JERUSALEM — Israeli aircraft struck a series of Hamas rocket-manufacturing facilities in Gaza on Sunday morning, Jan. 2, in response to the launch of two rockets from the Strip on Saturday, Jan. 1, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement. Tanks also fired on Hamas positions along the border, according to the military.
The rockets fell off the coast of Gush Dan, near Tel Aviv, and did not trigger sirens or air defenses.
“The Hamas terror organization is responsible for what happens in the Gaza Strip, and must bear the consequences of terror attacks emanating from the Strip,” the statement said.
During the attack, Hamas fired two anti-aircraft rockets at IAF helicopters operating in the Strip, according to the IDF.
Addressing the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said,” I want to make something clear: All of Hamas’ stories about ‘lightning and thunder,’ that repeat themselves winter after winter — are no longer relevant. Those who aim missiles towards the State of Israel will bear the responsibility.”
The weekend’s incidents occurred a few days after a shooting attack on the Gaza Strip border on Wednesday in which an Israeli worker was lightly wounded in the leg by shrapnel. IDF tanks attacked five Hamas positions in the northern Gaza Strip in response. Three Gazans were moderately and lightly wounded.
Hamas has recently threatened to escalate its actions against Israel following its frustration over the lack of progress in the Egyptian-mediated negotiations with Israel.
“Egypt continues to mediate between Israel and Hamas in light of the understanding that the situation in the Gaza Strip is close to exploding and that Israel and Hamas are closer to another round of violence since Operation Guardian of the Walls ended” in May, a source told TPS Sunday, Jan. 2.
A source in the Gaza Strip told TPS that the Islamic Jihad terror group was behind the rocket fire and that the barrage was meant to convey a message regarding Hashem Abu Hawash, an Islamic Jihad terrorist in Israeli custody who has been on a hunger strike for 138 days. Islamic Jihad has threatened to attack Israel if Abu Hawash dies in its custody.
Egyptian sources called the rocket fire “a very worrying step.”
Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem stated following the attack that “the attack on several agricultural positions and land in the Gaza Strip, in response to the rocket fire off the shores of Tel Aviv, is another aggression on the part of Israel.”
Meanwhile, Palestinian sources reported that contacts between the Palestinian Authority and senior Israeli officials may lead to the release of Abu Hawash and that the Palestinian leadership is talking to Arab states to secure his release, fearing that his death will lead to violence in PA-controlled areas.
The Palestinian Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein A-Sheikh called on Israel to release the prisoner immediately.
Also on Jan. 1, IDF forces arrested a terrorist who was involved in the attempted stabbing attack at the Gitai Avishar Junction near Ariel in the West Bank on Friday, Dec. 31.
An IDF spokesman said a manhunt led to the arrest of a suspect who drove the vehicle from which the terrorist got out and committed the attack. The driver was not armed.
On Dec. 31, an Arab terrorist armed with a knife got out of a vehicle and ran toward a bus stop where civilians and IDF soldiers were standing. Israeli forces at the scene shot and killed the terrorist. There were no Israeli casualties.
The soldier who shot the terrorist recounted that the terrorist got out of the car, “pulled out a knife, shouted ‘Allah Akbar’ and ran towards me. I fired to neutralize him.”
The perpetrator was identified as Amir Rayan, 36, from the village of Qarwat Bani Hassan, a father of four.
His brother Mansour Rayan, a Hamas terrorist, murdered an Israeli man 28 years ago in an attack in the West Bank. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and was released in the Gilad Shalit deal and deported to the Gaza Strip.
Hamas released a statement mourning the “martyr hero Mujahid” and said the terror attacks “are a natural response to the crimes of the enemy and its settlers.” n