The Israel Defense Forces claimed Hamas fired 200 rockets from the Gaza strip into southern Israel Saturday in the first attack on Tel Aviv since 2014. Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted and neutralized many of the rockets before they hit their intended targets.
According to authorities in Gaza, retaliatory Israeli attacks on Hamas military posts inside the strip killed at least one person and injured at least six others. Ashraf al Qudra, spokesperson for the Health Ministry, said the person killed was Imad Nseir, a 22-year-old man.
Although there was some property damage, there were no reports of any casualties in Israel from the rocket fire.
2:00pm – In response to the Gaza rocket fire, IDF begins aerial strikes of Hamas & Palestinian Islamic Jihad targets, including:• 4 Hamas training & weapons manufacturing compounds.• Hamas naval compound.• PIJ targets. • PIJ-Hamas joint military compound.— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) May 4, 2019
The new exchange of violence comes after gunfire from southern Gaza wounded two Israeli soldiers, the Israeli military said.
In response, Israel bombed a position of Hamas’s armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, and the Islamic group said two members were killed and three more were wounded.
Two other Palestinians died in Gaza Friday, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. According to officials, both men died from their wounds after being shot by Israeli troops while participating in weekly protests along the Gaza fence.
The violence comes after a week of escalation; a rocket was fired after Israel amended fishing rules in Gaza on Tuesday. Israeli officials said the rocket fell harmlessly into the Mediterranean. Thursday, Israel launched an airstrike on a Hamas facility after it said the group sent explosives attached to balloons into Israel.
That air raid was responded to by more rockets from Hamas, which in turn led to Friday’s violence. Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett reports an Israeli drone strike proceeded the rocket strike on Saturday.
Conflict between Israel and Hamas is not new; as Vox’s Zack Beauchamp has explained:
Hamas is a Palestinian Islamist political organization and militant group that has waged war on Israel since the group’s 1987 founding, most notably through suicide bombings and rocket attacks. It seeks to replace Israel with a Palestinian state. It also governs Gaza independently of the Palestinian Authority.
Hamas’s charter long called for the destruction of Israel. It was revised in 2017 to allow for acceptance of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip rather than the entire territory, though Hamas still refuses to recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli state.
Although Hamas did not claim responsibility for Saturday’s rocket attack, its spokesman Abdel-Latif al-Qanoua said in a statement on Saturday, “The resistance will remain present to respond to the crimes of the occupation, and will not allow it to shed the blood of our people.”
Ahead of April 9’s Israeli election, Egypt worked with the international community to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. That fragile peace has been threatened by the violence on Friday and Saturday. However, Egypt is reportedly once again working to lower tensions between the two factions, and it hopes to restore the broken ceasefire.