Gaza Rockets Rain on Southern Israel Morning After D.C. Ceremony, IDF Strike Strip

Exchange comes after two rockets were launched at southern Israeli cities just as Netanyahu inked agreements between Israel and two Gulf states

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An Israeli strike on Gaza in 2014.
An Israeli strike on Gaza in 2014.Credit: AFP

Residents reported sounds of explosions and the IDF said 13 rocket launches were identified, of which eight were successfully intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

The Israeli army struck Hamas targets in northern and central Gaza in response to the rocket attacks, said Palestinian reports. 

However, it seems that Israel has chosen to use a relatively restrained response and is striving for renewed calm in the Gaza Strip and not for another military confrontation with Hamas.

Israelis look on at the scene of an explosion following a rocket attack fired from Gaza in Ashdod, Israel September 15, 2020.Credit: AMIR COHEN/ REUTERS

The IDF confirmed in a statment that its fighter jets and helicopters hit Hamas targets and specifically facilities used for military training and the production of weapons.

"The Hamas terrorist organization is responsible for what happens in Gaza and what emanates from its territory, and will bear the consequences for acts of terrorism against Israeli citizens," the IDF statement read.

Hamas' military wing, the Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, said "Israel will pay a heavy price if it continues with its aggression against the Palestinian people." In a joint statement, Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip said they "won't allow Israel to continue its aggression," adding they are "prepared for any scenario."

However, a political Hamas official argued that "the fact that no organization claimed responsibility for the shooting... shows there's no intention to escalate" tensions.

On Tuesday, two rockets were launched at southern Israeli cities just as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inked agreements between Israel and two Gulf states, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, in the White House.

Sirens sounded off in the port city of Ashdod and the coastal city of Ashkelon, north of Gaza, according to the Israeli army. Residents reported hearing blasts in the area. Police later confirmed that a rocket had fallen in Ashdod.

On Wednesday, it was confirmed by Haaretz that the Israeli army had not deployed the Iron Dome air defense system to protect the city of Ashdod ahead of the signing in Washington.

Sappers and police officers were at the site to dispose of rocket parts, according to the police statement. The military meanwhile said two rockets had been fired from Gaza and that one had been intercepted. 

Two people received treatments for injuries sustained from glass debris in Ashdod. A 62-year-old man was moderately wounded in the torso, and a 28-year-old man was lightly injured in the limbs. They were taken to a nearby hospital. Four other people were suffering from shock. 

About three hours after the attacks, the head of the Islamic Jihad's political bureau, Mohammad al-Hindi, hinted at his organization's involvement in the shooting. al-Hindi said the rocket launch was a message from Gaza against the arrogance demonstrated by the United States and Israel at the signing ceremony, and that the Palestinians will know how to defeat that arrogance. 

Hamas also released a statement saying that “The agreements between Israel and Bahrain and the UAE isn’t worth the ink spilled or the paper it was signed on. The Palestinian people are determined to continue the struggle to get all of their rights, and will treat these agreements as if they do not exist.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz held a security consultation with military Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, after which he passed on instructions to the army and defense officials. Gantz said that “on a historic evening of peace, we received a reminder from our enemies that we must always be strong and prepared to protect the residents of Israel in every place and at all times.” 

Mustafa Barghouti, leader of the Palestine National Initiative and a member of the PLO Central Council, told Haaretz that the event in Washington was a mere performance meant to serve U.S. President Donald Trump and Netanyahu.

According to Barghouti, the presence at the signing ceremony of the Emirati and Bahraini foreign ministers rather than the countries’ leaders was evidence that the UAE and Bahrain also understand it was all a show.  Anyone who wishes to make real peace cannot ignore the Palestinians, and the rocket fire during the ceremony proved it, Barghouti said. 

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