Six Rockets Fired at Western Negev; IDF Hits Hamas Weapons Workshop

YERUSHALAYIM -
Smoke rises following an Israeli air strike in the Gaza Strip, Friday. (Reuters/Mohammed Shana)

Israeli aircraft and tanks struck Hamas facilities in Gaza on Friday after terrorists fired half a dozen rockets towards the western Negev, the IDF said, as mediators work for calm along the volatile frontier.

There were no reports of casualties on either side.

The IDF said it struck underground infrastructure and a military post belonging to Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas during the night in response to incendiary balloons launched from the Palestinian enclave that have burned Israeli farmland.

Gaza terrorists later fired six rockets towards Israel, drawing a second round of Israeli strikes which hit a Hamas armed training camp.

An IDF spokesman said he did not have any information on where the Gaza rockets landed, but that none of them were intercepted by its Iron Dome system.

Hamas has been trying to pressure Israel to ease its blockade of Gaza and allow more investment, in part by letting Palestinians launch dozens of helium balloons carrying incendiary material toward southern Israel in recent weeks.

Mediators from the United Nations, Egypt and Qatar have been working to restore calm. Qatari envoy Mohammad Al-Emadi has been in Gaza since Tuesday holding talks with Hamas leaders.

Early Friday, a member of Hamas’ international affairs bureau, Bassam Naim, said it appeared unlikely that Hamas and Israel would be able to reach a ceasefire.

“We were surprised by the rejection from [Nikolay] Mladenov, the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East, who recently spoke about events in the Palestinian territories and the Gaza Strip in a manner that tried to lay things out to Israel’s benefit. According to international law, Gaza is an occupied territory and Israel is responsible for the lives of the residents,” Naim said.

View of a fire near Kibbutz Be’eri, caused by incendiary kites flown by Palestinians, near the border with the Gaza Strip, last week. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

According to Naim, the Hamas leadership is “making major efforts to contain the situation and prevent escalation.”

“Mr. Mladenov has been part of these efforts. But Israel dismisses all understandings and commitments. We will not [accept] death in silence, or anything less than life with dignity. We demand that the international community intervene immediately to end the complicated tragedy that the Gaza Strip experiences at the hands of Israel, the siege, and coronavirus,” Naim said.

Israel has struck Hamas facilities almost nightly for the past two weeks, saying it would not tolerate the balloons.

With tension high, Israel has closed its only commercial crossing with Gaza, banned sea access and halted fuel imports into the coastal strip, leading to its only power plant shutting down last week.

Health officials have voiced concern that the power plant shutdown could aggravate a novel coronavirus outbreak in the Gaza Strip.