Israelis pound Gaza after Hamas rockets hit Israel in retaliation for Palestinian deaths on border
- Israel’s military accused Syria and Iran of involvement in the rocket attack, which caused no casualties
Israeli aircraft struck dozens of targets across the Gaza Strip on Saturday following rocket barrages on southern Israel.
The flare-up in violence, which caused no serious casualties, followed another deadly confrontation on Friday in which five Palestinian protesters along the Gaza-Israel border were killed by Israeli troops.
Palestinians have gathered for protests along the border at least weekly since March 30.
The army did not comment on the deaths but said around 16,000 “rioters and demonstrators” had gathered, with some setting tyres alight and hurling rocks, firebombs and grenades towards soldiers.
The Islamic Jihad group claimed responsibility for the rocket attacks, saying they were in response to the deaths. Around midday on Saturday, it said in a statement it had agreed to a cease fire.
The Israeli military said it viewed the rocket assault “severely”. Hamas did not claim responsibility for the rockets, but Israel holds it responsible for any fire from the coastal enclave.
“Overnight, dozens of rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip at communities in southern Israel,” the army said. It said the Iron Dome intercepted around 10 of them, while two rockets came down inside the Gaza Strip and the others hit “open areas”.
Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus accused Syria and Iran of involvement in the rocket attack.
“Orders and incentives were given from Damascus with a clear involvement of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards al-Quds force,” Conricus told reporters. “Our response is not limited geographically.”
Israeli doctors said seven civilians were being treated for shock.
The armed wing of Islamic Jihad, the second largest militant group in Gaza and a close Hamas ally, hailed the rocket fire in a statement on Saturday morning.
The “resistance is considering expanding the response in number and type, if the enemy continues its aggression against our people”, it said.
Israeli fighter jets, helicopters and drones struck around 95 sites, including weapons manufacturing facilities and military compounds including Hamas’s security services headquarters, the military said. Other targets included the entrance to a tunnel dug to infiltrate and attack Israel, and an anti-aircraft observation post, it said.
Gaza Health Ministry official Ashra al-Qedra said an air strike on northern Gaza levelled an empty four-floor building. The Israeli army said it was a major Hamas base.
A hospital near one of the targets was slightly damaged, he said.
A spokesman for the militants said an Egyptian-mediated truce had been reached.
“After contacts between the Islamic Jihad leadership and the brothers in Egypt it was agreed that a comprehensive ceasefire will begin immediately,” spokesman Daoud Shehab said. “The Islamic Jihad will abide by the ceasefire if the occupation (Israel) does the same.”
US President Donald Trump’s peace envoy Jason Greenblatt condemned the rocket fire.
“More rockets from Gaza into Israel. Another night where parents are ushering terrified children to cover. Violence will not build futures for anyone,” he said on Twitter.
Bloomberg, Reuters, Agence France-Presse