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Israeli air force, army hit targets in Gaza after rocket falls in Sderot

Oct. 5, 2016 10:59 A.M. (Updated: Oct. 5, 2016 10:39 P.M.)
(Photo: Israeli media)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli airstrikes and artillery shells hit multiple targets in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, after a rocket fired from the blockaded Gaza Strip landed on a road inside the Israeli city of Sderot on Wednesday morning.

No injuries have been reported on either side.

Local sources told Ma'an after 3 p.m. that an Israeli airstrike targeted the al-Qadisiya training ground in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza, which reportedly belonged to Hamas' military wing the al-Qassam Brigades.

Israeli warplanes also targeted the al-Wahah building, a headquarters for Gaza’s naval police, in northwestern Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip.

Another airstrike hit an agricultural field near a gas station in the northern Gaza Strip, the sources added.

Local reports also said that Israeli artillery shells landed in an open area near Jabal al-Rayis east of Gaza City on Wednesday afternoon.

Spokesman for Gaza's Ministry of Health Ashraf al-Qidra confirmed there were no injuries in the Israeli attacks.

Meanwhile, Palestinian news sites reported that the Israeli air force also targeted the al-Tuffah neighborhood of Gaza City, the al-Sourani Mountain area northeast of Gaza City, and al-Shujayya east of Gaza City.

The Israeli army issued a statement on Wednesday evening claiming that it had targeted “a number of Hamas posts” in the Gaza Strip “in response to the rocket attack that hit the city of Sderot.”

Israeli army spokesman Peter Lerner said that the rocket was the second to be fired from the Gaza Strip towards Sderot since August.

Hours earlier, witnesses told Ma'an that at least one Israeli artillery shell landed in a military training ground for Palestinian fighters in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun before noon time, without identifying the group or organization for which the training ground was used. However, Israeli media sites claimed the site was used by the Hamas movement.

Local sources in the besieged coastal enclave said Israeli reconnaissance planes were hovering over Beit Hanoun following the first round of Israeli shelling.

An hour prior, at around 10:30 a.m., rocket sirens were sounded in Sderot and nearby communities bordering the Gaza Strip, with Israeli forces later searching the area and discovering the exploded rocket. An Israeli army spokesperson said that the road was damaged.

Israeli forces have closed off the area, and a number of Israelis in Sderot were reportedly "treated for shock," following the incident.

The Salafist group Ahfad al-Sahaba reportedly claimed responsibility for the rocket fire.

The Israeli army has previously said they held the Hamas movement -- the de facto rulers of the Gaza Strip -- responsible for all attacks from the territory, although other Palestinian militant groups are active in the small coastal enclave.

Later in the day, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri condemned the Israeli attacks on the besieged enclave, saying that Hamas could not "stand by idly" if Israel continued its escalation and called upon the international community to stop Israel's aggression in Gaza.

Meanwhile, the spokesperson for Islamic Jihad, Dawood Shihab, said that the group held Israel fully responsible for the attacks on the Gaza Strip. Shihab told Ma'an that Israel's escalation of attacks on the small Palestinian territory was an attempt to refocus attention away from the "crimes [Israel] is planning" against the all-women Freedom Flotilla which was intercepted by the Israeli navy on Wednesday evening while approaching the shores of Gaza to disrupt the devastating Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip.

Shihab added that the Israeli military escalation was a political move and the group would not "fall for the enemy's plan." However, Shihab said that the group would respond if Israeli forces continued attacks in Gaza.

It is the latest such incident to occur since Israeli forces carried out several airstrikes on the besieged Gaza Strip in mid-September, after a rocket was launched from Gaza and exploded in an open area in southern Israel. No injuries were reported.

September's airstrikes came as the second wave of Israeli shelling to strike the besieged Gaza Strip in the span of a month, while a few weeks earlier the Israeli army fired missiles into the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun that left at least five Palestinians injured in late August, after a rocket fired from Gaza fell inside Sderot, with no injuries or damage reported by the Israeli army.

On July 1, Israeli forces launched airstrikes at several sites allegedly used by Palestinian factions in the besieged coastal enclave in response to a rocket fired from Gaza which landed in Sderot.

In May, a Palestinian woman was killed during several consecutive days of sustained airstrikes and tank shelling from Israeli forces, allegedly in response to cross-border mortar shelling and a rocket being fired from the Gaza Strip.

The majority of the more than 1.8 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are sealed inside the coastal enclave due to a near-decade long military blockade imposed by Israel and upheld by Egypt on the southern border.

The crippling blockade was imposed following the victory of Hamas in the 2006 Palestinian elections and the subsequent 2007 clashes between Fatah and Hamas, which left Hamas in control of the Gaza Strip and Fatah in control of the occupied West Bank.
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