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Israel says it hit sites in Gaza after two rockets were fired at Tel Aviv




Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on 10 March. (Gali Tibbon / Pool / Reuters)

The Israeli army said Thursday night that two missiles were launched from Gaza to Tel Aviv, prompting the sirens to play throughout the city and lobbying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – who has to face re-election in less than a month – to mount a strong response

residents said they heard explosions, but there were no reports of injuries or damage. The military said none of the two missiles was intercepted by the Iron Dome military defense system, although the alarm systems worked as requested.

A rocket probably fell into the sea, said Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai. He said he had commissioned the city to open all the bomb shelters, but life seemed to return to normal shortly after the accident.

Netanyahu convened an emergency meeting with top security officials.

In the early hours of Friday morning the Israeli army stated that it was targeting "terrorist sites" in the Gaza Strip.

While the launches launched from Gaza are not unusual, it was the first time in more than four years that they have targeted the great city of Tel Aviv. Israel and Hamas fought a 50-day conflict in summer 2014.

Thursday's escalation followed a day of unrest in Gaza, where Hamas, the militant group that controls the Palestinian enclave , had silenced demonstrations against living conditions. Some analysts have speculated that Hamas could have tried to provoke a distraction.

Others have pointed the finger at Islamic Jihad, the second largest militant organization in Gaza, saying that the group may have tried to interrupt Egypt's efforts to mediate a truce between Hamas and Israel. An Egyptian delegation had arrived in Gaza on Thursday evening.

The Islamic Jihad denied that it was behind the attack. Hamas also denied responsibility, pointing out that the attack occurred at the same time that the group's leaders met with Egyptian officials to discuss the ceasefire. No group has immediately claimed responsibility.

Netanyahu was criticized last year by members of his governing coalition for being soft on Hamas by accepting a ceasefire with that group after a series of missile attacks from Gaza to communities in southern Israel. His political opponents also criticized Netanyahu's decision to allow Qatar to deliver $ 15 million a month to Gaza to pay the salaries of Hamas public employees.

Yaakov Amidror, a retired general and former national security adviser, said he believed Netanyahu "quite experienced and sober" that electoral pressure would not be a determining factor in his response. "There is no real discussion in the Jewish community about the need to react," he said in a conference call with journalists.

Israel usually holds Hamas responsible for any violence from Gaza, regardless of which group perpetrated the attack.

President Trump's special envoy in the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, reacted on Twitter, saying, "Hamas violently represses its own people by demonstrating against the rule and failures of Hamas today and ORA launches rockets against cities in Israel. OUTRAGEOUS! "

Hazem Balousha in Gaza City contributed to this report.


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