Gaza rocket hits Israeli city, prompting Israeli air strikes in retaliation
Posted October 17, 2018 7:58 a.m. EDT
(CNN) — A rocket fired from Gaza struck a home in the city of Beer Sheva in southern Israel early Wednesday, according to the Israeli military and Israel police.
Footage from Israel Channel 10 showed damage to the fence and yard of the home. No injuries were reported. A second rocket landed off the coast of central Israel, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said.
Israel's air force began striking targets in Gaza a few hours after the rocket launch, according to a statement from the Israeli military.
Israel struck nearly two dozen Hamas military targets throughout Gaza, Conricus added.
The targets include a tunnel, two digging sites, a weapons manufacturing site, a naval tunnel, and more. In addition, the IDF identified an attempted rocket launch in northern Gaza and struck the launcher before the rocket was fired.
Only Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the two main militant factions in Gaza, have access to the more powerful medium-range rockets required to hit Beer Sheva, which is some 40 kilometers east of Gaza, Conricus said. Israel holds Hamas -- which controls Gaza -- responsible for everything that happens in the coastal enclave.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad denied responsibility for the rocket fire, issuing an official joint statement hours after the attack that said, "The Joint Operation Room of the Palestinian Factions lauds the efforts exerted by Egypt to serve the Palestinians their legitimate demands, and we reject any other attempt to undermine the Egyptian endeavors, including the launch of a rockets took place last night."
Conricus didn't rule out the possibility of a rogue group firing the rocket, but added that the blame lies with Hamas.
The military wing of the Mujahideen Movement in Palestine (MMP) says one of their fighters, 25-year-old Naji Al Zaanin, was killed in an Israeli strike in the north of Gaza. MMP leader Mo'men Aziz told CNN they had nothing to do with the rocket launched from Gaza.
The Israeli military has also closed the Gaza border crossings and reduced the fishing zone off Gaza to three nautical miles, Israeli Minister of Defense Avigdor Liberman said in a statement.
This was the second time since the end of the 2014 war that a rocket has landed in the area of Beer Sheva. In August, a rocket from Gaza landed near the city amid a serious escalation in hostilities.
On Tuesday, Liberman said he would urge the Cabinet to approve a "serious blow" against Gaza, claiming it was the only way to restore calm in the area.
"We must deliver a serious blow to Hamas, and this is the only option to return the situation to its previous level and to reduce the level of violence to zero or nearly to zero. This must be a decision of the security cabinet," Liberman said.
Meanwhile, an Islamic Jihad leader, Khader Habib, told CNN that the militant group remains committed to the truce between Gaza and Israel but added that if strikes continue in Gaza that "the resistance will certainly not stand idly by."
The rocket attack comes as an Egyptian delegation arrived in Gaza on Tuesday led by Ahmed Abdul Khaleq, an intelligence official in charge of the Palestinian file.
Egypt, along with the United Nations, are currently working to achieve inter-Palestinian reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah as well as a lasting ceasefire between Israel and Gaza militants. The head of Egypt's General Intelligence Service, Abbas Kamel, will arrive in Gaza on Thursday, sources in Gaza tell CNN.