The Israeli army said its air strike on a training site belonging to Al-Quds Brigades – the military arm of the Islamic Jihad Movement – to the east of Rafah city, south Gaza Strip, earlier Saturday came in response to a rocket attack by Palestinian “terrorists.”
“The targeted terrorists are members of a cell that fired a Grad rocket from Gaza into an open area in the Be’er Tuvia Regional Council between Ashdod and Gedera Wednesday night,” the Israeli military said.
“The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) will not tolerate any attempt to harm the State of Israel’s citizens and will operate against any element that uses terror against Israel,” according to a statement posted on the IDF website.
Meanwhile, Al-Quds Brigades said five of its members were killed in the Israeli “crime”, announcing mobilization of its forces for a retaliation against “the Zionist enemy.”
“The five martyrs are Ahmad Al-Sheikh Khalil, Qasem Abul-Ata, Mohammad Ashor, Abdulkarim Shetat and Mohammad Al-Sardi,” a statement by the group said, citing Palestinian medical sources.
“The crime in Rafah can never go unpunished. The Zionist enemy will pay dearly for it,” it vowed.
“Israel wishes to provoke the resistance – and it won’t pass without a response. Israel shall pay a high price for its crimes. Today there was a great loss for us in the Islamic Jihad. The size of our retaliation will equal our loss,” it added.
A few hours later three rockets were fired into the two southern Israeli towns of Ashdod and Gan Yavne, Israel Radio reported this evening, citing IDF sources.
The IDF has yet to trace the landing locations of the missiles and alarm was sounded shortly before the attack and residents in Gedera and iryat Malakhi were asked to go to shelters, according to the report.
The IDF admitted that the southern area is once again open to missile and mortar attacks by the Palestinian groups, Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported on its website Ynet.
Commenting on the Israeli air strike, Abu-Ubaida, spokesman of Izz-Eddin Al-Qassam Brigades – the armed wing of Hamas, said: “Israel is fully responsible for the horrible crime which claimed five lives in Rafah.”
“Thereby, the enemy is to be blamed for its (the crime’s) consequences. The Palestinian factions, in the forefront of which is Izz-Eddin Al-Qassam, cannot stand idly while the blood of the Palestinian people and our fighters is being shed,” he went on.
Abu-Ubaida noted that Israel aimed through the air strike to spoil the joy of the Palestinian people for the prisoners’ release on October 18.
He added that his Brigades has already started consultations with other factions on the due response to the Israeli attack.
Today’s confrontation, the bloodiest since Israel and the Palestinian factions agreed to ceasefire in August, seems to be an end to two months of relative calm between the two sides.
It cast doubt on Israel’s intentions after the Jewish state reached an agreement with Hamas movement, ruling in Gaza Strip, in mid October to release Gilad Shalit in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners.