Israel launches air strikes on Gaza Strip

GAZA CITY: Israel said on Friday its aircraft had struck dozens of Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip overnight in response to rockets from the Palestinian enclave, including rare fire towards its economic capital Tel Aviv.
The escalation followed weeks of growing tensions and came at an especially sensitive time ahead of Israel’s April 9 elections.
As the polls approach, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is widely believed to want to avoid a fourth war in the Gaza Strip since 2008 — but the exchange of fire again showed the risks.
Quiet returned to Gaza and Israel on Friday morning.
UN and Egyptian officials were in contact with both sides “to prevent the situation from spinning out of control,” a source with knowledge of the discussions said.
Organisers of weekly Friday protests along the Gaza border fence, which have been accompanied by violence, announced they would be cancelled — the first such move since they began nearly a year ago.
Four Palestinians were wounded in the Gaza strikes, the enclave’s health ministry said, while no Israelis were reported injured.
Explosions could be heard throughout the night in Gaza and fireballs lit the sky.
In the bustling coastal city of Tel Aviv, sirens wailed late on Thursday in scenes reminiscent of the 2014 war between Israel and Gaza fighters.
Rocket fire towards Israel’s southern communities near the blockaded coastal territory is common, but Tel Aviv is rarely targeted.
It was unclear where the two rockets fired towards Tel Aviv landed, but no damage was reported.
Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai ordered public bomb shelters opened, and told local television that one of the Gaza rockets “apparently fell into the sea, the other hit somewhere but not in” the city. Both Hamas, the movement that runs Gaza, and its ally Islamic Jihad denied they were behind the rocket fire towards Tel Aviv, raising the possibility they were launched by fringe groups. — AFP