Published: Sun, March 17, 2019

Israel strikes militant sites in Gaza after rockets fired at Tel Aviv

Israel strikes militant sites in Gaza after rockets fired at Tel Aviv

Fighter jets and helicopters struck around 100 Hamas targets inside the Gaza Strip, the army said, including sites affiliated with the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades (Hamas's armed wing) and Saraya al-Quds (Islamic Jihad's armed wing).

Netanyahu previous year was criticized by members of his own government coalition for being soft on Hamas by agreeing to a cease-fire with that group after a spate of rocket attacks from Gaza toward communities in southern Israel.

This is a breaking news story and is constantly being updated.

The initial blasts from the Israeli airstrikes in southern Gaza were so powerful that smoke could be seen in Gaza City, 25 kilometers (15 miles) to the north.

And a spokesman for Islamic Jihad, a smaller militant group in Gaza, also told CNN it denied suggestions that it had carried out the rocket launches.

The sudden outburst of fighting comes at a sensitive time for both sides.

No damage or injuries were reported.

Hamas denied responsibility for the attacks, saying the two rockets were launched during maintenance work, but it is one of the only groups in Gaza capable of striking Tel Aviv with rocket fire.

Israeli media on Friday quoted defence officials as saying a preliminary investigation indicated the rockets were fired by mistake.

According to the IDF statement, Hamas' headquarters located in central Gaza Strip which was responsible for guiding "terror activities" in the West Bank was struck.

The incident immediately played into the campaign for an election in Israel on April 9 in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking a fifth term on the strength of his security credentials.

Militants in Gaza have fired two rockets towards Tel Aviv, the first such attack since the war between Israel and Hamas in 2014. Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since Hamas sized control of Gaza in 2007.

"We call on our people to commemorate Earth Day and to provide the biggest support for the Return March demonstrations", said the National Commission for the Great March of Return in a statement on Friday, referring to the environmental event also held on 30 March. Israeli media suggested that the terror group might have resorted to the rocket attack on Israel in order to divert attention away from the rising civilian turmoil. Hamas possesses a big arsenal of rockets and missiles, but it has sought to contain violence with Israel since the last war in 2014. This reporter, based on the northern Tel Aviv coastline, heard one large blast following the rocket siren.

He said that while "rogue factions" were behind recent Gaza "provocations", it "did not exempt Hamas" of responsibility.

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