Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered “massive strikes” on the Gaza Strip after a two-day escalation that killed 24 Palestinians and four Israelis.
““I ordered the IDF this morning to continue its massive strikes against terror forces in the Gaza Strip, and instructed [the army] to bolster its presence around the Gaza Strip with armor, artillery and infantry forces,” Netanyahu, who doubles as Israeli defence minister, said in a statement after consulting with his security cabinet on Sunday.
Israel’s military said more than 450 rockets, many of them intercepted by its Iron Dome anti-missile system, have been fired at southern Israeli cities and villages since Friday.
A 34-year-old Hamas commander was killed in what the Israeli military described as a targeted strike. An army statement accused Hamad al-Khodori of “transferring large sums of money” from Iran to armed factions in Gaza.
“Hamas is responsible not only for its attacks against Israel, but also for the Islamic Jihad’s attacks, and it is paying a very heavy price for it,” Netanyahu added.
The IDF has said that it has bombed over 220 military targets in the Strip, causing considerable damage to Gazan terror groups’ facilities, but relatively few casualties in the densely populated coastal enclave.
The intense violence that engulfed the region over the weekend began on Friday evening, when a sniper in Gaza shot at two soldiers along the border, injuring them, and the military responded with a strike on a Hamas position that killed several members of the Islamist terror group.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, a member of the security cabinet, has called for dramatically upping Israel’s retaliatory strikes, and has said that concerns over the fate of the upcoming Eurovision song contest in Tel Aviv shouldn’t drive Israeli policy.
“No despicable terror group can defeat us, and the IDF must continue to strike Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the rest of the terror groups with force,” he said at an Independence Day ceremony of the Israel Police.
“In my view, national or cultural events shouldn’t be a consideration in deciding the scope and severity of the blow that must be dealt to the enemy — not the Independence Day celebrations, and certainly not Eurovision,” he said.