Gaza protests along border called off after Israel airstrikes

Sergio Conner
March 17, 2019

There have been no reports of casualties or damage as of yet.

The rocket barrage triggered air raid sirens across the city, which is Israel's densely populated commercial and cultural capital.

It was the first time the city had been targeted since a 2014 war between Israel and Gaza militants.

Sirens rang out in southern Israel early Friday and the Israeli military said it identified four "launches" from the Gaza Strip.

The usual suspects - Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committees and the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad - each denied their respective terror groups were behind the projectile attacks.

Militants fired two rockets towards Israel's main metropolitan area, both of which landed in open ground, the IDF said.

It's a first since Israel's 2014 campaign in Gaza.

Smoke and flames are seen during an Israeli air attack on Gaza on Friday.

An explosion was heard in the city centre. Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since Hamas sized control of Gaza in 2007.

The escalation follows weeks of growing tension and comes at an especially sensitive time ahead of Israel's April 9 elections.

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These strikes came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held an urgent "security consultation" with his defense chiefs in Tel Aviv late Thursday night. His political opponents have also criticized Netanyahu's decision to allow Qatar to deliver $15 million a month into Gaza to pay salaries of Hamas civil servants. The blockade, along with sanctions by the rival Palestinian Authority and Hamas' own mismanagement, have fueled an economic crisis that has driven unemployment over 50 percent. Residents have little desire for another war with Israel.

There were also protests Thursday organized in Gaza before the attacks by demonstrators upset with the current state of living conditions in the territory.

But Israel's military said they were launched by Hamas. Financed by Iran, 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.

But Israel's military concluded that Hamas was responsible.

"The Hamas terrorist organization bears responsibility for everything that is happening in and out of the Gaza Strip", Israel said in a statement.

Hamas has denied any involvement in the rocket strikes.

It was not immediately clear which terror faction was responsible for the rocket fire toward Tel Aviv.

Netanyahu a year ago 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.

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