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Israel strikes Gaza targets following Tel Aviv rocket attack

AP  |  Jerusalem 

Israeli warplanes attacked militant targets in the southern Strip early Friday in response to a rare rocket attack on the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, as the sides appeared to be hurtling toward a new round of violence.

The rocket attack Thursday night caught the off and marked the first time that Tel Aviv, some 80 kilometers north of Gaza, has been targeted since a 2014 war.

Though the attack caused no damage or injuries, it was a significant escalation and set the stage for a tough Israeli reprisal.

called an emergency meeting with his and other top security officials. Shortly after, Israeli warplanes attacked targets in southern and central

The blasts were so powerful that smoke could be seen in City, 25 kilometers away from some of the strikes. The Israeli warplanes could be heard roaring through the skies above

The said it was targeting "terror sites" in Gaza, but gave no further details. Palestinian media said naval bases belonging to the ruling group had been struck. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Minutes later, the reported air raid sirens in southern It said it had identified a launch attempt out of Gaza, but the rocket misfired and landed inside Palestinian territory.

and are bitter enemies and have fought three wars since the Islamic militant group seized power in Gaza in 2007. Smaller flare-ups have occurred sporadically since and fought their last war, in 2014.

The sudden outburst of fighting comes at a sensitive time for both sides. Israel is holding national elections in less than a month. Netanyahu is locked in a tight fight for re-election and could face heavy criticism from his opponents if he is seen as ineffective against the militants.

Cabinet Minister Naftali Bennett, a hardline rival of Netanyahu's, called on the to convene a gathering of his and demand the "present a plan to defeat Hamas."

Likewise, Hamas has come under rare public criticism in Gaza for the harsh conditions in the territory. An Israel-Egyptian blockade, combined with sanctions by the rival and mismanagement by the Hamas government, have fueled an economic crisis in the territory. Residents have little desire for another war with Israel.

Earlier Thursday, Hamas police violently broke up a small protest over the harsh living conditions.

Ronen Manelis, the chief Israeli military spokesman, said the had been caught off by Thursday night's rocket barrage. He said officials were still trying to determine who had fired the rocket.

Israel holds Hamas responsible for all fire coming out of the territory. Hamas possesses a large arsenal of rockets and missiles capable of striking deep inside Israel.

But with Gaza's economy in tatters, the group has been seeking to preserve calm. Hamas denied responsibility for the attack on Tel Aviv, saying the rockets were launched when the group's military wing was meeting with Egyptian mediators to try to strengthen a cease-fire with Israel.

In an unusual step that indicated Hamas was attempting to prevent further escalation, the said the rocket fire went "against the national consensus" and promised to take action against the perpetrators.

But concluded that Hamas did fire two rockets toward In a statement early Friday, the said "we can confirm" that Hamas carried out the rocket attack.

Islamic Jihad, an Iranian-backed militant group that also has a large rocket arsenal, also denied firing the rockets. Smaller factions inspired by the Islamic State group also sometimes fire rockets, though it is unclear whether they possess projectiles capable of reaching

Earlier this week, Israel struck Hamas targets in Gaza in response to rocket fire on southern Israel, near the border. Late Thursday, said that Egyptian mediators left the territory.

At the time, Netanyahu issued a warning to Hamas, rejecting suggestions that Israel would be reluctant to take tough action in Gaza ahead of national elections next month.

"I suggest to Hamas, don't count on it," he told his Cabinet. "We will do anything necessary to restore security and quiet to the area adjacent to the and to the south in general.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, March 15 2019. 07:35 IST
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