Israeli jets strike Hamas targets in Gaza after rocket fire at Ashkelon

Israeli jets and helicopters carried out airstrikes in the Gaza Strip overnight Saturday-Sunday, hours after a rocket was fired from the enclave at the southern city of Ashkelon, striking an empty warehouse.

The predawn Israeli raids targeted Hamas military installations, the army said, including “two rocket manufacturing sites, underground infrastructure and a training facility for the Hamas terror group’s naval force.”

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The Israel Defense Forces said it held Hamas, which rules the Strip, responsible for the rocket fire.

The attack came at roughly 9:30 p.m., setting off sirens in Ashkelon and the industrial zone just south of the city, an area where tens of thousands of people live, the military said.

The rocket fire caused damage to the warehouse in Ashkelon, according to municipal officials. There were no reports of injuries, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service.

No Gaza group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

Last Sunday, two rockets were fired at central Israel from the Gaza Strip. The two projectiles struck open areas, causing neither injury nor damage.

The Hamas terror group sent messages to Israel that claimed the rockets were fired accidentally, set off by lightning during a thunderstorm, an explanation that the IDF has apparently accepted.

Lightning has been blamed for previous rocket launches from the Gaza Strip. In October 2018, a rocket destroyed a home in the city of Beersheba and another landed off the coast of central Israel; and in March 2019, a rocket struck a home in central Israel, injuring seven and causing massive damage to the structure. In both of these cases, which came amid periods of heightened tensions, lightning was alleged to be the trigger for the launch, setting off rockets that had been preemptively primed and aimed at central Israel.

This picture taken from Gaza City shows lightning flashing over buildings near the flare of a rocket launched by Palestinian terrorists during a thunderstorm on November 15, 2020. (Photo by MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

Though Israel is involved in ongoing talks with the Hamas terror group regarding a long-term ceasefire agreement, recent weeks have seen an uptick in violence emanating from Gaza.

Two weeks ago, a drone was flown from the Strip into Israeli airspace before it was brought down by the Israeli military. The week before saw a rocket attack from the Strip, aimed at the Israeli city of Ashkelon. One projectile was intercepted, the other landed in an open field.

Last month, the IDF also uncovered what it said was a Hamas attack tunnel dug from Gaza into Israel.

Israel has fought three large campaigns against terror groups in the Strip since Hamas took control of the area in 2007, along with dozens of smaller exchanges of fire.

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