Israel retaliated Thursday after a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip forced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to seek shelter while campaigning in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon.
The Israel Defense Force said in a statement that “combat jets and helicopters struck several terror targets belonging to the Hamas terror organization in the Gaza Strip, including military compounds,” according to Haaretz.
“The Hamas terror organization is responsible for everything that happens in the Gaza Strip, and it will be held accountable for its actions against Israel’s citizens,” the IDF said.
Netanyahu had been making a campaign appearance with his wife, Sara, in Ashkelon when warning sirens sounded. The couple was ushered off stage by security guards and taken to a shelter. A similar incident had happened to Netanyahu in September.
A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip at the city of Ashkelon prompted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to seek shelter briefly before resuming his campaign rally https://t.co/0UJklHJOjs pic.twitter.com/mYzVTuZGHI
— Reuters (@Reuters) December 26, 2019
When he returned to finish his speech, Netanyahu breathed defiance.
“The person that shot at us before is no longer with us. Whoever shot at us now should pack up his belongings,” Netanyahu said, according to The Jerusalem Post.
Netanyahu was referring to Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Ata, who had been responsible for multiple rocket attacks in southern Israel. He was killed last month in an Israeli attack.
Israeli officials made it clear Netanyahu’s words about revenge were not just idle chatter.
“Even now there are intelligence efforts [being carried out] to find out if there is a new official who has taken it upon himself to fire rockets at Israel, and he will be assassinated,” Foreign Minister Israel Katz said.
— Mohammed Ali (@Mohamme59157135) December 25, 2019
Minister of Science and Technology Ofir Akunis indicated Israel must do more than fashion a token response.
“There will be a large, complex military operation in Gaza sooner or later,” he said. “We are putting our hand out for peace and in place receive at one point suicide terrorists, at another knives, at another one massacre or another. With terrorist organizations, we need to speak in their language: first of all to land a strong blow that they will not recover from for many years.”
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the “Israeli occupation bears full responsibility for the continuation of the escalation in Gaza.” Hamas and its allies would continue to defend Gaza “whatever the sacrifices,” he said.
The attack was fodder for Israel’s internal politics, as Fox News reported Benny Gantz, whose Blue and White Party is a rival to Netanyahu’s Likud Party, tweeting,
“The situation in which Israeli citizens are at the mercy of terrorists, and the Israeli prime minister cannot patrol part of his country is a certificate of poverty for the southern security policy, and a loss of deterrence that no sovereign state can accept. We will replace the government, change the policy and restore deterrence and quiet to the people of the south.”
The Labor-Gesher Party also chimed in with a statement.
“Again [Labor party leader] Amir Peretz’s Iron Dome saved Netanyahu. The truth needs to be said. Without the Iron Dome that protects the Israeli home front, Netanyahu would already not be prime minister,” the party said in its statement, according to The Jerusalem Post.
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