Gaza terror groups fired a salvo of rockets at southern Israel after midnight on Thursday, less than an hour after the IDF finished an air offensive in the Hamas-ruled enclave in response to an earlier rocket attack.
The Israeli military said the Iron Dome missile defense system managed to intercept all four rockets that were fired from Gaza shortly after 2:00 am
The salvo was followed by additional Red Alert sirens in Gaza border towns, which the IDF later said were triggered by gunfire — consistent with earlier Palestinian media reports on gunmen in the Strip shooting at Israeli aircrafts.
The IDF said it responded to the rocket salvo — and the anti-aircraft gunfire — by striking a compound used by Hamas’s air defense force.
Less than an hour earlier, the IDF finished carrying out another air raid in Gaza in response to a rocket fired from the Strip on Wednesday evening that landed near a home in the southern city of Sderot — the second rocket attack in roughly 48 hours.
The rocket apparently landed outside of Sderot, but a large piece of shrapnel ricocheted and struck near a wall near the home as well as a parked car. According to Hebrew-language media reports, hundreds of ball bearings that were loaded into the rocket were found at the scene.
The army said its jets targeted a military post in central Gaza as well as the opening of what it called a terror tunnel leading to an underground site used to produce rocket engines. The site was used by fighters belonging to Hamas’s military wing, according to the Ynet news site. The IDF said its strike marked a significant blow to the rocket production process in Gaza.
Watch this video closely.
This is Israel’s Iron Dome Aerial Defense System intercepting incoming rockets fired just now by terrorists in Gaza at the homes of innocent Israeli families who had hoped to sleep peacefully tonight.
All the rockets were successfully intercepted. pic.twitter.com/03mjTlQMDv
— Keren Hajioff (@kerenhajioff) April 20, 2022
“The Hamas terror organization is responsible for what takes place in the Gaza Strip,” the IDF said in a statement, sticking to its long-held justification for targeting posts belonging to the enclave-ruling group in response to rocket fire, regardless of whether its fighters were behind the launches or not.
The Wednesday night rocket attack was the second since Monday after an almost four-month period of quiet on the Gaza border. It came at the tail-end of a tension-filled day in Jerusalem, where Israeli nationalists were prevented by police from marching through the Old City’s Damascus Gate, a popular gathering point for Palestinians in East Jerusalem. Hamas had threatened to attack if the march went ahead.
Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qasim said after Thursday’s IDF counterstrike that “the bombing of Gaza will increase the persistence of our people and its resistance to continue the struggle and escalate support and aid for our people in Jerusalem.”
— حسن اصليح | Hassan (@hassaneslayeh) April 20, 2022
There was no immediate claim by any of the Gaza-based terror groups for the rocket fire on Thursday, Wednesday and on Monday, though several media reports citing Israeli security officials pegged Palestinian Islamic Jihad as responsible for the Monday rocket fire.
Following Monday’s rocket, the IDF said that it bombed a number of targets, including a site used by Hamas to manufacture weapons in the Gaza Strip.
In the past, Israel has responded with airstrikes against Hamas sites regardless of the identity of the group launching the attack. More rarely, it has directed its response at Islamic Jihad, if the terror group claimed responsibility.
فيديو يوثق الغارات الإسرائيلية على موقع للمقاومة وسط قطاع غزة pic.twitter.com/cwHk2VQiNF
— وكالة شهاب للأنباء (@ShehabAgency) April 20, 2022
Recent days have seen violent clashes between Palestinian rioters and police on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, leading to the injury of dozens of Palestinians and several police officers.
Hamas and other Gaza-based terror groups have repeatedly invoked the flashpoint holy site as a red line. Police actions to quell riots there last year were among the triggers of an 11-day war in Gaza last May.
Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report