Palestinian Islamists launched two rockets from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip toward Israel’s southern communities just before 2 AM early Sunday.
One of the hostile projectiles exploded in an uninhabited area between the coastal cities of Ashkelon and Rishon Le’zion, while the other fell into the Mediterranean Sea. Apparent technological malfunctions prevented the Iron Dome Aerial Defense array from intercepting either of the incoming missiles, as air raid sirens simultaneously failed to be activated to alert the public over imminent danger. Witnesses reported hearing loud explosions as far north as city of Bat Yam, not far from Tel Aviv; where pieces of shrapnel slammed into the ground. No significant damage was caused and there were no reported injuries.
The Israeli army retaliated for the terror attacks by striking Hamas installations throughout Gaza. The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said the targets included underground infrastructure and military positions.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeated the message to terror groups in the Palestinian enclave that attacks against the State and the citizens of Israel will not be tolerated. “I will never go into detail about our operational plans, but I tell them: the price of continued aggression will be heavy, very heavy,” he warned.
Israeli Alternate Premier and Defense Minister Benny Gantz noted that the limited military response may be extended at a time and place of Jerusalem’s choosing. “I would like to tell our southern residents that we are acting from a number of different directions, operational and other, in order to bring about long-term quiet. If Hamas violates the quiet, they will bear a heavy price – first and foremost for its leadership, and the residents of the Strip,” he said, adding, “Our response for violating our sovereignty, beyond what we had already done, we will continue at a time, place and in the form that will serve our long-term objectives for all of the people in the State of Israel.”
The IDF had already been on a heightened state of alert over a possible escalation of violence, due to the first anniversary since the death of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) Field Commander Baha Abul Ata. The wanted terrorist orchestrated numerous attacks on Israeli targets, including sniper shooting at IDF troops, drone strikes and thousands of rocket launches. He was killed in an airstrike on Gaza airstrike 12 November 2019 as part of the IDF’s “Operation Black Belt.”
Hundreds of Islamist militants commemorated their fallen leader with marches on Saturday through Gaza neighborhoods loyal to the PIJ, which is funded, armed and trained by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
“The Islamic Jihad organization and Al Quds Brigades (PIJ armed wing) vow today together with the entire Palestinian nation that we will not alter our compass that points in the direction of Jerusalem and the liberation of Palestine. The path remains long and strenuous and we know it. Yet, we will not raise a white flag and will persist in spite of knowing that this path will exact a great toll from us,” declared one PIJ official during the event.
“The Palestinian nation is not accustomed to raise its hands, does not give up nor accept surrender; and we will sign on this destiny, which is a religious decree from the Koran, that we must “attain control” of the Mosque (Jerusalem’s Temple Mount), God willing,” he stressed.
Egyptian intelligence officials held talks with Hamas in an effort to calm tensions. And despite the fervent, repeated declarations of their intention to annihilate the Jewish State by the PIJ and Hamas, leaders of both Islamist groups reportedly claimed that the weekend rocket attacks were inadvertently caused by rainy weather; and stressed that neither wanted the situation to further escalate.
Meanwhile in related developments, Hamas announced that its senior official Fathi Hammad has tested positive for COVID-19 and has in now in quarantine.
Hammad, 59, notoriously called on the estimated 7 million Palestinians throughout the world to murder every Jewish person alive. In a speech broadcast on the Hamas-operated Al-Aqsa TV channel in July 2019, translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Hammad said: “Enough warming up. … We must attack every Jew on planet Earth and slaughter and kill them.”
The “many methods and means” the Palestinians could use to kill include “cutting off the heads of Jews and killing them with explosive belts,” the latter of which he claimed Hamas has been actively producing at factories.