Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented on the escalation in the south Monday morning, which saw a massive 16 rocket salvo launched at Israel after a violent weekend during which the IAF killed a Palestinian during a retaliatory attack against rocket launchers.
The rocket attack on the south was the first time since November 2012, when Operation Pillar of Defense ended, that Hamas' military wing was behind rocket strikes on Israel, with a wave of attacks overnight Sunday and early Monday emanating from central Gaza refugee camps completely under Hamas control.
"If the quiet achieved in wake of Pillar of Defense will be broken, and the rocket fire continues, then there will be two options: Either Hamas puts an end to rocket fire, or we put an end to it," Netanyahu said.
"I strongly suggest that Hamas take into account the fact that we will not let this firing continue or expand," he told ministers at Knesset Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense later Monday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: AFP)
Finance Minister Yair Lapid who visited the rocket-battered Sderot on Monday, echoed the claims and said Israel views Hamas as responsible for all attacks launched from Gaza Strip.
"Even when the rocket is fired by some rogue group at Sderot or Israel's southern communities, we view Hamas as responsible, because Hamas is in charge of the territory. The fact that recent attacks came from Hamas controlled (refugee camps) is irrelevant because Hamas is the sovereign in Gaza.
"Hamas is responsible for every rocket fired from Gaza, and Hamas will pay the price," Lapid said.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Photo: Gil Yochanan)
When asked to elaborate on what price the group would pay, Lapid said "We are taking action in Gaza last night, and will continue to do so."
The Monday morning barrage followed an IAF attack late Sunday in Gaza, along the Israeli border, which left one Palestinian dead and several others wounded.
Hamas senior official Izzat al-Rishk commented Monday on the rocket barrage, saying Netanyahu could chose to escalate the situation now, but will not have the ability to stop it tomorrow.
Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashal spoke over the phone with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and urged him and the international community to stop what he called the "Israeli aggression", in Gaza and the West Bank.
More than a dozen rockets fired from Gaza Strip slammed into Israel early Monday morning, following a weekend of escalating tensions in the south, which saw a rocket hit and set alight a Sderot factory, as well as IDF retaliatory attacks that killed at least one Gazan.
There a number of Palestinian factions active in Gaza and though Israel views Hamas as responsible for any rockets fired from the Gaza territory, the group generally avoids such direct attacks on Israel. In the past 24 hours, however, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades have been lauching rockets from the Dir al Balach, Bureij and Muasi refugee camps.
Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades (Photo: EPA)
Since the Pillar of Defense ended, the majority of rockets fired at Israel – currently standing at over 200 in 2014 alone – have been launched by either the Islamic Jihad or the Popular Resistance Committees. At time, smaller Salafist groups have also fired rockets or carried out attacks at Israel. However, Monday's rockets were of an older make known to be in the Hamas arsenal.
The fact that Hamas – which recently signed a controversial reconciliation agreement with Palestinian President Abbas' Fatah movement – is behind the attack could mean the group has chosen to escalate its response to Israel's retaliatory attacks.
The IDF said Mohammed Zaid Abid was killed after the army launched a targeted attack against his rocket launching cell minutes before they planned to fire at Israel. Abid was identified by Palestinian media as a member of the Hamas military wing.
The attacks mark more than two weeks of increasing rocket fire from Gaza since the beginning of Operation Brother's Keeper in the West Bank, to find and return three missing Israeli teens – Eyal Yifrach, Gil-Ad Shaer and Naftali Frenkel.
According to initial assessments, 16 rockets were fired overnight Sunday until the early Monday morning hours, the majority of which landed in open areas of the Eshkol Regional Council.
At roughly 7 am, a 10-rocket barrage was fired at the area, with all of the rockets falling in open areas, causing neither damage nor injuries. At 7:30 am at least one more rocket was fired.
At roughly 8:30 am, another rocket struck inside a Sedot Negev Regional Council community, causing light damage to one structure. An additional rocket hit in an open area in the regional council.
The onslaught followed a siren-filled night that saw at least three additional rockets fired from Gaza, all three also landing in open areas, failing to cause damage or injuries.