250 rockets fired from Gaza at Israel
Tel Aviv, May 5 (IANS/PTI): Approximately 250 rockets were fired by Gaza militants towards Israel, which has responded with airstrikes on over 100 targets across the coastal enclave, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said on Sunday.
The escalation began Saturday morning with about 50 rockets fired towards Israel within the course of an hour and continued late into the evening, reports CNN.
The IDF said that its Iron Dome aerial defence system had intercepted dozens of the incoming rockets.
In response to the rockets, the IDF said it has carried out airstrikes on about 130 militant targets in Gaza, including a tunnel, rocket launcher sites and other military compounds used by Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Four Palestinians were killed in the airstrikes, including a 14-month-old baby and its pregnant mother, Gaza health officials said, adding that 18 others were also injured.
Two Israelis were also wounded in the rocket attacks, according to Israel’s emergency response service.
Israel on Sunday announced that it was closing the two border crossings between the country and Gaza, as well as closing the Gaza fishing zone.
There was no specific date for when the crossings and the fishing zone would reopen.
Meanwhile, Turkey has condemned a strike on a building housing the office of its state-run Anadolu news agency, a building which Israel says is also used by Hamas’s military intelligence.
A spokesman for Turkey’s President said: “We urge all governments that claim to defend press freedom, including @USEmbassyTurkey to join us in condemning the Israeli government.”
The flare-up over the weekend followed a truce agreed last month.
Netanyahu vows more ‘massive strikes’ in response to Gaza rockets
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday he had ordered the military to launch further strikes on Gaza Strip militants in response to rocket fire from the territory, as an escalation entered its second day.
“I instructed the (military) this morning to continue its massive strikes on terror elements in the Gaza Strip and ordered (it) to reinforce the troops around the Gaza Strip with tanks, artillery and infantry forces,” Netanyahu said at the start of a cabinet meeting.
Israel said around 450 rockets or mortars had been fired from the Palestinian enclave run by Hamas since Saturday, and it responded with waves of air and tank strikes.
Gazan authorities reported six Palestinians killed in the Israeli strikes, including at least two militants.
But Israel disputed their account of the deaths of a pregnant mother and her baby, blaming errant Hamas fire.
One 58-year-old Israeli man was killed overnight by a rocket strike on the city of Ashkelon near the Gaza border, Israeli police and the hospital said.
Netanyahu is currently engaged in tough negotiations to form a new government following his victory in April 9 elections.
A ceasefire brokered by UN and Egyptian officials between Israel and Hamas had led to calm surrounding the elections. But the past week saw a gradual uptick in violence as Hamas seeks further concessions from Israel.
Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008.