The Gaza rocket attacks took an unexpected escalation Monday night as a grad rocket was fired north of the Israeli city of Beersheba, roughly 40 kilometers from the Gaza Strip, according to the IDF Twitter page. Beersheba is one of the largest cities in Israel’s south and one of the farthest locations reached thus far by Gaza rocket fire. The IDF Twitter feed did not report any injuries or damage.
It was the first time since April that a Gaza rocket had reached the vicinity of the city. In response to the Beersheba attack, the Israel Air Force (IAF) struck multiple targets in the Gaza Strip, with the IDF Spokesperson’s Blog reporting direct hits.
The IDF said in a statement that they “will not tolerate any attempt to harm Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers, and will respond with determination to any attempt to use terror against the State of Israel.”
As of mid-morning Tuesday, Hamas had not obviously claimed credit for the Beersheba rocket attack on their website, raising questions about the aggressiveness of other terror groups in Gaza and their willingness to shoot deeper into Israel. However, Israel expects Hamas as the governing agent and most powerful group in the Strip to keep other terrorists from escalating the situation. Said the Israeli statement on the IDF blog, “The IDF holds the Hamas terrorist organization solely responsible for any terrorist activity emanating from the Gaza Strip.”
The blog reported that in another incident the IAF also prevented a group of terrorists from firing rockets at Israel by confirming a hit after IDF soldiers identified the squad as planning to attack.
The increase in violence comes roughly one month ahead of when the Palestinian leaders in the West Bank are expected to go to the United Nations for statehood recognition. While the West Bank leadership has expressed an interest in non-violent protest in conjunction with the UN move, it remains unclear if other Palestinian groups in Gazawill launch violent attacks in the weeks ahead.
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, August 16, 2011)