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Israeli pilot killed in fighter jet crash after reportedly carrying out Gaza airstrikes

Oct. 5, 2016 10:39 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 8, 2016 1:27 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- An Israeli army air force pilot died and another was injured on Wednesday as their fighter jet crashed while returning from carrying out airstrikes in the besieged Gaza Strip, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that an F-16 jet crashed while landing at the Ramon air base in the Negev desert.

She said both members of the crew ejected themselves from the aircraft, with one of the Israeli pilots dying in the crash, while the other was lightly wounded.

The spokesperson added that a commission had been opened to determine the cause of the crash.

Meanwhile, Haaretz reported that the pilots were returning from a mission to conduct airstrikes in the Gaza Strip after a rocket fired from the blockaded Palestinian territory landed in the southern Israeli town of Sderot.

Israeli airstrikes and artillery shells hit multiple targets in the Gaza Strip, notably near Khan Yunis, Beit Lahiya, and Gaza City.

No injuries were reported on either side.

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.”

The Salafi 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.

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.

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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