Israel says it has struck about one hundred Hamas military targets in Gaza, in retaliation for two rockets launched at Tel Aviv Thursday night.
The targeting of Israel’s main metropolitan area by Gaza militants Thursday evening represented the first attempted attack on the city since Israel and Hamas fought a major war in the summer of 2014.
Both rockets landed in open ground and there were no fatalities.
In response, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said fighter jets, attack helicopters and other aircraft struck a range of Hamas targets, including an underground rocket factory, a training facility, and a logistics headquarters.
There were no reports of any fatalities from the strikes on Gaza.
In response, Gaza militants fired nine smaller-range rockets toward Israel, the IDF says.
Six of the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome aerial defense system, the IDF said, and there are no reports of any fatalities.
The IDF’s declaration that Hamas had carried out the initial launches aimed at Tel Aviv came in spite of a series of denials by militant factions – including Hamas and Islamic Jihad – that they were responsible.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the attack. “Once again, Israeli citizens are under attack from terrorists in Gaza, armed and financed by their puppet masters in Tehran. We stand by our ally. Israel has the right to protect its citizens,” Pompeo said in a tweet.
In its statement, Hamas’ armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, said the launches had taken place while a security delegation from Egypt was visiting Gaza as part of its attempts to mediate a long-term ceasefire between Hamas and Israel.
Subsequent Israeli media reports, quoting an unnamed defense official, suggested the IDF’s assessment was that the initial rocket attack on Tel Aviv was a mistake carried out by low-level Hamas operatives without the approval of the militant group’s leadership.
A spokesman for Islamic Jihad told CNN Friday morning that Egypt had been leading efforts overnight to restore calm in Gaza.
The spokesman, Dawood Shehab, told CNN that militant Palestinian factions were committed to restoring calm, if Israel was willing to do the same.
In a further sign that all sides were looking to avoid the risk of further escalation, organizers of the weekly demonstrations along the fence that separates Gaza from Israel said they were canceling Friday’s planned protest.
Those demonstrations – aimed at highlighting the right claimed by Palestinians to return to homes and villages lost in the war that accompanied the founding of the state of Israel – have frequently heightened tensions between the two sides, with more than 200 Palestinians shot to death by Israeli forces, and airborne arson attacks launched on nearby Israeli communities.
Andrew Carey reported from Jerusalem and Ibrahim Dahman from Gaza.