Israel strikes Gaza after two rockets fired at Tel Aviv

Israel retaliates by attacking militant targets in the southern Gaza Strip

An explosion caused by Israeli airstrikes is seen on Gaza City. AP
An explosion caused by Israeli airstrikes is seen on Gaza City. AP

Israeli warplanes retaliated by attacking targets in the Gaza strip on Friday after two rockets were launched from the enclave towards Tel Aviv.

Reports of sirens going off in Tel Aviv started about 9pm local time on Thursday.

The Israeli Army said two rockets were fired towards Tel Aviv, and conflicting reports emerged on one being intercepted by the Iron Dome, while the other fell in the city of Ramat Gan. No casualties were reported.

It is the first time Tel Aviv has been attacked since the war with Gaza in 2014.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held security consultations and bomb shelters were opened in Israel’s second largest city for its residents.

The Israelis began attacking what they said were "terror" sites in central and southern Gaza, leaving plumes of smoke billowing over Gaza city.

It was not clear which militant group fired the rockets from Gaza. A source told Haaretz that they were launched in the northern strip.

Hamas's military wing issued a statement denying responsibility, and considered any escalation outside the national consensus.

Meanwhile Haaretz reported that an Egyptian delegation, which had arrived in Gaza on Tuesday in an attempt to ease tensions on the border, left following Israel's request.

Egypt is believed to be engaging with different parties to avoid further escalation.

Elizabeth Tsurkov, a research fellow at the Forum for Regional Thinking, told The National that this amounts to “a major escalation by Palestinian militants in Gaza”.

“In recent months, it appears that Hamas is feeling emboldened ahead of the Israeli elections, sensing that they can push for greater Israeli concessions in easing the blockade because Bibi Netanyahu wants to avoid an unwinnable war in Gaza ahead of the elections,” Ms Tsurkov said.

In that context, the rockets threat poses a dilemma for the Netanyahu government.

“If he does nothing it'll make him look weak,” Ms Tsurkov argued.

Mr Netanyahu’s rival, Benny Gantz, said on Wednesday that he would resume targeted killings in Gaza.

“If they attack us, we will pursue a tough policy and if necessary, we will return to targeted killings," he said.

Mr Gantz and Mr Netanyahu will be visiting Washington at the end of the month to take part in the annual convention for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is also scheduled to visit Israel in the next 10 days as part of a regional trip that will include Lebanon and Kuwait.

The recent hostilities come at a tense time as Israel is preparing to hold national elections on April 9.

Updated: March 15, 2019 06:03 AM


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