Israel strikes Gaza after first rocket fire since early May

A barrage of rockets are fired from the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave towards Israel in this May 5, 2019 photo. (AFP file photo)
Updated 13 June 2019
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Israel strikes Gaza after first rocket fire since early May

  • The strike came after Israeli air defenses intercepted a rocket launched from the territory
  • Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008

JERUSALEM: Israeli warplanes bombed bunkers at a Hamas base in Gaza early Thursday following the first rocket fire from the territory since early May, the military said.

Israeli aircraft targeted “underground infrastructure” at the base in the southern Gaza Strip, it said in a statement. A Palestinian security source said there had been no injuries. The airstrike came after Israeli air defenses intercepted a rocket launched from the territory, the first since hundreds were fired in early May in a two-day flare-up which killed four Israelis and 25 Palestinians.

On Wednesday evening, Israel announced it had banned all fishing off Gaza in retaliation for the launching from the enclave of more balloons with incendiary devices attached.

“Due to the continuous launching of incendiary balloons and kites from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, it has been decided tonight (Wednesday) not to allow access to Gaza’s maritime space until further notice,” the Israeli Defense Ministry department responsible for Palestinian civil affairs, COGAT, said.

HIGHLIGHT

On Wednesday evening, Israel announced it had banned all fishing off Gaza in retaliation for the launching from the enclave of more balloons with incendiary devices attached.

The move came after COGAT said on Tuesday it had reduced the extent of the fishing zone to 6 nautical miles offshore from 10 nautical miles, having downscaled it from 15 nautical miles a week ago.

A spokesman for the Israeli fire service said incendiary balloons from Gaza caused seven fires on Tuesday alone. In the past year, Palestinians have succeeded in setting fire to large areas of farmland in southern Israel.

Expanding the fishing zone was seen as a key element of an informal truce agreement reached between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas to restore calm after the May 4-5 flare-up.

Under that agreement, which Israel never publicly confirmed, the Jewish state was expected to ease its crippling blockade of Gaza in exchange for calm.

Bassem Naim, a senior Hamas official, accused Israel in a statement of “evading and retreating from implementing the recent agreements on false pretenses, such as the fires surrounding Gaza.”

Three human rights groups, two Israeli and one Palestinian, also criticized the closure, saying it punished all Gaza’s 2 million people.

“The sanctions imposed by Israel in Gaza’s fishing zone in response to actions over which fishermen in Gaza have no control constitute illegal collective punishment, and must end immediately,” they said.

Israel has fought three wars with Hamas and its allies since 2008.

There are concerns that another flare-up could occur ahead of Israel’s Sept. 17 elections.


 


Syria flare-up kills 35 fighters, including 26 pro-regime forces

Updated 16 June 2019
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Syria flare-up kills 35 fighters, including 26 pro-regime forces

  • Russian-backed regime forces try to retake villages seized by opposition forces and allied fighters
  • The clashes also left 26 pro-regime forces dead in the north of Hama province

 

BEIRUT: At least 10 civilians and 35 combatants, mostly pro-regime forces, were killed on Saturday in clashes and airstrikes that erupted at dawn in northwestern Syria, a war monitor said.

The flare-up came as Russian-backed regime forces tried to retake two villages seized by opposition forces and allied fighters earlier this month, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“Since this morning, the Syrian regime and allied fighters have launched five failed attempts to regain control of Jibine and Tal Maleh in northwestern Hama province,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

Syrian regime airstrikes killed nine opposition fighters, the war monitor said.

Ensuing clashes in the north of Hama province left 26 pro-regime forces dead, including eight who were killed in a mine explosion, the Observatory said.

In neighboring Idlib, regime airstrikes killed 10 civilians, including three children, the Observatory said.

The strikes hit the towns of Maaret Al-Numan and Al-Bara as well as the village of Al-Ftira, according to the war monitor.

The Idlib region of some 3 million people is supposed to be protected from a massive regime offensive by a buffer zone deal that Russia and Turkey signed in September.

But it was never fully implemented, as opposition refused to withdraw from a planned demilitarized zone.

In January, the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate extended its administrative control over the region, which includes most of Idlib province as well as adjacent slivers of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo provinces.

The Syrian regime and Russia have upped their bombardment of the region since late April, killing nearly 400 civilians, according to the Observatory.

Turkey said on Friday that it did not accept Russia’s “excuse” that it had no ability to stop the Syrian regime’s continued bombardments in the last opposition bastion of Idlib.

“In Syria, who are the regime’s guarantors? Russia and Iran,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told state news agency Anadolu in a televised interview.

“Thus we do not accept the excuse that ‘We cannot make the regime listen to us’,” he said.

His comments came as Turkey disagreed with Russia earlier this week after Moscow claimed a new cease-fire had been secured in the province following weeks of regime bombardments — a claim that was denied by Ankara.

Syria’s war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-regime protests.

Russia launched a military intervention in support of the regime in 2015, helping its forces reclaim large parts of the country from opposition fighters and militants.