MIDDLE EAST

Israel strikes Gaza after rocket attack

Palestinian policemen loyal to Hamas attend a graduation ceremony in Gaza City January 29, 2014. (Reuters)

Israeli fighter jets targeted the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip Friday morning, Agence France-Presse reported sources on both sides as saying, hours after a rocket fired from the Palestinian enclave hit the Jewish state.

Two strikes attacked training sites used by the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s armed wing, in Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza, according to the Palestinian security forces.

The sources added that two additional air strikes hit sites west of the southern Gaza city of Rafah, injuring two Palestinians.

The attack occurred after a rocket fired from Gaza hit an open area in southern Israel, causing no damage or injuries.

The Israeli military said in a statement that its aircraft targeted “a terror activity site and a weapon manufacturing facility in the northern Gaza strip and a weapon storage facility” in southern Gaza.

Tensions have recently risen in and around Gaza after a year of relative calm, with six Palestinians and an Israeli killed since Dec. 20 and militant rocket fire sparking retaliatory air strikes.

On Jan. 22, the army killed two Palestinians, one of them identified by Israel as a militant from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine who the army said was behind recent rocket attacks.

Hamas recently confirmed it had deployed forces in Gaza to “preserve the truce” with Israel, brokered by Egypt, which ended the last major confrontation in November 2012.

While Hamas does not routinely launch projectiles at the Jewish state, Israel says it holds the Islamist group, that seized power in Gaza in 2007, responsible for any such attacks.

In a related story, an increasing number of West Bank settlers hold command positions, Israel’s military magazine said.

Bamahane weekly reported Thursday that 16 percent of those who attended the latest company and battalion commanders’ training course were residents of the West Bank - four times the proportion of settlers in the Israeli population.

A recent graduate of the course quoted in the report said settlers had more motivation to serve given their proximity to Palestinians attacks. But the report also raised questions about how these officers would respond if ordered to evacuate settlements for a future peace deal.

Palestinians claim the West Bank, in addition to east Jerusalem and Gaza, for a future state.

(AFP and Associated Press)

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Last Update: Friday, 31 January 2014 KSA 07:48 - GMT 04:48
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Israel strikes Gaza after rocket attack
Israeli fighter jets struck the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip in response to a rocket fired from the Palestinian enclave
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