Gaza rockets fired at Israel for 2nd time in hours after IDF wraps up striking Strip

Gaza terror groups fired a salvo of rockets at southern Israel after midnight on Thursday, less than an hour after the IDF finished an air offensive in the Hamas-ruled enclave in response to an earlier rocket attack.

The Israeli military said the Iron Dome missile defense system managed to intercept all four rockets that were fired from Gaza shortly after 2:00 a.m.

The salvo was followed by additional Red Alert sirens in Gaza border towns, but the IDF later said those had been triggered by gunfire, consistent with earlier Palestinian media reports on gunmen in the Strip opening fire at Israeli aircrafts.

Less than an hour earlier, the IDF finished carrying out airstrikes in Gaza in response to an earlier rocket that was fired on Wednesday evening, which landed near a home in the southern city of Sderot and had been the second rocket attack in roughly 48 hours.

The army said its jets targeted a military post in central Gaza as well as the opening of what it called a terror tunnel that led to an underground site used to produce rocket engines. The site was used by fighters belonging to Hamas’s military wing, according to the Ynet news site. The IDF said its strike marked a significant blow to the rocket production process in Gaza.

“The Hamas terror organization is responsible for what takes place in the Gaza Strip,” the IDF said in a statement, sticking to its long-held position that since the group rules Gaza, it is responsible for any rockets fired from the territory, regardless of whether its own fighters were behind the launches or not.

The Wednesday night rocket attack was the second since Monday after almost four months period of quiet on the Gaza border. It came at the tail-end of a tension-filled day in Jerusalem, where Israeli nationalists were prevented by police from marching through the Old City’s Damascus Gate, a popular gathering point for Palestinians. Hamas, the terror group that rules the Gaza Strip, had threatened to attack if the march went ahead.

Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qasim said after Thursday’s IDF counterstrike that “the bombing of Gaza will increase the persistence of our people and its resistance to continue the struggle and escalate support and aid for our people in Jerusalem.”

Wednesday evening’s rocket attack caused damage to a car and a wall near a home in Sderot. The rocket apparently landed outside of the city, but a large piece of shrapnel ricocheted and struck near the home. According to Hebrew-language media reports, hundreds of ball bearings that were loaded into the rocket were found at the scene.

There was no immediate claim by any of the Gaza-based terror groups for the rocket fire on Wednesday and on Monday, though Monday’s attack was blamed on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad by several media reports. According to the Kan public broadcaster, the Israeli security establishment believes the earlier rocket was launched by radicals within Islamic Jihad who were acting alone and that Hamas is unable to clamp down on such rogue actors even when it wants to.

Following Monday’s rocket, the IDF said that it bombed a number of targets, including a site used by Hamas to manufacture weapons in the Gaza Strip.

In the past, Israel has responded with airstrikes against Hamas sites regardless of the identity of the group launching the attack. More rarely, it has directed its response at Islamic Jihad, if the terror group claimed responsibility.

Recent days have seen violent clashes between Palestinian rioters and police on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, leading to the injury of dozens of Palestinians and several police officers.

Hamas and other Gaza-based terror groups have repeatedly invoked the flashpoint holy site as a red line. Police actions to quell riots there last year were among the triggers of an 11-day war in Gaza last May.

Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report

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2022-04-20 22:26:00