Israel launches Gaza strikes after rockets fired at Tel Aviv

17 Mars, 2019, 00:33 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Israel launches Gaza strikes after rockets fired at Tel Aviv

Israel said Friday its aircraft had struck dozens of Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip overnight in response to rockets from the Palestinian enclave, including rare fire toward its economic capital Tel Aviv.

"The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades affirms that it's not responsible for the rockets fired towards the enemy earlier tonight, especially considering they were shot off during a meeting between the Hamas leadership and the Egyptian security delegation about understandings pertaining to the Gaza Strip", the Brigades said.

The air strikes, the heaviest in five months, hit about 100 military targets belonging to Hamas, the Islamist group which controls Gaza, the military said.

Witnesses said powerful explosions from the air strikes rocked buildings in Gaza and lit the skies over targeted sites.

"We are aware of reports of rockets fired from Gaza into Israel and are closely monitoring the situation", a U.S. State Department official told JNS.

In a statement, it said its rocket sirens were activated in communities near the Gaza Strip border on Friday soon after it carried out strikes on Hamas targets in the territory.

Following the Israeli airstrike, several additional rounds of rocket fire were launched into Israel. The missiles missed built-up areas and no casualties or damage were reported.

Two rockets struck Tel Aviv late on Thursday, taking Israel's military by surprise.

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The organisers of Friday protests along the Gaza-Israel demarcation line say they are calling off this week's rallies.

The rocket attacks came as Hamas and Egypt were discussing a long-term truce with Israel for the Gaza Strip.

Hamas denied involvement, saying the launches took place as its leaders met Egyptian delegates about efforts to secure a long-term ceasefire with Israel. "Hamas and other terror organizations in Gaza continue to fail their people day after day and drag Gaza further and further down by constantly choosing violence", tweeted Jason Greenblatt, the White House's Middle East envoy.

In the bustling coastal city of Tel Aviv, sirens wailed late Thursday in scenes reminiscent of the 2014 war between Israel and Gaza militants.

It's a first since Israel's 2014 campaign in Gaza. But Israel's military said it had concluded the group was behind the attack.

Netanyahu warned Sunday that Israel would not hesitate to launch a "large-scale operation" in Gaza if provoked.

Islamic Jihad, another Iranian-backed terror group in Gaza with a large rocket arsenal, also denied firing the rockets.

Cabinet Minister Naftali Bennett, a hard-line rival of Netanyahu's, called on the prime minister to convene a gathering of his Security Cabinet and demand the army "present a plan to defeat Hamas".

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