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Two rockets fired by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip exploded in open areas in the Eshkol Regional Council on Sunday, causing no damage to property or injuries, Army Radio reported.
Also on Sunday, Israeli Air Force (IAF) planes targeted a terrorist cell in the southern Gaza Strip that was preparing to launch a rocket into Israel, the Israel Defense Forces said. One Palestinian was killed and another wounded in the airstrike, according to Palestinian hospital officials.
Sunday’s Israeli response came a day after two Global Jihad operatives were killed when an Israeli aircraft fired a missile at the motorcycle they were riding on in Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip. The two men were said to be involved in planning an attack on Israel.
On Monday, Israelis living in communities in southern Israel around the Gaza Strip were told to stay within a 15-second distance of bomb shelters and safe locations due to the possibility that terrorists will launch rockets into Israel.
Meanwhile, Egyptian security officials told the Palestnian news agency Ma’an that Cairo warned its troops based in northern Sinai to be on alert for booby-trapped cars approaching any security installation.
Following the Israeli airstrikes in Gaza that killed three terrorists on Saturday and Sunday, including Hisham Saedni, one of the most influential al-Qaida leaders in the Strip, Israeli security forces were already on high alert along the borders with Egypt and Gaza to thwart potential attacks emanating from Sinai.
Since August 2011, when terrorists infiltrated from Sinai along Highway 12 and killed eight Israelis, Israeli forces stationed on the border with Egypt have been on a constant state of alert. There have been a number of incidents along the border since that attack, and several rockets have been fired toward Eilat from Sinai.
In Sinai, where the Egyptian military says it is working to dismantle terrorist infrastructure, armed men seized an Egyptian military vehicle in the northern Sinai city of el-Arish on Sunday. The armed men, riding a pick-up truck, stopped the army car, forced out an officer and a soldier then drove into the desert, according to Ma’an.
According to Reuters, the two Gaza terrorists killed by Israel on Saturday were the most senior al-Qaida affiliates in the Palestinian enclave, and one had links to jihadi networks in Egypt, Jordan and Iraq, sources said on Sunday. Saedni and Ashraf al-Sabah, the other person killed, were ultra-conservative Salafi Islamists. Armed Salafis, while a fringe presence in Gaza, have been stepping up violence against Israel while at times clashing with the Palestinian Hamas government. They also operate in the neighbouring Egyptian Sinai.
Saedni and Ashraf al-Sabah were leaders, respectively, of the Tawhid wa-Jihad and Ansar Al-Sunna groups, two Salafi sources told Reuters. The movements share al-Qaida’s vision of global jihad and opposed the more “pragmatic” Islamism espoused by Hamas and Cairo’s politically dominant Muslim Brotherhood.
“Their blood will be a light to guide the holy warriors through the right path and will be fire that will burn the Jews,” one of the sources told Reuters, saying reprisals would not be limited to the short-range rocket launches that are Gaza terrorists’ favored mode of attack on Israel.
Residents of communities in the western Negev, meanwhile, were becoming increasingly agitated in light of the lack of practical steps being taken to end the rocket fire, while reiterating their ongoing demand to complete the construction of fortified spaces in their homes. Netivot Mayor Yehiel Zohar asked the defense establishment to redeploy the Iron Dome rocket interception system in the area, after a home was damaged Oct. 12 after a rocket exploded in its yard.
“The Global Jihad is stepping up its efforts to target us, and we will continue to interdict it with aggression and might, in terms of both response and pre-emption,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israeli cabinet in Jerusalem on Sunday.
In a sign of Salafi assertiveness in Gaza, about 500 mourners attended Saedni’s and Sabah’s funerals on Sunday. Some wore the smocks typical of the al-Qaida bastions in Pakistan and Afghanistan but relatively uncommon among Palestinians.
The “council” has been promoting a radical brand of Salafist jihadism for years, and Saedni was incarcerated for a prolonged period by Hamas authorities due to his activities as a member of Islamic Jihad. Since his release from a Hamas prison in August, Hamas has reportedly been planning a multipronged attack on Israel from the Sinai Peninsula with the help of Gaza Strip- and Sinai-based operatives.
An IDF spokesman said, “The IDF will not tolerate any attack on Israeli citizens and soldiers and will continue to operate with resolve and force against anyone who conducts terrorist activities against Israel. The Hamas organization is the address and they are responsible.”