Israel plans tougher retaliation against Gaza missile attack
Israeli military chief Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz is expected to convene an emergency evaluation with top brass in the coming hours after Palestinian militants fired an anti-tank missile at an army jeep patrolling the Gaza border Saturday evening. Xinhua reported.
Four infantry soldiers were wounded when the missile struck an armored jeep as it was carrying out a routine patrol along the border fence in northern Gaza, the military said in a statement sent to Xinhua.
A military helicopter evacuated two soldiers who sustained serious injuries to the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba. Another two sustained light to moderate injuries and transferred to a hospital in the coastal city of Ashkelon, Israel's Channel 2 TV reported.
Israeli tanks fired shells and heavy machine gun fire towards suspected militant sites in southern and eastern Gaza, including targets in the Sa'ajiya and Zeitoun neighborhoods.
Four Palestinians were killed and upwards of 20 were wounded as a result, local media reported, quoting Palestinian sources and eyewitnesses.
Rockets were fired from Gaza at the southern Israeli city of Sderot and the Sha'ar Hanegev regional council shortly after the incident, with an air raid siren alerting residents of one community to take cover in bomb shelters, Channel 2 reported.
The army instructed residents of communities in the vicinity to remain close to protected spaces ahead of additional possible rocket attacks in the coming hours, Army Radio reported.
The military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility for firing the missile at the military jeep, though local media earlier reported that Islamic Jihad is believed to be behind the attack.
A spokesman for Hamas, the Islamist group that rules Gaza, justified the attack, saying that every Israeli military vehicle is a legitimate target.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel views the incident with severity and will respond accordingly, pending escalation along the border in the coming days.
"Additional responses will be examined. We will not accept the escalating attacks on the border," Barak said in a statement.
As well, military chief Gantz is due to hold an evaluation with top officers on Saturday night to weigh responses to the latest attacks from Gaza.
"The Israel Defense Forces will not tolerate any attempt to harm Israeli civilians and holds Hamas solely accountable for any terrorist activity emanating from Gaza," the military said in a statement.
On Thursday, an Israeli soldier was lightly wounded in a powerful blast from a smuggling tunnel while Engineering Corps units were conducting maintenance work along the security barrier with Gaza, while other explosive devices planted by militants were neutralized in recent days.