x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Rocket from Gaza strikes Ashkelon

A rocket is fired into the Israeli city of Ashkelon from the Gaza Strip this morning, the Israeli military says.

Bystanders look at a car that had its windscreen shattered after a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip fell on the Israeli coastal town of Ashkelon.
Bystanders look at a car that had its windscreen shattered after a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip fell on the Israeli coastal town of Ashkelon.

JERUSALEM // A rocket was fired into the Israeli city of Ashkelon early today from the Gaza Strip, the Israeli military said. The Israeli military said the rocket caused damage but no injuries. None of the Palestinian militant groups in Gaza immediately took responsibility for the attack. The city of 120,000, located 18 kilometres to the north of Gaza and a short drive from Israel's Tel Aviv, was a regular target for Palestinian militants before Israel's Gaza offensive ended early last year. Militants have kept up limited rocket and mortar fire closer to the Israel-Gaza border, but the cities and towns of Israel's south have largely been quiet since the fighting ended.

"A Grad rocket landed in a yard next to buildings, in a heavily populated area," the city's mayor, Benny Vaknin, told Israel Radio, saying it was a "miracle" that no one was hurt. Mr Vaknin said a warning siren that went off before the rocket hit gave residents time to take cover. While Gaza militants usually fire locally produced short-range rockets, the projectiles that have hit Ashkelon in the past have typically been military-grade Grad rockets smuggled through underground tunnels on the Egypt-Gaza border.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said one resident was treated for shock. Gaza is ruled by the Islamic militants of Hamas, but most of the attacks since the offensive ended have been claimed by smaller militant groups that do not necessarily accept Hamas' authority. Hamas itself has largely refrained from launching attacks, apparently because of concerns about Israeli retaliation. Rocket squads in Gaza targeted smaller Israeli communities close to the border for years before increasing their range to include Ashkelon. That helped precipitate Israel's offensive in Gaza, launched at the end of 2008.

The three-week offensive was successful in dramatically reducing the number of rockets hitting Israel, but devastated the densely populated and impoverished Palestinian territory and drew international criticism. * AP