Palestinian terrorists have launched numerous rockets in to Israel since Tuesday, prompting the largest Israeli response since Egypt brokered the cease-fire between Hamas and Israel last November.
The latest salvo launched by a Salafist militant group calling itself the Mujahadeen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem sent Israelis in Sderot and other towns near the Gaza border scrambling to get into bomb shelters. No injuries have been reported.
The group said the rocket attacks were in response to the death of a Palestinian prisoner detained by Israel who died of cancer on Tuesday while serving a life sentence.
Terrorists have sporadically fired rockets into Israel since the cease-fire including two during President Obama’s visit last month.
Gaza is home to several Salafist groups that share al-Qaida’s belief in a global jihad. They are believed to number anywhere from dozens to hundreds.
After retaliatory strikes were made Wednesday, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon vowed that the Jewish state “will not allow shooting of any sort (even sporadic) towards our citizens and our forces,” adding that he holds Hamas responsible.
More rockets were fired into Israel early Thursday, the Associated Press reported.
The Israeli military deployed an Iron Dome anti-rocket battery in the Red Sea resort city of Eilat in response to the tensions. Eilat came under attack from rockets fired from the Egyptian-controlled Sinai last year.
Not surprisingly, a Hamas spokesman blamed Israel for the latest round of fighting in an interview with Reuters television.
Egypt, which brokered the November agreement, has demanded an explanation from Hamas about cease-fire violations. Hamas acknowledged its responsibility for letting the terrorists fire rockets into Israel and told the Egyptians it would take action to stop the attacks.
A Salafist source told Agence France Presse that Hamas had arrested two Islamists in connection with the rocket attacks. Hamas’s interior ministry, however, denied any arrests had been made.
“Our security apparatus is part of the resistance and does not arrest anyone who resists the occupation,” said Hamas Interior Ministry spokesman Islam Shahwan. “On the contrary, we encourage resistance.”
Nonetheless, the Salafist group urged Hamas to release the militants it says were detained.