Islamic Jihad fires five Qassam rockets at Sderot

Islamic Jihad operatives in the Gaza Strip fired a slew of rockets at Israel on Monday afternoon in what the group said was an “initial response” to Israel’s killing of one of their top commanders in the West Bank. The five Qassam rockets slammed into open areas near the western Negev town of Sderot. There were no casualties or damage caused. Palestinian witnesses said one of the rockets hit a mourning tent for a dead Palestinian in northern Gaza. Earlier Monday, Islamic Jihad vowed “blood for blood” in response to the IDF’s Tul Karm operation, which killed top Jihad man Luai Saadi and a senior Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades member and left an IDF soldier lightly wounded. Saadi led the cell responsible for a number of attacks on Israeli targets, including suicide bombings at the Stage nightclub in Tel Aviv in February and at a Netanya mall in July. A total of 10 people were killed and dozens of others wounded in the two attacks. IDF bracing for Jihad’s response The IDF was bracing for a threatened response on Monday after troops killed in a gun battle the night before one of the most senior Islamic Jihad members in a West Bank. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz instructed the IDF to be ready to respond to any scenario, Israel Radio reported. The Palestinian Authority on Monday slammed the IDF raid as counter-productive. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas condemned the IDF operation in Tul Karm and said it “is an escalation in violence that impedes efforts to obtain security. Such actions must stop.” Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat also said: “We condemn the Israeli incursion and assassinations in Tul Karm. This threatens the cease-fire we’re trying to maintain.” The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades identified the second gunman killed in Tul Karm as Majed al-Aksar, a member of the group. “Our retaliation for this crime will be unprecedented,” said Abu Abdallah, a spokesman for the Islamic Jihad military wing in Gaza. “We will not stand handcuffed while the blood of our fighters is being shed… Let calm go to hell,” said a statement by the group. “Our rewill be commensurate to the rank of the man,” said Abu Al-Qassam, a leader of the Islamic Jihad political wing. “The Israelis will pay dearly.” The IDF said Palestinians in a car opened fire on troops as they surrounded a house during an arrest operation in Tul Karm’s refugee camp. Soldiers returned fire, killing the man. Camp residents said the vehicle, a white Subaru, had been hit by dozens of bullets. Nearby, an armed Palestinian aimed his weapon at soldiers and prepared to shoot at them, the IDF said. Soldiers spotted him and opened fire, killing him. IDF Colonel Aharon Haliva, commander of the force that entered Tul Karm, said: “In a race against time to stop attacks on Israelis, we went to arrest two senior operatives.” He said troops surrounded a house where Saadi, long at the top of Israel’s wanted list, was holed up and killed him during the gun battle that broke out when he tried to escape. Israel Radio reported Monday that Islamic Jihad had been planning a large attack in the coming days. Palestinian sources also said Palestinian police officers were involved in the incident. Israel Radio reported Monday morning that IDF troops were still operating in the Tul Karm camp and the nearby refugee camp of Nur A-Shams. The report said that troops had surrounded two houses, and quoted Palestinian sources as saying that six people had been arrested there. In raids elsewhere in the West Bank, IDF troops arrested some 20 wanted Palestinians before dawn on Monday, most of them members of Hamas, Israel Radio reported. The arrests were carried out in Hebron, Beit Furik and Beit Omar, the radio quoted the IDF spokesman as saying.