the attack, Yaalon called on the group to "restrain any attempts to fire on Israel or provoke" and warned against testing his resolve.

"The reality that Hamas' territory is used as a staging ground to attack Israel is unacceptable and intolerable and will bear consequences," said Israel's military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner.


Hamas, which according to some reports is involved in indirect behind-closed-doors negotiations with Israel to secure a long-term end to hostilities, has recently arrested dozens of members of hardline Salafist groups it accuses of supporting the Islamic State and of being behind a string of bombings in the strip.

However, despite the rumored talks between the two sides, Israeli politicians have also claimed that Hamas has relaunched a program of tunneling beneath the border. "If I were defense minister I would order the IDF to go out tonight on an operation to destroy the renewed tunnels," Omar Bar-Lev, an MP from the center-left Zionist Union party, said last week.

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On Monday Egyptian security forces reported they had discovered and destroyed the entrance to 521 smuggling tunnels running from Gaza into the Sinai Peninsula, including one stretching more than two miles and others that had railroads and underground control rooms.

The tunnels are used by Hamas to bring in a whole range of items into the blockaded strip, ranging from arms and rocket components to cars and building materials. Underground networks reaching into Israel have also been used on several occasions in the past by the militant group to launch attacks on both civilians and soldiers.

Earlier this year Egypt began doubling the size of a 500-meter "buffer zone" along the border with the strip.

Related: Israel's Other Religious War: The Ultra-Orthodox vs. the IDF

Follow Harriet Salem on Twitter: @HarrietSalem