by Lilach Shoval and Israel Hayom Staff
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman: Technical analysis shows Iranian-manufactured mortar shells supplied to Salafist groups via the Sinai Peninsula
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman
Israeli fighter jets targeted Hamas observation posts in the southern Gaza Strip on Saturday, in response to rocket fire directed at the Sdot Negev and Shaar Hanegev Regional Councils.
According to an IDF spokesman, the rocket fire "proved once again that Iran, through rogue and radical terrorist groups, is working to plunge the region into turmoil, playing with the lives of Gaza's residents, and could lead to an escalation in the Gaza Strip following years of calm."
The IDF asserted further that while rogue factions were often behind the launch of projectiles into Israel, "Hamas bears full responsibility for the situation and its consequences."
Three rockets were launched toward Israel's south from the Gaza Strip on Friday afternoon, during a ceremony marking what would have been the 24th birthday of fallen Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul. Two of the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system, while a third struck a building inside Israel. No injuries were reported.
In an interview with Israeli television's "Meet the Press" on Saturday, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman pointed an accusatory finger at Tehran.
"We analyzed it [the projectile] and this was an Iranian-manufactured mortar shell supplied to elements in the Gaza Strip," Lieberman said.
Calling the rocket fire "very serious," Lieberman said Hamas was not interested in an escalation of tensions.
According to Lieberman, "The problem is that Hamas is losing deterrence with radical Salafi groups supported by Iran – they get money, support and ideology from global jihadi groups and from Iran. Those same elements are trying to drag us into an all-out war in the Gaza Strip, and Hamas' deterrence has been compromised."
"We shouldn't play into the hands of those Salafist groups trying to drag us [into a war]," Lieberman said.
In the wake of criticism by members of Israel's opposition over the government's handling of the rocket fire, Lieberman accused the critics of being as bad as the Salafists in their efforts to drag Israel into a war.
Lieberman said Israel was "doing everything that needs to be done. There is a deep internal Palestinian rift. The reconciliation [between Hamas and Fatah] is faltering. The government in Ramallah is not transferring the salaries to [government] clerks and [for] electricity. ... There is a very complex, multidimensional reality that we are handling responsibly and with determination.
"It is our job to prevent an escalation. We are not just facing Gaza and the south, there are Iranians and there are challenges on all the borders, including in the north, in Lebanon and Syria. Behind all of them is Iran. It is the source. It is also in Sinai, in Yemen and Iraq."
Lilach Shoval and Israel Hayom Staff
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