Photo: Flash90

Escalation on Israel’s southern front

Tensions continue to mount on Israel’s southern front. Palestinian-Islamists launched six rockets and mortar shells from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip toward the southern communities of the Jewish state over the weekend, in addition to numerous explosives-laden clusters of balloons.

Israeli residents were forced to into bomb-shelters on four separate occasions Friday and Saturday. The attacks began with a barrage of mortar shells fired indiscriminately at Israeli agricultural communities adjacent to the border with the Jihadist-plagued territory. One of the incoming projectiles was intercepted by the IDF Aerial Defense System, while the other two exploded in uninhabited areas. An IDF tank immediately responded by destroying a Hamas observation post in southern Gaza.

Several hours later air raid sirens were activated in Sderot, after another projectile was launched from the coastal Palestinian enclave but intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-rocket defense system.

Sirens were again sounded in two Israeli “Kibbutz” agricultural communities of Nir Yitzhak and Sufa two hours later at 10:44 PM, but the incoming missile exploded in an uninhabited area.

Sirens were again sounded in two Israeli “Kibbutz” agricultural communities of Nir Yitzhak and Sufa two hours later at 10:44 PM, but the incoming missile exploded in an uninhabited area. No injuries were reported in Israel during the course of the hostilities. The IDF deployed fighter jets to launch retaliatory airstrikes on militant installations in the southern Gaza Strip, and warned Hamas in a statement that it “views any kind of terror activity aimed at Israel with great severity” and “is prepared for various scenarios.” The Israeli underscored that “the Hamas terror organizations (is) responsible for all events in the Gaza Strip and emanating from it,” and “will bear the consequences for its actions against Israeli civilians.”

Despite the Israeli military’s fierce response, Palestinian-Islamists in Gaza fired yet another rocket Saturday evening, this time targeting the agricultural communities of Nahal Oz and Alumim. The projectile exploded in an unpopulated area, causing no reported injuries or damage. “IDF fighter jets and attack helicopters struck a number of Hamas terror targets in the northern Gaza Strip,” according to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, while specifying that “underground infrastructure used by the Hamas terror organization” including “a building used as a situation room” were among the targets. The Israeli defense establishment then reiterated its warnings to Hamas of the consequences of the repeated rocket-fire directed toward Israeli citizens.

A senior Israeli defense official told TV7, however, that Gaza’s Islamist groups are aware of what she referred to as “a lack of teeth to Israel’s bark” due to Jerusalem’s political deadlock. Two other Israeli security officials speaking on condition of anonymity refuted this, telling TV7 that Israel is prepared for any scenario, including escalated hostilities with Gaza in the run-up to March 2 national elections.

It is important to note that in accordance with the presiding Israeli security assessment there is no change of the Hamas strategy; and neither side is interested in a further deterioration of the situation.