Hamas fires, Israel replies

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Hamas fires, Israel replies

Gaza calm broken as rocket barrage triggers Israeli airstrikes


A rocket is fired from Gaza towards the Israeli city of Ashkelon yesterday. Picture: Reuters
A rocket is fired from Gaza towards the Israeli city of Ashkelon yesterday. Picture: Reuters

Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired at least 100 rockets into southern Israel yesterday, according to the Israeli military, triggering retaliatory airstrikes and tank fire against militant targets in the blockaded enclave and shattering a month-long lull in violence.

Gaza’s health ministry said a 22-year-old Palestinian, Emad Nassir, was killed by an Israeli airstrike. Six other Palestinians sustained injuries from airstrikes and shelling.

In Israel, there were no reports of injuries, and police said a house in the coastal city of Ashkelon was damaged.

The outbreak of fighting came as leaders from Hamas, the militant group which controls Gaza, and the smaller armed faction Islamic Jihad were in Egypt for talks with mediators aimed at restoring a fraying ceasefire. Hamas leaders had hoped the recent calm would pave the way for a deeper, longer-term ceasefire.

The Israeli military said dozens of rockets were intercepted by its Iron Dome rocket-defence system, and that roads near the Gaza border were closed to civilian traffic. Israeli police said they had dispatched bomb disposal experts to the country’s south to deal with projectiles which landed in open areas.

EU ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret sharply criticised the rocket attacks on Twitter, saying “firing indiscriminately against civilians is unacceptable”.

Tensions have been rising in recent days amid allegations from Hamas that Israel has been delaying implementation of last month’s ceasefire understandings.

Last Friday, two Palestinians were fatally shot by Israeli forces during the weekly protests along the Israel-Gaza perimeter fence. Palestinian militants also shot and wounded two Israeli soldiers along the border fence. No group claimed responsibility for the shooting.

In response, Israeli aircraft carried out retaliatory strikes, killing two Hamas militants.

More than 200 Palestinians and an Israeli soldier have been killed in the border protests that began last year.

Israel and Egypt have maintained a crippling blockade on Gaza since Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007. The sides are bitter enemies and have fought three wars and engaged in numerous smaller flare-ups of violence.

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Following heavy fighting in early April, Israel agreed to ease the blockade in exchange for a halt to rocket fire. This included expanding a fishing zone off Gaza’s coast, increasing imports into Gaza and allowing the Gulf state of Qatar to deliver aid to cash-strapped Gaza.

Hamas has hoped Egyptian mediators could further ease the blockade, which has ravaged Gaza’s economy. For more than a year, the Islamic group has orchestrated mass demonstrations each week on the frontier to draw attention to Gaza’s plight.

Associated Press

Sunday Independent

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