23 March 2019 / 16 Rajab 1440

Israel strikes Gaza in reprisal for 2 rocket launches

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Israeli aircraft bombed Gaza after two rockets allegedly fired from there targeted Tel Aviv. No casualties were reported in the rocket attack.

Explosions were reported in Khan Younis, on the south side of Gaza, early Friday local time. Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it was striking “terrorist targets.”

The attack comes after two missiles were registered incoming from Gaza on Thursday evening, with air-raid sirens going off in Tel Aviv. Initial reports said the Israeli Iron Dome defense system shot down one of the missiles, while the other hit an open area, but the IDF later denied them, RT’s Paula Slier reported.

The Israeli government has called for diplomats from Qatar and Egypt to leave Gaza “as soon as possible,” Slier reported, adding that Gaza was bracing for retaliatory airstrikes. Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs Gaza, has reportedly evacuated many of its buildings and declared an emergency.

Israeli media reported that Islamic Jihad, not Hamas, claimed responsibility for the rocket attack. Islamic Jihad quickly denied responsibility, Slier says. So did Hamas, apparently, with a group official telling Israeli media that Hamas is “not interested in an escalation” and does not know who fired the two rockets.

While no group claimed responsibility for the attack, Israeli Education Minister and member of the security cabinet Naftali Bennett told RT he believes Hamas bears responsibility for the incident.

“Hamas has been shooting rockets at the southern part of Israel for roughly a year now and now they shot two rockets at the Tel Aviv area. It’s time to defeat Hamas, it’s time to demilitarize the Gaza Strip,” he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu conducted an emergency meeting with his security leaders at IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv in the wake of the attack. The army heads reportedly agreed on a “strong, but measured”response. Meanwhile, in an extremely rare move, Hamas reportedly offered its assistance to Israel in finding the perpetrators of the attack.

Thursday’s incident is the first time since the 2014 war that rockets from Gaza have come anywhere near Tel Aviv.

(Source: Russia Today)

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