Gaza Tensions Flare Up: Israel Pounds Hamas Targets From Land and Air After Rocket Fire

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Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike on a Hamas post, Gaza Strip, February 6, 2017.
Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike on a Hamas post, Gaza Strip, February 6, 2017.Credit: MOHAMMED ABED/AFP

Tensions flared up along Israel's border with Gaza after early morning rocket fire was met with no fewer than six retaliatory attacks by the Israeli army across the Strip on Hamas-linked targets. Gazans reported few cars were out in the streets and many people stayed at home fear additional attacks.

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A top Hamas official blamed Israel for the escalation, saying it was "another chapter in Israel's crimes against the Palestinians." The Islamic Jihad, another Gaza-based group, said Israel's actions could not be left unanswered.

In the evening, local reports said Israel fired artillery shells at Hamas positions near Gaza City. None were reportedly hurt in the attack, local reports said. The army confirmed the last of the day's attacks, saying they followed not just Monday's rocket fire, but "the events of the past month." The army said that latest attacks targeted three Hamas-linked sites.

Earlier a rocket fired from Gaza struck in an open area, causing no casualties, prompting Israel to return fire with tanks and from the air.

According to the army, in response to the rocket fire, a tank destroyed a Hamas position in the southern part of the strip. Earlier, the army said, a tank hit another Hamas position and Israel Air Force planes targeted three different sites in Gaza.

Palestinian reports said one man was wounded in the Israeli strike. A medical source in Gaza said the victim is a fisherman who was hurt of shrapnel, adding that his condition was not life-threatening. Hospitals in Gaza however have yet to report receiving casualties.

Palestinian reports later said that an Israeli tank shell was also fired at the central of the Strip. The Israeli army confirmed the tank fire and said an Air Force aircraft was also striking targets in Gaza.

The army said that Israeli aircraft targeted three Hamas positions in the northern Gaza Strip. Earlier on Monday, an Israeli tank attacked another Hamas position in northern Gaza. Palestinian reports also said Israel had fired two shells at a command post along the border fence, in Beit Lahiya. 

Rocket sirens wailed warning of a potential strike in the Ashkelon area, north of the Gaza Strip border, on Monday morning.

The last rocket fired at Israel from Gaza was in mid-January when an Israeli tank fired back. There were no reported casualties in these incidents.

Monday's alert came a day after a Hamas field commander, Mohammed al-Kuka, 37, died of wounds suffered in an explosion the previous day. The circumstances of that explosion were not clear, but according to Palestinian media reports the blast occurred in a warehouse where explosive devices were made.

Kuka was buried on Sunday in a funeral that turned into a show of strength for Hamas’ military wing.

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