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Israeli army shells Gaza Strip following after rocket lands in open area in Israel

March 18, 2017 10:24 A.M. (Updated: March 21, 2017 5:44 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces fired three artillery shells near the town of Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday morning, local sources told Ma’an. No injuries were reported.

Palestinian security sources in Gaza said the Israeli artillery targeted the al-Ghoul area in western Beit Lahiya.

Additionally, the Israeli airforce launched an airstrike on a military post for the "Palestinian resistance" in northwestern Gaza City, locals told Ma'an. 

An Israeli army spokesperson said in a statement that "a projectile was fired from the Gaza Strip and hit an open area in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council," which caused no injuries or damages. "In response," the statement said, the Israeli army targeted two Hamas positions in the northern Gaza Strip with tank fire and airstrikes.

Palestinian sources in Gaza said that three rockets were fired from the besieged coastal enclave towards Israeli towns surrounding the Gaza Strip, two of which landed inside Gaza and one which landed in the Ashkelon coast.

Israeli forces have launched airstrikes in Gaza in a number of instances since the beginning of the year, injuring at least seven Palestinians, with the Israeli army saying the attacks came in retaliation to rockets fired into Israel that did cause any casualties.

In February, 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.

Israeli officials have 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.

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.

On Tuesday, senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya said that the Hamas movement was “not seeking new military confrontations with the Israeli occupation,” but that "if the Israeli occupation wages war against us, our lions will respond in the fields."

"We are not war fanatics, but we are a bereaved and oppressed people who resist occupation," al-Hayya said.

The al-Mezan Center for Human Rights expressed concern in February that Israel could be leading up to a wide-scale military offensive in the besieged Gaza Strip.

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.”
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