July 18, 2024

Rocket barrages from Gaza hit Israel, killing at least one

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Barrages of rockets were fired at Israel from the blockaded Gaza Strip at dawn on Saturday as militants from the Palestinian enclave infiltrated Israel, with at least one person killed, the army and medics said.

Rockets streamed across the sky repeatedly after the first launches from multiple locations across the Palestinian territory from 06:30 am (0330 GMT), AFP journalists in Gaza City reported.

The outbreak of conflict follows months of surging violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with fatalities in the occupied West Bank hitting a scale not seen in years.

Air raid sirens wailed across Israel’s south and central areas, with the Israeli army urging the public to stay near bomb shelters.

AFP journalists in Jerusalem heard multiple rockets being intercepted, with sirens blaring across the city on more occasions than in any Gaza conflict in the past three years.

The armed wing of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas said it was behind the aerial assault, claiming its militants had launched more than 5,000 rockets.

“We decided to put an end to all the crimes of the occupation (Israel), their time for rampaging without being held accountable is over,” the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades said.

“We announce Operation Al-Aqsa Flood and we fired, in the first strike of 20 minutes, more than 5,000 rockets.”

Israel’s military said Hamas launched “massive shooting of rockets”, while at the same time “terrorists infiltrated into Israeli territory in a number of different locations.”

Hamas “will face the consequences and responsibility for these events”, an army statement said.

A woman in her 60s was killed “due to a direct hit” in Israel, the Magen David Adom emergency services said.

Fifteen others were wounded, two of them seriously, medics said.

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would shortly convene security chiefs over the violence.

  • Hamas urges others to join battle –

In a statement posted on Telegram, Hamas called on “the resistance fighters in the West Bank” as well as “our Arab and Islamic nations” to join the battle.

Israel has imposed a crippling blockade on Gaza since 2007 after Hamas took power.

Palestinian militants and Israel have fought several devastating wars since.

The latest fire follows a period of heightened tensions in September, when Israel closed the border to Gazan workers for two weeks.

The shutdown of the crossing came as Palestinian protest rocked the heavily militarized border.

Demonstrators had resorted to burning tyres and throwing rocks and petrol bombs at Israeli troops, who have responded with tear gas and live bullets.

Critics had slammed the border closure as collective punishment against thousands of Palestinian workers, who have far greater earning potential in Israel than Gaza, where unemployment is rife.

Resuming their passage on September 28 had raised hopes of calming the situation in Gaza, home to 2.3 million people.

In May, an exchange of Israeli air strikes and Gaza rocket fire resulted in the deaths of 34 Palestinians and one Israeli.

So far this year at least 247 Palestinians, 32 Israelis and two foreigners have been killed in the conflict, including combatants and civilians on both sides, according to Israeli and Palestinian officials.

The vast majority of fatalities have occurred in the West Bank, which has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict.

There has been a rise in army raids, Palestinian attacks targeting Israelis and Israeli settler violence against Palestinians and their property.

Several far-right Israeli ministers live in settlements in the West Bank, which are deemed illegal under international law.

by Adel ZAANOUN

©️ Agence France-Presse

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