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Israel’s Netanyahu vows ‘massive strikes’ on Gaza

Israel’s Netanyahu vows ‘massive strikes’ on Gaza
Benjamin Netanyahu (File)
GAZA/JERUSALEM, May 5 (Agencies) | Publish Date: 5/5/2019 12:04:33 PM IST

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday he ordered the military to continue “massive strikes” against militants in Gaza as a surge in cross-border hostilities ran into a third day. A rocket fired from Gaza killed an Israeli civilian on Sunday while four Palestinians, at least two of them gunmen, were killed in Israeli strikes in the most serious border clashes since a spate of fighting in November.

Israel’s military said more than 450 rockets, many of them intercepted by its Iron Dome anti-missile system, have been fired at southern Israeli cities and villages since Friday, and it attacked some 220 targets belonging to Gaza militant groups. 

The latest round of violence began two days ago when an Islamic Jihad sniper fired at Israeli troops, wounding two soldiers, according to the Israeli military. Islamic Jihad accused Israel of delaying implementation of previous understandings brokered by Egypt aimed at ending violence and easing blockaded Gaza’s economic hardship. And this time, Israeli strategic affairs analysts said, both Islamic Jihad and Hamas, the militant group that runs Gaza, appeared to believe they have some leverage to press for concessions from Israel, where independence day celebrations begin on Wednesday. On Sunday sirens sounded in the city of Rehovot, some 17 km (10.5 miles) southeast of Tel Aviv. The city is preparing to host the Eurovision Song Contest in two weeks.

In a statement, Netanyahu said, “This morning I instructed the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) to continue with massive strikes against terrorists in the Gaza Strip and I also instructed that forces around the Gaza Strip be stepped up with tank, artillery and infantry forces.” For residents in Gaza, the escalation comes ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins in the territory on Monday. It is traditionally a time for prayer, family feasts to break a daylight fast and shopping.

Israeli police said one of the rockets launched on Sunday hit a house in the city of Ashkelon, killing a 58-year-old man. He was the first Israeli civilian casualty in such an attack from Gaza since a 2014 war with militants in the enclave.

Since Friday, 12 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, the local health ministry said. They included a 14-month-old baby, and a woman, initially identified as her pregnant mother, but later named by family as the infant’s aunt, who the ministry said were killed in an Israeli air strike.

Israel’s military denied involvement, saying its intelligence information showed they were killed by a misfired Palestinian rocket.

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