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Qassam rocket (archives) Photo: Roee Idan
Qassam rocket (archives) Photo: Roee Idan
 
 

IDF strikes rocket launchers in Gaza

Israeli aircraft strike in Hamas-ruled territory after rocket targets Sderot area; direct hits identified

Yoav Zitun
Published: 08.14.13, 07:58 / Israel News

Israeli aircraft attacked hidden rocket-launching devices in north Gaza in the early hours of Wednesday morning, the IDF Spokesperson's Unit said, adding that direct hits were identified. The army said no one was killed in the air strike.

 

The attack came in response to Tuesday night's rocket attack on Israel's Negev region, which did not cause any injury or damage. The "Color Red" system warning residents of incoming projectiles was sounded in Sderot and the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council. Israeli security forces found the rocket's landing site after combing the area.

 

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Army spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said Israel holds Hamas responsible for attack from Gaza and will continue to combat terrorist infrastructure in the strip.

 

Twenty-six Palestinian prisoners were released Tuesday night as part of an Israeli gesture to the Palestinian Authority in the wake of resuming peace talks.

 

Two convoys left the Ayalon Prison Tuesday en route to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The first convoy, carrying 15 prisoners, reached the Erez checkpoint shortly after 1 am was allowed to cross into Gaza. The second, carrying 11 prisoners, initially arrived at the Ofer Prison and from there headed to Ramallah after passing through the Beitunia checkpoint.

 

The prisoners who arrived in Gaza were greeted with celebratory gunfire and fireworks.

 

Shortly before 1 am on Tuesday a Grad rocket fired at Eilat from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula was intercepted by an Iron Dome anti-rocket battery that was deployed in the Red Sea resort city last month. The incident marked the first time that Iron Dome has ever intercepted a rocket fired at Eilat.

 

Residents reported hearing the siren and a number of blasts. Two people suffered from anxiety.

 

The Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem group, which operates in Gaza and Sinai, claimed responsibility for the rocket attack, saying it was carried out as an act of revenge for the death of four terrorists belonging to the Sinai-based jihadi group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis jihadi in Friday's attack by an "unmanned Jewish aircraft."

 

The organization said, "This was a response to the latest crimes by the Jews, who used a drone to attack and kill four of our fighters in Sinai. The fighters managed to bomb occupied Um Rashrash (as Eilat is known in Arabic) with Grad missiles. The attack sowed fear among the criminal Jews, who were forced into underground bomb shelters."

 

On Friday Egyptian security officials said an Israeli drone strike killed five suspected Islamic terrorists and destroyed a rocket launcher in Egypt’s largely lawless Sinai Peninsula, describing a rare Israeli operation carried out in its Arab neighbor’s territory.

 

The attack came a day after Israel briefly closed its airport in Eilat, close to the Sinai, in response to unspecified security warnings.

 

Israel maintained official silence about the strike, suggesting that if the Jewish state was involved, it might be trying to avoid embarrassing the Egyptian military. An Egyptian military spokesman later denied the report but did not provide another cause for the explosion.

 

Egypt’s official MENA news agency said an explosion destroyed a rocket launcher set up near the border to launch attacks against Israel, and at least five Islamic terrorists were killed. But it did not elaborate.

 

Bodies of the slain terrorists were charred from the blast, an Egyptian official said. He said four of the dead appeared to belong to a family called el-Menaie whose members are wanted for several terrorism-related charges.

 

“Next to the bodies, there were rockets and a motorcycle that turned into pieces,” the official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity as he wasn’t authorized to speak to journalists.

 

A tribal leader in the area said that an Egyptian helicopter flew over the site a few minutes after the drone strike. The Egyptian security officials told The Associated Press that the drone had been flying near the site of the attack since early Friday on the Israeli side of the border and fired from there. Those on the Egyptian side of the border could hear the drone buzzing overhead for hours, they said.

 

The site of the strike sits some five kilometers (three miles) from the Israeli border.

 

An Israeli drone attack in the Sinai could signal a significant new level of security cooperation between the two former foes following a military coup that ousted Egypt’s president, Mohamed Morsi, last month. The military has alleged that Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood movement had turned a blind eye to Islamic terrorists in the Sinai.

 

Meanwhile, Morsi’s ouster, which came after mass protests demanding he step down, has triggered a rise in attacks against security forces on the peninsula, raising fears that extremists could exploit Islamist anger to spread their insurgency.

 

AP contributed to the report

 

 

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