– SPECIAL SECURITY REPORT –
Amid retaliatory air strikes by IAF jets over Gaza, Israel’s Iron Dome neutralizes largest volley of rocket fire from Hamas and the Islamic Jihad since the 2014 Gaza war.
Israeli jets pounded Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in the central Gaza Strip on Tuesday afternoon after militants fired round after round of rockets at southern Israeli communities in what appears to be the largest single projectile barrage from the Palestinian enclave since the Gaza 2014 war.
Israel’s military announced it was “operating in the Gaza Strip” in response to an early morning salvo of nearly 30 rockets fired into Israel in three separate missile attacks.
The majority of the projectiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, but a number of the mortars landed inside Israeli territory including one which hit the empty yard of a local kindergarten just hours before children were due to arrive.
In response, the Israeli air force struck at least one base belonging to Hamas and four belonging to Islamic Jihad, security sources said.
A spokesman for Hamas, the Islamist group that runs the Gaza Strip, confirmed only that “resistance” bases were being hit.
Amid the strikes multiple new rounds of incoming rocket alert sirens blared across southern Israel as a new volley of mortar fire was launched from Gaza.
The IDF said that the Iron Dome had intercepted a number of the new projectiles, while others fell in open areas near the border.
As the rocket attacks continued throughout the day, residents of southern Israeli communities were instructed to remain near bomb shelters.
The IDF blamed the attacks on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, saying that they were likely carried out with Hamas’ backing.
Netanyahu said that Israel views Hamas, the Islamist rulers of the Gaza Strip, as responsible for preventing such attacks.
Hamas and other Palestinian factions had reportedly been evacuating outposts in anticipation of the Israeli response, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had earlier vowed would be “forceful.”
“Israel will exact a heavy price from anyone who tries to attack it, and we view Hamas as responsible for preventing such attacks against us,” Netanyahu told a conference shortly before the retaliation began.
An Islamic Jihad spokesman praised the Tuesday morning rocket barrage as a “blessed retaliation of resistance,” but stopped short of officially claiming the attacks on behalf of the group.
“Our people’s blood is not cheap and Israel can’t continue spilling it without deterrence,” the spokesman said.
The group had vowed revenge for the deaths of three members killed in an IDF artillery strike in response to the detonation of an explosive device on the border fence on Sunday.
Reports from Gaza said that the IDF responded to the initial attack with artillery fire against Hamas and Islamic Jihad positions near the border. The army would not immediately confirm reports of the shelling.
The army has a policy of holding Hamas, the Islamist rulers of the Strip, responsible for all aggression emanating from its territory.
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