Children's hospital damaged during Hamas-Israel clashes and air strikes

Israel says ‘secondary explosions’ at a nearby weapons storage site caused the damage

Hamas on Saturday denounced overnight strikes it said damaged a children’s hospital in Gaza, while Israel’s army said it was responding to rocket fire from the enclave.

The Israeli army said it struck three Hamas targets, including a rocket manufacturing site, underground infrastructure and a military post, after two rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip.

But Gaza’s ruling organisation, Hamas, said a “barbaric” Israeli strike had damaged a children’s hospital and a centre for people with special needs.

Medical sources in Gaza said the strikes “lightly wounded” two civilians, including a child.

The Israeli army, however, insisted on Saturday afternoon it had not hit the hospital.

“Secondary explosions, which were identified from the strike on the Hamas rocket manufacturing site, are suspected of causing the damage to the nearby located hospital,” the army said in a statement.

Hamas “deliberately places military targets at the heart of densely populated areas”, while the Israeli army “takes all possible precautions to avoid harming civilians and civilian buildings”, the statement said.

Sirens had sounded on Friday night in the southern port city of Ashqelon and the area surrounding the Gaza Strip, according to an earlier army statement.

“Two rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip towards Israeli territory,” the statement said.

They were intercepted by the Iron Dome aerial defence system, it said.

There were no reports of damage as a result of the interceptions.

Israeli emergency medical services said several people were treated for shock.

The latest fire from the Palestinian enclave came about a month after one rocket was launched from the coastal strip into Israel.

Militant group Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organisation by Israel, the US, Canada, the EU and Japan, seized control of Gaza from rival Palestinian movement Fatah in 2007 in a near civil war.

Since then, Hamas has fought three devastating wars with Israel in the territory, where about two million Palestinians live.

Israel has since maintained a blockade on the Gaza Strip to prevent Hamas from rearming.