Gaza hardline Islamists claim rocket attack

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A hardline Islamist group claimed a rocket attack against southern Israel on Thursday, in a statement that condemned a historic visit by U.S. President Barack Obama to the region.

In a statement headlined “The demolition of Sderot by rocket bombardment in reaction to the visit of the dog Obama,” the Salafist Aknaf Bayt al-Maqdis group said it was responsible for an attack launched from Gaza.

Two rockets hit southern Israel, one landing in the town of Sderot on Thursday morning before Obama travelled from Jerusalem to the West Bank city of Ramallah for talks with president Mahmud Abbas, leader of the Palestinian Authority.

Aknaf Bayt al-Maqdis (The Guardians of Jerusalem) “declares its responsibility for the rockets fired towards the Zionist violator Sderot this morning March 21 2013,” the statement said.

Israeli officials had blamed Thursday’s rocket attacks on Hamas, Abbas’s rival movement that governs the Gaza Strip.

But the Islamist Hamas implicitly denied responsibility.

Spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP Hamas “considers talk of rocket fire to be merely Israeli accusations aimed at gaining sympathy from Obama... and inciting him against Palestinians.”

Hamas’s relations with hardline groups in Gaza have sharply deteriorated since the movement violently cracked down on Salafist radicals in 2009.