GAZA/OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: An Israeli strike killed a Palestinian in Gaza hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Sunday that operations could be expanded in the enclave in response to surging rocket fire.
An army spokesman said the raid targeted “terrorists” who had been preparing to fire rockets at the Jewish state.
Earlier, two rockets fired from Gaza and targeting the southern Israeli city of Netivot were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system and destroyed in flight, the army said.
Palestinian security sources said a drone strike targeted a group of armed men, killing one militant.
The attack came after the air force struck 12 targets overnight in Gaza following repeated rocket fire on southern Israel, including a volley that hit a paint factory in Sderot.
The rocket fire coincided with a huge Israeli manhunt in the West Bank to track down three missing teens, whom Israel says were kidnapped by Hamas militants.
Speaking to ministers at the weekly Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said almost nightly military strikes on Gaza could be expanded should the need arise. “Over the weekend, the IDF attacked multiple targets in response to firing at Israel from the Gaza Strip. We are ready to expand this operation as per need,” he said, without elaborating.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned a limited response would only boost the standing of Hamas, which held power in Gaza for the past seven years but stepped down this month after forming a unity government with the West Bank.
“We have seen that, at the end of the day, limited operations only strengthen Hamas so the alternative is clear,” he said, repeating his long-held assertion that Israel should reoccupy Gaza, which it left in 2005.
Israeli warplanes struck 12 targets overnight which the army said were being used for “terrorist activity.” Palestinian officials said two people had been lightly injured.
The overnight raids came after six rockets struck southern Israel on Saturday evening, one of which hit a paint factory in Sderot industrial zone, triggering an explosion and major fire, police said.
Two Palestinians were killed Friday in an Israeli airstrike on a car near Gaza City, with the military saying they had been involved in firing rockets at Israel.
Hours earlier, a bomb had exploded along the southern sector of the border, prompting Israeli tanks to open fire toward the city of Khan Younes, injuring five Palestinians, one of them a child.
The military said it had fired on “lookout posts used to guide the attack” with Palestinians officials saying it had targeted “two mosque minarets east of Khan Younes.”
Over the past two weeks, 25 rockets fired from Gaza have struck southern Israel, prompting a series of almost nightly Israeli airstrikes.
The rocket fire has coincided with the arrest of more than 400 Palestinians, most of them Hamas members, since Israel launched a manhunt for the missing teens. Five Palestinians have also been killed in the search operation.
There has been no claim for the youths’ abduction, nor has there been any indication of their whereabouts.
Netanyahu also said Israel is considering banning the radical wing of the Islamic Movement over its ties with Hamas. The Islamic Movement was founded in the early 1970s and subsequently split into two branches, the radical northern faction and its more moderate southern counterpart.
Speaking at the Cabinet, Netanyahu said Israel was considering a ban on the northern branch. “It constantly preaches against the state of Israel, and its people publicly identify with terrorist organizations like Hamas,” accusing the northern chapter of being behind a weekend rally at which demonstrators allegedly called for the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers.