Israeli warplanes hit Hamas sites in Gaza after rocket fire – Eurasia Review

By Hazem Balousha

Israeli warplanes bombed several Hamas sites in three areas of the Gaza Strip on Saturday morning, but no injuries were reported.

After the strikes, fireballs shot through the air leaving black smoke drifting across the territory.

The Israeli bombardment was in response to a Palestinian rocket fired from the Gaza Strip at dawn towards the city of Ashkelon – for the first time since the war in May last year.

No Palestinian group claimed responsibility for the rocket attack.

Some Israeli reports, citing Israeli officials, said Islamic Jihad fired the rocket in response to the killing of three Palestinians in Jenin.

On Friday morning, Israeli forces shot dead three Palestinians in the northern West Bank city of Jenin. One of the victims belonged to the Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas.

Local analysts believe the missile fired from Gaza was a response to the Jenin killings, while some believe the missile was to engage Israel with the Gaza Strip.

Israel bombed a military site belonging to Hamas’ military wing, some watchtowers in eastern Gaza City, as well as Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, causing damage.

In a statement after the bombing, the Israeli military said: “In response to the rocket fired by Hamas at Israeli civilians overnight, IDF planes struck a weapons manufacturing site and three other military posts. of Hamas in Gaza”.

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said the airstrikes in southeastern Gaza City “are an extension of aggression against Palestinian territory in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank,” after the murder of three Palestinians on Friday.

Twelve Palestinians were also injured in the same incident during an Israeli army raid in Jenin, a stronghold of armed Palestinian factions in the West Bank.

The men were killed when Israeli forces opened fire on their vehicle, Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.

Also on Friday, an Israeli observation balloon crashed and fell in the northern Gaza Strip.

The Israeli military said it had investigated the incident, but said the balloon was not shot down by Palestinian militants.

Hamas seized the cameras installed on the balloon. Israel confirmed there was no fear of information leaks, but lowered all other balloons deployed along the Gaza border.

The Gaza Strip has experienced limited escalation at different times since the last war.

Mukhaimar Abu Saada, professor of political science at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, said the shell fired from Gaza was part of messages exchanged between Israel and Hamas.

“Apparently Hamas wanted to tell Israel that continuing to target Palestinians in the West Bank could also lead to an escalation in the Gaza Strip,” Abu Saada told Arab News.

“I don’t think we face a major escalation in this period. There will be messages, some by fire, and some by mediators, although all possibilities exist depending on developments on the ground,” he said.

In April, Israeli warplanes also struck Gaza after Palestinian armed groups fired rockets from the territory.

The exchange came after nearly a month of deadly violence concentrated on the compound of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem annexed by Israel, the third holiest site in Islam.

The impoverished coastal enclave of Gaza, controlled by Hamas and home to 2.3 million people, has been under Israeli blockade since 2007.

Last year, Israel and Hamas fought an 11-day war sparked in part by unrest around the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War. It then annexed East Jerusalem in a move never recognized by most of the international community.