Security Officials: Israel ‘Not Seeking to Aggravate Tensions’

Members of Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas survey a Hamas site after it was hit by an Israeli air strike in the northern Gaza Strip August 22, 2016. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
Members of Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas survey a Hamas site after it was hit by an Israeli air strike in the northern Gaza Strip, Monday. (Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)

Israel is not seeking to aggravate the situation in Gaza, despite the strikes by IDF tanks and planes at targets in Gaza overnight Sunday, a senior IDF source told Israel Radio Monday morning. The IDF responded to a rocket attack on southern Israel Sunday afternoon by Gaza Arab terrorists by hitting Hamas targets twice. Gaza sources claimed that several casualties resulted from the attacks.

An IDF statement said that the attacks were a response to the rocket attack on the southern city of Sderot on Sunday. “Striking at the terror infrastructure in northern Gaza is a response to the ongoing threat against Israeli civilians and the challenge to Israeli sovereignty. Hamas is the controlling party in Gaza and Israel holds it responsible for all acts of terror emanating from there.”

According to IDF officials, the Israeli response was the strongest since the conclusion of Operation Protective Edge two years ago, but Israel does not wish to see the situation deteriorate further, the source told Israel Radio. “Our objective is to maintain the current quiet that has prevailed in recent months,” the source was quoted as saying. “We cannot ignore a rocket fired at the center of Sderot. We see Sunday night’s response as exceptional and do not intend to increase tensions. With that, we are prepared for any eventuality.”

IDF spokesman Lieut. Col. Peter Lerner said in a statement Sunday that the military “remains committed to the stability of the region and operated in order to bring quiet to the people of southern Israel.

“When terrorists in Hamas’s Gaza Strip, driven by a radical agenda based on hatred, attack people in the middle of the summer vacation, their intentions are clear – to inflict pain, cause fear and to terrorize,” Lerner said.

A Hamas spokesperson slammed Israel for the response, claiming that Israel was seeking to “create a new equation in Gaza with its attacks. Israel is responsible for the increased tension, but it will not succeed in shutting us down as an opposition. It will not succeed in breaking our spirit.”

Overnight Sunday, security officials said they arrested 10 wanted security suspects in other areas in Yehudah and Shomron. The suspects were wanted for participating in rioting and throwing stones and firebombs that endangered Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers. Several of the suspects were also charged with belonging to Hamas. All were being questioned on their activities by security forces.