JERUSALEM — The Israel Defense Forces struck terror sites in Northern Gaza in response to renewed rocket attacks from Hamas early Friday morning. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon ordered the IDF to “respond with force” after terrorists in the Gaza Strip began launching dozens of rockets at southern Israel just after 8 AM, as the Palestinian delegation in Cairo refused to extend the 72-hour ceasefire.
The IDF released a statement shortly after it began its counter-offensive:
The IDF remains alert and maintains a high level of preparedness with both defensive capabilities and striking capabilities in order to address the renewed aggression. The IDF is determined to defend the civilians of the State of Israel.
In the statement, IDF Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said “the renewed rocket attacks by terrorists at Israel are unacceptable, intolerable, and shortsighted. Hamas’ bad decision to breach the ceasefire will be pursued by the IDF, we will continue to strike Hamas, its infrastructure, its operatives, and restore security for the State of Israel.”
It is unclear whether Hamas, Islamic Jihad, or another terrorist faction in the Gaza Strip broke the ceasefire, but two rockets were fired at the Kerem Shalom border crossing at 4:02 AM local time, well before the 72-hour ceasefire’s 8 AM end. Shortly after 8 AM, Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system shot down rocket barrages aimed at Ashkelon, Sderot, and other towns in south Israel. As of 12:40 PM local time, at least 30 rockets have been fired into Israel.
Israel began retaliatory airstrikes on terror targets at approximately 10:30 AM, about two hours and thirty minutes after the rocket barrages began.
Long-term ceasefire negotiations in Cairo have apparently broken down, reports the Times of Israel. The Israeli delegation left Egypt on Friday morning asserting that no ceasefire discussions would be held while the country continues to be bombarded with rockets.
In a post on his Facebook page, former Shin Bet (Israeli intelligence) head Avi Dichter said that Egypt remained the country with the “most effective leverage” on Gaza with regard to negotiations, but reiterated that Hamas must be stopped militarily if diplomatic solutions fail.
“The malignant tumor that is Hamas must be taken out, either by an Egyptian political surgeon or by an Israeli military analyst,” he wrote.