November 15, 2019
 
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Israel: Gaza Strikes Complete          11/15 06:55

   IGAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- Israel said early Friday it has completed a 
series of airstrikes on targets linked to the Islamic Jihad militant group in 
Gaza after overnight rocket fire that rattled a day-old truce.

   The Palestinian territory's Hamas rulers, who kept to the sidelines of this 
week's fighting, cancelled the weekly protests they organize along the 
perimeter fence without explanation -- apparently in an effort to preserve the 
calm.

   Israel reiterated that it was willing to abide by the cease-fire if there 
are no additional rocket attacks. The army said in a statement that it struck a 
military compound, a rocket-manufacturing site and a militant headquarters in 
the town of Khan Younis overnight.

   The airstrikes came after a barrage of rockets late Thursday. There were no 
immediate reports of casualties on either side. The situation was calm on 
Friday.

   The unofficial cease-fire that began early Thursday ended a two-day 
escalation triggered by Israel's targeted killing of an Islamic Jihad 
commander. The fighting killed 34 Palestinians, including 16 civilians. 
Palestinian militants fired more than 450 rockets toward Israel, paralyzing 
much of southern Israel without causing any deaths or serious injuries.

   An Israeli airstrike overnight Thursday struck a home in the central Gaza 
town of Deir al-Balah, killing eight people, including two women and five 
children under the age of 13. The airstrike apparently targeted the home of an 
Islamic Jihad commander who was not there at the time. Neighbors said the 
airstrike killed his brother, who was not involved in militant activity.

   The military said Friday that it struck "Islamic Jihad military 
infrastructure" in Deir al-Balah and did not intend to harm civilians.

   "According to the information available to the IDF at the time of the 
strike, no civilians were expected to be harmed as a result of the strike," the 
Israeli Defense Forces said in a statement. It said an investigation is 
underway.

   Hundreds of Palestinian civilians have been killed in previous rounds 
fighting in Gaza, drawing heavy international criticism, and the International 
Criminal Court in The Hague has opened a preliminary investigation into 
Israel's battlefield tactics.

   Israel rejects the criticism, saying it takes numerous precautions to 
prevent unnecessary civilian casualties. It also accuses Palestinian militants 
of using civilians as human shields and firing rockets from residential areas. 
It says militant commanders often have weapons or command centers inside their 
homes, making them legitimate targets.

   Islamic Jihad announced the Egyptian-brokered cease-fire early Thursday, 
claiming it had extracted several concessions from Israel. Israel does not 
generally comment on informal understandings with militant groups and said only 
that it would halt fire as long as the militants did the same.

   The truce angered many Islamic Jihad supporters, who held protests across 
Gaza. The barrage of rockets fired into Israel late Thursday, which Israel said 
were intercepted by its missile defenses, may have been an expression of 
discontent with the militant group's leadership.

   Unlike in previous rounds of violence, the more powerful Hamas stayed on the 
sidelines, adhering to understandings reached through Egyptian mediators after 
previous rounds of fighting with Israel. Both militant groups are committed to 
Israel's destruction, but Islamic Jihad is seen as more radical and has closer 
ties to Iran.

   Hamas has held weekly demonstrations along the frontier for more than a year 
to call for the lifting of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed on Gaza when 
the group seized power from the internationally backed Palestinian Authority in 
2007.

   The protests often turn violent, with demonstrators hurling rocks and 
firebombs and Israeli forces responding with tear gas and live ammunition. 
Hamas has tamped down the protests in recent weeks, apparently as part of the 
understandings with Egypt.

   In return, Israel has loosened the blockade and allowed Qatar to deliver 
millions of dollars in cash so that Hamas can pay its civil servants.

   Hamas and Israel have fought three wars, the most recent in 2014, and have 
exchanged fire on a number of occasions since then. In the latest fighting, 
Israel refrained from targeting Hamas, which does not appear to have fired any 
rockets, a sign that both want to maintain the calm.


(KR)

 
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