IAF pounds Hamas targets after weekend rocket fire
Israeli jets launch fresh strikes on two Hamas observation posts in northern Gaza, a day after rocket launched from the strip hits Israeli structure during ceremony for slain IDF soldier; IDF: 'The fire proves once again that Iran is working to undermine situation, that could lead to an escalation.'
One of the rockets hit a structure in the Sha'ar HaNegev Regional Council, while the Iron Dome system intercepted two other rockets.
The Code Red alarms were sounded during a ceremony held in Kfar Aza marking the would-be 24th birthday of soldier Oron Shaul, whose body has been held by Hamas in Gaza since Operation Protective Edge.
In a statement released after the fresh strike, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said that the latest round of aggression from the strip was evidence of Iranian involvement.
“The fire on Friday proves again that Iran, using rogue and extremist terror organizations, is working to undermine the regional situation, is playing with the lives of the Gazan residents that could lead the strip to an escalation after years of quiet on the security front,” the statement read.
It also added that “full responsibility for the situation and its ramifications” rested with Hamas, which rules Gaza, even though Hamas targets of significance were were not targeted immediately after the rockets were launched.
Immediately following the attack from Gaza, the IDF attacked two Hamas positions using tanks and fighter jets. Sources in Gaza also reported tank fire was heard across the Gaza border immediately after the alarms. Hamas said no one was hurt on the Palestinian side.
The IDF also explained that unusual timing of its second retaliatory attack came in light of operational and intelligence considerations, along with current situation assessments.
Earlier on Saturday, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman also pointed the finger at Iran.
“After the Iranians succeeded in totally destroying Yemen, Sunday, Lebanon and Syria, they have begun destroying Gaza,” Lieberman told the Arabic-language website of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).
“The heads of the Iranian regime are not interested in the gloomy reality in Gaza or in the future of the children there. What interests them is extremist ideology and harming the State of Israel as much as possible.”
Iranian influence in Gaza, Lieberman continued, would serve the net result of international divestment from the strip. “No international leaders will invest a single penny there. After Protective Edge, we enabled the international community to build projects worth billions of dollars in the strip but if the Iranians are the main influencers, no one will put a penny there.
The defense minister also discussed the Gaza Strip’s leader Yahya Sinwar and his deputy Saleh al-Arouri. “They are no more than Shi’ites in the Gaza Strip who live luxurious lives,” he said. “The lives of the residents of Gaza also don’t interest them.”
Focusing his attention on al-Arouri, the defense minister asserted that he was “living under the auspices of Hezbollah in Lebanon.”
“He travels the world and enjoys wonderful hotels. From our point of view, there is no better salary, there are no better conditions than those they are give today. He doesn’t represent the residents of Gaza. They don’t interest him.”
After lamenting the fact that residents of Gaza only receive an average of 4-6 horus electricity each day, Lieberman turned to them residents directly to urge them to strive for change in their leadership’s governance.
“I suggest that you think about your children, about their future, and start putting pressure on Hamas leaders to change direction. At the moment it is a plane to nowhere. If you change direction, believe me, you will build a good future for your children. Start to exert pressure on Hamas leaders.
For his part, al-Arouri acknowledged at the end of last week that “Iran is the only one lending us military support. This support has not stopped. Our relations with Hezbollah are wonderful and there is a readiness on their part to supply everything we need for a military campaign against Israel.
Commenting on a possible prisoner exchange with Israel, al-Arouri said: “We are ready to carry out a prisoner exchange deal with Israel, but Israel has not moved in that direction so far.”