IAF air strike in Gaza
IAF air strike in GazaIsrael news photo: Flash 90

The IDF retaliated -- again -- against Gaza terrorist rocket and mortar attacks Wednesday morning with tank fire and air strikes, as Defense Minister Ehud Barak vowed to “return the quiet to the south.”

Two explosions struck Gaza City, according to Palestinian Authority Arab witnesses in the area quoted by local media. It was not clear whether there were any casualties.

Barak said in an interview on Army Radio following a barrage of some 50 rockets and mortar shells on southern Israeli communities the army is considering how best to silence the attacks.

He added, however, that a full-scale military operation such as the three-week Operation Cast Lead mini-war carried out in the winter of 2008-2009 is unlikely at this time. Asked whether negotiations with Hamas might be productive, the defense minister replied the terrorist organization is an enemy with whom Israel cannot communicate.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told reporters in Gaza the terrorist group was unfazed by the retaliation.

“Israel is embarrassed by the visit in Gaza of the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, and his successful 'breaking of the political and economic blockade' of the Strip,” Barhoum said.

The Hamas spokesman taunted Israeli officials over the visit of the Qatari leader, claiming it a victory by Gaza in a political battle against the Jewish State.

IDF Spokesman Yoav Mordechai responded by telling Israelis, “If things in the south seem bleak, I promise you that it's worse in Gaza.”

At least three Gaza terrorists have been killed since Tuesday night, according to local sources. 

In Israel, three foreign workers were injured, two critically, when they came under rocket fire as they worked in the fields in the Eshkol region. In addition, seven homes have been hit by rockets, three destroyed completely, and numerous people have been traumatized. Several were hospitalized for shock.

The IDF spokesman said Israel continues to hold Hamas responsible for all the rocket and mortar fire, despite claims by the Popular Resistance Committees terror group of participation in some of the attacks.

However, Hamas is facing a dilemma in Gaza, having to show “resistance” and a strong image, while having to contain the amount of violence in order to avoid a major escalation, Mordechai added – especially in advance of the upcoming Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, which begins on Thursday.

The IDF Spokesman warned that “any additional fire will be met with a determined response by the IDF. If we see that things calm down, we will respond accordingly.”