Israel, Gazans exchange airstrikes, rockets; IDF blames Iran

Israel launched a series of airstrikes overnight in response to rockets from Gaza, blaming Iran for supporting a Palestinian militant group involved in the exchange of fire.

A fireball explodes during Israeli airstrikes in Rafah in southern Gaza on Saturday. Fighter jets and helicopters pounded targets in Gaza for more than 2 hours, including Hamas sites, the Israeli army said. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI | License Photo
A fireball explodes during Israeli airstrikes in Rafah in southern Gaza on Saturday. Fighter jets and helicopters pounded targets in Gaza for more than 2 hours, including Hamas sites, the Israeli army said. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI | License Photo

An Israel Defense Forces spokesperson told Haaretz that military aircraft struck 95 targets in Gaza on Friday night and early Saturday, including eight belonging to Palestinian Jihad, Gaza’s second largest militant group.
The airstrikes were in response to a series of rockets fired into Israeli territory, which Israel’s Iron Dome defense system intercepted.

The exchange of fire came after Palestinian protests at the Gaza-Israel border in which at least five Palestinians died. The weekly border protests have left more than 200 Palestinians dead since they began March 30, the Gaza Health Ministry said.

IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told The Washington Post it blames Hamas for all violence coming from Gaza, but also said Islamic Jihad was involvement Friday. He said the latter group was working “under guidance, instruction and incentives from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Quds force, based in Damascus.”

The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the rocket fire into Israeli territory, saying it was in response to the “continuing coldblooded killing by the Israeli occupation and the continued shedding of the blood of peaceful civilians.”

The group said it agreed to a ceasefire brokered by Egypt on Saturday as long as Israel did the same.

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ByDanielle Haynes