IDF carries out dozens of air, artillery strikes on Gaza


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israel Defense Forces carried out dozens of air and artillery strikes on Gaza, but said it did not intend to escalate violence between Israel and Hamas.

Some 50 strikes on Sunday night and early Monday morning came in response to a rocket attack from Gaza earlier in the day on the southern Israeli city of Sderot. The attack, which struck a residential neighborhood near the city’s train station and Sapir College, caused no casualties.

IDF spokesman Peter Lerner said the strikes targeted Hamas positions in Gaza.

“When terrorists in Gaza attack people during summer vacation, their intentions are clear — to inflict pain, cause fear and to terrorize,” Lerner said.

Unnamed IDF officials described as “high-ranking” told Ynet: “While these strikes are unusual, we have no intention to escalate. There are still 1,000 trucks full of goods slated to enter Gaza today.”

Ynet quoted an official as saying that the hits Hamas took on Sunday night were “the hardest they’ve taken since Operation Protective Edge,” the IDF’s 2014 effort to stop rocket fire from Gaza that escalated into a conflict with the terrorist group that lasted nearly two months. The official said the sites were predetermined and it was not known how much damage they caused.

Earlier Sunday, Israel responded to the Sderot rocket with strikes on two targets in northern Gaza. The military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack on Sderot.

“We hold Israel responsible for the escalation in the Gaza Strip and we stress that its aggression will not succeed in breaking the will of our people or dictate the terms of resistance,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.

On Sunday, Hamas held an anti-Israel military parade through the streets of Rafah in southern Gaza. Hamas military leaders said they would renew hostilities against Israel and that Israeli prisoners held by Hamas will receive the same treatment as Palestinians in Israeli prisons.

Two Israelis — Avraham Mengistu and Juma Ibrahim Abu Anima — who entered Gaza on their own in 2014 have not been heard from since and are believed to be held by Hamas. In addition, the remains of Israeli soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, killed in the 2014 Gaza war with Hamas, are being held in Gaza.

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