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Israeli jets hit Gaza sites after rockets ‘target’ Tel Aviv

Israeli jets hit Gaza sites after rockets 
‘target’ Tel Aviv

AFP
Gaza City
Israel said Friday its aircraft had struck dozens of Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip overnight in response to rockets from the Palestinian enclave, including rare fire toward its economic capital Tel Aviv.
The escalation followed weeks of growing tensions and came at an especially sensitive time ahead of Israel’s April 9 elections.
As the polls approach, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is widely believed to want to avoid a fourth war in the Gaza Strip since 2008 -- but the exchange of fire again showed the risks. Quiet returned to Gaza and Israel on Friday morning.
UN and Egyptian officials were in contact with both sides “to prevent the situation from spinning out of control”, a source with knowledge of the discussions said.
Organisers of weekly Friday protests along the Gaza border fence, which have been accompanied by violence, announced they would be cancelled -- the first such move since they began nearly a year ago.
Four Palestinians were wounded in the Gaza strikes, the enclave’s health ministry said, while no Israelis were reported injured. Explosions could be heard throughout the night in Gaza and fireballs lit the sky. In the bustling coastal city of Tel Aviv, sirens wailed late Thursday in scenes reminiscent of the 2014 war between Israel and Gaza militants.
Rocket fire toward Israel’s southern communities near the blockaded coastal territory is common, but Tel Aviv is rarely targeted. Police said Friday they found remains of one rocket in an uninhabited area “in central Israel”, with media reports saying the second fell into the Mediterranean.
Both Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs Gaza, and its ally Islamic Jihad denied they were behind the rocket fire towards Tel Aviv. But Israel’s military said they were launched by Hamas. Israel has long said it holds Hamas responsible for all violence from Gaza, controlled by the group since 2007.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday the Gaza militants attacking Israel were “armed and financed by their puppet masters in Tehran”.
“We stand by our ally. Israel has the right to protect its citizens,” tweeted Pompeo, who is due to travel soon to the Jewish state.

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