Palestinians inspect the damage of destroyed building belongs to Hamas ministry of prisoners hit by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, early Friday, Friday, March 15, 2019. Israeli warplanes attacked militant targets in the southern Gaza Strip early Friday in response to a rare rocket attack on the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, as the sides appeared to be hurtling toward a new round of violence. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Israel-Gaza fighting ebbs, Gaza rockets reportedly a misfire

The two rockets had struck late Thursday, taking Israel’s military by surprise

Cross-border fighting between Israel and Gaza’s ruling Hamas group appeared to be winding down Friday, amid reports of an Egyptian-brokered truce and Israeli media saying a misfire was believed to be responsible for the rare Gaza rocket attack on Tel Aviv that triggered the exchange.

The two rockets had struck late Thursday, taking Israel’s military by surprise. Overnight, Israeli warplanes hit some 100 Hamas targets in Gaza. The army said targets included an office complex in Gaza City used to plan and command Hamas militant activities, an underground complex that served as Hamas’ main rocket-manufacturing site and a centre used for Hamas drone development.

In Gaza, health officials reported that four people were wounded, including a husband and wife in the southern town of Rafah. There were no further details. The office building struck by Israel had been used by Hamas’ office of prisoner affairs.

On Friday, Israeli media quoted defence officials as saying a preliminary investigation indicated the rockets were fired from Gaza by mistake. It was not immediately clear if it was a technical malfunction or human error. The Haaretz daily quoted the officials as saying the rockets were fired during maintenance work. The Israeli military had no immediate comment.

Also Friday, a Hamas official said an agreement to restore calm has been reached. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because Hamas has yet to announce the deal, said Egypt led meditation efforts “that have apparently paid off.”

The sudden outbreak of violence came at a sensitive time for both sides.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in the midst of a tight re-election battle. A tough response would draw international criticism and domestic accusations that he is acting out of political motivations ahead of the April 9 vote. But a restrained response will draw criticism from his fellow hard-line rivals.

Hamas, meanwhile, is coping with its own domestic troubles. Israel and Egypt have maintained a crippling blockade on Gaza since Hamas took over the territory in 2007. The blockade, along with sanctions by the rival Palestinian Authority and Hamas’ own mismanagement have fueled an economic crisis that has driven unemployment over 50 per cent.

Shortly before the rocket attack, Hamas police on Thursday violently broke up a rare protest by demonstrators angry about the dire living conditions in Gaza.

The crackdown triggered heavy criticism on social media. The organizers of a weekly protest along the Israeli border cancelled the demonstration in the wake of the escalation.

The fighting came as Egyptian mediators were trying to extend a cease-fire between the bitter enemies, which last fought a war in 2014. The Egyptians left Gaza late Thursday.

Hamas, which typically claims responsibility for its military actions, denied involvement in the rocket attack on Tel Aviv and even said it had undermined its interests. Israel’s military said earlier Friday that it holds Hamas responsible for all attacks coming from Gaza.

The late-night attack Thursday on Tel Aviv, Israel’s densely populated commercial and cultural capital, marked the first time the city had been hit since a 2014 war between Israel and Gaza militants.

Following the first Israeli airstrikes, several additional rounds of rocket fire were launched into Israel. The military said several rockets were intercepted by its air defence systems, and there were no reports of injuries.

The initial blasts from the Israeli airstrikes in southern Gaza were so powerful that smoke could be seen in Gaza City, 25 kilometres (15 miles) to the north. The Israeli warplanes could be heard roaring through the skies above Gaza City.

Israel and Hamas are bitter enemies and have fought three wars since the Islamic militant group seized power in Gaza in 2007. Smaller flare-ups have occurred sporadically since Israel and Hamas fought their last war, in 2014.

Despite its denial, Hamas is one of the only groups in Gaza with the means to strike Tel Aviv. A smaller militant group, the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad, also possesses a large arsenal of rockets, though it too denied involvement.

READ MORE: Israel deploys ‘zombie lights’ for mobile-obsessed walkers

READ MORE: U.S.House to vote on a resolution ‘opposing hate’

___

Akram reported from Gaza City, Gaza Strip.

Josef Federman And Fares Akram, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Hundreds rally in support of horse carriages outside Victoria City Hall

Crowd angry with Coun. Ben Isitt’s motion to ban local horse carriage industry

Rifflandia Festival cancelled for 2019

Early Bird tickets can be refunded at point of purchase, or held and redeemed for 2020

New virgin queen headlines ‘Bee Day’ at Saanich sanctuary

Taste bee spit and check out the hive at Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary this Sunday

Spring banners line Oak Bay Village with local art

Banners show boats off Cattle Point, Garry oak at Anderson Hill

Five-month bridge closure poses early impacts on drivers during rush hour

Construction began Tuesday on the crossing commonly known as the Bay Street bridge

VIDEO: Canadian, U.S. Coast guards run oil spill response drills

20 vessels were on the water to practice international response methods

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of May 21

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Were you satisfied with the Game of Thrones series finale?

Millions gathered in front of their televisions Sunday night to watch the… Continue reading

Raptors beat Bucks 105-99 to move within 1 game of NBA Finals

Leonard scores 35 as Toronto takes 3-2 series lead over Milwaukee

B.C. Supreme Court dismisses review around ferry workers’ right to strike

B.C. Ferry and Marine Workers’ Union collective agreement expires November 2020

Young Victoria distillery earns prestigious Scotch awards

Scottish influences range from techniques to ‘kilted tours’ at award-winning business

Municipalities protest after B.C. declares marijuana crops ‘farm use’

UBCM president seeks answers in letter to John Horgan government

CMHC defends mortgage stress test changes amid calls for loosening rules

Uninsured borrowers must now show they could service their mortgage if rates rose two per cent

Brewpub offers ‘boat valet’ for paddlers during Surfrider celebration tonight

Free ‘Surf Formal’ evening features a local art auction, door prizes, live music

Most Read