Major Gaza Escalation: Hamas, Islamic Jihad Rewrote the Rules Against Israel

45 rockets fired at Israel, IDF strikes 25 Hamas targets ■ Army says warning shot fired at incendiary balloon launchers in Gaza ■ Seven rockets intercepted, one lands near Israeli kindergarten

An explosion is seen after an airstrike by Israeli forces, Rafah, Gaza Strip, June 20, 2018.
An explosion is seen after an airstrike by Israeli forces, Rafah, Gaza Strip, June 20, 2018.Credit: SAID KHATIB/AFP

UPDATE: >> Hamas, Islamic Jihad Just Rewrote the Rules - and the Next Gaza War Is Staring Israel in the Face

Some 45 rockets were fired from Gaza toward Israel overnight on Tuesday after the Israeli military struck Hamas infrastructure in the Strip in response to burning balloons being launched from the enclave into Israel.

Later on Wednesday, the IDF confirmed its drone had fired at a group of Gazans who were attempting to launch burning kites in the north of the Gaza Strip. In addition, the Israeli military said it fired a warning shot at a group of Palestinians launching flammable balloons from the Strip toward Israel. No casualties were reported.

A rocket that landed in the Eshkol Regional Council, Israel, June 20, 2018Credit: Eshkol Regional Council

Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted seven of the 45 rockets fired overnight and at least three landed inside the Gaza Strip. In response, the IDF again attacked the Strip, targeting a total of 25 Hamas targets.

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The Eshkol Regional Council said that six projectiles fell inside populated communities in the border region, while three landed inside the Gaza Strip. On the Israeli side, rocket fire caused damage to buildings and vehicles. One landed near a kindergarten.

Following an IDF situation assessment with local government leadership in the border area, it was decided that no special civil defense instructions would be issued to residents and that schools would operate as usual.

Sources in Gaza said four people were lightly wounded by the IDF strikes. "The sounds and explosions reminded us of the nights of summer of 2014," a Gaza resident told Haaretz, referring to the last time Israel and Hamas waged a major conflict in a military operation dubbed Protective Edge by the IDF. According to a medical source in Gaza, the small number of wounded there was the result of the strikes being focused on empty sites, including some already struck by the IDF in recent weeks.

Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas, which has overall control of Gaza, praised the rocket fire into Israel, tweeting that it was "proof that the forces of resistance are the ones setting the rules of the game."

A window that was damaged in the Eshkol Regional Council on June 20, 2018Credit: Eshkol Regional Council
A house that was damaged in a community in the Eshkol Regional Council on June 20, 2018Credit: Eshkol Regional Council
A car that was damaged in one of the communities in the Eshkol Regional Council, on June 20, 2018Credit: ביטחון אשכול

On Monday evening, the Israeli military reported attacking Hamas infrustructure in Gaza for a second time. The army claimed Hamas had launched burning balloons into Israeli territory.

Earlier that day, the Israeli military said it attacked nine Hamas targets in Gaza, including military compounds and weapons production facilities. The IDF said the attacks were carried out in response to the flying of of kites and explosive devices into Israel, as well as an attempt to infiltrate into Israel.

Also Monday, three rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, with one of them landing in the Palestinian coastal enclave.

A spokesperson for Islamic Jihad in Gaza, Daoud Shihab, said that the Gaza Strip would not become a shooting range for Israeli F-16 fighter jets, and that it was the duty of resistance movements to respond to such attacks.

The last week of May saw the worst flare-up of violence involving Israel and Gaza since 2014's Operation Protective Edge. The Israel Air Force struck dozens of targets in Gaza in late May in response to a barrage of 28 mortars and scores of rocket sirens. Five Israelis sustained shrapnel wounds and a kindergarten was hit by mortar fire some 30 minutes before it was opened. An unofficial cease-fire was reached, but sporadic rocket fire and retaliatory strikes have continued.

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