JERUSALEM (JWN and agencies)—An Israel Air Force strike against Gaza terrorists on Thursday led to a rocket barrage in retaliation, followed by another round of strike and retaliation on Friday. Two terrorists and a civilian were killed and 13 Palestinian civilians were wounded in the clashes; with no Israeli casualties.
On Thursday an IAF warplane made a precision attack on a car traveling inGazaCitycontaining the two terrorists. The target of the attack was Ismail Batash, a senior member of Fatah’s Aksa Martyrs Brigades and the “Army of Believers,” an al-Qaida affiliate based in the Gaza Strip.
The IDF said the terrorists were planning to cross fromGazainto Sinai and then intoIsraelto carry out an attack. The IDF Spokesman said Batash had planned a 2007 suicide bombing whose perpetrator had crossed from Sinai into Eilat and blew himself up in a bakery, murdering three Israelis. He was also involved in planning several other attacks.
The IDF identified the second man killed as a known terrorist working in the northern Gaza Strip. The IDF statement said the two men “were affiliated with a terrorist squad that intended to attack Israeli civilians and soldiers via the western border.”
Palestinian terrorists responded to the first strike by firing a barrage of rockets deep into southernIsrael. A Grad rocket exploded in an open field near the city ofBe’er Sheva, with a Kassam rocket impacting in an open field of the Sdot Negev Regional Council. Both missiles exploded harmlessly.
In response to the barrage of eight rockets, the IAF bombed a Hamas base inGazaCityon Thursday night, killing a civilian and wounding 13 others.
Palestinian medical officials told Reuters the air strike had hit a Hamas training camp inGazaCity, sending shrapnel flying into nearby houses, killing one civilian and wounding 13 others.
The IDF Spokesman said aircraft recorded direct hits on a center of terrorist activity in southernGaza, as well as an additional terror target in northernGaza.
The IDF reiterated thatIsraelholds Hamas responsible for all terrorist activity emanating fromGazaand will continue to respond with force to attacks on Israeli citizens.
The IDF saidIsraelregrets any harm to civilians, but points out that Hamas bears direct responsibility for civilian casualties by its well known practice of storing explosives and weapons, including rockets, at targeted sites and using its own people as human shields.
The air strikes, the IDF Spokesman said, were accurate, and direct hits on the terrorist targets were recorded. The IDF statement said Hamas “chooses to operate in the heart of civilian population centers and uses human shields.”
The escalation in violence comes days afterIsrael’s Education Ministry banned school trips around the southern city ofEilat, following warnings against a possible terrorist attack on the Israel-Egypt border. All schools and youth groups were barred from the area south of Route 12, which runs along the border and was the scene of a triple terrorist attack on August 18 in which eight Israelis were murdered.