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Fragile Truce In Gaza Breaks As Palestinian Militants Fire Rockets At Israel


by Will Racke

Palestinian fighters launched at least two rockets from the Gaza Strip at Israel on Saturday, the Israeli military announced, breaking a de-facto truce that both sides had been observing since a heavy exchange of fire in late May.

Residents in southern Israel reported hearing explosions shortly after warning sirens activated, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported. One of the rockets fell in an open area in Gaza while another was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, according to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

Local reports claimed the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad was responsible for the attack, but those claims have not been confirmed.

Saturday’s attack comes just days after Israel and Hamas, the dominant militant group in Gaza, began observing a tentative truce after engaging in the most intense burst of hostilities since a 2014 war. Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters launched roughly 70 projectiles toward southern Israel on Tuesday, wounding three Israeli troops. Israel responded with tank fire and air strikes on dozens of targets in Gaza, including a cross-border tunnel controlled by Hamas.

The fighting came to a close by Wednesday afternoon as Hamas said it had agreed to a ceasefire arranged through Egyptian intermediaries. Israeli officials said they were not party to the talks, but agreed to honor the Egypt-brokered truce as long as Palestinian militants stopped firing rockets into Israeli territory.

The IDF is expected to retaliate for Saturday’s rocket attack. Local witnesses reported seeing Israeli fighter planes conducting reconnaissance flights over Gaza on Saturday evening, indicating the possibility of airstrikes overnight.

Elsewhere in Gaza, Palestinians and Israeli troops clashed in demonstrations at the border that began Friday and continued into Saturday. At least 100 Palestinians were wounded and a paramedic, 21-year-old Razan al-Najar, was shot and killed as she ran toward a security fence to assist a wounded protester, according to health officials in Gaza.

The Israeli military said its troops had been forced to disperse “thousands of rioters” at five locations after an IDF position was fired on.

“An IDF (Israel Defence Forces) vehicle was fired upon and a suspect was identified crossing the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip and planting a grenade which exploded as he returned to the Strip,” the military officials said in a statement, according to Reuters.

The continuing rocket attacks out of Gaza have sparked fears that the violence could boil over into a larger war like the one between Hamas militants and Israel in 2014. That conflict devastated much of Gaza’s infrastructure and killed more than 2,000 Palestinians — including hundreds of civilians.

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