Gaza militants pelt Israel with rockets in biggest attack in years

No casualties reported on either side as militants and IDF trade a day’s worth of fire in spiralling border tensions 

Tuesday 29 May 2018 18:37 BST
Gaza militants pelt Israel with rockets in biggest attack in years

Israel and Hamas traded rocket fire for hours after militants in the Gaza Strip launched their biggest attack on Israel in years, firing at least 25 mortars at communities across the south of the country.

Israel's air force responded with at least seven bombings of facilities belonging to both Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad, which also operates from Gaza.

No casualties have been reported by either side, but Tuesday's violence marks the single biggest attack from the Palestinians side since the 2014 Israel-Gaza war, and comes after months of rising tensions in the border area.

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Most of the Gaza missiles were intercepted by Israel’s rocket defence systems. One shell landed near a nursery school shortly before it was due to open for the day, local media reported.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised in a statement on Twitter that Israel would respond with "great force" to the initial attack.

Neither Hamas nor Islamic Jihad has made a claim of responsibility for the initial fire, although Islamic Jihad had vowed to take revenge after three of its members were killed by Israeli tank shelling last week.

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Hamas said that Israeli fire had hit its military facilities in the central Gaza Strip.

At least one more salvo of rockets hit Israel in the afternoon.

There have been several protests in the last two months at the security fence that forms a decade-long blockade on the two million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Israel says the blockade – put in place after Hamas seized control of the area in 2007 – is a necessary security measure.

Earlier this month the area saw the worst violence since the last round of fighting between Hamas and Israel in 2014. Israeli forces shot and killed 60 people protesting at the border over living conditions and the US embassy’s move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

At least 116 people have been killed in protests since March, which Hamas has vowed will continue. Israel has repeatedly said the group is using the protests as a cover to plan attacks on IDF soldiers.

At least three Islamic Jihad militants and one Hamas member have been killed in small confrontations in the border zone since Sunday.

Also on Tuesday, Hamas said a boat carrying people in need of medical attention and students wishing to study abroad was to attempt to break the naval blockade of the area.

Previous attempts from charities and activists to enter and exit the area by sea have resulted in further violence.

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