Hamas took responsibility for a barrage of rockets that hit southern Israel on Monday morning, during the most serious exchange of fire between the terror organisation and Israel in months.
On Sunday night, Israel’s air force fired a missile at a motorbike carrying two members of an al-Qaida affiliated terror cell, who were in the final stages of planning a complex terror attack on Israel from the Sinai, according to the Israeli army. The strike, according to reports, seriously wounded the targeted men and injured several bystanders. One of the two men, Talat Jarbi, was apparently a senior planner of the 18 June cross-border attack from Sinai, which killed an Israeli civilian. Such attacks, which include a clash that killed an Israeli soldier last month, have been of significant concern to Israel of late.
Yesterday morning, a barrage of over 30 rockets and mortars hit Israel’s Eshkol region, situated close to the border with Gaza. No injuries were reported from the rocket attack, which caused damage to property and resulted in residents of the region confined to bomb shelters for several hours. In recent months, Hamas has distanced itself from such rocket attacks, typically carried out by semi-independent terror cells. However, Hamas and Islamic Jihad took responsibility for yesterday’s barrage, calling it a response to “Zionist crimes,” an allusion to Sunday’s targeted strike by Israel. There is speculation in the Israeli media that Hamas’ active role in this latest exchange comes out of a concern that failure to respond to Israel’s strike would harm their status in Gaza, a region that it has controlled since forcibly removing Fatah from power there in 2007.
Israel responded to the rocket attacks with targeted air and land strikes against Hamas positions. An IDF statement emphasised that “The Hamas terror organisation is solely responsible for any terrorist activity emanating from the Gaza Strip.” Despite the recent flare-up most analysts suggest that neither Israel nor Hamas are interested in an escalation in violence.