Benny Gantz، Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief rival in the upcoming elections، assailed the premier on Thursday for his lack of a firm response to Gaza groups following a rocket launch at southern Israel and a wave of Palestinian arson attacks، as a Hamas official threatened a further escalation، according to The Times of Israel.
Israeli aircraft hit a Hamas underground facility in Gaza overnight، after the rocket was shot down by the Iron Dome air defense system in the first such attack since a vicious two-day battle between Israel and groups in the coastal enclave early last month.
The incoming projectile triggered sirens in the community of Nirim in the Eshkol region، east of Gaza، at approximately 12:15 a.m. on Thursday. Residents of the area reported hearing sounds of explosions، but the rocket caused no injuries or damage.
“Netanyahu is only strong with words،” Gantz، head of the Blue and White party، said in a statement. “The continued rocket fire by Hamas is evidence that we have lost our deterrence.
“Only exacting an immediate heavy price from Hamas will clarify that Israel doesn’t only talk، but also uses force.”
Meanwhile، a senior Hamas official was said to threaten that the situation would “escalate” if Israel doesn’t fully implement an unofficial ceasefire deal، which Jerusalem has accused Palestinian terror groups of breaching.
The comment was referring to an Israeli announcement on Wednesday that it was imposing a full naval closure of the Gaza Strip، not allowing local fisherman access to the sea، in response to the wave of arson and explosive attacks from the coastal enclave throughout the day.
At least six fires in southern Israel on Wednesday were blamed on incendiary balloons launched from the Strip، and another balloon with a bomb attached to it exploded over an Israeli town. There were no reports of injuries. The arson attacks caused significant damage to area farmland.