Hamas fires rockets at Israel’s Tel Aviv, causing first sirens for months

The Israeli army has said that eight rockets were fired from Gaza, targeting central Israel, including Tel Aviv.

People take cover as missiles from Israel's Iron Dome air defence system intercept rockets fired by Palestinian fighters from the Gaza Strip near the city of Herzliya [Jack Guez/AFP]

Hamas says it has launched rockets at Tel Aviv, prompting sirens to sound in the Israeli city for the first time in several months.

The Israeli military said on Sunday that eight rockets were launched from the Rafah area in southern Gaza, where its forces have continued a ground assault despite an order from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to halt operations there.

Israel’s air defence system intercepted several of them, the military said.

Rafah is located around 100km (62 miles) south of Tel Aviv.

According to local media reports, sirens sounded in about 30 areas across central Israel including Tel Aviv, and there have been reports of several light injuries due to the attack.

Hamas’s military wing the Qassam Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in a statement on its Telegram channel on Sunday that the rockets were launched in response to “Zionist massacres against civilians”.

Hamas-linked Al-Aqsa TV said the rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip.

Debris collected by Israeli police is seen next to a bomb squad vehicle after a rocket fired by Palestinian militants struck in the Israeli city of Herzliya amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas [Jack Guez/AFP]

Israel says it wants to root out several Hamas battalions holed up in Rafah and rescue hostages it says are being held in the area, but its assault has worsened the plight of civilians and caused an international outcry.

On Sunday, Israeli strikes killed at least five Palestinians in Rafah, according to local medical services.

Israeli tanks have launched attacks around the edges of the city, close to the main southern crossing point into Egypt, but there has not yet been a full-scale ground assault.

Reporting from Deir el-Balah, in central Gaza, Al Jazeera’s Hani Mahmoud said the rocket attack raises questions about Israel’s military operation in Rafah.

“The Israeli military has been operating aggressively in the area and they made it clear that they are in control and they have pretty much cleared the area from the presence of any fighters on the ground or Hamas associates,” he said.

“But all of a sudden we see now a barrage of rockets fired from that particular area, raising questions about Israeli claims that it had cleared the area of the Hamas fighters.”

Israel’s military said on Sunday that over the previous 24 hours it had destroyed “over 50 terror targets across the Gaza Strip”, Mahmoud said.

In Jabalia, in northern Gaza, troops raided a weapons depot “embedded inside a school where troops located dozens of rocket parts and weapons”.

Israeli political analyst Akiva Eldar told Al Jazeera that the Hamas rocket attack on Israel will encourage Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “play the victim”.

Eldar said it could also allow Netanyahu to make an argument against the ICJ ruling to halt military operations in Rafah, by saying that they are needed to ensure the safety of Israeli civilians in the face of such attacks.

Eldar said the attack could make Netanyahu believe he has the “justification” to go “deeper into Rafah until, as he has promised, the total victory.”

At least 35,984 people have been killed in Israel’s war on Gaza, according to Palestinian health officials in Gaza.

Israel launched the operation after Hamas-led fighters attacked southern Israeli communities on October 7, seizing more than 250 hostages and killing at least 1,139 people, according to an Al Jazeera tally based on Israeli statistics.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies