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Israeli army hits Gaza with multiple airstrikes, injuring 4 Palestinians

Feb. 27, 2017 10:03 A.M. (Updated: Feb. 28, 2017 12:30 P.M.)
Airstrikes target the central Gaza Strip on Monday afternoon
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Israeli army targeted multiple sites across the besieged Gaza Strip with airstrikes and artillery fire midday Monday leaving at least four Palestinians injured, hours after an Israeli army spokesperson said that a rocket fired from Gaza landed in an open area in southern Israel that caused no injuries or damages.

Witnesses said Israeli fighter jets launched two missiles at a Hamas military site known as the Shuhada ("martyrs" in Arabic) post just after 1 p.m. in the central Gaza Strip, near the coast and west of Nuseirat refugee camp. Other local Palestinian news sites said five missiles were fired in the area.

Shortly after, an Israeli reconnaissance plane fired a missile at a monitoring post east of Rafah city in the southern Gaza Strip, as Israeli fighter jets fired three missiles at the Hittin post in Beit Lahiya in the northern region of the small Palestinian territory.

A separate strike in the Nahda neighborhood of Rafah left three Palestinians moderately injured, according to local sources. Gaza's Ministry of Health later reported that a total of four people were injured in the strikes.

Before 2 p.m., two artillery shells fired by the Israeli army hit an agricultural area east of Gaza City, locals said.

The Hamas movement said in an official statement that they held Israel responsible for "this continuous dangerous escalation that targets the Palestinian resistance and the people of the Gaza Strip," adding that "the ongoing targeting of resistance sites and the escalating situation in Gaza would neither be allowed nor accepted."

Nearly two hours after the first airstrike was launched, the Israeli army confirmed in a statement that the air force hit five Hamas positions throughout the Gaza Strip, "In response to a rocket fired from Gaza that hit Israeli territory last night," adding that the army holds Hamas "accountable for all attacks from the Gaza Strip that threaten Israel and her citizens."

However, Hamas has not claimed responsibility for any rocket attacks since a ceasefire was declared after Israel’s devastating war in Gaza in 2014, and the movement has attempted to clamp down on armed activity by smaller political groups that do launch rockets from the territory.

The Islamic Jihad also responded to Monday's bombardment, with the official spokesman Daoud Shihab accusing the Israeli "occupation government" of stoking tensions in Gaza by "translating its threats against the Palestinian people into action."

He added that the Palestinian resistance movement has the right to respond to Israeli attacks if they continue. "The resistance will not accept this ongoing aggression, regardless of the cost and the challenges ahead."

The secular leftist PLO faction the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine also denounced the Israeli attacks across the Gaza Strip and called on all Palestinian factions to close the ranks and present a unified response to "the occupation and its crimes."

The National Resistance Brigades, a military wing affiliated to another leftist group, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said that one of the group's military posts was attacked in the northern Gaza Strip amid the airstrikes on Monday.

Their statement affirmed the group's commitment to resist the Israeli occupation "by all possible means," and urged other factions to create a "joint operation room" to discuss how to respond to the ongoing Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people.

The cross-border fire came after the Israeli army targeted the besieged coastal enclave with multiple airstrikes in two instances this month, which the army said came in response to rocket fire from Gaza that caused no injuries to Israelis.

On Feb. 9, Gaza's Ministry of Health said that two Palestinians were killed and five were injured as a result of an airstrike on a smuggling tunnel between Egypt and Gaza, though an Israeli army spokesperson denied involvement in the incident.

Meanwhile, last week, two rockets launched from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula hit an open area in southern Israel, according to the Israeli army.

The Gaza-based al-Mezan Center for Human Rights expressed concern earlier this month in response to Israeli airstrikes that Israel could be leading up to a wide-scale military offensive.

The rights group called on the international community to “act promptly against Israel’s military escalation, to fulfill their obligations to protect civilians, and ensure respect for the rules of international law,” stressing that “acting before a full-scale military bombardment is launched is crucial to ensuring the protection of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip.”

Israeli officials have also accused Hamas, Gaza's de facto leaders, of "preparing" for another war with Israel and have threatened retaliatory measures against the Gaza Strip as a whole, while Israeli authorities hold Hamas responsible for all attacks against Israeli targets coming from the Gaza Strip.
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