Rocket at­tack

Hartford Courant - - Front Page - By Josef Federman

Is­raeli war­planes at­tacked militant tar­gets in the south­ern Gaza Strip early Fri­day in re­sponse to a rare rocket at­tack on the Is­raeli city of Tel Aviv. The rocket at­tack Thurs­day night caught the Is­raeli mil­i­tary off guard and marked the first time that Tel Aviv, some 50 miles north of Gaza, has been tar­geted since a 2014 war. The at­tack caused no dam­age or in­juries.

JERUSALEM — Pales­tinian mil­i­tants in the Gaza Strip fired two rock­ets to­ward Tel Aviv late Thurs­day, the Is­raeli mil­i­tary said, mark­ing a sig­nif­i­cant es­ca­la­tion that raised the like­li­hood of a harsh Is­raeli reprisal.

The rocket bar­rage trig­gered air raid sirens across the city, which is Is­rael’s densely pop­u­lated com­mer­cial and cul­tural cap­i­tal.

No dam­age or in­juries were re­ported. But it marked the first time that Tel Aviv, some 50 miles north of Gaza, has been tar­geted by rocket fire since a 2014 war with Gaza mil­i­tants.

Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Netanyahu rushed to the mil­i­tary head­quar­ters in Tel Aviv and was con­fer­ring with se­nior army of­fi­cials about a re­sponse.

In Gaza, there was no im­me­di­ate claim of re­spon­si­bil­ity.

Brig. Gen. Ro­nen Manelis, the Is­raeli army’s chief spokesman, said of­fi­cials had no prior warn­ing of the at­tack and were try­ing to de­ter­mine who fired the rock­ets. Is­rael holds Gaza’s Ha­mas rulers re­spon­si­ble for all fire out of the ter­ri­tory.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Hul­dai said he had or­dered the city to open pub­lic air raid shel­ters as a pro­tec­tive mea­sure. But he said there were no spe­cial in­struc­tions and en­cour­aged res­i­dents to stick to their daily rou­tines.

“Con­tinue life as usual,” he told Chan­nel 10 TV. “Be calm, but be alert.”

Gaza is con­trolled by Ha­mas, an Is­lamic militant group that seeks Is­rael’s de­struc­tion. Is­rael and Ha­mas have fought three wars since Ha­mas sized con­trol of Gaza in 2007. Ha­mas pos­sesses a big arsenal of rock­ets and mis­siles, but it has sought to con­tain vi­o­lence with Is­rael since the last war in 2014.

Ha­mas de­nied re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tack on Tel Aviv, say­ing the rock­ets were launched when the group’s mil­i­tary wing was meet­ing with Egyp­tian me­di­a­tors to try to strengthen a cease-fire be­tween Gaza mil­i­tants and Is­rael.

In an un­usual step that in­di­cated Ha­mas was at­tempt­ing to pre­vent fur­ther es­ca­la­tion, the Ha­mas In­te­rior Min­istry said the rocket fire went “against the na­tional con­sen­sus” and promised to take ac­tion against the per­pe­tra­tors.

Ear­lier this week, Is­rael struck Ha­mas tar­gets in Gaza in re­sponse to rocket fire on south­ern Is­rael, near the bor­der. Late Thurs­day, lo­cal me­dia said that Egyp­tian me­di­a­tors left the ter­ri­tory.

In ad­di­tion to Ha­mas, Gaza is home to other militant groups. 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. The Is­lamic Ji­had also de­nied in­volve­ment in Thurs­day’s at­tack.

Ear­lier this week, Netanyahu is­sued a warn­ing to Ha­mas, re­ject­ing sug­ges­tions that Is­rael would be re­luc­tant to take tough ac­tion in Gaza ahead of na­tional elec­tions next month.

“I sug­gest to Ha­mas, don’t count on it,” he told his Cabi­net.

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