Israel Hits Dozens of Hamas Targets in Response to Rocket Fire, Senior IDF Official Says

Official tells Haaretz that Hamas' infrastructure was targeted, but Israel has no intent to further escalate Gaza tensions; Hamas accuses Israel of seeking 'to create a new equation' after five Palestinians hurt.

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Palestinian security officers survey damage done by an Israeli air strike on a Hamas target in Gaza on August 22, 2016.
Palestinian security officers survey damage done by an Israeli air strike on a Hamas target in Gaza on August 22, 2016. Credit: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

Dozens of Israeli air and artillery strikes hit the Gaza Strip overnight Sunday and early Monday, reportedly wounding five Palestinians, after a rocket fired from the coastal territory struck between two houses in the southern Israeli town of Sderot.

A senior IDF official said the army largely targeted what they described as Hamas "infrastructure", in an attack they called "rare" in comparison to IDF actions since a Gaza war of two year ago.

"The attacks were out of the ordinary, but there is no intention to escalate the situation," the army official told Haaretz.

Reuters reported that multiple air strikes hit at least 30 sites in Gaza belonging to Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other militant groups.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said though that "Israel's escalation is an attempt to create a new equation in the Gaza Strip. Israel's aggression won't break the will of the Palestinian people."

There were no casualties from the rocket in Sderot, which shook up a town that has been mostly calm since a 2014 ceasefire after a summertime Gaza war.

An organization in Gaza called Ahfad al-Sahaba-Aknaf Bayt al-Maqdis, affiliated with Salafist groups that identify with ISIS, claimed responsibility for the rocket fire. The group has been known to fire rockets in the past as a challenge to Hamas, the Islamist organization that governs in Gaza.

Israel responded with airstrikes and tank fire. The IDF said the air force struck "a number" of Hamas targets, while Palestinian eyewitnesses reported that an Israeli tank fired six shells at a water storage facility.

Palestinian media reported that Israel had targeted sites affiliated with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another group armed with projectiles in the Gaza Strip.

A policeman carries part of a rocket launched from Gaza, landing next to a residential building in Sderot, Israel, August 21, 2016. Credit: Amir Cohen, Reuters

The rocket strike in Sderot on Sunday afternoon caused no injury but a bit of panic in a town not far from Gaza that has been a frequent target of rocket fire in the past, though calm had largely prevailed since a ceasefire that ended a war with Gaza two years ago.

"There was a kind of noise of a strange screech and a boom," Shmaryahu Nagar, who lives near where the projectile slammed into the ground, told Haaretz of the attack.

Nagar said the projectile struck next to the home of neighbors who weren't home at the time. He and his son ducked into their reinforced concrete safe room to take cover when a warning siren wailed in the town.

Last month, a rocket fired from Gaza struck a daycare center in Sderot, also damaging surrounding buildings, but causing no casualties.

The Israel Air Force at the time hit what the Israeli army said were four Hamas targets in southern and central Gaza.

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