Middle East

Israel launches strikes on Gaza after rockets fired

A resident inspects a crater and the rubble of destroyed a water well following overnight Israeli missile strikes, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 03, 2020, on page 5.




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