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Israel launches several air raids on Gaza Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Israel launches several air raids on Gaza

Airstrikes hit five locations south of the Gaza [AFP]

Date of publication: 4 May, 2016

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Israeli warplanes launched several airstrikes south of the besieged Gaza Strip on Wednesday evening, after a day of cross border shelling in the enclave's east.

Israel conducted several airstrikes Wednesday evening on the Gaza Strip after a day of cross border shelling in the besieged Palestinian territory.

Airstrikes hit around Gaza's international airport near the southern city of Rafah, and in nearby farming areas, without causing any casualties, said the territory's Hamas-run interior ministry.

Israel's army said its warplanes had hit five sites operated by Hamas.

Hamas' armed wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, issued a statement following the airstrikes, condemning the military incursion inside the Gaza Strip.

"The enemy should not invoke any reason whatsoever for its actions and leave the Gaza Strip immediately," the statement read.

The Qassam Brigades added that the airstrikes marked a breach of the 2014 ceasefire agreed after Israel's offensive on the enclave two years ago.

The raids followed a bout of violence on the Gaza-Israel border Wednesday, with exchanges of fire from the Israeli and Palestinian sides.

Israeli tanks fired into the Palestinian enclave at least twice, saying it was in response to mortar fire across the border, while the army designated an Israeli border town a closed military zone.

An Israeli military official said up to five mortar shells in total were fired at Israeli territory, while forces were fired upon near the small border community of Nahal Oz.

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Earlier the Israeli army twice confirmed its tanks had fired on targets in Gaza, saying both times it was in response to mortar rounds fired from inside the strip.

Palestinian security sources reported tank fire in al-Tufah in eastern Gaza.

There were no reported casualties and no claims of responsibility for the mortar fire.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad released separate statements warning Israel against any escalation along the border.

"Hamas holds the Israeli occupation completely responsible for the escalation east of Gaza and the consequences of it," spokesman Sami Abu Zahri said.

"The movement calls on the concerned parties to shoulder their responsibility to stop this aggression and Israeli crimes."

The violence puts pressure on a ceasefire that has held since the last round of hostilities in Gaza ended in summer 2014.

Israel launched a 50-day war on Gaza in 2014, which killed 2,251 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 73 Israelis, including 67 soldiers, according to the United Nations.

The ceasefire which ended the conflict has largely been observed.

During a visit to the Gaza border on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed its calmest period in years, according to comments reported by Israeli media.

"We are nearing the end of close to two years since Operation Protective Edge," he said, referring to the 2014 conflict.

"These have been the quietest two years we can recall since Hamas came to power."

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