x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Israeli jets pound Gaza Strip after rocket attack on Beersheva

Prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu warns: 'We are determined to defend our citizens and will not accept anyone bombing our people and our civilians.'

A Palestinian inspects a destroyed abandoned swimming pool after an Israeli air strike in southern Gaza City yesterday. Overnight, Israeli aircraft carried out airstrikes against targets in response to rocket fire from Gaza into Israel.
A Palestinian inspects a destroyed abandoned swimming pool after an Israeli air strike in southern Gaza City yesterday. Overnight, Israeli aircraft carried out airstrikes against targets in response to rocket fire from Gaza into Israel.

JERUSALEM // Israel warned militants in the Gaza Strip yesterday not to "test" it, as fighter jets pounded targets across the coastal enclave after a Palestinian rocket attack.

It was the first rocket to strike Israel's city of Beersheva since the 2008-2009 Gaza war, significantly raising tensions along the border. The rocket slammed into a house.

"I don't suggest anyone test the determination of the state of Israel," the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said. "We are determined to defend our citizens and will not accept anyone bombing our people and our civilians."

Mr Netanyahu's warning came after 24 hours of tit-for-tat violence along Israel's border with the Gaza Strip.

Early yesterday, Israeli jets raided sites across the coastal strip.

Mr Netanyahu said he had ordered the military "to respond with force and they did that immediately on a wide scale".

Palestinian sources said there were four Israeli strikes, three in Gaza City and one in the town of Khan Yunis.

There were no immediate reports of casualties in Gaza. Neither were there any casualties in Beersheva, where television footage showed a crater gouged in street next to a badly damaged home.

Residents of the Israeli town said they escaped harm after warning sirens sent them running for the bomb shelters.

Emergency services raised the alert level in southern Israel and braced for further attacks.

Beersheva is home to about 200,000 people and is 40 kilometres from the Gaza Strip.

The city's deputy major, Heftsi Zohar, called on the Israeli government and military to "do whatever it takes" to prevent the city from being attacked.

The rocket was fired after clashes along the Gaza border on Wednesday in which one Islamic Jihad militant was killed and 10 people were wounded.