Israel Strikes Back After Islamic Jihad Fires At Least 70 Rockets
Israeli warplanes bombed nearly 30 targets in Gaza on Wednesday after the militant resistance group Islamic Jihad fired scores of rockets into southern Israel in retaliation for the assassination of a trio of Palestinian fighters.
Haaretz reports Israel Air Force planes struck 29 targets in the Palestinian enclave on Wednesday evening. Israeli ground forces also pounded Gaza with artillery.
The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for a ferocious barrage of at least 70 rockets that was fired from Gaza into southern Israel, mainly around Sderot, earlier on Wednesday, Al Jazeera reported.
“The al-Quds Brigades responded to aggression with a volley of rockets,” Islamic Jihad said in a statement, calling the attack “Breaking the Silence” and vowing more to come. A day earlier, an Israeli airstrike killed three Palestinians who the IDF said had fired a mortar at its troops patrolling near the border between Israel and Gaza.
No one was reported seriously hurt by the rocket attack, although one 57-year-old woman was reportedly lightly wounded.
There is no word yet on any Palestinian casualties.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Israel would respond “very forcefully” to the attacks. The Israel Defense Forces echoed Netanyahu’s warning.
“The IDF will not tolerate attempts to harm Israeli citizens and soldiers, and will continue to act forcefully and decisively against any who uses terror against the state of Israel,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement. “Responsibility lies with the terrorist organization Hamas.”
Israel’s hard-line foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, threatened to reconquer all of Gaza from Hamas.
“There is no choice but a full takeover of the [Gaza] Strip,” said Lieberman, who has repeatedly lamented that Israel never ‘finished the job’ when it launched its brutal 2008-2009 ‘Cast Lead’ invasion of Gaza in response to thousands of rockets fired into Israel. ‘Cast Lead’ claimed the lives of 926 innocent Palestinian civilians, including 429 women and children.
“No sovereign country can accept a situation whereby dozens of rockets land on peaceful cities, villages and kibbutzim,” added Lieberman, a member of the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party.
Islamic Jihad said the rocket attack was retaliation for the death of the three militants, as well as for the ongoing illegal Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Hamas, which controls Gaza, also blamed Israel.
“We hold the occupation responsible, we warn of the consequences of any escalation and we reiterate that resistance is the right of the Palestinian people to defend itself,” Hamas spokesman Ihab al-Ghassin said.
The three Palestinian militants killed on Tuesday have been identified as Ismail Abu Judah, 23, Shahir Abu Shanab, 24, and Abd al-Shafi Muammar, 33.
Israel, which seized control of Gaza during the 1967 Six Day War, unilaterally withdrew from the 139-square mile (360 km²) territory of 1.7 million inhabitants, most of them refugees from Israel’s 1948-49 ethnic cleansing campaign, in 2005, although Israel still maintains a naval and air blockade and controls the movement of people and goods across its borders.
The last major flare-up over Gaza occurred in November 2012, when Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defense in response to increased rocket fire. More than 150 people, nearly all of them Palestinians, were killed in a ferocious air campaign. A ground war was averted.
Last week, Israeli forces in the Red Sea intercepted a shipment of dozens of rockets allegedly sent from Iran to Gaza.