Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he is “prepared to do a lot more” after overnight Israeli strikes hit Hamas targets in Gaza, but by sunset on Tuesday an uneasy calm seemed to be holding, following the sharpest escalation in violence since the beginning of the year.
The militant Hamas group — which Israel blamed for triggering the latest round of hostilities by firing a rocket that hit a house north of Tel Aviv in the early hours of Monday morning — first announced that a ceasefire had been agreed late Monday, but renewed rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, and Israeli airstrikes, continued into the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Netanyahu addressed a meeting of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a pro-Israel lobbying group, in Washington, DC via remote link from Israel. The Prime Minister said his country had “responded with great force, on a scale not seen since [the war between Israel and Hamas in] 2014” in response to the rocket.
“We are prepared to do a lot more, to do what is necessary to defend our people and to defend our state,” Netanyahu said, in an apparent warning to Hamas of the possible consequences of further rocket launches.
Gaza militants fired more than 60 rockets into Israel, while the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) carried out dozens of airstrikes on targets in Gaza, IDF Spokeswoman Mika Lipshitz told CNN.
The numbers are modest compared to previous escalations. In November, during one of the most intense rounds of fighting in more than four years, Gaza militants launched more than 400 rockets into Israel in 48 hours, while Israel attacked more than 150 target in Gaza.
But the high-value targets Israel hit overnight marked a sharper beginning to this round of fighting, which began when a rocket fired from Gaza landed on a home near Tel Aviv, in central Israel, early Monday morning, wounding seven people. It is the farthest a rocket has been fired into Israel since the end of the 2014 war.
Shortly before sundown on Monday, Israel says they carried out airstrikes against major Hamas buildings and headquarters, including the office of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, marking the first time since the 2012 war that Israel struck his office. The strikes wounded seven in Gaza, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.