Israeli forces fire into Gaza after rocket attack, killing 23

Israel Defense Forces fired into Gaza Wednesday after rockets were launched into Israel, killing 23 Palestinians.

Palestinian woman collects clothes from her house that was destroyed in an Israeli air strike on Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza on Wednesday. Photo by Ismael Mohamad

Israel used artillery batteries to fire into Gaza in response to 200 rockets fired into the country from Gaza Tuesday, IDF Home Front Command said. Authorities said the rocket attack came after Israel forces killed Palestinian Islamic Jihad chief Baha Abu al-Ata in Gaza.

Vice President Mike Pence condemned that initial attack on Israel on Twitter.

“It’s clear Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad put violence ahead of bettering the lives of the people of Gaza,” Pence said on social media. “America strongly affirms Israel’s right to defend itself.”

Israeli forces said 90 percent of the rockets that targeted residential areas in Israel were intercepted by its Iron Dome missile defense system. Officials said of the ones not intercepted, 60 percent landed in unoccupied areas.

The IDF said it hit numerous Palestinian Islamic Jihad targets in central Gaza, killing two leaders, including Khaled Moawad Faraj, a field commander, and Alaa Ashtyawu, an operative with the PIJ.

The militant group Hamas, though, has not been involved in the fighting and Israel said it has not targeted any locations connected with the group.

“We are not attacking Hamas, and the PIJ targets we are striking are not in the center of Gaza City — like five-story buildings — because we understand that we are walking on a tightrope,” a spokesman for Israeli Brig. Gen. Hidai Zilberman said. “We do not want to kill civilians, which could lead Hamas to join the fighting combat.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has visited IDF command headquarters to talk about operations against the PIJ.

“The terrorists know we can put a target on them and we will put a target on anyone who tries to harm us,” Netanyahu said in a statement.”They know we can get to them in their hiding places with surgical precision.”

ByClyde Hughes