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For first time since summer, Israeli planes bombard Gaza

Dec. 20, 2014 12:26 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 22, 2014 5:53 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Palestinians in the city of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip woke Saturday morning to the sounds of explosions for the first time since the Israeli offensive in July-August that lasted 51 days and left nearly 2,000 dead.

A Ma'an reporter said that Israeli F-16 warplanes fired at least two rockets targeting a site belonging to Hamas in eastern Khan Younis.

The Israeli army confirmed the air strike, adding that it had "targeted a Hamas terror infrastructure site."

A spokesman for Gaza's health ministry said there were no casualties in the attack.

The strikes came after a rocket shell was fired from the Gaza Strip at southern Israel on Friday, causing no injuries or reported damage.

None of the Palestinian resistance factions including Hamas, however, claimed responsibility for firing the rocket.

Military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner said the "Hamas terrorist organization is responsible and accountable" for the rocket fire, which he said the army viewed "with severity."

Hamas has almost entirely prevented any other factions from firing rockets since the ceasefire, despite repeated Israeli attacks on Palestinian civilians at sea and near the border.

On Friday alone, Israeli forces shot and injured six Palestinians as they participated in a protest march near the border.

Political analyst Hani Basous told Ma'an that the Israeli airstrikes are a mere reaction to the rocket and an attempt to send a warning message to all Palestinians.

"Israel wanted to deliver a message to the Palestinian factions and Hamas that any actions on the border will be confronted with a harsh response."

Basous added that Israel cannot go through another "wave of struggle" at the current moment due to the upcoming domestic elections.

He added that despite the fact that the shell fired from Gaza was "unidentified," Israel still holds Hamas responsible for it.

Another political analyst, Akram Atallah, told Ma'an that the Israeli escalation against the Gaza Strip was meant to send a message to a domestic audience during the elections campaigns.

Atallah said that the airstrikes are meant to show that nothing stops the Netanyahu government from hitting Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Israel and Palestinian factions signed a ceasefire agreement on Aug. 26 after a deadly Israeli offensive on Gaza that left more than 2,100 -- overwhelmingly civilians -- dead.

The ceasefire deal stipulated an end to hostilities, and Israel agreed to ease its devastating blockade on the Strip and expand the fishing zone off Gaza's coast.

However, Palestinians accuse Israeli forces of regular ceasefire violations, with near-daily reports that navy soldiers have fired at fishermen off the coast of the enclave, and occasional reports of Israeli troops shooting and injuring Palestinians near the border.

Continued Cairo ceasefire talks to iron out further details of the truce were postponed to November following a deadly attack on Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula.

Gaza has been under a severe economic blockade since 2007, set into place by Israel after Hamas won democratic elections and later took power in the Strip.

Lifting the blockade has been the main grievance of Gaza militant groups in the bloody conflicts with Israel in 2008-2009, 2012, and 2014.

AFP contributed to thsi report.
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