Mon, Jun 08, 2015 - Page 5 News List

Israel bombs Gaza strip after third rocket attack

RETALIATION:The Israeli government said it has also closed two crossing points into the Gaza Strip, except for humanitarian aid and medical cases, for now

AFP, JERUSALEM

A Palestinian security officer yesterday closes a gate at the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and the southern Gaza Strip, south of Rafah, after Israel ordered the crossing, used for goods, shut until further notice.

Photo: AFP

The Israeli air force early yesterday hit the Gaza Strip for the second time in three days after new rocket fire from the territory hit southern Israel, the military said.

It was the third time Israel had staged retaliatory air strikes in Gaza in the past two weeks, with each raid following rocket fire on the Israeli south, raising fears of a new confrontation with Palestinian militants.

Aircraft hit “terrorist infrastructure” in northern Gaza, an Israeli military statement said.

The Israeli government also ordered the closure until further notice of the Erez crossing for people and the Kerem Shalom crossing for goods.

Only medical cases and humanitarian aid will be allowed through, it said.

TRAINING SITE TARGETED

Palestinian security sources and witnesses said the air force targeted a training site belonging to Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, in the northern Beit Lahiya area.

The rocket fire on Saturday evening struck open ground near the southern Israeli port of Ashkelon, causing no casualties. The same area was targeted by three rockets on Wednesday night last week, which also prompted retaliatory air strikes.

After that attack, the military deployed batteries of its Iron Dome air defense system around Ashkelon as a precaution, Israeli media reported on Friday.

The latest attack was claimed by a relatively new group of Islamic extremists called the Supporters of the Islamic State in Jerusalem, which has claimed responsibility for all three instances of rocket fire in the past two weeks. The first attack was on May 26.

INTERNAL DIVIDE

The group is locked in power struggle with Hamas in Gaza, whose security forces have mounted a harsh crackdown on such fringe groups.

Last week, Hamas police shot dead a local jihadist leader during an arrest operation in Gaza City.

Since last summer, when Israel and Hamas fought a deadly 50-day war in and around Gaza, there have been growing signs of internal unrest in the territory with a spate of bomb attacks targeting public buildings and officials as well as international organizations. Although few have been claimed, they are believed to be the work of radical Salafists unafraid to challenge Hamas.

Salafists are Sunni Muslims who promote a strict lifestyle based on that of early “pious ancestors.” In Gaza, they have made no secret of their disdain for Hamas over its observance of a tacit ceasefire with Israel and its failure to implement Islamic law.

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