Israel will keep hitting Islamic Jihad if it continues its “terrorist activities” against Israeli targets, a minister warned yesterday after air strikes on Gaza killed two of its militants.
“We will continue to hit those who hit us. Islamic Jihad, which has an itchy trigger finger, is starting to pay the price,” Israeli Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilnai told army radio as a days-old truce appeared to be unravelling.
His remarks came in the wake of an uptick in violence which has seen five Gazans killed and 30 injured in Israeli raids over the past 24 hours, two of them militants from Islamic Jihad’s armed wing, the Al Quds Brigades.
“We have hit those who deserved it and we will continue to do so as long as there is terrorism against Israel,” he added, while indicating that Gaza’s Hamas rulers were not engaged in the escalation.
Hamas was being cautious because “it is in their interest that this wave of violence come to an end,” he said. “In the past, they have paid a high price.”
Israeli Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor told public radio that Israel was ready to respect the truce, which was declared by militants on Sunday evening, as long as there was calm along the border.
“We will not jeopardize the calm if the other side does the same,” said Meridor, a key member of the Israeli Cabinet.
“But we will not wait to act while we are being shot at and people are dying,” he said. “I hope this message will be understood.”
Sunday’s truce had appeared to be holding, but by the early hours of Wednesday morning, things appeared to be unraveling fast after an Israeli air strike killed a Jihad militant and sparked a flurry of rockets into southern Israel.
Adham Abu Selmiya, a spokesman for Gaza’s emergency services had initially put the toll at six dead in the raids, but later revised down the toll, citing confusion over a body that reached the morgue in several pieces.
Palestinians fired more than a dozen rockets into Israel on Wednesday, sending residents in Ashkelon and elsewhere in the south running for cover. A baby was injured by shrapnel from one of the Palestinian rockets, Israel’s rescue service said.
Israeli media reported that security forces sent reinforcements to the area. Israeli defense officials said Israel gave Egypt the results of an initial military probe into the deaths of Egyptian police officers during fights between Israeli soldiers and militants on Aug. 18.
Egypt threatened to recall its ambassador while in Cairo, and protesters surrounded the Israeli embassy on Saturday and tore down the Israeli flag replacing it with an Egyptian one.
The officials said video filmed from a helicopter during the fighting shows soldiers didn’t shoot toward locations near the Egyptian positions even after they came under attack from missile attacks and sniper fire from a number of militants there.