Israel Strikes Gaza After Rockets Fired at South End Several Days of Calm

Defense Ministry says restrictions on Gazans won't be lifted, days after military said they would be in response to Hamas saying it would halt attacks

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Rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, on Wednesday, November 13, 2019.
Rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, on Wednesday, November 13, 2019.Credit: Hatem Moussa,AP

Israel struck Hamas targets in central Gaza overnight Sunday after two rockets were fired from the Strip at southern Israel, ending a brief lull in cross-border attacks that have resumed in recent weeks.

Israeli fighter jets and helicopters targeted a Hamas military compound, a strike that "represents a blow to Hamas's capacity to galvanize itself," the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.  

The strike comes in response to two rockets fired earlier Saturday from the Gaza Strip at southern Israel, the army said in a statement. The army did not immediately say whether the rockets were intercepted, and there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.

Moments earlier, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett lauded a "dramatic decline" in rocket fire from Gaza since his appointment in November.

Speaking to Channel 12 News, Bennett said "the last thing I want is to send troops to Gaza … but if they don't stop, they'll have a very painful spring," referring to Hamas and other armed groups in the Strip.

The Defense Ministry said that because of the rocket fire, restrictions on Gazans would not be lifted, days after saying the military said they would be. 

An Israeli defense official said on Thursday that Hamas had informed Israel it intends to unilaterally halt the launching of explosive-laden balloons and rockets at Israel amid talks of a long-term truce.

“This … weekend, will serve as a test of this stability,” the official said. “If the quiet is maintained, Israel will once again expand the fishing zone to 15 nautical miles.” It will also reinstate 500 permits for Gazan businessmen to enter Israel, he added.

Both restrictions were announced last week in response to barrages of rockets, mortar shells and explosive-laden balloons.

In his Saturday interview, Bennett said: "They said they were stopping. Now we'll see whether it happens, and if not, they will be punished."

Earlier this week, both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as Bennett said that Israel might launch a major military operation in Gaza in the near future. Netanyahu, speaking at Sunday’s cabinet meeting, said he won’t accept “any aggression from Gaza.”

Bennett, speaking during a visit to the Gaza Division this week, said “Hamas leaders’ reckless behavior is bringing us closer to a lethal operation against them. We won’t say when and how.”

Several rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza this week, though the most recent was on Tuesday. Explosive-laden balloons were still being launched as of Thursday, and several were found in Gaza-area communities that day, including in the city of Sderot.

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