Israeli Air Force fighter jets flew flights into the Gaza Strip early Thursday in response to a rocket attack on southern Israel hours earlier, when another round of rocket alerts sounded in Sderot and nearby towns, the military said.
The Israel Defense Forces said their fighter jets had bombed a site where the Hamas terror group stores chemicals used to make missiles. It also hit a facility where the group produces weapons, the military said.
Palestinian news outlet Shehab reported that Israel has bombed “places of resistance” in central Gaza.
Footage published by Palestinian media shows fireballs exploding in the densely populated coastal enclave.
Israel considers Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, responsible for any attack from the enclave, whether or not the group was behind it.
“The attack is a serious blow to Hamas’s ability to fortify and arm itself,” the IDF said in a statement.
“The air force destroyed Hamas weapons production and storage sites last night. Any [rocket] fire on the State of Israel or any attempt to harm the lives of the residents of the south will be met with the strength of the IDF,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on Twitter Thursday morning.
The Israeli bombings came hours after a missile launched towards the southern city of Sderot on Wednesday night was intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system, the IDF said.
Sirens went off again several times in Sderot and other nearby towns as Israel carried out the airstrikes.
The IDF later said 12 projectiles were fired from the Gaza Strip during the airstrikes, but not all were rockets. Some were anti-aircraft missiles aimed at Israeli jets, and others were missiles aimed at Israeli cities.
The military said 11 of the missiles exploded in open areas in Israel or in the air, and one missile fell short in the Strip.
The Iron Dome air defense system was not activated in any of the cases, the IDF said.
The army did not react overnight to the further attacks, but only to the first missile on Wednesday evening.
video| Israeli raids on a resistance site in the central Gaza Strip. pic.twitter.com/uf4wjJ70wS
– Shehab News Agency (@ShehabAgency) February 2, 2023
In the earlier rocket attack, a woman in her 50s was slightly injured after she slipped while running towards a bomb shelter in Sderot, medics said. She was taken by Magen David Adom’s ambulance service to a nearby hospital for treatment.
A large piece of shrapnel caused minor damage to a road, the Sderot municipality said.
The rocket attack was the second in recent days, with the region rocked by escalating violence. On January 26, Palestinian fighters fired two rockets at Israel in response to a deadly attack in the West Bank earlier that day. Subsequently, Gazans fired another volley of rockets at Israel as it launched a series of airstrikes early the next morning.
The National Resistance Brigades, the armed wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group, claimed responsibility for the second round of rocket fire on southern Israel on Thursday morning, saying in a statement it was in response to “systematic aggression”. of the Israel Prison Service against Palestinian prisoners.
Hamas’ military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, as well as the smaller faction of the Mujahideen Brigades, both claimed that their fighters fired anti-aircraft weapons and surface-to-air missiles at the Israeli aircraft carrying out the attacks.
There were no reports of injuries on either side.
Wednesday’s attack also appeared to be in response to reports of crackdowns by the Israel Prison Service (IPS) against Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, particularly female prisoners.
Images and a video circulating on social media shortly after the attack Wednesday showed three Iranian-made 107mm Fadjr-1 projectiles, similar to the shrapnel found in Sderot, with the text: “The female prisoners are a red line .”
It was unclear which armed group released the footage, and there was no immediate claim by any of the Gaza-based terror groups for Wednesday’s rocket fire.
Gaza heeds the call. The female prisoners form a red line, promising them that their liberation will not take long#Palestine #Gaza #prisoners_is_a_red_line pic.twitter.com/Q2D9ffeaxZ
– The site of the trenches (@AlKhanadeq) February 1, 2023
The Prison Service has taken disciplinary action against so-called security prisoners — Palestinians held on terror charges — who had allegedly celebrated recent terror attacks in Israel. Kan public broadcaster said steps were also being taken against female Palestinian prisoners, some of whom have been transferred to solitary confinement and their rooms searched.
The network said Islamic Jihad had threatened a response to the jailers’ actions.
Images supposedly from an Iron Dome interception over Sderot. pic.twitter.com/vYUpFq0w0O
— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) February 1, 2023
Earlier on Wednesday, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir ordered the prison service to close two bakeries in detention centers that supplied fresh bread to security detainees.
The minister said the rocket attacks would not prevent him from taking measures against prisoners.
“The [rocket] fire from Gaza will not stop me from continuing to work to abolish the summer camp conditions of murderous terrorists. I give my full support to the prison system to go to prison [prison] wings and restore order,” he said.
Tensions were high as the IDF pushed ahead with an anti-terror offensive primarily targeting the northern West Bank to deal with a series of attacks that killed 31 people in Israel in 2022, and another seven in an attack on Friday .
The IDF’s operation has led to more than 2,500 arrests in near-night raids. It also took the lives of 171 Palestinians by 2022, and another 35 since the beginning of the year, many of them in the course of carrying out attacks or clashes with security forces, although some were uninvolved civilians.
On Friday night, a Palestinian gunman from East Jerusalem killed seven people and wounded three more in the capital’s Neve Yaakov neighborhood, and the next morning a 13-year-old Palestinian shot and wounded two Israeli men near the Old City.
There has also been an increase in retaliation by Israelis against Palestinians following the two terror attacks.
The IDF reinforced troops in the West Bank after the recent incidents.