image Photo: Reuters

Gaza Rocket Barrage Met by Swift IDF Retaliation

Palestinian-Islamists fired a barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip towards Israel’s southern communities over the weekend.

Ten separate launches from the Hamas-controlled territory were launched toward the Western Negev, with eight of the incoming projectiles immediately intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system. One of the rockets scored a direct hit on a private house in the Israeli city of Sderot.  While extensive property damage was inflicted, the family living there was safely protected within the home’s bomb-shelter at the time of impact and emerged without injury.

Several hours later, the IDF conducted retaliatory strikes against “terror targets in the Gaza Strip.” According to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, Israeli Air Force fighter jets struck a wide range of Hamas terror targets throughout the Palestinian Strip, including numerous military installations in the southern and central districts of the terror-plagued enclave. In its statement, the IDF underscored that it “views the rocket attack(s) targeting Israeli territory with great severity and is prepared to continue operating as necessary against attempts to harm Israeli civilians.”

In spite of the prevalent belief that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror group in Gaza is responsible for the rocket fire, the IDF echoed Jerusalem’s policy that Hamas is held “responsible for all events transpiring in the Gaza Strip, and emanating from it.”

The Iranian-backed PIJ has vehemently denied involvement for the attacks, however, and insisted in a message relayed to Egyptian intelligence officials that its leadership remains committed to a deescalation of hostilities with the Jewish State. Palestinian sources told TV7 that rogue field operatives belonging to PIJ’S armed wing of the Islamic Jihad carried out the missile launches, while acting without the authorization of the organization’s leadership.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared Israel’s retaliation against Hamas was a legitimate response to the indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza. During the weekly cabinet meeting of his interim government, the Israeli leader reiterated that the as Islamist rulers are accountable for any violence originating from the territory under their control. “We are in a very sensitive and volatile security period on several fronts – north, east and south,” Netanyahu reminded the ministers, adding that “we continue to take action on all fronts for the security of the State of Israel, both openly and covertly, on land, sea, and in the air.”

The Israeli Premier further noted that he convened “the security leadership at the Defense Ministry” while ordering immediate retaliation for the Gaza rocket fire, commenting that “You could certainly be impressed by the power of the assault.”

In related news, tens of thousands of Israelis gathered in central Tel Aviv at the site where late Israeli Prime Minister and war hero Yitzhak Rabin was murdered in 1995 by an ultranationalist Israeli Jew opposed to his interim peace talks with the Palestinians. Former IDF Chief of Staff and Blue and White Chairman Benny Gantz was the keynote speaker at the rally, which marked the 24th anniversary of the heinous assassination, where he declared that under his leadership, he will stride towards pursuing peace with Israel’s neighbors. “Peace has always been a Zionist and an Israeli dream,” Gantz said, adding that “Peace is no longer only an Israeli interest but a joint interest of many countries around us that face the craziness of extremists.”

Turning to the insufferable situation in southern Israel where more than a million citizens have faced years of indiscriminate rocket from the Gaza Strip, the former military chief vowed to restore deterrence – by any means available. “Hamas leaders will be held personally responsible, Hamas headquarters will be destroyed and the time of showing restraint will come to an end, if there is no complete quiet in the South,” said the former army chief. He then vowed, “We will restore deterrence and we will know how to fight, but we will also know how to utilize that deterrence and how to restore hope. Just as Yitzhak (Rabin) would have done, if he were here with us today. ”

Meanwhile in Gaza City, Hamas accused Israel of exacerbating the situation by targeting one of its military training installations. According to the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry in the Strip, one militant was killed and three others were wounded in the Israeli strikes.  Hamas Spokesman Hazem Qassim said that the Israeli offensive “caused the loss of a martyr and injured people while also terrifying children, women and citizens is a crime that is added to their series of crimes.” Expanding on the incident, Qassim asserted that “The occupation alone is responsible for all the circumstances that come as a result this attack” and “The occupation is trying to export their internal troubles at the expense of our people,” before insisting that “The Palestinian resistance will not accept this.”

The European Union denounced the weekend missile barrage on Israel with a statement, declaring that the “firing rockets at a civilian population was unacceptable and must stop immediately and unconditionally.” The EU condemnation joins those from many additional countries from around the world, including the United States.