Israeli Air Force steps up air strikes on Hamas missile factories and bunkers

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TEL AVIV — Israel’s military, prevented from a ground invasion, has instead targeted Palestinian missile and rocket arsenals in the Gaza Strip.

Military sources said the Israel Air Force, in coordination with the intelligence community, was trying to destroy arsenals of Hamas and its militia allies in the Gaza Strip.

Smoke and flames are seen following what police said was an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on July 8.  /Reuters
Smoke and flames are seen following what police said was an Israeli air strike in Rafah, Gaza Strip on July 8. /Reuters

The sources said the Air Force was working with a bank of targets, including suspected missile factories, bunkers and tunnels.

“We’ll know how to respond with great force if quiet isn’t returned to
the area,” Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz said.

On July 7, Hamas and Islamic Jihad fired medium-range rockets into
Israeli cities near Tel Aviv. There were no reports of casualties in a
barrage of nearly 100 rockets and missiles, attacks claimed by Hamas. Hamas
said it lost nine fighters in Israeli air strikes, most of which targeted
the southern Gaza City of Rafah.

“Al Kassam fired dozens of rockets on Netivot and Ashkelon, Ashdod and
Ofakim in response to the Zionist aggression,” Hamas’ Izzedin Kassam
military wing said.

The sources said the Air Force was also targeting underground rocket
launchers. On July 7, the military said five launchers were destroyed in an
air strike over the Gaza Strip.

In all, the Air Force struck 50 targets. The sources said Hamas and
Islamic Jihad contained more than 12,000 missiles and rockets.

“We are mounting the forces to enable us to mobilize if required,”
Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said. “I can’t see that
happening immediately, but we have a green light to recruit more reserve
troops that will enable us to carry out a ground mission.”

Israel’s Iron Dome missile and rocket defense system was said to have
played a marginal role in the latest mini-war with the Gaza Strip. Over the
last three days, Iron Dome was reported to have intercepted around 20
Palestinian rockets.

The mini-war has divided the government of Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu, said to have come under U.S. pressure to limit military
operations. On July 7, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who has advocated
an invasion of the Gaza Strip, quit Netanyahu’s Likud Party. Later, a
Cabinet committee ruled out major ground operations against Hamas.

“What we need to achieve is not only deterrence,” Intelligence Minister
Yuval Steinitz said. “I’m talking about taking control of Gaza, cleaning out
the stables in Gaza and leaving Gaza.”

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