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Israel PM Netanyahu evacuated from rally after rocket fire from Gaza

Netanyahu [R] was addressing a Likud rally in Ashkelon during the attack [Getty]

Date of publication: 26 December, 2019

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Israeli warplanes struck Gaza following rocket fire into Askhelon, where Netanyahu was addressing Likud activists at a rally.
Israeli warplanes struck multiple targets in Gaza early on Thursday morning, hours after rocket fire into Israel led to warning sirens blaring through the city of Ashkelon, where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had visited to address a Likud campaign event.

An Israeli military spokesman announced that Israeli warplanes and military helicopters targeted several Hamas-linked positions, and that “military posts” were among the targets.

No casualties or injuries were reported on either side. However, a security source in Gaza reported damage at a number of Hamas sites. Turkey's Andalou News Agency reported these were linked to the Al-Qassam brigades, the military wing of Hamas.

In a video released by Israeli public broadcaster Kan 11, a security officer is seen approaching Netanyahu to inform him of a “red alert”. Netahyahu immediately bids farewell to his audience, consisting of around a hundred Likud party activists.

Netanyahu was whisked away to a “safe location”, according to media reports.  

Major figures from the Likud, including Mary Regev, Amir Ohana and Gila Gamliel, were present at the event organised by Netanyahu’s supporters, part of a campaign which sees the Prime Minister facing off longtime rival Gideon Saar for leadership of the right-wing party.

A similar incident in Ashdod in September forced Netanyahu's to cut to cut another campaign speech short, before he was taken to a “fortified location”.

Israeli security forces held Baha Abu Al-Ata, a senior commander in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, responsible for firing the rocket into the city. Al-Ata, along with his wife, were soon after killed in a targeted Israeli airstrike.

Read more: Israeli airstrike kills Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza

Before leaving the event on Thursday, Netanyahu told his audience, “Whoever dared to do this last time [alluding to Al-Ata] is no longer among us, and I say to whoever dared to this time round, be ready.”

Last week, two missiles from Gaza struck Israel, without resulting in casualties. In response, Israel launched missiles on a weapons factory used by Hamas in the strip.

Since 2008, Israel has fought three wars with Hamas and its allies in Gaza, where two million Palestinians live amid violence, poverty and a 12-year Israeli blockade.

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