IDF Carries Out Three Waves of Airstrikes as 12 Rockets Launched from Gaza

Iron Dome, Rocket Fire
Iron Dome anti-missile system fires an interceptor missile as rockets are launched from Gaza towards Israel near the southern city of Sderot, Israel. (Photo: REUTERS/Amir Cohen)

The IDF struck targets belonging to Hamas in the Gaza Strip during three rounds of airstrikes as 12 rockets were fired towards southern Israel from the coastal enclave on Thursday night.

Of the 12 projectiles fired from the Strip, 9 were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system and others landed in open fields or within Gaza.

Emergency services said three people were treated for shock after an unexploded rocket fell on a house in Sderot and two others were injured while running for safety following the sirens.

A house in the college town of Sderot was also severely damaged by Iron Dome rocket interceptor fragments which landed on it, destroying windows and blasting large house in the walls.

In response to the rocket fire, Israeli military said that Israeli Airforce jets and helicopters struck sites belonging to Hamas in three waves, including underground facilities, a rocket-building site, and a cement facility used to provide materials to build tunnels used by the group.

According to Palestinian media, at least one person was injured in the strikes targeting the sites east of Khan Younis.

“The IDF takes all terror activity against Israeli territory very seriously and is prepared and ready to act as much as necessary against attempts to harm Israeli citizens and their sovereignty,” the military said in a statement, adding that “we hold Hamas responsible for all terror activity emanating from Gaza.”

President Reuven Rivlin commented on Friday morning on the rocket fire saying that “Israelis living in the area around Gaza had another tough night, including serious damage to property. This morning, too, we are with them and full of appreciation for their resilience.

“We will not stand by while Hamas is out of control. The IDF will respond with force and determination, sortie after sortie, and will continue even if it requires patience and time,” Rivlin continued. The president concluded his statement saying, “Fires, rockets and explosive balloons will not become routine. We put our faith in the IDF and its capabilities and are sure that it will not relent until quiet returns.”

As a result of the major uptick in violence,  Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz on Friday attended a situational briefing led by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi and commander of the Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Hertzi Halevi.

After attending the evaluation, Gantz warned Hamas that the IDF would strongly retaliate.

“I’ve just finished an evaluation with the IDF chief of staff following the continued attacks on southern Israel,” Gantz said. “The IDF is prepared and will keep protecting residents of the South and attacking those who attack us. We will deal a very heavy blow if need be.”

As part of examining possible courses of action, Kochavi “heard an intelligence briefing and approved an exercise for examining the division’s alertness and preparedness for possible scenarios,” according to Ynet.

On Thursday the IDF is said to have deployed additional Iron Dome batteries out of concern that Palestinian groups in Gaza would increase their rocket fire towards southern Israel.

The IDF has been striking targets in the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave on a nightly basis close to two weeks in response to the continued launching of incendiary balloons which have ignited hundreds of fires in southern Israel and rocket fire.

On Thursday alone 42 fires broke out and on Wednesday there were 28 fires in the Sha’ar HaNegev and Eshkol regional councils. Though fire and emergency rescue services say that most of the fires were small and did not pose a danger to human life, they have destroyed hundreds of dunams of brush.

On Wednesday Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that since he took office as Defense Minister, every attack from Gaza has seen a response by the Israeli military.

“We have changed the equation in Gaza. Since I entered office there has been a response to every breach in our security.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday said Israel is treating airborne incendiary attacks like rocket attacks and warned Hamas that the group would be making a “very big mistake” if it keeps up the violence, hinting that the group’s members, as well as those belonging to Palestinian Islamic Jihad, might be targeted.

“We have adopted a policy under which a fire is treated as a rocket. We have, for 10 days consecutively, been striking Hamas and [other] terror groups’ infrastructure. We are also applying various sanctions in areas that are important to Hamas,” he told mayors of southern communities in a phone call. “Unfortunately, we are also preparing, as needed, for the possibility of a round, or [multiple] rounds, [of fighting]. I hope we won’t get to this.”