Israeli jets pound Gaza after rocket hits home

Israeli fighter jets struck targets in the Gaza Strip early on Wednesday after a rocket was fired and hit a home in southern Israel. 

Residents in Gaza said the aircraft targeted three locations, but there were no initial reports of casualties.

“Israeli jets started to attack terrorist targets in the Gaza strip,” the army said hours after a projectile hit the city of Beer Sheva. 

Four Israelis were being treated for shock in a hospital after surviving the early morning rocket attack. 

“At 4am [01:00 GMT] Israelis in the city of Beer Sheva were running to bomb shelters after a rocket was launched from the Gaza Strip at Israel,” the Israeli army said on Twitter.

“We will defend Israeli civilians,” it added.

It was one of the first rockets fired in months from the Palestinian territory under Israel’s devastating blockade and comes at a time of renewed tensions between Israel and Palestinian armed groups.

The Magen David Adom rescue service said a mother and three children in the home were being treated for shock symptoms. They took cover in their shelter during the attack.

Another rocket from Gaza struck a beach near one of Israel’s larger cities. No injuries were reported.

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‘Heavy blow’

The rocket was the first to hit an Israeli home since the 2014 war between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers.

It comes a day after Israel’s defence minister said the time had come to deliver a “heavy blow” to Hamas after weeks of escalation violence along the border.

It was unclear who fired the projectiles but the Israeli army says it holds Hamas accountable for what is happening in the territory under its control.

The rocket fire comes after months of violent Palestinian protests on the Gaza border, sparking deadly gunfire from Israeli troops and fears of an all-out conflict between Hamas and Israel, which have fought three wars since 2008.

Since protests began on March 30, Israeli forces have killed at least 205 Palestinians in the besieged coastal enclave.

Last week, some 14,000 Palestinians thronged to the border fence area, burning tires and throwing rocks at soldiers. About 20 breached the border and seven Palestinians were killed.

In response, Israel halted Qatari-donated fuel shipments to Gaza’s power plant. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened “very painful blows,” saying Israel was very close to waging a “different kind of activity”.

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“If it has any sense, Hamas will cease its fire and violent outbursts – now,” he said.

The protesters are demanding to be allowed to return to land now inside Israel, from which their families fled or were displaced during the 1948 war surrounding the creation of the Jewish state.

Cutting off fuel

Israel’s defence minister said on Tuesday the protests could not be allowed to go on.

“We are not prepared to accept the level of violence we see week after week,” Avigdor Lieberman told troops and commanders at an army base near southern Israel’s border with Gaza.

He also suspended shipments of fuel that had been trucked daily into Gaza over the previous week under a deal brokered by the UN and backed by the United States, Israel and others.

It had seen thousands of litres brought into the fuel-starved Gaza strip.

The UN says Israel’s 11-year blockade of the enclave has resulted in a “catastrophic” humanitarian situation.

Gaza’s two million residents endure dire living conditions including a shortage of safe drinking water and regular power cuts, partly because of the lack of fuel for the strip’s power station.

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