Israel strikes Gaza after sirens force Netanyahu to leave rally

An explosion from an Israeli air strike near Deir el-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, in response to rockets fired towards Israel.
An explosion from an Israeli air strike near Deir el-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, in response to rockets fired towards Israel.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

GAZA • Israeli aircraft struck in Gaza yesterday hours after rockets from the Palestinian enclave triggered sirens that forced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu off the stage at an election rally in Israel.

The Israeli military said 15 targets were hit, including a weapons manufacturing facility, a naval compound used by militants and tunnels belonging to Hamas, the dominant armed force in Gaza.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Hours earlier, bodyguards rushed Mr Netanyahu to shelter in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod when the sirens sounded during a Tuesday evening rally, a week ahead of a general election.

Mr Netanyahu was unhurt and several minutes later he continued his speech, which was broadcast live on social media by his right-wing Likud party.

However, the spectacle of the Prime Minister being forced off the podium added fuel to accusations by political opponents that he has not done enough to halt the frequent cross-border rocket strikes against southern Israel.

The Israeli military said two rockets had been fired from the Gaza Strip towards Ashdod and another port city, Ashkelon, just to the south, and were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system.

It said yesterday's strikes in Gaza came in response to the rocket launchings.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Tuesday's rocket attack, which happened shortly after Mr Netanyahu announced a plan to annex part of the occupied West Bank if re-elected in the national ballot on Sept 17.

Israel seized Gaza in a 1967 war and pulled out its settlers and troops in 2005. It maintains a naval blockade of the enclave and along with Egypt imposes tight restrictions at land borders, citing security concerns.

Hamas and Israel have fought three wars in the past decade.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2019, with the headline 'Israel strikes Gaza after sirens force Netanyahu to leave rally'. Print Edition | Subscribe