Israeli army launches fresh air raids on Gaza, targets Hamas

Early morning strikes come after rockets were fired towards Israel from the besieged enclave, Israeli army says.

    A young Palestinian stands amid the crater of a destroyed house following overnight Israeli missile attacks on Thursday east of Khan Younis [Adel Hana/AP Photo]
    A young Palestinian stands amid the crater of a destroyed house following overnight Israeli missile attacks on Thursday east of Khan Younis [Adel Hana/AP Photo]

    Israel has said it carried out fresh air raids on the Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire from the besieged enclave, two days after a precarious ceasefire went into force following a round of fighting that killed dozens of Palestinians.

    The Israeli army said its attacks early on Saturday did not target positions of the Islamic Jihad group but sites belonging to Hamas, which administers the Gaza Strip. There was no immediate comment by Hamas.

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    The air raids marked the first time Hamas was targeted since this week's escalation began early on Tuesday with Israel's targeted assassination of Bahaa Abu al-Ata, a top commander of Islamic Jihad, the enclave's second-most powerful group after Hamas.

    That 42-year-old's killing in a raid targeting his house triggered retaliatory rocket fire from Islamic Jihad at Israel.

    After two days of violence, in which 34 Palestinians died but no Israeli fatalities, a ceasefire was agreed. Fire from both sides was reported on Saturday.

    In a statement on Saturday, the Israeli army said it was attacking Hamas targets after "two rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip towards Israeli territory" and were intercepted by air defences.

    Palestinian security sources told the AFP news agency the Israeli attacks were aimed at two Hamas sites in the north of the territory, where two million Palestinians live under a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt for more than 10 years.

    Al Jazeera's Harry Fawcett, reporting from Gaza City, said the targeting of sites belonging to Hamas marked a change in Israel's strategy in this latest round of fighting.

    "Hamas, while supporting Islamic Jihad verbally and making statements of solidarity, had not joined in the rocket fire itself," he said.

    "Perhaps this is an indication that Israel believes that this latest round of rocket did come from Hamas, so we will wait to see what the implications of that will be on the ceasefire going forward."

    Probe into civilian killings

    Israel's military on Friday said it would investigate "harm caused to civilians" from air raids it carried out that killed eight members of one family, including five children.

    The bombing in the early hours of Thursday in Deir al-Balah struck the home of Rasmi Abu Malhous, a member of Islamic Jihad, and his brother Mohamed, a Palestinian Authority (PA) employee.

    The air raids killed Rasmi, his second wife Maryam, 45, and three of his 11 children - Salim, 3, Mohannad, 12, and three-month-old Firas. The bombing also killed Mohamed's wife Yousra, 39, and two of their sons, Moaaz, 7, and Waseem, 13.

    An Israeli military spokeswoman said on Friday that Israeli forces had hit what she described as an "Islamic Jihad military infrastructure" in the central Gaza town.

    "According to the information available to the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] at the time of the strike, no civilians were expected to be harmed as a result of the strike," she said.

    She added: "The IDF is investigating the harm caused to civilians by the strike."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies