Gaza-Israel bombardment enters 10th day

Mediators step up de-escalation efforts as tensions heighten

Kate Ng
Saturday 22 August 2020 09:30 BST
The Iron Dome anti-missile system fires interception missiles as rockets are launched from Gaza towards Israel, as seen from the city of Ashkelon, Israel
The Iron Dome anti-missile system fires interception missiles as rockets are launched from Gaza towards Israel, as seen from the city of Ashkelon, Israel

Militants in Gaza sent rocket fire at Israel, who retaliated by carrying out a round of airstrikes in the most serious escalation of cross-border violence in months.

Israel Defence Forces said fighter jets and other aircraft carried out strikes on “underground infrastructure belonging to the Hamas terror group” around 6am on Friday.

An Israeli military spokesperson said its Iron Dome system intercepted nine of 12 rockets fired from Gaza’s side. No injuries were reported on either side.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday said the military had struck Hamas targets for ten days straight and was preparing for the possibility of an extended round of violence.

“We have adopted a policy that fires are like rockets … Hamas will be making a very great mistake if it continues like this,” he said in a statement to mayors of Israeli towns near the Gaza border.

Hamas has been trying to pressure Israel to ease its blockade of Gaza and allow more investment, in part by permitting Palestinians to launch helium balloons carrying incendiary material that have torched tracts of Israeli farmland in recent weeks.

A Palestinian official told Reuters: “The Egyptians, the Qataris and (UN Middle East envoy) Nickolay Mladenov have stepped up their efforts in order to restore calm, but calm can only come if Israel agrees to demands presented by Hamas and other factions.”

Israel closed its lone commercial crossing with Gaza, as well as banned sea access and halted fuel imports into the coastal strip as tensions rose, causing its only power plant to shut down earlier this week.

Talks held in Gaza with Egyptian mediators were unfruitful, said Palestinian political sources.

Gaza’s Joint Command of armed factions, of which Hamas is a part, claimed responsibility for the rocket fire overnight, saying it would “respond to every attack by the enemy against its positions and against our people”.

Israeli police buildings and vehicles in the southern city of Sderot were damaged by the rockets, and some commercial buildings and homes in Gaza near the sites of Israel’s air strikes on Hamas facilities were damaged.

Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesperson for Hamas, accused Israel of tightening restrictions on movement and commerce in Gaza, which the former has blockaded since 2007 citing security concerns from militants.

He warned that Israel “undermines the life of (Gaza’s) people and bombs resistance positions, and therefore they have to bear responsibility and pay the price.”

Reporting by Reuters

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