Any Israeli strike in the Gaza Strip will be retaliated with rocket fire, said Hamas and Islamic Jihad in a joint statement Wednesday. The two organizations claimed responsibility for the 45 rockets fired at Gaza border communities Tuesday night, claiming they were a response to Israel's strike. The Israeli military had struck Hamas infrastructure in the Strip in response to burning balloons being launched from the enclave into Israel.
"We are committed to a formula of a strike for every strike. We will not allow the enemy to dictate a new formula," said the statement.
Following the statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "I don't intend to elaborate on the moves against Gaza. The force will increase as necessary." Speaking at an Israeli army officer's course graduation ceremony, Netanyahu added that "we are prepared for every scenario, and it would be best for our enemies to understand that here and now."
Attending the same ceremony, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman called Hamas' move "a mistake." Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot added that Israel will "continue to strike those who seek to harm us, and retrieve security for residents of the south as well as the rest of the country, and I'm assured we will achieve this with swift determination and wisdom."
Also Wednesday, Islamic Jihad spokesman in Gaza, Daoud Shihab, said that "the Gaza Strip isn't going to be a firing range for Israeli F-16s."
"The time when the occupation had freedom of movement is over. It is the duty of the resistance forces to react according to the circumstances in the field and as they see fit," continued Shihab.
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.
Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted seven of the 45 rockets fired Tuesday night and at least three landed inside the Gaza Strip. In response, the IDF again attacked the Strip, targeting a total of 25 Hamas targets.
Army sources say that Hamas' decision to carry out its attacks during the nighttime hours, when residents of Israeli border communities are at home and close to shelters, demonstrates that the Islamist movement is using a measure of discretion. The fact that Hamas has been firing rockets at small communities rather than large cities is also seen as an indictation of caution on its part, officials believe.
Meanwhile, the military acknowledges that the current situation could create tensions between the army and residents in the south. The IDF has yet to announce any change in policy toward Hamas, and officers stress that the view that Hamas should be attacked in response to incendiary kites and balloons sent over the border into Israel continues to prevail.
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