Israel carried out air strikes on targets in the Gaza Strip on Friday after a rocket fired from the Palestinian territory exploded in the city of Ashkelon, witnesses said.
The air strikes hit a training camp in Gaza City used by the Islamist group Hamas, which rules the enclave, and smuggling tunnels along Gaza's southern border with Egypt. Another air strike struck an empty caravan in the central Gaza Strip.
Friday's violence coincided with diplomatic efforts to persuade Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that he should advance from indirect negotiations to direct talks with Israel in pursuit of a Middle East peace pact -- a course that Hamas and other militant and armed Islamist groups in Gaza oppose.
"IAF strikes in Gaza"
A senior Hamas member was killed and 8 people were wounded, several in serious condition, when the Israeli Air Force attacked several Hamas-linked targets in the Gaza Strip overnight Friday, Israel Radio reported Saturday morning.
Senior rocket maker and commander of the Hamas military wing in central Gaza, Issa Batran, 40, was killed in the strike, Israel Radio reported Saturday.
According to Palestinian sources, air force aircraft targeted the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood and Ansar security compound in western Gaza City, which served as a training site for Hamas commanders and was used as headquarters for high-rank Palestinian Authority officials in the past, such as Yasser Arafat.
Other targets included sites in Dir al-Balah and Rafiah.
The IDF Spokesperson reported that the IAF hit three targets: a Hamas-linked terror activity site in the northern part of the Strip, a weapons-manufacturing warehouse in central Gaza and a weapons-smuggling tunnel in the south.
The IDF confirmed the attacks were in retaliation for Friday morning's Grad missile attack in Ashkelon, for which the Aza Din al-Kassem Gazan terror group claimed responsibility on Friday.
A more thorough review of the situation has been provided by Debka:
"Hamas orders compulsory call-up for new army parallel to Hizballah"
Israeli bombers struck Palestinian targets in Gaza city, Deir el Balach in the east and Rafah in the south Friday night, July 30 - in the wake of attacks by a Palestinian Iranian-made Grad missile which damaged a high-rise apartment building in Ashkelon, leaving 17 people in shock, and missile-mortar fire on the Eshkol farm district.
One Hamas officer was killed, 8 were injured in the Israeli air bombardment of the "Nasser Compound" command center at Tel Al-Hawa, the training school for a new class of Hamas officers.
Hamas launched the military-standard Grad missile (as distinct from the homemade Qassams) Friday to show off its new strength and inform Israel that henceforth it faces an enhanced Palestinian challenge from Gaza.
According to our intelligence sources, the new Hamas militia is structured on the same lines as the Lebanese Hizballah. Both are armed and sponsored by Iran and regularly manipulated in pursuit of Tehran's regional objectives.
For the officers training center Israel demolished Friday, Iran shelled out $250 million.
Creating a well-armed Palestinian militia in the Gaza Strip was Tehran's first move to counter the impact of the visit Saudi King Abdullah and Syrian President Bashar Assad paid to Beirut Friday. More undoubtedly lie ahead.
Israel knew about the buildup in the Gaza Strip but Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and defense minister Ehud Barak chose to keep it dark so as not to interfere with the prospects of direct peace talks with the Palestinians.
This restraint proved unproductive.
Once again, we see Iran in the center of things, pushing the buttons:
In establishing the new Hamas militia, Tehran had a second motive: the need to re-establish itself as the foremost champion of Palestinian extremists after being outshined by its ally, Turkey. Prime Minister Tayyep Erdogan won kudos as the only Muslim ruler espousing Hamas when he sent the "aid" flotilla for breaking the blockade on the Gaza Strip, which Israel intercepted on May 29.
Then, right on cue, the delusional leader of the ultimate collective delusion (aka the "U.N."), U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki-moon, offers a bizarre "not-grounded-in-reality" solution:
Early Saturday, July 31, the Israeli defense minister met UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York to discuss the rising threat from Gaza. Ban responded by calling on Israel to remove all further restrictions on the Hamas-ruled territory.
So. Terrorists in Gaza launch missiles into civilian cities in Israel - unprovoked - and the answer? "...remove all further restrictions on the same Hamas-ruled territory". You have to be kidding.
Seriously? Have I somehow drifted into a parallel universe? Where up is down, when wrong is right, when we are told that evil is good and good is evil.
Did I really just read that? The solution offered by the UN is to remove ALL restrictions on the terrorists who are currently launching missiles into Israeli civilian areas?
So the terrorists could obtain even MORE missiles to launch into Israel?
Apparently I just need to wake up. This parallel universe is one STRANGE PLACE.