Israel hits Hamas targets in Gaza following rocket fire

OPEN TARGET: A water tower is seen after local residents said it was damaged by an Israeli shell at Beit Hanoun in Gaza, following a rocket that landed in the Israeli town of Sderot which the Israeli army and police said was launched from Gaza, on Sunday. (Reuters)
Updated 21 August 2016
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Israel hits Hamas targets in Gaza following rocket fire

JERUSALEM: Israel targeted Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip by air and with tank fire Sunday after a rocket fired from the Palestinian enclave crashed into the Israeli city of Sderot.
Police said the rocket hit “between two buildings on a road” in Sderot, which is less than four kilometers (2.5 miles) from Gaza, causing no casualties.
Army spokesman Peter Lerner said Israeli forces retaliated by hitting targets in northern Gaza.
“In response to the rocket attack from the Gaza Strip, the IAF (Israeli air force) and tanks targeted two Hamas posts in the northern Gaza Strip,” Lerner said in a statement.
Palestinian health and security sources said two people were lightly wounded by the Israeli fire.
“One of them is a 20-year-old (young man) who was hit by shrapnel in the face,” said Ashraf Al-Qudra, spokesman for the Palestinian Health Ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza.
Security sources in the territory said several targets in northen Gaza were struck by Israeli fire, and that a reservoir in Beit Hanun was destroyed.
Witnesses said a base of Hamas’s military wing the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, in nearby Beit Lahya, was also hit.
Israeli media said it was the first time downtown Sderot had been hit by a rocket from Gaza since the last war with Palestinian militants in the territory in 2014.
On July 2, Israeli air raids hit four sites in Gaza after a rocket struck a building in Sderot. There were no casualties in either incident.


Refugee returns to Syria must be coordinated with UN: Merkel

Updated 9 min 39 sec ago
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Refugee returns to Syria must be coordinated with UN: Merkel

  • Germany's Merkel says Syria must be more secure before refugees return

BEIRUT: The return of Syrian refugees to their homeland can only happen in coordination with the United Nations, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday during her two-day visit to Lebanon.
Refugee returns have been a hot-button issue in Lebanon, a small country that has the world’s highest number of refugees per capita.
“We want to contribute to reaching a political solution in Syria, that will allow refugees to return to Syria,” Merkel told reporters on Friday, after meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
“I confirmed with officials that returns can only happen in agreement and talks with UN organizations,” she added.
Around 500 refugees left southern Lebanon earlier this year for Syria in a return organized between Lebanese and Syrian authorities, and several thousand have gone back to their homeland from towns around the border in recent years.
The UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) says it is not involved in the return process and does not yet consider Syria safe enough for refugees to return.
Lebanese officials have been increasingly calling for refugee returns with or without a political solution to Syria’s seven-year-old crisis.
Merkel said it was “understandable” that the large refugee influx had caused tensions in Lebanon but expressed hope they could be resolved.
Her comments come at a rocky time for ties between Lebanon’s government and the UNHCR.
This month, Lebanese foreign minister Gebran Bassil ordered a halt to new residency permits for UNHCR’s foreign staff, accusing them of “intimidating the displaced who wish to return voluntarily.”
The UN has said it hopes Bassil will rescind his decision. The rest of Lebanon’s government has not officially commented.

Hariri, who has been appointed for a third term as Lebanon’s premier, said his country was still seeking refugee returns “as quickly as possible.”
“The only permanent solution for Syrian refugees is their return to Syria in a safe and dignified manner,” he told reporters.
Merkel is also due to meet Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Friday, before flying back to Germany where she faces intense pressure to curb migrant arrivals.

According to the UNHCR, more than 5.6 million people have fled Syria since 2011 and another 6.6 million are currently internally displaced.
The UN last week said it noted at least 920,000 displacements since the beginning of the year, the highest in that time frame in Syria’s war.
Aid groups have warned that heightened anti-refugee rhetoric and quieting battlefronts in Syria could lead government to force refugees out.