Israeli warplanes strike Gaza after rockets fired towards Tel Aviv

The sky above the Gaza Strip glows orange during an Israeli air strike in Gaza city late on March 14, 2019.
The sky above the Gaza Strip glows orange during an Israeli air strike in Gaza city late on March 14, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

GAZA • Israeli warplanes bombed Hamas targets in the Palestinian enclave of Gaza early yesterday after Israel's military said militants had fired two rockets towards the city of Tel Aviv.

The air strikes, the heaviest in five months, hit about 100 military targets belonging to Hamas, the Islamist group which controls Gaza, the military said.

These included a rocket manufacturing site, a naval post and weapons facility, and a Hamas headquarters, it said.

Palestinian news media reported strikes throughout the densely populated coastal strip that is home to two million Palestinians.

Four people were wounded, health ministry officials said.

The Israeli military accused Hamas of firing rockets from Gaza towards Tel Aviv - the first time the seaside city had been targeted since the 2014 Gaza War. But Hamas denied responsibility and Israeli media later carried reports that the rockets might have been fired from Gaza by mistake.

A security official briefed on the situation, who declined to be identified by name or nationality, told Reuters the launch was "the result of an error - that an attack on Israel was not intended. Israel holds Hamas responsible, hence the response".

 
 

The exchange was the most serious since a botched Israeli commando incursion into Gaza last November. In the aftermath of that episode, dozens of Israeli air strikes killed seven Palestinians, at least five of them gunmen, and destroyed several buildings.

Yesterday's incident immediately played into the campaign for an election in Israel on April 9 in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking a fifth term on the strength of his security credentials.

His right-wing rival, Mr Naftali Bennett, demanded that Israel resume its killing of Hamas chiefs.

"The time has come to defeat Hamas once and for all," he said on Thursday night.

Mr Netanyahu also faced pressure from his centre-left opponent, former general Benny Gantz, who said: "Only aggressive, harsh action will restore the deterrence that has eroded" under the prime minister's watch.

Tensions have been high for the past year along the Israel-Gaza frontier, but yesterday morning, Palestinian officials cancelled the weekly border protests.

Frustration is growing in Gaza over the dim prospects for an independent Palestinian state.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been stalled for several years and Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank have expanded.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2019, with the headline 'Israeli warplanes strike Gaza after rockets fired towards Tel Aviv'. Print Edition | Subscribe