Israel and Gaza exchange rocket fire while the death toll rises after a month-long pause

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May 5, 2019 13:31:03

Six Palestinians, including a pregnant mother and her small child, were killed and four Israelis were seriously injured as violence spreads throughout the Gaza Strip.

Key points:

  • The fighting comes as Hamas militant groups and Islamic Jihad are in talks for a ceasefire
  • The Israeli army claims that Islamic Jihad instigated violence by shooting and injuring two Israeli soldiers on Friday
  • On Saturday, some 250 rockets were launched from across the Gaza Strip, causing dozens of air strikes from the Israeli army

Palestinian militants fired more than 250 missiles in Israel on Saturday, attracting dozens of retaliatory air strikes in a series of intense fighting that interrupted a month-long break in the fighting.

The conflict, the most intense between the parties in a few months, came when the leaders of Hamas, the militant group that governs Gaza, and the smaller armed faction of the Islamic Jihad, were in Cairo for talks with Egyptian mediators aimed at preventing a mixed cease fire by completely collapsing.

It also comes at a delicate time for Israel, which will mark its Memorial Day and Independence Day party this week, before hosting the Eurovision song contest in the middle of the month.

The fighting could obscure the Eurovision

The prolonged fighting could overshadow the Eurovision and potentially discourage international travelers from entering the festive event.

For the inhabitants of Gaza, the violence continued as they prepared to start fasting for the holy Muslim month of Ramadan on Monday.

Israel and Hamas, an Islamic group that opposes the existence of Israel, have fought three wars and become involved in dozens of small episodes of violence since Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007.

They engaged in several days of heavy fighting in March, before Egypt negotiated a truce in which Israel agreed to ease a crippling blockade on Gaza in exchange for a stop in the missile launch.

In recent days, Hamas has accused Israel of having denied its commitments while the militants have started launching missiles against Israel.

In a familiar scene, the sirens of the air raid howled through the south of Israel all day and into the evening, as bursts of rockets were fired repeatedly.

Aerial retaliatory attacks caused large thundering explosions through Gaza, while plumes of smoke rose in the air.

Outgoing Palestinian missiles have left long traces of smoke.

Israeli drone missile kills man

The Gaza health ministry said a 14-month-old girl, Seba Abu Arar, was killed in an Israeli airstrike that hit their home in eastern Gaza City.

His pregnant mother, 37, was seriously injured and died later in the hospital, the ministry added. Another child was injured.

"They were sitting in the courtyard of their home with their mother," said Abu Nidal Abu Arar, a relative who lives in the next room.

"They were shocked by the launch of a missile at them, a criminal occupation."

In the morning, the Gaza health ministry said a 22-year-old Palestinian man was killed by an Israeli air raid and another 40 Palestinians were injured.

At the end of Saturday, health officials reported that a 25-year-old man was killed by an Israeli drone missile while traveling on a motorcycle in northern Gaza.

At dawn, two militants of Islamic Jihad were killed by an air strike in the central strip of Gaza, according to residents.

In Israel, medical officials said an 80-year-old woman was badly injured by a rocket fire, a 50-year-old man was moderately injured by a grenade and a teenager was slightly injured while he was running for cover.

Israeli police said a house in the coastal town of Ashkelon was damaged.

On Sunday, even in Ashkelon, about 10 kilometers north of Gaza, several Israeli news agencies reported that a 60-year-old man was seriously injured by Gaza rockets.

Israel accuses the Islamic Jihad group

The Israeli armed forces accused the Islamic Jihad group supported by Iran of instigating the last round of violence by shooting and injuring two Israeli soldiers on Friday.

He said the shooting was not coordinated with Hamas, but said he held Hamas, as the dominant power of the territory, responsible for all the fire that came from Gaza.

US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said: "The United States strongly condemns the barrage of Hamas missile attacks and Palestinian Islamic Jihad from Gaza on innocent civilians and their communities across Israel.

"We are with Israel and fully support its right to self-defense against these aberrant attacks".

A fireball hits a building in an urban landscape, with sparks that light up the night sky.

Photo:
The Israeli army fired dozens of airstrikes on Gaza City targets. (AP: Khalil Hamra)

As night fell, the army said that the militants fired well over 200 missiles in Israel.

He said dozens of missiles were intercepted by his Iron Dome missile defense system.

But he closed the streets near the Gaza border with civilian traffic and closed a popular beach as a safety precaution.

The military said it had hit about 120 targets in Gaza, including the Hamas and Islamic Jihad military complexes, a Hamas rocket production site and a "high-end Islamic Jihad tunnel" that spread to Israel for be used in attacks.

At the end of Saturday, Israel hit a building that would host Hamas military intelligence offices in Gaza City.

Another air strike hit a six-story commercial and residential building.

The journalists said the building housed the office of the Turkish news agency Anadolu.

There were no immediate comments from the Israeli army.

Israel closes the Gaza crossings, the fishing zone

The COGAT, the Israeli defense body responsible for Palestinian civil affairs, said it is closing the fishing zone off the coast of Gaza altogether and sealing off Israel's two land crossings with Gaza.

The crossings are used by Palestinian medical patients to enter and leave the territory and provide the main entrance for the cargo in the blocked area.

The UN Middle East envoy, Nickolay Mladenov, said the United Nations is working with Egypt to restore calm, and called on all parties to "downsize" and restore recent agreements.

"Those who try to destroy them will be responsible for a conflict that will have serious consequences for everyone," he said in a statement.

The ambassador of the European Union in Israel, Emanuele Giaufret, has sharply criticized the rocket attacks on Twitter, stating that "shooting indiscriminately against civilians (is) unacceptable".

Islamic Jihad, which sometimes acts independently of Hamas, has threatened to launch longer-range missiles at the heart of Israel.

In a video that also saw an implicit claim to responsibility, he showed archived footage of militants linking warheads to missiles.

Israeli soldiers fired and injured

Israel and Egypt have maintained a crippling blockade on Gaza since 2007.

According to recent agreements, Israel has agreed to expand a fishing area off the coast of Gaza, allow the increase in imports to Gaza and allow the Gulf state of Qatar to provide aid to the money-strapped community there .

But as with the previous agreements mediated by Egypt, those agreements have shown signs of defeat in recent days.

On Friday, two Palestinians were fatally hit by Israeli forces during weekly protests along the perimeter fence of Israel and Gaza.

Palestinian militants shot and wounded two Israeli soldiers along the border barrier.

No group has claimed responsibility for the shot. In response, Israeli planes carried out retaliatory attacks, killing two Hamas militants.

Hamas hoped that Egyptian mediators could further facilitate the blockade, which devastated Gaza's economy.

For over a year, the Islamic group organized mass demonstrations every week along the Israeli border to draw attention to the difficult situation in Gaza.

More than 200 Palestinians and an Israeli soldier were killed in border protests.

AP

Themes:

conflict and war disorders,

– Palestinian occupied territory,

Israel

First published

May 5, 2019 13:23:23

. (tagToTranslate) gaza (t) strip (t) rockets (t) hamas (t) palestine (t) israel (t) fighting (t) bomb (t) airstrike (t) Islamic jihad

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