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Israel Strikes Gaza After Tel Aviv Rocket Fire

Israel Strikes Gaza After Tel Aviv Rocket Fire

Friday, 15 March, 2019 - 05:15
Smoke and flame are seen during an Israeli air strike in Gaza March 15, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
Asharq Al-Awsat
Israeli warplanes targeted Hamas facilities in the Gaza Strip on Friday, hours after two rockets were launched from the enclave at Tel Aviv in the first such attack since the 2014 war.

There was no immediate word of casualties in the air strikes that hit six buildings used by the movement's security forces, and which had been evacuated as a precaution.

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

Around 30 strikes targeted positions held by the military wing of Hamas and its ally Islamic Jihad, causing significant damage, a Gazan security source told AFP.

In a possible sign of further escalation, the Israeli military said rocket sirens were sounded in Israeli communities near the Gaza border.

On Thursday night, the sirens howled farther north, in Tel Aviv, Israel's commercial capital, set off by what the military said were two incoming, longer-range rockets from Gaza.

That salvo caused no casualties or damage, missing built-up areas. But it rattled Israeli nerves ahead of an April 9 election in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking a fifth term on the strength of his national security credentials.

Explosions were heard in Tel Aviv and witnesses said Iron Dome interceptor missiles were fired skyward and detonated - although the military said no rockets were shot down.

Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad have denied responsibility.

A statement from Hamas' military wing said the group was "not responsible for the rockets fired tonight towards the enemy," adding that it occurred during a visit by an Egyptian security delegation to Gaza.

It was the first such attack on the city since the 2014 Gaza war between Hamas and Israel. There have been several smaller rounds of fighting since, reined in by Egyptian and UN mediations.

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

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