IDF carries out dozens of air, artillery strikes on Gaza

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israel Defense Forces carried out dozens of air and artillery strikes on Gaza, but said it did not intend to escalate violence between Israel and Hamas.

The strikes, numbering about 50, on Sunday night came in the wake of a rocket attack from Gaza earlier in the day on the southern Israeli city of Sderot, which struck a residential neighborhood near the city’s train station and Sapir College. The attack caused no casualties.

IDF spokesman Peter Lerner said that the IDF strikes targeted Hamas positions in Gaza.

“When terrorists in Gaza attack people during summer vacation their intentions are clear- to inflict pain, cause fear and to terrorize,” Lerner said.

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Unnamed IDF officials described as “high-ranking” told Ynet that: “While these strikes are unusual, we have no intention to escalate. There are still 1,000 trucks full of goods slated to enter Gaza today.”

“The hits that Hamas took last night are the hardest they’ve taken since Operation Protective Edge,” Ynet quoted an official as saying.  He said the sites were predetermined and it is not known how much damage they caused.

The strikes on Sunday night and early Monday morning came after a retaliatory strike on two targets in northern Gaza earlier on Sunday.

The military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine reportedly claimed responsibility for the rocket attack on Sderot.

“We hold Israel responsible for the escalation in the Gaza Strip and we stress that its aggression will not succeed in breaking the will of our people or dictate the terms of resistance,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.

Earlier on Sunday, Hamas held an anti-Israel military parade through the streets of Rafah in southern Gaza. Hamas military leaders said they would renew hostilities against Israel and said that Israeli prisoners held by Hamas will receive the same treatment as Palestinians in Israeli prisons.

The remains of Israeli soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, killed in the 2014 Gaza war with Hamas, are being held in Gaza. In addition,  Avraham Mengistu and Juma Ibrahim Abu Anima, Israelis who voluntarily entered the Gaza in 2014, have not been heard from since and are believed to be held by Hamas.