Israeli leaders have warned the Palestinian “Hamas” movement that it risks causing a major escalation in the Gaza Strip by failing to stop attacks by incendiary missiles and balloons across the border.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that the Palestinian group, which runs the affairs of the Strip, would “suffer a severe blow.”
In return, the Hamas spokesman pledged that the movement “will not hesitate to wage a battle as long as the Israeli attacks and siege continue.”
Over the past week, a number of rockets and hundreds of balloons loaded with explosive and incendiary devices were launched from Gaza, which caused dozens of fires in southern Israel.
The Israeli response came by bombing what Tel Aviv described as Hamas military targets in the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli authorities also prevented Palestinian fishing boats from going out to sea, with the passage of humanitarian aid limited to the Gaza commercial crossing.
In the absence of fuel supplies, Gazas only power plant has stopped operating.
This reduced the daily period of receiving electricity in the Strip, which has a population of about 1.9 million, from 8 hours to 4 hours.
The number of rockets fired at Israel from Thursday night until the early hours of Friday was the largest in 24 hours since the beginning of the current wave of violence.
The Israeli military said nine of the 12 missiles were intercepted.
Israeli media quoted the emergency services as saying that three people in Sderot were treated for shock after a house was damaged by an unexploded missile, while a woman was injured while trying to find a safe haven.
The IDF said it responded by bombing a Hamas military compound used to manufacture missile components and “terrorist infrastructure.”
The Hamas Ministry of Health did not announce any losses.
After army commanders briefed him on the latest developments on Friday, Gantz said: “The Israel Defense Forces are ready, are fighting, and will continue to protect the residents of southern Israel and attack those who attack us and inflict heavy losses on them.”
“The people of Gaza are suffering because of Hamas,” he added.
Armed factions in Gaza, including Hamas, claimed joint responsibility for launching the rockets, stressing that they “have responded and will continue to respond to any attack directed at the Palestinian people.”
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said, “We will not hesitate to wage a battle with the enemy if the escalation, bombing and siege continue.”
Barhoum added, “If the Israeli occupation continues its aggression, it will pay the price.”
Egypt is making mediation efforts aimed at restoring calm on the borders between the two sides.
Analysts believe that Hamas is trying to pressure Israel to ease the blockade imposed on the Strip and secure the arrival of more financial support from Qatar.
Israel and Egypt imposed a land, sea and air blockade on the Gaza Strip when Hamas tightened its grip on the strip in 2007 after expelling its rivals from there, a year after it won the legislative elections. The two countries justify their blockade of Gaza as part of self-defense.