TEL AVIV – Moments after a Palestinian official from the Gaza Strip declared the end of violence early Thursday afternoon, a fresh barrage of rockets was launched at southern Israeli towns.
The official pledged that armed factions in the Strip would maintain the peace if Israel did the same.
The announcement was followed by more rocket attacks, with sirens going off in multiple Israeli towns but causing no injuries. Sirens were also heard in the city of Beersheba, some 40 kilometers from the Strip, marking the first time residents of the city ran for shelter since the 2014 Gaza war.
“The current round in Gaza has ended. The resistance responded to the enemy’s crimes in Gaza. The continuation of calm in Gaza depends on (Israel’s) behavior,” said the official speaking on behalf of a number of Palestinian terrorist groups including Hamas, which rules the Strip.
Throughout Wednesday night and Thursday morning, Gaza terror groups fired over 180 rockets, with more than 30 intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. At least seven people were injured and damage was caused to private and commercial property as well as infrastructure throughout the area, the army said.
תיעוד: תקיפת חוליית מחבלים ששיגרה רקטות מדרום רצועת עזה לעבר ישראל pic.twitter.com/GmbKHiMEz0
— צבא ההגנה לישראל (@idfonline) August 9, 2018
In response, the Israeli Air Force targeted over 150 Hamas “terror sites” in the coastal enclave. According to the Hamas-run health ministry, three people were killed including a pregnant woman and her toddler, and a Hamas fighter who is the son of a senior commander of Hamas’ armed wing. The IAF also struck two Hamas terror tunnels, a tunnel opening, as well as a terrorist cell for launching mortar shells.
“The wide-reaching attacks that the IDF has conducted caused damage and destruction to some 150 military and strategic targets belonging to the Hamas terror organization, which represent a significant blow to Hamas,” the army said in a statement.
Housing Minister Yoav Gallant, who serves on the security cabinet, warned that Israel may escalate retaliatory attacks if needed.
“Whatever is needed to protect our citizens and our soldiers will be done, no matter what the price will be in Gaza,” Gallant said Thursday.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) August 9, 2018
“Let’s hope for peace, and let’s be ready for war,” he added.
A senior IDF officer on Thursday morning warned that Israel was “rapidly nearing a confrontation” with Hamas in Gaza.
“Hamas is making serious mistakes, and we may have to make it clear after four years that this path doesn’t yield any results for it and isn’t worth it,” he said.