Is­rael launches strikes on Gaza af­ter rock­ets fired

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - REGION -

OC­CU­PIED JERUSALEM: Is­rael launched airstrikes on the Gaza Strip early Sun­day in re­tal­i­a­tion for pro­jec­tiles fired from the Pales­tinian en­clave into south­ern Is­rael, the army said.

Mil­i­tary jets and he­li­copters struck tar­gets linked to Ha­mas, the Is­lamist group that con­trols Gaza, shortly af­ter mid­night, with no re­ported ca­su­al­ties.

Is­rael also sus­pended ce­ment de­liv­er­ies to the en­clave and can­celled 500 com­mer­cial en­try per­mits into Is­rael “un­til fur­ther no­tice.”

The ac­tion was taken “due to the con­tin­ued rocket fire and launch­ings of in­cen­di­ary bal­loons from the Gaza Strip into Is­rael,” said a state­ment by Ma­jor Gen­eral Kamil Abu Rukun, head of the Is­raeli mil­i­tary unit re­spon­si­ble for co­or­di­na­tion in the Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries.

Since the an­nounce­ment Tues­day by U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump of his plan to re­solve the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict, rock­ets, shells and ex­plo­sive bal­loons have been fired al­most daily from the Gaza Strip into south­ern Is­rael, pro­vok­ing Is­raeli re­tal­i­a­tion.

Pales­tini­ans strongly re­ject the U.S. plan, seen as heav­ily fa­vor­ing Is­rael.

The Trump ini­tia­tive sug­gests that Is­rael would re­tain con­trol of the con­tested city of Jerusalem as its “un­di­vided cap­i­tal” and gives the Jewish state the green light to an­nex set­tle­ments in the West Bank, which Is­rael oc­cu­pied in 1967.

Rocket fire from Gaza Satur­day night forced Benny Gantz, a lead­ing can­di­date in Is­rael’s up­com­ing gen­eral elec­tion who was cam­paign­ing in south­ern Is­rael, to take refuge with his team in a shel­ter, lo­cal me­dia re­ported.

For­mer mil­i­tary Gen­eral Gantz heads the Blue and White party and is the chief ri­val of Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu in the March 2 elec­tion.

The Is­raeli army said its overnight strikes on Gaza tar­geted in­fra­struc­ture be­long­ing to Ha­mas, the Is­lamist group that has con­trolled the en­clave since 2007.

“Fighter jets and at­tack he­li­copters struck a num­ber of Ha­mas ter­ror tar­gets in the north­ern Gaza Strip,” it said in a state­ment.

Among the tar­gets was “un­der­ground in­fra­struc­ture... used as a sit­u­a­tion room,” it added.

There were no ca­su­al­ties from the strikes, ac­cord­ing to Ha­mas se­cu­rity sources.

Ha­mas and Is­rael have fought three wars since 2008 but over the past year the Is­lamists have grad­u­ally shaped an in­for­mal truce with Is­rael, un­der which the Jewish state has eased its crip­pling block­ade of Gaza.

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