Palestinian launch heaviest barrage of rockets, since August, from Gaza toward Israel

Just several hours after reports claimed that understandings were reached for an Egyptian-mediated cease-fire arrangement between Israel and the Hamas organization, Palestinian Islamists have launched the heaviest barrage of rockets since August, from the Gaza Strip toward Israel’s southern communities. The IDF spokesperson’s unit said that out of 39 rockets that were launched into the Jewish state, the Iron Dome anti-rocket defense system intercepted 17 projectiles, while the remainder exploded in uninhabited areas. Seven Israeli civilians, who sustained “minor injuries and shock,” were reportedly evacuated to the Barzilai Medical Center, in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon. In response to the Palestinian rocket fire, the Israeli Air Force attacked over 80 targets across the Palestinian enclave, which according to the IDF belonged to the Hamas and Islamic Jihad organizations. In a written statement, the IDF spokesperson’s unit stressed that the Israeli military “will act with great force against terrorist attacks of any kind from the Gaza Strip and views with gravity the terror activity that is led by the Palestinian organizations.” The IDF further emphasized its position, in which it views the Islamist Hamas as solely responsible for “everything happening in and out of the Gaza Strip” against the state of Israel.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Jihad’s military wing claimed responsibility for the dozens of rockets that were fired from the Gaza Strip towards Israel. According to separate sources – including an official statement by the IDF – the Islamic Jihad, which is the second most powerful militant group in Gaza, decided to escalate the situation, after its new commander – Ziad al-Nakhalah – who assumed his position last month from the group’s headquarters in the Syrian capital, Damascus, was pressured by Iran’s Revolutionary ‘Quds Force’ to obstruct Egypt’s attempts to reach a truce between Hamas and Israel. The Islamic Jihad denied the assertion, however; emphasizing in a statement that “Regardless of (its) special relations with Iran, which is the primary supporter of the axis of resistance and the Palestinian factions, decisions made by the Islamic Jihad are Palestinian national decisions, which are made in keeping with the interests of the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people.”

The London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported that Hamas was infuriated by the rocket fire that was directed at Israel and accused the Islamic Jihad of not complying with the general national consensus. The report noted that Hamas denied Islamic Jihad’s request to issue statements accepting joint responsibility on behalf of all the military organizations in Gaza. Nevertheless, according to a Palestinian report, Hamas informed Egypt that it should “stop its efforts to achieve a truce,” and announced that it would respond to the Israel’s bombardment of Gaza. Furthermore, sources in Gaza told TV7 that Hamas announced a “general call-up” for all of the enclave’s militants. The Izz-a-Din al-Kassam Brigades, which is Hamas’s military wing, threatened Israel: “al-Kassam is ready to attack all of occupied Palestine with thousands of missiles if war begins.”

In addition to the Palestinian preparations for war, Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’s leader in the Gaza Strip, submitted a document to Egypt in which he demanded that Israel transfer to Hamas 15 million dollars of Qatari funds in cash, which were donated for the purpose of paying the salaries of government employees. Sinwar demanded that those funds be turned over by this coming Thursday, or else, Hamas would intensify the violent-demonstrations on the Gazan border fence with Israel.

Meanwhile in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the Palestinian threat by emphasizing that ‘Israel will never accept ultimatums dictated by Hamas.’

“We are after a weekend of air strikes in Gaza. Yesterday we heard about an ‘ultimatum’ from Hamas to Israel. At no stage will Israel accept any ultimatum from Hamas. Israel will continue to act in accordance with Israeli interests and for Israel’s security alone,” Netanyahu said.