In the worst cross-border violence since the 2014 Gaza conflict, 690 rockets, missiles and mortars were fired at Israel from terrorist groups in Gaza over the weekend, killing four civilians in Israel and injuring dozens. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt expressed “shock” at the events and condemned Hamas’s “indiscriminate and abhorrent rocket attacks”.
For the first time in many years an Anti-Tank Missile (Cornet) was launched from the southern Gaza Strip causing the death of an Israeli civilian in their car. An Israeli Arab worker was killed when the factory he worked at in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon took a direct rocket hit. A third civilian was killed by a direct rocket hit in Ashkelon, and a civilian in Ashdod was killed by a rocket hit on their home.
While Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system managed to intercept 240 rockets, 35 hit urban areas, including civilians homes, hospital, kindergarten, factory and a football stadium.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) responded to the attacks by striking 350 terror targets in Gaza belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, including terror tunnels and rocket facilities. As the sites were located in densely populated areas extensive measures were taken to minimise civilian casualties. The IDF say that they additionally warned people in both buildings and the vicinity to vacate the areas prior to strikes.
The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said that the Israeli strikes killed 23 Palestinians. Hamas said that a pregnant mother and baby were killed by an Israeli missile but Israel said that after examining the circumstances of the incident they believe they were killed by an Islamic Jihad missile that misfired.
Israel also foiled an attempted Hamas cyber attack and struck Hamas’s cyber unit. Israeli warplanes tracked down and killed a Hamas operative in its first targeted assassination in several years. The operative was responsible for money transfers from Iran to militant groups including Islamic Jihad and Hamas inside Gaza.
The house of the Likud Knesset Member Avi Dichter was also hit by a rocket. The family were in a fortified room at the time.
A reported ceasefire has been in effect since Monday, which Palestinian sources say was mediated by Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations.
Israel says that the violence was sparked after an Islamic Jihad sniper in Gaza shot two Israeli soldiers on the border on Friday, following violent demonstrations.
It is believed that the groups chose to escalate violence in order to force Israel to agree a deal more beneficial to them, as the Eurovision Song Contest approaches, taking place in Tel Aviv from 14th-18th May. A Gaza-based senior official, said Israel agreed to “lift restrictions on importing 30% of so-called dual-use goods into Gaza and allow for increased exports from [the Strip]”, and added that Israel also agreed to expand the fishing zone off of Gaza’s coast.
Foreign Secretary Rt. Hon Jeremy Hunt MP condemned Hamas’s attacks as “indiscriminate and abhorrent” on Twitter. He said: “Deeply shocked by events in Israel and Gaza over the last 48 hours & thoughts with the families of innocent civilians killed and affected by Hamas’ indiscriminate and abhorrent rocket attacks. UK fully supports vital role UN and Egypt have in securing a ceasefire”.
Foreign Office Minister Mark Field MP said: “I am deeply saddened by the civilian deaths in Israel and Gaza over the past 24 hours. Hamas’ indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israeli communities are totally unacceptable. Strongly support UN efforts to de-escalate the situation”.
CFI Parliamentary Chairman (Commons) Rt. Hon. Stephen Crabb MP commented: “Appalling targeting of Israeli civilians by Hamas. Consumed by their pursuit of hatred and violence towards Jews in Israel, they deepen the humanitarian disaster for Palestinians in Gaza”.
Deploring Hamas’s strike on a kindergarten in Israel, CFI Officer Paul Masterton MP said: “Horrendous that a Hamas rocket from Gaza hit a kindergarten in Sderot overnight. Thank goodness it was empty. I visited Sderot last Feb, an amazing place with great people living with constant threat and only 15 secs to reach safety”.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu underlined on Monday that Israel would ensure the security of its citizens: “The campaign is not over and requires patience and judgement. We are preparing to continue. The goal was and remains to ensure the peace and security of the residents of the south”.