Defense Minister Ya’alon vows to ‘deal a painful blow’ to Gaza terror groups; rocket strikes Sderot factory, setting it ablaze
(SOURCE) The Israel Air Force struck nine separate sites in the Gaza Strip early Sunday in an ongoing air offensive against continued rocket fire at Israel’s southern towns.
The strikes targeted a weapons factory in the northern part of the strip, another weapons facility and a “terror center” in central Gaza and six sites in the southern strip, three of them concealed rocket launchers, the IDF said.
According to an early Sunday statement from the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, the attacks came “in response to the rocket attacks that hit Israel earlier this evening and in order to prevent further attacks on Israeli civilians.”
Palestinian media reported early Sunday that Israeli aircraft bombed two sites in the southern Gaza Strip, in the towns of Khan Younis and Rafah. In Khan Younis, the strikes caused damage to several residential homes, according to Palestinian sources.
An IDF tally of rocket falls on southern Israel counted six rockets launched from Gaza at Israeli towns late Saturday and early Sunday, for a total of 12 rockets hitting Israel over the weekend and 25 in the last two weeks. In all, 50 rockets were actually launched over the past two weeks at Israeli towns, though half did not hit Israel.
At least one rocket fired late Saturday slammed into a factory in Sderot, setting it ablaze.
“We are operating in order to return quiet to the south of the country,” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said in a phone call to Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi Saturday night. “We won’t tolerate the attempts by terror organizations in Gaza to disrupt the daily life of the residents of the South, and we will deal [the organizations] a painful blow,” Ya’alon vowed.
“The aggression originating from Gaza is unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said in a statement early Sunday. “Gaza terrorist organizations will bear the consequences of their aggression. The IDF will continue to utilize the entire scope of its intelligence and operational capabilities in order to combat the aggression and safeguard the civilians of the State of Israel.”
According to Israeli officials, June saw a spike of rocket attacks, with 4.5 times the number of rockets launched at Israel compared to the previous month, from 13 rockets launched in May to 60 in June.
Two rockets fired at the Sdot Negev Regional Council landed in open territory Saturday, as did two of three projectiles launched at the Shaar HaNegev Regional Council earlier in the evening.
The third hit the factory in Sderot’s industrial zone, with the ensuing fire leading to four people injured.
Emergency crews were able to bring the blaze under control.
Sderot mayor Davidi said after the incident that the residents of Sderot would not be “deterred by the atrocious acts of terrorists, who fire rockets at population centers.”
“We stand firmly behind the aims of the prime minister, the defense minister and the army chief who are operating to bring the boys [kidnapped teenagers Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrach and Gil-ad Shaar] back home as well [to bring] as a sense of normalcy to us all,” he said.
The latest series of attacks came amid an escalation of hostilities and retaliatory assaults along Israel’s southern border with the Gaza Strip, as IDF troops scour the West Bank for the three missing Israeli teenagers. Israel has accused Hamas of carrying out the June 12 abduction of the teens and named two Hamas men as the suspected perpetrators.
The rocket that hit Sderot marked the first direct hit on an Israeli building since the recent escalation in rocket fire from the Hamas-controlled strip.