Palestinians Fire Rockets, Israel Responds with Airstrikes

Palestinians have fired dozens of rockets at southern Israel, and Israel responded with airstrikes on Gaza, a day after deadly clashes on the Israel-Gaza border.

Israeli officials say rocket fire wounded at least 10 people, including a 19-year-old soldier who was critically hurt when a mortar shell hit a bus. They say in total, there were about 300 rockets and mortar launches from Gaza, with some of the shells hitting houses.

On the Palestinian side of the border, officials say the Israeli airstrikes killed three people, including two militants, and wounded nine others.

Israeli warplanes also destroyed the premises of Hamas’s Al-Aqsa Television. Staff at the office evacuated before the attack following a warning by Israel’s military.

The United States condemned Hamas for the violence. “We stand with Israel as it defends itself against these attacks,” U.S. envoy Jason Greenblatt tweeted. “This violence prevents any real help for the people of Gaza.”

U.N. Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov called the escalation of violence “extremely dangerous” and said on Twitter that “restraint must be shown by all.”

The latest violence comes one day after an Israeli incursion into Gaza led to fighting. Israel said one military officer was killed and another was wounded in that fighting. Palestinian officials reported seven people killed, including a local Hamas commander identified as Nour Baraka.

The Israeli military has given few details about its mission in the Gaza Strip but said it was “not intended to kill or abduct terrorists but to strengthen Israeli security.”

Late Sunday, Israel said militants in Gaza fired 17 rockets toward Israeli territory but that they caused no injuries.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut short a visit to Paris to return home Monday after the clashes. He met with his military chief and defense minister late Monday.

The latest fighting comes as Netanyahu defended his decision to allow Qatar to transfer $15 million in aid to Gaza as part of his effort to bring calm to the Hamas-controlled region.

“I’m doing what I can, in coordination with the security establishment, to return quiet to the southern communities, but also to prevent a humanitarian crisis,” Netanyahu said. “I think we’re acting in a responsible and wise way.”

In exchange, Hamas agreed to scale back the protests along the border with Israel. Israel has accused Hamas of using the noisy protests as a cover for militants to sneak into Israel.

Netanyahu’s chief political rival, far-right education minister Naftali Bennett, said allowing the payments from Qatar is like giving criminals “protection money.”

Source: Voice of America