Israel had its most significant standoff with the Gaza Strip in months on Friday night, as the IDF struck Hamas positions in the enclave and 36 rockets from fringe militant groups were fired at southern Israel.
The initial response from an Israeli tank came after the first missiles were fired at around 11 P.M. Following the strike, at least 17 more rockets were fired at communities in southern Israel.
Over the course of the night, the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted six rockets, while the rest fell in open areas, the IDF said.
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The IDF reported early Saturday morning that its jets struck Hamas' underground infrastructure and rocket launchers in Gaza. Sources in the strip also reported shelling at a Hamas position east of the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza.
The Fatah-linked Nidal al-Amoudi Division of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Abu Ali Mustapha Brigades, the armed wing of Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, claimed responsibility for the rockets, and both said that their operations were carried out in response to recent violence in Jerusalem.
It is unlikely that the groups would've fired rockets without Hamas' consent, sources in Gaza said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a security cabinet meeting on Saturday regarding the recent rocket fire. After the meeting, Netanyahu said that Israel is ready for any security threat. Regarding the violence in Jerusalem, Netanyahu called for "calm on both sides."
The Israeli military had initially instructed local residents to remain close to bomb shelters and avoid gatherings and agricultural work on Saturday morning, but removed the restrictions two hours later. Israel held talks with Hamas early Saturday morning via intermediaries to try to halt the rocket fire; the IDF reversed course on limiting movement in border communities based on these discussions.
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi will hold another assessment in the coming hours to decide which additional measures the military will take in response to the intensified rocket fire.
Hamas spokesman Abdel Latif al-Qanoa said Saturday morning that the "Palestinian resistance forces in the Strip are ready to block any aggression and set the tone of the response to any fire and aggression from Israel." He added, "The Palestinian people and resistance forces support and identify with the Palestinians in Jerusalem."
Islamic Jihad released a statement saying that "The Al-Aqsa Mosque is a red line, and the Palestinian people stand behind Al-Aqsa and the Palestinians in Jerusalem, and will not allow settlers to harm the holiness of the mosque." It added, "The resistance forces will respond to any aggression and provide defense to the Palestinian people."
The first rocket intercepted by the Iron Dome was fired at the kibbutz of Kissufim. Eshkol Regional Council, where the kibbutz is located, initially reported no casualties or damage. The local councils of Sdot Negev, Sha'ar HaNegev, and Hof Ashkelon were targeted later.
Last week, the Israeli military struck Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip in response to two consecutive nights of rocket fire.