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Netanyahu to Cut Short US Visit After Tel Aviv Rocket

Netanyahu to Cut Short US Visit After Tel Aviv Rocket

Monday, 25 March, 2019 - 07:00
Israel's Netanyahu, in close election race, visits US ally | AFP
Jerusalem- Asharq Al-Awsat
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that he is to cut short his trip to the United States after a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit Tel Aviv.

"In light of the security events I decided to cut short my visit to the US," Netanyahu said, calling the attack a heinous crime that would draw a strong Israeli response.

He said he would meet with President Donald Trump in the coming hours and then fly back immediately to lead closely the operations.

The rocket fired on Monday from the Gaza Strip hit a house in a community north of Tel Aviv and caused it to catch fire, wounding five Israelis, authorities and medics said.

Israel's army said the rocket was fired from the Palestinian enclave run by Hamas, raising the risk of another escalation between the two sides just ahead of April 9 Israeli elections.

The house hit was located in the community of Mishmeret, police said. Medics said they were treating one Israeli with moderate wounds and four others injured lightly.

Mishmeret is more than 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the Gaza Strip and rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave at that distance is rare.

Netanyahu is believed by many analysts to want to avoid another war in the Gaza Strip -- the fourth since 2008 -- with unpredictable results ahead of the elections.

But he faces a tough challenge from a centrist political alliance led by former military chief Benny Gantz and he will come under heavy political pressure to react firmly.

Monday's incident comes after two rockets were fired from Gaza towards Tel Aviv -- also rare -- on March 14.

No damage or injuries were caused, but Israel responded to that and further rocket fire by hitting what it said were around 100 Hamas targets across the Gaza Strip.

Four Palestinians were reported wounded in those strikes.

Monday's rocket comes just days ahead of the March 30 one-year anniversary of Palestinian protests and clashes along the Gaza Strip's border with Israel.

An informal truce between Hamas and Israel had led to relative calm along the border of the blockaded strip, but recent weeks have seen another uptick in violence.

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