x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Rocket hits sea off Tel Aviv: police, witnesses

TEL AVIV - A rocket fired from Gaza on Friday crashed into the sea off Tel Aviv in the second incident in as many days, police and an eyewitness told AFP, shortly after sirens wailed across the city.

"We believe it landed off the shores of Tel Aviv," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP, as an eyewitness told AFP he saw a rocket hit the sea "some 200 metres (yards)" from the beachfront US embassy.

Friday's rocket was the farthest that one from Gaza had ever hit inside Israel, and came as the air force pressed a major bombing campaign across the Hamas-run territory.

The attack sparked panic among beachgoers, although several people tried to swim out to the point where the rocket landed, the witness said.

As sirens began wailing across the city, sending people fleeing for cover, a loud explosion was heard, an AFP correspondent said.

Shortly before the sirens went off, AFP reporters in central Gaza City reported hearing a loud bang that appeared to be caused by a rocket being fired from the area.

It was the second day running that a rocket from Gaza had reached the Tel Aviv area in what Israeli networks said was the first time rockets had been fired at the city since the 1991 Gulf War, when it was hit by Iraqi Scud missiles.

On Thursday, a rocket landed in the sea off Jaffa port in the southern part of the city, sparking scenes of panic with people fleeing in search of shelter, or lying on the ground with their hands over their heads, an AFP correspondent said.

That attack was claimed by Islamic Jihad, which said it had fired an Iranian-made Fajr 5 rocket at the city.

Tel Aviv-Jaffa lies some 60 kilometres (36 miles) north of the Gaza Strip. Fajr 5 rockets have a range of up to 75 kilometres (46 miles).

Earlier on Thursday, the army said another rocket struck Rishon LeTzion, Israel's fourth largest city, which lies 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of Gaza.