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Israel says rockets test-fired from Gaza

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Israel’s military say fighters in the Gaza Strip have test-fired rockets into the Mediterranean Sea, just hours after the government approved the construction of 78 new homes in two settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Four rockets were fired in the past 24 hours, the military said, without elaborating on the test or type of rockets fired.

There was no immediate confirmation from Palestinian officials in Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas.

Israel and Hamas rulers fought a 50-day war over the summer that claimed more than 2,100 Palestinian and 70 Israeli lives.

Rocket fire continued throughout the war, but was largely intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome aerial defence system.

Rockets from Gaza now have the ability to reach Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other Israeli cities.

Violence between Palestinians and Israelis has flared in recent weeks over access to Jerusalem’s sacred and politically sensitive site, holy to both Jews and Muslims and home to the al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third-holiest site after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

In the deadliest violence in Jerusalem since 2008, two Palestinians on Tuesday killed four rabbis and a policeman at a West Jerusalem synagogue, deepening tensions between the two sides and prompting Israel to demolish the home of a Palestinian it says was responsible for an attack in October that killed an Israeli woman and a baby.

New settlement units

Clashes have continued since the synagogue attack, with Israeli security forces on Wednesday firing tear gas at Palestinian protesters in East Jerusalem who threw stones at lorries and cars waiting to cross a roadblock.

Despite the tensions, Jerusalem’s municipal planning committee has authorised 50 new housing units in Har Homa and 28 in Ramot. Israel describes those two urban settlements as Jerusalem neighbourhoods.

The Palestinians have also been angered by a recent slew of plans Israel has advanced for about 4,000 housing units on West Bank land annexed to the city.

Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said of the latest announcement: “These decisions are a continuation of the Israeli government’s policy to cause more tension, push towards further escalation and waste any chance to create an atmosphere for calm.”

Israel’s settlement activities have drawn criticism from the European Union and the United States, which like most countries view the settlements as illegal.

Ben White, a British journalist and author of two books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, told Al Jazeera that the decision to build new houses despite European critisim stems from Israel’s prime minister’s political ambitions.

“Benjamin Netanyahu’s angle is staying in power. With that in mind, he will be making comments and taking decisions that appeal to his electoral base,” White said. Al Jazeera

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