Gaza tensions spike | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 26, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:06 AM, March 26, 2019

Gaza tensions spike

Israel mobilises troops after rocket strikes near Tel Aviv wounding 7; Netanyahu cuts short US visit

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut short a visit to the United States yesterday and the military dispatched reinforcements to the Gaza border after a rocket attack near Tel Aviv wounded seven people.

Netanyahu threatened a forceful response to the long-range strike amid accusations from opponents in a closely contested Israeli election, two weeks away, that he had been showing weakness in the face of security challenges from Gaza militants.

Netanyahu, who arrived in Washington on Sunday for a four-day visit, said he would fly home right after meeting President Donald Trump at the White House, as planned, later yesterday.

"This was a heinous attack on the State of Israel and we will respond strongly," Netanyahu said in a video statement.

The Israeli military said Hamas, the armed group that rules Gaza, fired the rocket that destroyed a house in Mishmeret, a village north of Tel Aviv. Hamas denied the charge.

There was no claim of responsibility for the early morning strike. The military said Hamas launched the rocket from about 120 km (75 miles) away, making it the longest-range attack from Gaza causing casualties since a 2014 war.

Calling the strike "absolutely unacceptable", UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov said on Twitter the "situation remains very tense".

A Palestinian official, familiar with Egypt's efforts to broker a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, said Egyptian security officials "are working to restore calm - they have been doing so before and after today's rocket".

Israel's Magen David Adom ambulance service said it treated seven people, including an infant, a 3-year-old boy, a 12-year-old girl and a 60-year-old woman who was suffering from blast injuries, burns and shrapnel wounds.

The Israeli military said it was assigning two brigades to the Gaza area and some reservists were being called up. Reuters witnesses saw troops moving towards the border, where the military also closed several roads to civilian traffic.

"We are prepared for a wide range of scenarios," chief spokesman Ronen Manelis said.

In Gaza, Palestinians were bracing for retaliation as Israel closed its border crossings with the territory and access to the sea.

The rocket attack coincided with tension ahead of the March 30 anniversary of Gaza protests that have included Palestinian attempts to breach the frontier and often lethal Israeli fire. Gaza authorities have said some 200 people have been killed by Israeli fire in the protests. An Israeli soldier was killed by a sniper along the frontier.

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