Israel launches airstrikes on four Hamas targets in Gaza
In a statement, the military said it hit “terrorist infrastructure sites” early Thursday belonging to Hamas, the Islamic militant group which rules Gaza. The Gaza Health Ministry said three children and a 65-year-old Palestinian suffered light-to-moderate injuries in an airstrike that hit a metal workshop in Gaza City.
Workshop owner Hassan Hassanin said his well-digging truck, which he said was only one in Gaza that can reach a depth of 37 meters, was hit.
“Why this was bombed? I don’t know why. I don’t pose any threat to Israel’s security. Israel itself knows this machine, what does it do and what its capabilities are. It doesn’t pose any danger to security,” he said.
Palestinian media said an Islamic Jihad militant group outpost was also targeted.
Israel struck five other Hamas targets Wednesday, responding to a mortar shell launched toward Israeli forces near the Gaza Strip. The army said no soldiers were harmed. Military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner called it the “most serious” escalation since the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. More than 2,200 Palestinians, about two-thirds of them civilians, were killed in the 50-day summer war. On the Israeli side, 66 soldiers and seven civilians were killed.
Last month, Israel discovered and destroyed a tunnel dug from Gaza into Israel – the first to be found since the 2014 war. That discovery sparked concerns in Israel that Hamas was rebuilding its underground tunnel network in preparation for another conflagration. In 2014, Israel destroyed more than 30 tunnels Hamas had dug under the border.
Israel and Hamas have largely observed a cease-fire since the 2014 war, but other militant groups also operate in Gaza. Israel says it holds Hamas responsible for any attacks out of the territory.
The escalation comes amid a months-long wave of violence that has seen near-daily attacks by Palestinians, mostly stabbings, which have killed 28 Israelis and two Americans. Some 193 Palestinians have been killed, most said by Israel to have been attackers and the rest killed in clashes with Israeli forces.