image Photo: Flash90

Israel, Gaza tensions flare

The international community is actively trying to lower tensions between the sides.

By Erin Viner

This, after Palestinian terrorists in the Islamist Hamas controlled Gaza Strip fired six rockets at southern Israeli communities yesterday. About a quarter of a million Israelis in Ashkelon, Sderot and other areas near Gaza were forced to seek refuge in bomb shelters around four AM.

Five of the missiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome aerial defense system, while exploded in an unpopulated area. There were no reported injuries.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror group stopped short of claiming responsibility for the attack, but issued a declaration saying it has the right to defend against Israeli aggression.

A Hamas weapons manufacturing site and a military compound used as a naval weapons storage warehouse were targeted in retaliatory airstrikes, said an IDF statement, emphasizing that the counter-strike “significantly harms the capabilities and prevents further weapon acquisition capabilities of the Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip, and specifically in the maritime zone.”

The Israeli Defense Forces underscored that Hamas “is responsible for all terror activity emanating from the Gaza Strip and it will face the consequences of the security violations against Israel.”

The indiscriminate rocket-fire at Israel followed a deadly gun battle in the West Bank city of Nablus when Israeli security forces launched a rare daytime raid to apprehend three wanted PIJ terrorists. Eleven Palestinians – eight of whom were identified as PIJ operatives – were killed after opening fire at Israeli troops.

Amid renewed concerns over a broad escalation, Egypt and the United Nations undertook efforts to calm the situation.

A Palestinian official said PIJ and Hamas leaders warned mediators, including Egypt, the situation could slide into an “open confrontation” if there was no change.

Just ahead of traveling to Gaza for meetings with Hamas officials, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland said he is “continuing my engagement with all concerned parties to de-escalate the situation. I urge all sides to refrain from steps that could further enflame an already volatile situation.”

So far this year, ten Israelis and an Ukrainian tourist have been murdered during Palestinian terror attacks. 62 Palestinians have been killed during counter-terror operations during the same period.