Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned today that “much more extensive” military action is possible following rocket attacks from Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip today and in the past week.
Four Palestinians were killed in the past 24 hours by Israeli air strikes in Gaza, as more than 75 rockets were fired today at the south of Israel by militant groups from the Hamas-controlled territory.
Violence between Israel and Palestinian militants has been increasing over the past week, with both sides blaming the other for the escalation.
“We neither chose nor initiated this escalation but if it continues we are prepared for much more extensive and deeper action,” Netanyahu said today, during a visit to an Iron Dome anti-missile battery near the coastal city of Ashkelon. “In any case, we will continue with preventative operations,” the premier said, according to a text message from his office.
Hamas said the Israeli air strikes were aimed at punishing it for the “diplomatic victory” from yesterday’s visit of Qatar’s Emir Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani. He was the first head of state to enter the territory since Hamas took control five years ago. “Israel’s embarrassed,” Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement.
Rockets wounded at least three foreign workers in Israel, two seriously, and damaged three homes, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said by phone. “Israeli security forces are being bolstered in the south amid a deterioration,” he added.
At least one Palestinian died today in Gaza in an Israeli airstrike, according to Ashraf al-Qedra, spokesman for the Hamas Ministry of Health. Two Palestinians were killed in separate strikes last night, and another died from injuries sustained in an air attack earlier yesterday, al-Qedra said.The Israeli army said the strikes were launched against groups firing rockets. At least seven of the Palestinian projectiles were intercepted by Israel’s anti-missile system, according to the army.
“This escalation is a consequence of the inherent fragility of the situation in Gaza, with Hamas unwilling to crack down on the more extreme Islamic and al-Qaeda-linked groups firing the rockets,” said Jonathan Spyer, a political scientist at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. “The violence is likely to die down, as it has in the past, because both Hamas and Israel have a vested interest in not letting it get out of hand.”
The Islamic Hamas movement seized control of Gaza from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party in 2007, ending a partnership government a year after winning parliamentary elections. The group refuses to recognize Israel or any prior agreements signed with it and is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the U.S. and the European Union.
Sudanese Information Minister Ahmed Belal Osman accused Israel of carrying out an air attack earlier toady on an arms-manufacturing plant in his country, Al Jazeera television reported. The Israeli army declined to comment on the report. Last year, Sudan accused Israel of strikes on arms conveys bound for Gaza.