The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has issued a threat against Iran not to engage in a proxy war via the dominant militant forces active in the Gaza Strip as it delivered air strikes in retaliation. The IDF carried out aerial bombardments against Hamas positions for two consecutive days, with the second round being conducted on Saturday, 30 December.

The IDF's operation is a sharp response to an earlier attack, when three mortar shells were fired against the Israeli territory on Friday, 29 December. While two of the projectiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system, the third one fell in no man's land. None of the shells caused any casualties, however.

Nonetheless, Israel warplanes pounded Hamas targets in southern Gaza after authorities said the anti-Israel rockets were made in Iran. "The Iranian regime continues to risk the safety of the residents of the Gaza Strip and puts them in grave danger. Where the Iranian regime operates or is involved, it only wreaks havoc and destruction," the IDF said in a statement.

"The rockets were launched by a terror organisation that used standard-grade Iranian weapons. This is a severe incident that proves once more how much these terror organisations despise the residents of Gaza and are willing to put them at risk of escalation over Iranian interests," it added.

The number of such rocket attacks against Israel has sharply escalated in recent weeks, particularly after US President Donald Trump's decision of recognising Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. Since the announcement on 6 December, as many as 40 rockets have been fired into Israeli territories with the IDF responding in kind.

Israel's Defence Minister Avigdor Liberman called the latest attack a "grave act" and vowed that his country would respond strongly to such incidents. Though he said it is "too early" to pinpoint which group was exactly behind the rocket launches, he emphasised Iran was behind the weapons supply. "Iran has supplied these missiles to numerous groups," he told the media.

Liberman later told the Hadashot News in an interview, "Hamas is being careful because they do not want war, as we do not, but the Salafist and extremist Muslim groups are acting on their own."

Surface to air missile
A Patriot missile is fired from a desert launch site in Israel IDF via Getty Images