IAF attacks 2 targets in Gaza; residents fear escalation
IDF aircraft strike two targets in northern Strip in response to firing of two Grad rockets at Ashdod just days ahead of Passover eve; residents fear fire from Gaza will be renewed over holiday. Meanwhile US approves funding for Iron Dome, Arrow programs
The IDF Spokesperson's Unit stated that Air Force aircraft attacked two targets in the northern Gaza Strip in the early hours of Saturday. Direct hits were identified in both attacks.
"The strike is a response to Gaza rocket fire at Ashdod yesterday. The IDF will not tolerate the fire towards Israel's southern towns and will retaliate against every attempt to harm civilians," it stated.
Earlier, residents of the south expressed concern over the renewed rocket fire from Gaza, saying it may ruin the upcoming Passover holiday.
"I'm certain there will be fire on Seder eve, just like the Palestinians fired rockets on the eve of the Sabbath," Dana, a resident of Ashdod, told Ynet.
Six days after an unofficial ceasefire was declared in Gaza, terrorists fired two Grad rockets at Ashdod at 5:10 pm Friday evening. The rockets exploded in open spaces on the city's outskirts, one of them falling within close proximity of a residential neighborhood. No injuries or damage were reported.
Ashdod's rocket alert was sounded, sending residents running towards the bomb shelters. "I lay on the ground with my hands over my head. I'm scared my friends and family will be hurt," said Tal, who is 11 and a half.
Scene of Grad landing near Ashdod (Photo: Shmulik David)
Despite the renewed fire, Ashdod Municipality has urged residents to remain calm. "We rely on the IDF to do its job, and we rely on Iron Dome to do its job as well," said Benny Vaknin, mayor of the city.
Head of Hof Ashkelon Regional Council, Yair Farjoun, said that "we will not allow our enemies to spoil our holiday spirit".
None of the Palestinian terror groups have claimed responsibility for the rocket fire. Hamas and the other organizations in the Strip have kept mum throughout Friday, and Palestinian news agencies did not give much attention to the incident.
IDF officials do not believe Hamas fore the rockets, and assume it was one of the smaller groups. The army did state, however, that the rockets were fired from a residential area.
Grad rocket that fell near Ashdod Friday (Photo: Avi Rokach)
Barak praises US funding
The army faces a difficult dilemma of whether to retaliate for the fire such a short time before the holiday, a move that would likely prompt an exchange of blows and more regional unrest.
"We will not tolerate any fire towards Israel," a military source told Ynet Friday. However, it did not appear likely that the IDF would retaliate so close to Passover eve.
Another $205 million for Iron Dome (Photo: Herzel Yosef)
"We will retain the right to respond and know how and when to make clear that this is unacceptable," the source said, adding that it made no difference if Hamas had fired the rockets or not. "Hamas is responsible," he reiterated.
Meanwhile the US approved its budget, which includes $205 million of funding for Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak commended the approval. "This will significantly bolster Israel's missile defense capabilities," he said.
The budget also includes funding for other Israeli defense programs – Arrow 2 and 3 among them. US President Barack Obama is scheduled to authorize the budget in the next few hours.
Palestinian news agencies that covered the rocket fire stressed that they were not intercepted by Iron Dome. However the system has not yet been placed in Ashdod, and is not programmed to intercept rockets that fell in open spaces, as occurred on Friday.
- Follow Ynetnews on Facebook