According to Palestinian news site Palestine Info, as many as 114 rockets and mortar shells have been fired at Israel throughout the day. In the first barrage, 28 mortar shells were launched early this morning, one of which landed just outside a kindergarten less than an hour before children were due to arrive.
Most of the rockets and mortars were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system, but three Israeli soldiers were injured by shrapnel from a mortar attack.
Minister for the Middle East, Rt. Hon. Alistair Burt MP, has strongly condemned the rocket attacks, stating: “I condemn the rocket fire from Gaza into Israel today. Indiscriminate attacks against civilians, especially those that risk killing or injuring children, are completely unacceptable under any circumstances”.
Seven senior Conservative parliamentarians are currently in Israel on a trade delegation coordinated by CFI, to celebrate record UK-Israel trade, and to explore and promote a future post-Brexit free trade deal. Commenting on the violence today, delegation leader Rt. Hon. Mark Harper MP underlined on i24NEWS: “Both my view and also the view of the British Government’s been very clear, is that there is no excuse for firing rockets at civilians… it’s just completely unacceptable”. Click here to watch the programme in full.
In response to the attacks, the Israel Air Force struck 35 terrorist targets in seven sites belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, including military training facilities, munition storage warehouses, naval targets and command centres. A Hamas terror tunnel extending 900 metres into Israel from Egypt was also destroyed. The military discovered the tunnel in the past two weeks, an IDF spokesperson said.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asserted that Israel will not tolerate attacks on its citizens: “Israel views the attacks on it and on its communities by Hamas and Islamic Jihad from the Gaza Strip with great severity… The IDF will retaliate with great force to these attacks. Israel will make anyone trying to harm it pay a heavy price, and we view Hamas as responsible for preventing such attacks against us”.
As de facto rulers of Gaza, Israel holds Hamas responsible for all rockets emanating from the territory. Hamas, whose founding charter calls for the destruction of Israel, is a proscribed terror organisation in the UK, EU, Australia, Canada, Jordan and Israel.
One of the rockets fired by terrorist groups from Gaza at southern Israel struck equipment that provides electricity to the southern Gaza Strip, a spokesperson for Israel’s Electric Company said. The damage is preventing the flow of electricity to the coastal enclave, and repairs are expected to take several days.
It is believed that the attacks were mounted by Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group.
This afternoon, the Israeli Navy successfully apprehended a boat with 17 Palestinians on board attempting to breach the naval blockade.
The rocket attacks are viewed by Israel as a continuation of Hamas and Islamic Jihad’s recent terrorist activity of attempting to breach the security fence at the Israel-Gaza border with the intent of harming border communities in Israel, planting explosive devices, launching Molotov cocktails, committing arson and shooting at Israeli forces.
Today follows an escalation of violence on the Israel-Gaza border, where two weeks ago 62 Palestinians were killed in the culmination of the ‘March of Return’ protests. A senior leader of the Hamas terror group confirmed that 50 of the 62 Palestinians killed in the clashes were Hamas members, and the Islamic Jihad terror organisation said three of its members were also killed, bringing the total number of known members of terror groups among the fatalities up to 53.
The UK Government and numerous Conservative MPs voiced support for Israel’s right to defend itself from attack and expressed concern about Hamas’s hijacking of the protests.
Indiscriminate rocket fire into Israel by Gaza-based Palestinian terror groups has continued for more than a decade, with rocket attacks threatening more than 70% of Israelis. Hamas has deliberately embedded its rockets and terrorist infrastructure in densely populated, civilian areas in Gaza, using human shields, with 550 rockets and mortars identified by the IDF in the 2014 conflict as being launched from ‘sensitive sites’ such as schools, UN facilities, hospitals, and places of worship.
According to senior Israeli military and defence officials, Hamas has fully restored its military strength to levels before the 2014 Operation Protective Edge conflict in Gaza, including its rocket arsenal, military infrastructure and attack tunnels infiltrating Israeli territory.