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Israel Warplanes Hit Hamas Sites In Gaza After Rocket Fire

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By Hazem Balousha

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Israeli warplanes bombed several Hamas sites in three areas in the Gaza Strip on Saturday morning, but no injuries were reported.

After the strikes, balls of flame shot into the air, leaving dark smoke drifting over the territory.

The Israeli bombing was in response to a Palestinian rocket fired from the Gaza Strip at dawn toward the city of Ashkelon — for the first time since the May war last year.

No Palestinian group took responsibility for the rocket attack.

Some Israeli reports, quoting Israeli officials, said that Islamic Jihad fired the rocket in response to the killings of three Palestinians in Jenin.

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On Friday morning, Israeli forces shot dead three Palestinians in the northern West Bank city of Jenin. One of the victims belonged to Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas.

Local analysts believe that the missile fired from Gaza was in response to the killings in Jenin, while some believe that the missile was to engage Israel with the Gaza Strip.

Israel bombed a military site belonging to the military wing of Hamas, some watchtowers in eastern Gaza City, as well as in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, causing damage.

In a statement after the bombing, the Israeli army said: “In response to the rocket fired by Hamas toward Israeli civilians overnight, IDF aircraft struck a weapons manufacturing site and three other Hamas military posts in Gaza.”

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said the air raids, in the southeast of Gaza City, “are an extension of the aggression against Palestinian territory in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank,” after the killing of three Palestinians on Friday.

Twelve Palestinians were also wounded in that same incident during an Israeli army raid in Jenin, a stronghold of armed Palestinian factions in the West Bank.

The men were killed when Israeli forces opened fire on their vehicle, the Palestinian news agency Wafa said.

Also on Friday, an Israeli observation balloon crashed and fell in the northern Gaza Strip.

The Israeli military said that it investigated the incident, but said that the balloon was not downed by Palestinian militants.

Hamas seized the cameras installed on the balloon. Israel confirmed that there was no fear of information leaking, but it lowered all other balloons deployed along the Gaza border.

The Gaza Strip has witnessed a limited escalation in different periods since the last war.

Mukhaimar Abu Saada, a professor of political science at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, said that the shell fired from Gaza was within the framework of messages exchanged between Israel and Hamas.

“Apparently, Hamas wanted to tell Israel that continuing to target Palestinians in the West Bank might lead to an escalation in the Gaza Strip as well,” Abu Saada said to Arab News.

“I do not think that we are facing a major escalation in this period. There will be messages, some of which will be by fire, and some through mediators, although all possibilities exist based on developments on the ground,” he said.

In April, Israeli warplanes also hit Gaza after Palestinian armed groups fired rockets from the territory.

That exchange came after nearly a month of deadly violence focused on Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam.

The impoverished Hamas-controlled Gaza coastal enclave of 2.3 million people has been under an Israeli blockade since 2007.

Last year, Israel and Hamas fought an 11-day war triggered in part by unrest over the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War. It later annexed East Jerusalem in a move never recognized by most of the international community.

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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