Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike in the southern Gaza Strip March 25, 2019.
(photo credit: AHMED ZAKOT / REUTERS)
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The Israeli airstrike began striking targets across the Gaza Strip Monday evening in response to a long-range rocket struck a civilian home in central Israel in the morning.
“The IDF has began attacking terrorist targets belonging to the Hamas terror organization across the Gaza Strip. More details to come,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said in a statement.
The IDF retaliation is expected to be strong and could last for several hours.
One position hit was a Hamas naval position west of Gaza City, and a another was a large Hamas training camp in northern Gaza, Palestinian security officials and Hamas media outlets said.
Both positions were likely to have been evacuated, as Hamas had hours of notice that Israeli strikes were coming.
Witnesses said three missiles hit the northern target.
As a precaution, the IDF instructed residents in Gaza border communities to remain close to bomb shelters or safe rooms, closed the Zikim beach and restricted gatherings of more than 100 people in open spaces and more than 300 people in closed spaces across the Gaza border communities.
Israel’s military has also deployed two infantry and armored brigades to southern Israel and has begun a limited call up for reservists in the intelligence and air defense corps. The two additional brigades sent to bolster the IDF’s Gaza Division with some 1,000 soldiers, had been conducting training exercises but were cut short due to the heightened tensions.
According to IDF Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis, the locally produced rocket was fired by Hamas operatives from a Hamas military post in Rafiah in the southern part of the Strip and had a range of 120 kilometers.
Manelis, who refused to answer if the rocket was fired accidentally or deliberately, said that it was serious incident and that Israel is holding Hamas responsible.
“The launch was carried out by Hamas from one of the group’s launchpads. We see Hamas as responsible for everything that happens in Gaza,” Manelis said on a call with reporters.
Following the incident, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi held a situational assessment with the the head of Military Intelligence Commander Maj.Gen. Tamir Hyman, Commander of the Israeli Air Force Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin, the Head of the Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Herzi Halevi and other senior officers.
“The IDF is improving its readiness for a variety of scenarios,” Manelis said. “This is a serious incident of a direct hit on a house in central Israel and follows a series of incidents. The deployment is also offensive, not just reactive.”
Reuters contributed to this article.
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