Wednesday, 20 March, 2019

Israeli aircraft strike Gaza after rockets target Tel Aviv

Rockets fired from Gaza target Tel Aviv for first time since 2014 Israeli launches Gaza strikes after rockets fired at Tel Aviv
Steven Clarke | 17 March, 2019, 00:29

The Israeli military has concluded that the militant Hamas group of Gaza fired two rockets toward the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv.

The terror sites included "an office complex in Gaza City used to plan and command Hamas militant activities, an underground complex that served as Hamas' main rocket-manufacturing site and a center used for Hamas drone development", according to an Associated Press report.

It said it had identified a launch attempt out of Gaza, but the rocket misfired and landed inside Palestinian territory.

The rocket barrage triggered air raid sirens throughout the city, Israel's densely populated commercial and cultural capital.

Nine rockets were fired by Palestinians into Israeli territory overnight and into Friday morning, with the IDF reporting that six rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. No interceptions were made by aerial defense systems and no damage or injuries were reported.

No militant groups have said they fired the rockets at Tel Aviv.

These strikes came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held an urgent "security consultation" with his defense chiefs in Tel Aviv late Thursday night.

An explosion caused by Israeli airstrikes is seen on Gaza City, March 15, 2019.

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Israeli analysts speculated that Palestinian militants opposed to any deal between Hamas and Israel were behind the missile attack.

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

In a statement sent to journalists, a Qassam Brigades spokesman drew attention to the fact that the launches had taken place during a visit to Gaza by a security delegation from Egypt, which has been leading mediation efforts between Israel and Hamas.

It was the first time there has been such an attack since the war in 2014. They include Salafists inspired by the Islamic State group, as well as Islamic Jihad, an Iranian-backed armed organization that also possesses a formidable rocket arsenal.

"Hamas and other terror orgs in Gaza continue to fail their people day after day & drag Gaza further & further down by constantly choosing violence", Jason Greenblatt, the White House's Middle East envoy, said on Twitter.

Hamas's so-called military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, not only denied it was behind the rocket launchings but said the attacks on Israel came while Hamas members were meeting with Egyptian officials over the Gaza truce.

He said that while "rogue factions" were behind recent Gaza "provocations", it "did not exempt Hamas" of responsibility.

"I suggest to Hamas, don't count on it", he told his Cabinet.

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