Israel Strikes Hamas Targets After Rockets Launched From Gaza

Two Gaza rockets intercepted, while a third landed in an open area in southern Israel, sparking a fire but causing no damage or injuries ■ Hamas denies responsibility

A rocket intercepted over the western Negev in southern Israel, May 2019.
Ilan Assayag

Israeli aircraft struck overnight Sunday several terror targets belonging to Hamas east of Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, the military said.

"Fighter planes attacked several terror targets in Hamas' military compound in northern Gaza, including the office of a Hamas commander battalion," the IDF Spokesperson's Unit said in a statement.

"The strike was carried out in retaliation for the rockets launched from Gaza on Sunday evening. The Israel Defense Forces will continue acting against attempts to harm Israel's citizens and views the Hamas terror organization responsible for everything that takes place in the Strip," the statement read.    

Rocket alerts sound during 'Live Sderot' festival, southern Israel, August 25, 2019.

According to the Palestinians, the army hit targets belonging to Hamas' military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades. No casualties were reported. A Hamas spokesman denied responsibility for Monday's fire, saying that the group's factions did not launch the rockets.      

The strikes come after three rockets were launched toward Israel from the costal enclave on Sunday evening; two were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, the Israeli military said.

The third rocket landed in an open area near Highway 34 in the south, sparking a fire. Emergency services arrived at the scene to extinguish the flames, the Sha'ar HaNegev Regional Council said, adding that no injuries or damage were caused.

On Monday, the Coordinator of Government Activity in the Territories, IDF Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rokon, announced that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also serving as security minister, has decided to cut oil imports intended for Gaza's power station by a half in response to the rocket fire. The reduced imports will continue until further notice, and will have a significant impact on electricity in the Gaza Strip.   

This is the fourth incident of rocket fire being aimed at Israel in the past two weeks.

>> Read more: Not just Palestinian 'lone wolves': Israeli teen's murder point to organized cells | Analysis ■ Iran wanted revenge over Iraq strike. Israel foiled it - for now | Analysis

Rocket alerts sounded earlier in the evening in the southern Israeli city of Sderot and in the Sha'ar HaNegev Regional Council bordering the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli military said in a statement that alarms were also activated in the community of Ibim, the Sapir College, and the kibbutzim of Nir Am and Or Haner. 

The "Live Sderot Festival," held in a stadium in Sderot, was dispersed due to the rockets launched from the coastal enclave. The Israel Police and the Sderot Municipality evacuated the crowd and Magen David Adom paramedics treated a 30-year-old woman who was lightly wounded while running toward the bomb shelter, and 16 more people for shock.

"I've been living in this nightmare of rockets and mortar shells for a decade, but I've never experienced a night as traumatic as this," said Amit Caspi, a Kerem Shalom resident who attended the festival.

"I was with my little boy, he's ten years old, and a friend of his. The stadium was packed with thousands of people. The minute the sirens went off, I immediately understood they were rockets alerts. It took me half a second to grab the children and run toward the bomb shelters, which were so full that we couldn't even get inside," Caspi said.

"I just pushed the children into the fourth bomb shelter I found, and stayed outside. This evening I realized we've lost, and I have tears in my eyes. The rocket fire was deliberate, they knew where to fire and when. It was an attempt to carry out a mass terror attack," Caspi said.  

Eti Perlmutte from Sderot said she was driving on the road leading to the stadium when the rocket alerts sounded.

"I was hoping that the summer would end with joy, and suddenly rockets were intercepted over our heads, and we couldn't find a bomb shelter. The adjacent sports hall was locked, and we hid next to it. People were running away, thousands of people were fleeing, and there was nowhere to go. We didn't understand what was happening, there was a lot of noise and explosions were heard," she said.

Last Thursday, two Gaza rockets were fired toward Israel and landed in open areas. The Israel Air Force struck Hamas targets in the Strip in retaliation.

Last Saturday, three rockets were fired from the coastal enclave; the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted two of them, and shrapnel from one of the rockets hit a home in Sderot.

On Friday last week another rocket was intercepted, and the Israeli military struck Hamas posts in the Strip. 

The rocket fire comes amid recent escalation on multiple fronts. Israel said earlier Sunday that it had thwarted a drone attack by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' elite Quds Force. Syrian opposition activists reported three deaths in the attack.

Overnight Saturday, Hezbollah claimed two Israeli drones crashed in Beirut.

Seventeen-year-old Rena Shnerb was killed in an explosion near the West Bank settlement of Dolev on Friday caused by an improvised explosive device. She was hiking with her father and brother, who were moderately and seriously wounded, respectively.

Israel has yet to identify the attackers, but a Palestinian Hamas operative was among those arrested in an effort to gather intelligence on the attack.